The New Jersey Devils walked away the big winners at the 2011 NHL Draft lottery, moving from the eighth spot to fourth. How does this change the complexion of the Draft?

1. Edmonton Oilers- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer, WHL)

While Adam Larsson has steadily held down the position in our lists as the top player available for the 2011 Draft, it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore both Hopkins and the buzz building about him in Edmonton. While it could be a pick mired in debate for years to come, adding a high-end playmaking center- no matter his size- to a burgeoning core loaded with finishers like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi would be an inspired choice.

2. Colorado Avalanche- LW Gabriel Landeskog (Kitchener, OHL)

The Colorado Avalanche likely couldn’t be happier to remain firmly in the #2 spot. After all, cleaning up the left-overs leaves the team with a desirable talent either way. Want to supplement Erik Johnson with another hulking but skilled defender? Adam Larsson fits. Need to replace the hole left by trading power winger Chris Stewart? Kitchener Rangers forward Gabriel Landeskog is a great choice. For now, Landeskog appears to be the top player on Colorado’s draft board, and it’s likely little changes between now and the combine to alter that decision.

3. Florida Panthers- C Sean Couturier (Drummondville, QMJHL)

With talk strong in Florida that the team’s first round selection will be a forward regardless of who is available, options are limited for those who wish to prognosticate the affair- especially if the first two picks also happen to be forwards. Drummondville’s Sean Couturier is the right player in this scenario.

A solid 6’4 and over 190 lbs, Couturier has shown at every level this year- QMJHL regular season, WJC, playoffs- that he is willing to take advantage of his frame in order to win games. And he does it the right way: although initially a lackadaisical player in minor hockey, Couturier has become something of a jack-of-all-trades, crashing the net, winning board battles and playing strong defensive hockey in addition to packing a hard shot and a soft pair of hands.

4. New Jersey Devils- D Adam Larsson (Skelleftea, Elitserien)

So, what’s New Jersey’s reward for going on one of the most incredible runs in NHL history? Well, the same pick they likely would have had had the Devils never enjoyed such a streak in the first place. The victors of the 2011 lottery, the Devils have a unique opportunity at hand to finally replace the series of All-Star defencemen lost to retirement and free agency. Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski and even Paul Martin helped the anchor sequentially successful bluelines, but New Jersey had hit something of a dry spell. Well, until now.

Regardless of whether it’s Larsson or one of the next few names on this list, it’s quite likely GM Lou Lamoriello uses his first-ever lottery pick as GM in 24 seasons on a rearguard. Wait, did we say first? The Devils had the 3rd overall selection in 1991, but acquired it from (snicker) Toronto. I guess some things never change.

5. New York Islanders- D Dougie Hamilton (Niagara, OHL)

Set at wing with Kyle Okposo, Nino Niederreiter and Matt Moulson among others and now solid at center thanks to the 2008 and 2009 Drafts, like their Eastern Conference cohorts, the New York Islanders are in a position to finally add a premier blueliner after years of frustrations.
However, despite not winning the lottery, the Isles have a chance to select the player who- when all is said and done- may very well be the best defenceman from the 2011 class.

A staggering 6’4 and 193 lbs, that Hamilton was a forward until Bantam should surprise no one who has seen the behemoth rearguard play. Frequently used as a screen on the powerplay thanks to his size, offensive zone positioning and soft hands, Hamilton has all the tools to play an elite game in both ends of the ice.

6. Ottawa Senators- C Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John, QMJHL)

While TSN’s now-annual lottery broadcast was a tepid affair thanks to the relatively early spoiling of the proceedings, it was perhaps worth it for the look on GM Bryan Murray’s face after he learned the Senators had dropped one place from #5. Already publicly in the hunt for Gabriel Landeskog, not even a neutral conclusion to the lottery would have ensured them a chance at the multi-faceted Swede.

What’s Plan B? Lacking significant center depth thanks to the trades of Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly, a highly-skilled but perhaps individualistic center with skating deficiencies could be the perfect partner for a... highly-skilled but perhaps individualistic center with skating deficiencies. Extraordinarily gifted with the puck, it may take time for Jonathan Huberdeau to successfully translate his game to the NHL, but whether he does it at center or wing, there are few players in the class with Huberdeau’s level of pure ability.

7. Atlanta Thrashers- C Ryan Strome (Niagara, OHL)

So close, yet so far. That’s sort of been the motto for the Atlanta Thrashers their entire existence, be it playoff appearances that were one-sided in favor, playoff runs that ended with the team on the outside looking in, and finally tanks that left the Thrashers in an awkward place.

