2011 NHL Draft Preview

06/23/2011 10:58 AM -  Steven Ives

The problem with draft previews and mock drafts is often they seem more subjective than objective, which is to say that the mock drafter weighs his own opinions regarding prospects over the tendencies and needs of the teams and general managers doing the drafting.

For instance, on Steven Hoffner’s mock draft on nhl.com, the Devils, picking fourth overall and in need of defense, take Saint John’s rearguard Nathan Beaulieu and pass on the still available Swedish blue-liner Adam Larsson. This disregards 1) the fact that Larsson is far-and-away considered the top d-man in the draft by pretty much every hockey scout in the galaxy while Beaulieu is not even considered as good as consensus second-best defenseman Dougie Hamilton; and 2) the Devils have leaned heavily on Swedes in recent drafts, using first-round picks on center Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby and a second-rounder on Alexander Urbom.

That being said, I will try to assess team needs and tendencies when predicting their selections. The draft is, after all, impossible to fully foresee, as teams pull the triggers on trades all throughout the draft, changing their needs. The 2011 draft is still an interesting one — though not as deep as in recent seasons, there are a number of gems to be selected in the top 8-12 picks and a few gems likely to be available later on.

1) EDMONTON OILERS

The Oilers are reportedly deciding between the player who they think is the best available, uncanny ultra-high upside center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the best player at the position they have the most need for in their system, NHL-ready and super-steady defenseman Adam Larsson. The Oil is stocked with blue-chip young forwards like last year’s top overall pick Taylor Hall and previous first-rounders Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi but have just one burgeoning blue-liner with top pairing potential in Jeff Petry.

The Pick: C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer (WHL)

The Oilers also have the 19th pick in the first round, which they received from Los Angeles in the Dustin Penner trade, to use on a defenseman. Playmaking centers with 100-point potential are rare to come by, and it’s doubtful Edmonton passes up on this one.

2) COLORADO AVALANCHE

Like the Oilers, the Avs have two first-rounders: the 2nd overall and 19th overall selections. Also like the Oilers, they are likely to use one on a defenseman and one on a forward. Though potential #1 rearguard Adam Larsson will likely tempt them, the Avs traded young power forward Chris Stewart to the Blues last year to get them #1 defenseman Erik Johnson. And there is one power forward in the draft who stands out high above the rest…

The Pick: LW Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener (OHL)

This kid does it all — he can pass, shoot, hit, stand up for his teammates, and play a shut-down defensive role. Often compared to Mike Richards, after watching tons of film he reminds me more of a young Jarome Iginla, a player whose extreme athleticism is perhaps only matched by his intelligence on and off the ice. Alongside Matt Duchene, the Avalanche can salivate at the prospect of a dominating duo up front for several seasons.

3) FLORIDA PANTHERS

GM Dale Tallon is the mastermind who built the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks with the wise use of several high draft picks. He is now attempting to achieve the same in South Florida, With recent Panther first-rounders Dmitri Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson looking like gems for a stocked system of blue-liners, Tallon is likely to look for a game-breaking forward to build the offense around.

The Pick: C/LW Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John QMJHL

Tallon built the ‘Hawks around Jonathan Toews, a character center with elite offensive ability which seemed to multiply with the importance of the game and situation. Like Toews, Huberdeau is a potential offensive juggernaut, but the dominance he showed in leading Saint John to the Memorial Cup really shot his stock through the roof. Huberdeau is the rare pick who is both safe and exciting — at the very least he is a productive second line forward, and at the very most he will be a perennial NHL all-star.

4) NEW JERSEY DEVILS

This pick, the highest for uber-GM Lou Lamoriello since he drafted Scott Niedermayer third overall back in 1991, will be determined by the two teams drafting immediately prior. There is no doubt that the Devils wish list is topped by D Adam Larsson, who could step into NJ’s top four as soon as this upcoming season. If, by chance, Larsson is tabbed by Edmonton, it is highly possible the Devils could attempt to trade up two spots with Colorado (already deep at center with Matt Duchene and Peter Stastny) for the chance to get a franchise offensive center in Nugent-Hopkins. Or, if Edmonton takes Nugent-Hopkins and Colorado decides they want Larsson, Landeskog could fall to them. Already deep at LW with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, the Devils could trade down with Ottawa (who reputedly loves Landeskog), gain a second-rounder, and have a choice at #6 overall between D Dougie Hamilton and C Sean Couturier, depending on whom the Islanders take at #5.

The Pick: D Adam Larsson, Skelleftea, Sweden

Here is a guess that the Devils’ wildest dreams come true, and they get the franchise defenseman they have coveted for years. At the young age of 18, Larsson already has the composure with and without the puck of a 10-year NHL veteran, and is the guy who any coach would want on the ice in the last minute of the third period whether ahead or behind by one goal.

5) NEW YORK ISLANDERS

The one benefit of struggling for many years is that a team usually gets the opportunity to acquire a cache of young, blue-chip players. The Isles have a group of exciting young forwards headed by John Tavares, a center whose future might lie on the wing. They also have talented young wingers Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo and Nino Niederreiter ready to make a mark, but could sorely use another talented young pivot. On the blueline, Travis Hamonic looked great as a rookie this year and the highly-touted Calvin de Haan is poised to make the 2011-12 squad, but neither seems to be a bona fide #1 rearguard.

The Pick: D Dougie Hamilton, Niagara (OHL)

A tick below Larsson both offensively and defensively at the draft date, Hamilton has the intelligence and physical strength to be just as good in a few years. The rare D-man who can quarterback a power play, shut down the opponents’ top scorer, and drop the gloves to defend a teammate and an all-around great kid who will certainly wear a letter on his jersey one day, the Islanders get the closest equivalent to Duncan Keith available in this year’s draft.

6) OTTAWA SENATORS

The Sens are loaded with blue-chip young defenseman both on the big squad (Erik Karlsson) and in the system (David Rundblad and Jared Cowen). They hope to have their future between the pipes one day realized with goaltender Robin Lehner. What they really need are goal-scoring forwards, and lots of them. Another team with a pair of first-round selections, I expect them to use both picks on forwards.

The Pick: C Sean Couturier, Drummondville (QMJHL)

Often compared to either Eric Staal or Jordan Staal because of his size and excellence both offensively and defensively, Couturier could be, even at #6 overall, the steal of the draft. Despite being “slowed” by a case of mononucleosis this season (if you call 96 points in 58 games “slowed“), this kid still often single-handedly dominated games. He was criticized for a lack of improvement from the previous season, but I attribute that sorely to his illness. My one criticism would be his average skating, but there is no doubt in my mind he will one day be a first-line, two-way center in the NHL, and his upside is quite simply the best all-around forward taken in the 2011 NHL Draft.

7) WINNIPEG!

Let me start out by saying thank the stars this team is back where hockey belongs, out of apathetic Atlanta and back in hockey-mad Winnipeg. Surely NHL Commissioner/clueless dingbat Gary Bettman would have preferred they moved to Sao Paolo, Brazil (all those hockey fans just waiting to happen!) but for once didn’t get his tyrannical way. That being said, the Jets (?) are loaded with young defenseman, with Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian likely manning the points for years. They have some talented young forwards with Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov and Patrice Cormier, but there are many more forward spots to fill.

The Pick: C Ryan Strome, Niagara (OHL)

Quick, crafty, agile and skilled, Strome has the upside of a point-per-game offensive center in the NHL. While he needs to add strength and he is a few years away from an NHL impact, the same determination which led him to become the most improved player in Canadian Junior Hockey this season will likely enable him to succeed at the next level as well. Think of him as a slightly-less-skilled but better-skating version of Huberdeau, and Winnipeg will be thrilled to select him seventh overall.

8 ) COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

In all the years Columbus has had a hockey franchise, they have yet to achieve two things. Most obviously, they are still looking to win their first playoff game. But they have also yet to have a puck-moving defenseman to put fear into the opposition. With this pick, the Jackets can change all of that for a very long time.