Unlike many of the teams in the top ten, however, the Thrashers have no significant needs and can console themselves by taking the best player available. That player has a good likelihood of being Ryan Strome. Able to turn it on at a moment’s notice- whether “it” is his excellent skating ability, fine playmaking ability or silky-soft stickhandling, coaxing a consistent effort out of Strome offensively was a problem until this season. However, with 106 points- the same number as Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall last season- that no longer appears to be an issue.

Physically rather weak and thus unable to win many battles for possession, Strome’s heart is now in the right place. He can only improve from here.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets- D Duncan Siemens (Saskatoon, WHL)

Like Atlanta, disappointment is something Columbus Blue Jackets fans have had to become accustomed to in their relatively short history. An expansion team that has never truly taken the next step, the Jackets will once again try their lucky via the Draft. Unbelievably, Columbus has only picked once outside of the top ten in their history, a fact that is likely to be front and center and GM Scott Howson’s mind.

Thus, while a hard-nosed but mobile rearguard like Duncan Siemens likely holds a great deal of interest to the Jackets, acquiring “now” talent may have more appeal- especially since Howson is likely on a hot seat that continues to get warmer and warmer. Don’t be surprised if the selection finds a new home on or even before Draft Day.

9. Boston Bruins (from Toronto)- D Ryan Murphy (Kitchener, OHL)

No matter what happens leading up to the final weekend in June, the Boston Bruins likely have one position written in pen: defence. Barring an unexpected event like Sean Couturier dropping out of the top five, the Bruins are in desperate need of a potential franchise talent to replace the aging Zdeno Chara and largely ineffective rental Tomas Kaberle.

The solution? A dynamic puck-mover who can control and set the pace and tempo of a game, Kitchener phenom Ryan Murphy may not have the physical tools to be a #1 defender at first blush, but his hockey sense rates in the same stratosphere as Nugent-Hopkins’. Given as strong a forward group- young and old- as the Bruins have assembled, Murphy should have no trouble finding ample targets to set up should be find his way to Beantown.

10. Minnesota Wild- C Mika Zibanejad (Djurgården, Elitserien)

The biggest surprise on TSN guru Bob McKenzie’s lottery edition of his annual scout poll, Swedish center Mika Zibanejad has perhaps done the most with a single-digit draft year in the Elitserien as anyone before him. Seriously: although Zibanejad has played a key role in the penalty kill and was receiving greater and greater ice-time as the season went on, the 6’2 center had only two points and was an abysmal 39% on the draw as Djurgården dropped a seven-game quarterfinal series to Luleå HF.

Zibanejad has plenty of gifts, but does his offensive game have enough punch to be make him a premier NHL player? If Minnesota has any doubt... well, they’ll probably draft him anyway. They are the team that thought highly enough of Benoit Pouliot, James Sheppard and Colton Gillies to select them 4th, 9th and 16th respectively.

11. Colorado Avalanche (from St. Louis)- LW Brandon Saad (Saginaw, OHL)

Lose. That was St. Louis’ best course of action down the stretch this season following the much-debated Erik Johnson/Chris Stewart swap. With a top-ten protected pick headed Colorado’s way, the worse scenario for the Blues ended up being... well, exactly what happened. Finishing 19th in the league and shut out in the lottery, the Blues must now surrender their first round draft choice to the Avs in what is already looking like a one-sided trade in early returns.

So what will Colorado do with the extra bullet at the draft table? Well, how about pick up another power forward? 6’2 winger Brandon Saad may not have Landeskog’s physical game or two-way presence, but the speedy winger can be a damn good pro in his own right. Tied with a whack of players for 2nd in playoff points on the Spirit, the versatile winger has transformed from a scorer to a playmaker thus far in the OHL post-season.

12. Carolina Hurricanes- RW Ty Rattie (Portland, WHL)

The Carolina Hurricanes have proven they know how to make the worst teams- some of whom have the best scouts in the business- look dumb. After schooling the draft board at the 2010 affair by selecting eventual 30-goal, 30-assist forward Jeff Skinner, the Canes will be closely watched as June approaches. Never a team to take defenders nor Europeans high, the next two selections on this list are likely not on their radar. Thus, Rattie- a gifted winger who has shown a propensity for both scoring goals and setting them up- appears to be a favorite by default.

Although weaker both physically and defensively than Skinner, despite the former’s success, no one is expecting Rattie to contribute right away. But if he can translate his game to the NHL, the Canes will have yet another feather to add to their cap.