The Pick: D Ryan Murphy, Kitchener (OHL)

At 5’10” 170 with defensive limitations, it is strange to hear of a defenseman even considered for the top 10 picks of an NHL draft. Yet Murphy’s offensive acumen could only be described as prodigal. He can electrify with end-to-end rushes several times in a single game. His skating, puck-handling and on-ice vision are all absolutely elite. He possesses a tremendously hard and accurate shot for his stature. If this kid was four inches taller, he would likely go second overall. He is a human jump-start for any power play, and Columbus’ has been desperate for a player like this for its entire existence

9) BOSTON BRUINS

Not only do they have the Stanley Cup, but thanks to Toronto’s foolish Phil Kessel trade, they have a bright future as well. Last year that swap garnered them a draft coup of future star Tyler Seguin, this year it gets them the #9 overall pick. With a team capable of challenging for the championship again, the Bruins do not have glaring immediate needs. They can draft a high-upside project and wait for their patience to pay off…

The Pick: D Jamie Oleksiak, Northeastern, NCAA

…with a 6’7” 250 pound, fleet-skating behemoth on the blueline. No one knows better than Zdeno Chara’s Bruins how much a physically imposing and offensively capable defenseman can change the outcome of a season, and under Chara’s tutelage the Bruins will hope Oleksiak blossoms into a match-up impossibility for any opposing forward corps.

10) MINNESOTA WILD

The good news for hockey-mad Minnesota: they should be set at center for years with a pair of Finnish studs when the electric Michael Granlund joins the terrific Mikko Koivu for the 2012-13 season. The bad news: they are mediocre everywhere else on the ice. They need guys who can put the puck in the nets of the opposition, and they need guys who can keep the puck out of their own net. More good news: this puts them in the position to draft the best player available without worrying about where he plays.

The Pick: C Mika Zibanejad, Djurgarden, Sweden

A very low-risk and high-reward pick to make in front of the home fans, as the draft takes place in Minnesota. Zibanejad combines NHL-size, NHL-skating, NHL-vision and NHL-shot. He is not afraid to get physical and plays well in all three zones. You can never be too deep up the middle, and Zibanejad is another surefire NHL-contributor to build a future around.

11) COLORADO AVALANCHE

If, by chance, the Avs go for Larsson with their #2 overall pick, they will certainly go for the best available winger at #11 to pair with Duchene, likely Swiss LW Sven Bartschi. Since I am assuming, however, that they take LW Landeskog at #2, I will accordingly assume they address the blueline at #11.

The Pick: D Duncan Siemans, Saskatoon (WHL)

If Dougie Hamilton is the Duncan Keith of this draft, Siemans is the Brent Seabrook. Already 6’3” and 200 lbs., he is not afraid to use his imposing size, constantly dishing out highlight-reel hits and dropping the gloves with anyone brave enough to mess with one of his teammates. He also possesses an extremely heavy shot and has some offensive upside. Siemans is a future shutdown physical defenseman with the ability to score 35-45 points with his smart outlet passes and cannon from the point. With Landeskog and Siemans, Colorado scores a huge victory at the 2011 draft in both the offensive and defensive zones for many years to come.

12) CAROLINA HURRICANES

The Canes hit the jackpot with Jeff Skinner seventh overall in the 2010 draft. Now they are drafting five spots later in a weaker draft. They almost never take defensemen in the first round, having developed a fine habit of taking fine blue liners in the second round, ie: Justin Faulk, Jamie McBain and Brian Dumoulin. Eric Staal is a lock as their top center for a very long time, and both Skinner and Brandon Sutter can play either center or on the wing. They would love Zibanejad to fall to them at #12 and enable them to move Skinner permanently to Staal’s flank, but if that does not occur they will look to draft the highest-upside goal-scorer available.

The Pick: RW Joel Armia, Assat, Finland

A fantastic stick-handler a booming shot and great size (6’3”, 200 lbs.), Armia has the upside to become a goal-scoring, top-line winger at the NHL level. Unfortunately, his work-ethic and competitiveness have been brought into question by several scouting services. Even so, a team with character Finnish veterans (Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu, possibly Joni Pitkanen) like Carolina is a solid bet to take a chance on Armia’s enormous potential.

13) CALGARY FLAMES

It is no secret that Calgary has not drafted well in recent years. Bad went to worse when their best top-round pick since 2003, D Tim Erixon, decided not to sign with the Flames and forced a trade to the New York Rangers. Despite still having star-quality players up front (Jarome Iginla), on the blueline (Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester) and in net (Miikka Kiprusoff), GM Jay Feaster does not have a lot of help on the way and needs to stock his system virtually everywhere.

The Pick: C Mark McNeill, Prince Albert (WHL)

It is no secret that the Flames love taking Western Canadian players in the first round, taking a WHL-er with every first-rounder they have had since 2003 with the exception of a pair of Swedes, Mikael Backlund in 2007 and Erixon in 2009. The difference with McNeill is he will actually be a very good player. He is a commodity every team covets up the middle, big (6’1”, 204), skilled and physical. He is a character kid who will drop the gloves when necessary and is an excellent passer. McNeill should blossom into an extremely effective second-line pivot, and would immediately rise to the top of Calgary’s prospect rankings.

14) DALLAS STARS

The Stars feel they have their future set in between the pipes with top prospect Jack Campbell, and have a line-up loaded with talented young wingers like Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Steve Ott with Scott Glennie and Alex Chiasson not far off. They are weak up the middle, however, after the inevitable post-season loss of top center Brad Richards. GM Joe Nieuwendyk tried to address his problems on the blueline with the deal for Alex Goligoski last season, but defense is another problem the Stars need to solve at the 2011 Draft.

The Pick: D Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John (QMHJL)

Beaulieu has a wide range in many scouts’ assessments — some think he is a top-5 pick, others have him going at the end of the first round. What is for certain is that he has NHL size, is a tremendous skater and can flat-out pass the puck. He looks to be a top-power play pairing point man, but the question is if he rounds out his game to fulfill his physical potential as an all-around rearguard. With a dreadful crop of NHL defensemen and no top prospects on the way, Nieuwendyk will gamble on Beaulieu’s upside at #14.

15) NEW YORK RANGERS

The Rangers have drafted well in recent seasons, adding a collection of well-rounded all-around players like forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan and defensemen Mark Staal, Dan Girardi and Michael Sauer. What they need to take them to the next level is a true game-breaker, preferably a center, someone to give them a top-line threat up the middle they have not have since Mark Messier’s first tour of duty with the team in the mid-’90’s. Fortunately, there is one player in this draft, flying well below the radar, who fits exactly that description…

The Pick: C Rocco Grimaldi, US-Under 18 (USHL)

Last season I said both prior to and following the draft that the best offensive player selected in 2010 would one day be not an argument of “Taylor versus Tyler”, but Jeff Skinner. He fell to the ecstatic Carolina Hurricanes at #7 overall due to superficial concerns about size and idiosyncratic skating style. This year’s Skinner is Rocco Grimaldi, rivaled only by Nugent-Hopkins and Murphy as the best offensive player in this draft, but certain to be available at #15 because of his diminutive 5’6” stature. What you need to know about Mr. Grimaldi is this: his an absolute offensive dynamo, oozing fearlessness and character, not afraid to skillfully dart in and out of any of the dirty areas of the ice. Often compared to Brian Gionta simply because of his size, it’s a lousy comparison. Gionta is a very solid player, but Grimaldi’s playing style is more akin to a more skilled and faster Mike Richards. Unlike many myopic scouts, the shrewd-drafting Rangers will not tell this kid what he cannot do and then sit back and enjoy it for the next decade-plus reaping the rewards of what he can.

16) BUFFALO SABRES

The future is bright in Buffalo, new ownership, a talented young team with a stud goalie in Ryan Miller to build around, a terrific young defenseman in Tyler Myers, and some talented young big wingers (Zack Kassian and Luke Adam) ready to join the club next year. With no glaring needs, Buffalo will hope a player with top-line goal-scoring talent somehow falls to them.

The Pick: LW Sven Bartschi, Portland (WHL)

Quite simply, this high-revving kid from Switzerland knows how to light up a score card. He always competes, and his skill led to an 85-point campaign for the WHL’s Winterhawks. There is a good chance that Columbus takes a good look at him at #8 overall due to his bond with Portland linemate and top Blue Jacket prospect Ryan Johansen, and there is also a chance that Buffalo decides to instead address their blueline with one of two fast-rising Swedes, Jonas Brodin and Oscar Klefbom.

17) MONTREAL CANADIENS

The deeper one gets into predicting a draft, the harder it becomes. Players rise and fall up draft boards, trades are made. What will the Habs do? They were pushed around a bit by the Bruins this post-season and feel they need to add some toughness for an extended playoff run. P.K. Subban is a tremendous force on the blueline, and they have another mega-tough defenseman en route in top prospect Jarred Tinordi. This leads one to believe they will try and get a power forward to create some havoc and add some scoring punch.