13. Calgary Flames- C Mark McNeill (Prince Albert, WHL)

With their highest first-round selection since 2003 and Dion Phaneuf, the Calgary Flames appeared headed for a well-timed rebuild that could allow them to keep pace in a talent arms race that’s so far one-sided in favor of their northern rivals. So how big a coup would it be if they could secure one of 2011’s top power forward prospects, a player who also happens to be an Edmonton native?

Enter Mark McNeill. A favorite of DobberHockey since his minor hockey days, the 6’2, 210 lbs center fits everything the Flames and former GM Darryl Sutter love in a hockey player and a hockey team: size, heart, grit. Blessed with tremendous vision and decent mobility to top it all off, it’s likely McNeill is a player high on Calgary’s internal draft board as of today.

14. Dallas Stars- LW Sven Bartschi (Portland, WHL)

Need, it turns out, can be a tricky thing. Although 2010 World Junior hero Jack Campbell may have found a way to vanquish Canada on home ice, the 6’2 goaltender had a much more difficult time playing in a Canadian league. A relatively mediocre campaign that saw Campbell post a 3.80 GAA and 0.884 save percentage was still good enough to “help” Windsor into the OHL post-season, but Dallas must be worried about staking their franchise’s future between the pipes on the mercurial talent.

So in Minnesota, will the Stars seek to meet need once again by adding a defender to a weak prospect pool? You decide. Although some intriguing options will likely remain on the board as the first half of the first round comes to a close, a return to drafting skilled but hard-nosed forwards may get the Stars back to the playoffs quicker. 5’10 Sven Bartschi is a good fit; capable of making a highlight-reel rush on one shift and a bulletin board-worthy quote the next.

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SeaDawg said:

BPA I'm a bit late to respond to this post...but great job as usual Bugg.

As for all the people saying a team has to draft the Best Player Available, I think that is a load of crap. Teams don't always take the BPA. And even if they do, teams don't always agree on who the BPA is. I think it is almost a certainty that RNH is going to Edmonton and Landeskog to Colorado. I don't know that those are the two Best Players Available, but I bet Edmonton and Colorado think they are right up there with Larsson, Couturier, etc. When it is such a close call, a team might as well grab the player who best fits their needs. I also think, despite what others are saying, that there isn't a huge gap between Couturier and Larsson. Who is better? The 6'4" centre who is one of the best puck protecters I have seen come out of the draft in years. Couturier can fend off defenders with his huge reach and size, cycle along the boards as well as any veteran NHLer. He already knows how to play defense, and he has put up back-to-back 90+ pt seasons. Larsson is also a stud two-way defender who can be nasty and help a team win a Stanley Cup someday. Both players are great talents, but which is the BPA? I don't think anyone can be too critical of Florida no matter who they pick. But calling any of the top 5 BPA is merely a subjective thing and I'm sure many NHL teams disagree on the exact order.
April 17, 2011
Votes: +0

Anthony Lancione said:

Great piece Matt Similar to Dean, great analysis, despite not necessarily agreeing with a few of the placements of burgeoning stars listed in the back half of the top 14.

Although, I really like how you addressed your projections, not in the best order of prospects available(as the central scouting would dictate), but rather from a fantasy- relevant viewpoint of where these kids may actually wind up based on needs of the teams selecting. Afterall, Cam Fowler & Brandon Gormley were simply not deemed priorities by those in the top 7 last year, regardless of ranking and boy did they ever drop.... at least until someone like Anaheim came knocking who needed serious blueline help(recently deprived of Scotty Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, etc) Solid insight Matt!
April 13, 2011
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

... RE: Blues/Avs Trade

I don't think it's in anyone's one-sided favour really. At the time I think a lot of people were arking up about how the Blues robbed them (Stewart being a big strong power forward, difference maker, and EJ being a bust), but they didn't take into consideration the first round pick that came along with the deal as well.

Now the Avs essentially have 2 top-10 picks and could easily revamp their team completely with the salary cap space available for next season (close to $31 mil available). If they make a play for Vokoun, and add another big market winger say Gagne or Connolly and then re-sign Flash/Hejduk. They could honestly be a contender next season with a top-six of:

throw in Landeskog and Hishon in the mix as well. (Saad too if he drops and is NHL ready)

Solid supporting cast of O'Reilly, McClement, McLeod, Yip, Winnik, Porter, Jones and Galiardi.

D not looking too shabby with Quincey possibly returning.