The Pick: RW Tyler Biggs, U-18 (USHL)

Words often used to describe Biggs: “rugged”, “powerful”, “tough”. He is man-sized at 6’2, 210 and perhaps the roughest forward ever to emerge from the US Developmental program. He may never have first-line skill, speed or instincts, but he has the hands and gumption to one day carve out a second-line role. And, most importantly to the Canadiens, he will make the life of opposing defensemen very painful indeed.

18) CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Loaded with top-end talent, the Blackhawks lost their Stanley Cup crown due to the depth they lost after salary cap concerns forced them to deal away several of their supporting players. With star players like Toews, Keith, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa locked up for years, Chicago needs to surround them with supporting characters to return to Stanley Cup glory.

The Pick: C Boone Jenner, Oshawa (OHL)

If nowhere close to the most talented pleyer available in the 2011 NHL Draft, Jenner stands alongside Grimaldi as the most likeable. He has never met a teammate he would not stand up for, never played a second of a shift he did not give his all during, and never saw a puck he would not battle for. Adequate offensively, he is a shut-down defensive center and destined to one day be a captain in the NHL.

19) EDMONTON OILERS

If the Oilers by chance take Adam Larsson first overall, they will be looking for a skilled center here, like McNeill or Mark Scheifele. Since I believe them to be selecting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oil will use the 19th overall selection to address the blueline.

The Pick: D Jonas Brodin, Farjestad, Sweden

He has top-two upside, already stellar offensively and excellent form a positional standpoint defensively. The only question mark is his propensity to occasionally get out-muscled for loose pucks, but Edmonton would have a tough time passing on this type of upside for their blueline at #19.

20) PHOENIX COYOTES

The Coyotes might be spending their final year in the desert, but that’s not to say the future is not sunny for them. Coming off a 100-point season, they have a high-end prospect at forward (Mikkel Boedker), defense (Brandon Gormley) and in net (Mark Visentin). They have no glaring needs, but reports have them leaning towards a forward with the 20st overall pick.

The Pick: RW Niklas Jensen, Oshawa (OHL)

The draft’s best Dane joins the best Danish prospect Mikkel Boedker with the still-Phoenix squad in a couple of years. Jensen is a skilled winger with NHL size and plenty of projectable upside as a power forward if he can get a bit grittier.

21) OTTAWA SENATORS

Loaded on the backline, Ottawa wants forwards, forwards, forwards. If Landeskog or Huberdeau fall to #4, the Sens could very likely trade up with New Jersey to draft either one, in which case the cost would probably be this pick at #21.

The Pick: C Mark Scheifele, Barrie (OHL)

Ranked as high as #12 overall (TSN) and as low as #42 (The Hockey News), most scouting services have him pegged somewhere in between. He is a good passer, shooter and stickhandler but is not especially physical despite NHL size. His upside is as a very effective second-line center.

22) ANAHEIM DUCKS

The Ducks won the lottery last year when the Brian Leetch-like Cam Fowler fell to them at #12 overall. They also have a pair of extremely talented young forwards in Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem about ready to join all-stars Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry. The Ducks like to take Americans with their first round picks.

The Pick: LW J.T. Miller, U-18 (USHL)

Often compared to Dustin Brown, Miller is a cannonball on the ice, throwing his big body into anyone wearing enemy colors. Though not a natural goal-scorer, he is adept at puck-handling and sees the ice well. His compete-level is off the charts, and though he may never be a 30+ goal scorer like Brown, it is easy to see where the comparisons are made.

23) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

The same old dilemma for the Pens — they need wingers to surround uber-centers Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal with. With Kris Letang establishing himself this past season as one of the top young rearguards in the league, it is not a secret to anyone where Pittsbugh will use their first round selection.

The Pick: LW Brandon Saad, Saginaw (OHL)

It would be a dream come true for the Pens if Saad, hailing from western Pennsylvania, fell to them at #24. He has very good at pretty much everything: hands, size, skating, shot. The only obstacle standing in between Saad and status as an NHL top-six forward is his compete level. Playing in front of his home town alongside Crosby or Malkin should alleviate those concerns.

24) TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

If you enjoy reading the NHL-rumor pages like I do, then you enjoy reading the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring every good player and top draft pick in the NHL on a daily basis. This week I read the Leafs were getting Steven Stamkos, Zach Parise, Brad Richards, and every pick in the top ten. A more likely scenario would be the Leafs trading this #25 overall pick for a seventh-line winger. Assuming no trades are made…

The Pick: LW Matt Puempel, Peterborough (OHL)

Desperate for talented young forwards, GM Brian Burke tabs a local kid with the offensive skill for a top-six role in the NHL. He is a possible sleeper, as a hip injury clearly affected his performance this season in the OHL and perhaps unjustly lowered his draft standing

25) DETROIT RED WINGS

After they are finished thanking their lucky stars that Nicklas Lidstrom agreed to return for another season in Detroit, the Wings will set about stocking their system with defensemen to one day replace him and the recently-retired Brian Rafalski.

The Pick: D Joe Morrow, Portland (WHL)

You can teach skating, but not the kind of explosive, end-to-end rush skating that Joe Morrow possesses. He is just a tick below the sublime skating of Cam Fowler, and combining that with Morrow’s excellent offensive vision and Morrow could one day blossom into a top-pairing guy. His defensive game often suffers as a result of his high-offense motor, but defense is something which, fortunately, can be taught.

26) WASHINGTON CAPITALS

The Caps love Russians. Many teams in the NHL are often terrified to draft Russians due to sign ability concerns. This combination often leads to Washington snatching up very talented Russian prospects who fall in the draft (2010: Evgeny Kuznetsov, 2009: Dmitri Orlov, 2008: Dmitry Kurgryshev). This year the Caps will do it again.

The Pick: C Alexander Khokhlachev, Windsor (OHL)

The Caps land a smart, gritty hustler more than the traditional flashy Russian sniper. His engine and competitiveness belie his smallish stature, and he should one day bloom into a goal-scoring second-line forward who has lots of people in the Washington locker room to discuss Tolstoy with.

27) TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Tampa Bay can flat out put the puck in the net. Unfortunately, they have a very difficult time keeping the puck out of their own. They have the unlimited potential of Victor Hedman to build their blueline around, but they need more pieces to fill it out.

The Pick: D Oscar Klefbom, Farjestad, Sweden

A top-pairing of a pair of ultra-talented Swedes on defense could be just what the doctor ordered for the Lightning to one day strike the cup again. He sees the ice extremely well and likes the physical game. It is difficult to read a description of Klefbom which does not include the word “character”, always a good sign.

28) SAN JOSE SHARKS

Already loaded with skilled NHL forwards, the Sharks hit the jackpot last year with the shrewd selection of fast-rising power forward Charlie Coyle at #28 overall. Their weakness, both at the NHL level and in their system, is a need for high-end defensemen.

The Pick: D Conor Murphy, U-18 (USHL)

The Sharks try to revisit the jackpot with a high-end American high schooler slipping under the radar. A back injury cost him much of the past two seasons, but with a booming shot, fantastic skating ability, NHL bloodlines and tremendous on-ice vision, Murphy could have easily been considered a top-10 worthy selection were it not for the injury woes.

29) VANCOUVER CANUCKS

A heartbreaking end to a season which many, including myself, thought would end with a Stanley Cup parade rather than the riots following their Game 7 loss to Boston. Despite the inevitable free agent losses of a few of their supporting players, they look to reload and take another cup run in 2011-12.

The Pick: LW Ty Rattie, Portland (WHL)

A skilled winger with fantastic hands, Rattie has the offensive upside to one day slot alongside the sublime Ryan Kesler on the second line behind the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows. His skating and size have come into question, but his hockey sense and goal-scoring ability make Rattie a worthy first-round selection.

30) TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

We should have known the Bruins would win the Stanley Cup simply because Toronto really really wanted them not to. Boston’s cup win dropped Toronto’s pick, acquired in the Tomas Kaberle deal, five spots from #25 to #30. Again they will look for the player with the most offensive upside available.

The Pick: RW Tomas Jurco, Saint John (QMHJL)

A YouTube sensation, Jurco has almost magical stick handling talents. He also possesses a tremendously accurate shot in close, which could enable him to one day become a top-six forward at the NHL level. The only downsides to the flashy Slovakian are his propensity for streakiness and occasional fitness problems.

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Comments

  1. Ian Gooding says:

    Scorekeeping note: As a result of the Jeff Carter trade, the 8th overall pick of Columbus now belongs to Philly.

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