Liles, EJ, Quincey and Stefan Elliott (looking NHL ready)

depending on whether or not management wants to break the bank they could easily afford a "big name" D like Jovo, Markov, McCabe to really shore up the defense as well.

Either way I think the Avs gave up a bit to acquire EJ, but they might have came out on the better end of the initially once thought of lopsided deal.
April 13, 2011
Votes: +0

Big Ev said:

Big Ev
... Trust me dodospice, he won't go Top 3. Anybody would be stupid to pass on Larsson for Couturier, no matter what they need.
April 13, 2011
Votes: +1

Andrew K said:

Blues-Avs So which side of the Blues-Avs trade is it looking more one sided for? EJ + 11th overall + McClement is pretty damn good return for Stewy + Shatty + 32nd overall.
April 13, 2011
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

... Thanks for the props, but it was Bugg who wrote it not me... hahaha
April 13, 2011
Votes: +0

dodospice said:

Sean Couturier Jeez seems Im not the only one who thinks Sean Couturier should/will go top 3? Big Ev why arent you ripping at him like you did me? Hmmmmmm.......
April 12, 2011
Votes: +0

Dean Youngblood said:

Dean Youngblood
Good Write Up Ma While I don't agree with every selection you have made, I cannot argue any of them either. It's that exact reason why this years' draft class is one of the most interesting years since the Kane, JVR and Turris draft class (2007)

If Larsson does indeed slip to NJD they may be the luckiest franchises in recent memory. It's almost as though the Devils are being rewarded for not "tanking" like they easily could have.

Nice writeup Ryan.

The entire 1st round of this draft interests me as you clearly pointed out there are plenty of other good players left on the board (Namestnikov, Jensen, Jenner, Armia....)

Personally, I think Edmonton needs to select Larsson but you really can't ignore the hype surrounding RNH in that city right now. It's safe to say that any team in the Top 9-10 picks will be getting a very good player.
April 12, 2011
Votes: +0

Hugo Twigg said:

Columbus passing on Murphy... I have a hard time believing the Jackets will let Murphy slipped by them. They have been in need of a PP QB for ever...But I can see where you're going there as alot of people think Murphy is the second coming of Ryan Russel. To me, he is the second best talent in this class after RNH
April 12, 2011
Votes: +0

Blackie_O said:

Nope There is no way Columbus passes on Murphy.
April 12, 2011
Votes: +0

Ugh said:

grindin griers
Nice comment on the Wild ... Too bad that was their old office making those decisions. You obviously didn't know what to write in that part of the article, so you go to the ol' rip on the Wild organization for their bad drafting even though the personnel has changed two years ago.
April 12, 2011
Votes: -1

Ryan Ma said:

... The thing is Edmonton needs a top flight high skilled center, as a few of the other forums posts have identified, NHL ready D is readily available and pop up more frequently than number 1 centers.

RNH is the best player available and I don't think the Oilers will budge.

Landeskog is a great heart and soul player, and that's exactly what the Avs need. Plus they have the 11th pick as well, so they could land Saad or Rattie or something weird happens and Murphy or Siemens slips like what happened last year with Fowler/Gromley...

The interesting play will be what FLA does. They have Kulikov, Gubdranson, Petrovic and Robak, so it's not like they're have a heavy need to pick up Larsson. But then again if Tallon repeats the Hawks model where he snags D first then follows it up with offense in later years, he might be inclined to go after Larsson.
April 12, 2011
Votes: +0

Jamie Nay said:

... Edmonton already has so many undersized forwards, though. I can see them taking Larsson, perhaps by trading down a couple of spots.
April 12, 2011
Votes: +0

Evan Hotham said:

Big Ev
... You draft Best Player Available. After RNH, Larsson is the BPA, in my opinion. Obviously each team will have their owen different BPA. I can't see Colorado passing on him. EJ-Larsson combo would be sick. Larsson is consensus Top 3 and I don't see him dropping.

Florida and Colorado should be even worse next year too so they can grab Yakupov or Galchenyuk or Grigorenko.
April 12, 2011
Votes: +0

Dobber said:

... If Edmonton doesn't take him, then I can't see COL or FLA taking a defenseman. So yeah, Larsson slips to four in my books. Florida should be shot if they don't take a star forward.
April 12, 2011
Votes: +0

Big Ev said:

Big Ev
... Forgot to add, great mock. Looking good apart from the Larsson drop smilies/smiley.gif
April 12, 2011
Votes: +0

Big Ev said:

Big Ev
... Highly unlikely Larsson falls to 4.
April 12, 2011
Votes: +0
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