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NHL Draft Review: Breaking Down the First Round

Jon Litterine

Jon Litterine is RotoWire's lead MMA Writer and MMA Editor. He has covered numerous MMA events live. He's also RW's NHL Prospect Analyst. Jon has been writing for RotoWire since 2005. He is a graduate of U Mass-Lowell.

2011 NHL Draft Review

The 2011 NHL Draft is in the books and below we take a look at all of the first round selections that were made on Friday night in Minnesota.

1. Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C, Red Deer-WHL): An argument can be made that taking a defenseman like Adam Larsson would have filled a bigger need for the Oilers, but Edmonton couldn't pass up the draft's consensus best player. When you add him to a young forward core that already includes Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi, the future is extremely bright for the Oilers. Unlike Hall, who was taken first overall last season, Nugent-Hopkins would benefit from another year in juniors. There's probably better than a 50/50 chance that he will start next season in the NHL, but the Oilers aren't going to be winning anything next season so they would be wise to let Nugent-Hopkins develop in Red Deer for another season. He projects as a future first line center.

2. Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog (LW, Kitchener-OHL): No forward in the entire draft is more NHL-ready at the moment that Landeskog. It's extremely impressive to see a young native of Sweden be the captain of a Canadian junior team and Landeskog is a high character player with the skill to match. He may not be quite as dynamic as Nugent-Hopkins, but he has a better all-around game. At this point, it would be a major surprise if he didn't begin next season in Colorado. He should help fill some of the offensive punch that was lost when Colorado dealt Chris Stewart to St. Louis in the deal to acquire Erik Johnson.

3. Florida Panthers: Jonathan Huberdeau (C, Saint John-QMJHL): The Panthers need help everywhere, but since they took defenseman Erik Gudbranson third overall last year, they did the right thing by taking Huberdeau. The Panthers wanted Gudbranson in their opening night lineup last year, but they managed to screw that up and didn't get him signed in time. He will be in the opening night lineup this season, but Huberdeau is likely headed back to Saint John for another year. He's an elite offensive talent but it will be a couple seasons before he's a fantasy option. With Drew Shore and Nick Bjugstad also in the fold, the Panthers are quietly building a nice foundation of forwards for the future.

4. New Jersey Devils: Adam Larsson (D, Skelleftea-Sweden): The Devils group of forward prospects is about as poor as any team in the league, but they couldn't pass on the best defenseman in the draft. Larsson is projected to play in the NHL right away and he joins Jon Merrill as top flight defensive prospects for New Jersey. His offensive game is still developing, but he has the potential to run the New Jersey power-play eventually. With aging defensemen such as Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov on their roster, Larsson figures to see a ton of ice time right away.

5. New York Islanders: Ryan Strome (C, Niagara-OHL): Sean Couturier was an option here, but Strome has more pure offensive ability and he was the right selection here. After scoring just 27 points last season, Strome improved to a ridiculous 106 points this year. He should look great eventually playing alongside John Tavares and the Islanders also have Nino Niederreiter on the way. He's a player to keep an eye on for next season if he is able to make the Isles roster right out of training camp. He is going to get a long look.

6. Ottawa Senators: Mika Zibanejad (C, Djurgarden-Sweden): The Senators really need help down the middle after Jason Spezza, so the big Swedish center was the choice for GM Bryan Murray. Zibanejad battles hard along the boards and he also brings a decent amount of skill to the table. He isn't likely to ever be a huge fantasy option, but he's a pretty safe pick, especially for a young European. If he doesn't make the Sens out of camp, he will return to Sweden for another season, but he will almost certainly be in the NHL by 2012-13.

7. Winnipeg Jets: Mark Scheifele (C, Barrie-OHL): Scheifele had a fantastic season to rise up the draft rankings. Yet even with his big year, The Hockey News had him ranked 41st, so clearly not everyone is sold on the young center. An argument can be made that Winnipeg has the worst prospect pool in the entire league and outside of Carl Klingberg, they don't have any forwards who project as a top-six skater, so the pick is a bit of a risk. His overall skill package is intriguing, but I think the Jets could have made better use of such a high pick.

8. Philadelphia Flyers: Sean Couturier (C, Drummondville-QMJHL): Couturier was taken with the pick from Columbus that the Flyers acquired in the Jeff Carter trade. At the start of the season, he was thought of as a potential first overall selection, but he didn't have a standout year and dropped a bit. But 6'4 centers with offensive ability don't grow on trees and the Flyers did well to get Couturier this late. Carter and Mike Richards are gone, but the Flyers now have two outstanding prospects in Couturier and Brayden Schenn to join young stars Claude Giroux and James vanRiemsdyk.

9. Boston Bruins: Dougie Hamilton (D, Niagara-OHL): And the Phil Kessel trade continues to get worse for Toronto. The final tally is Kessel for Hamilton, Tyler Seguin and Jared Knight. Leafs GM Brian Burke is probably pulling his hair out at this point. Zdeno Chara isn't getting any younger, so the Bruins did well to get a defenseman who has star potential. Boston may let Tomas Kaberle walk as a free agent, but Hamilton is still ticketed for another season in the OHL. He projects as a real solid two-way defenseman at the NHL level.

10. Minnesota Wild: Jonas Brodin (D, Farjestad-Sweden): There's nothing fancy about Brodin's game, but he's the exact type of defensemen that all NHL teams to win. Brodin is listed at a ridiculous 165 pounds, so he has an awful lot of work to do to get ready for the NHL. But he took a regular shift for the championship team in the world's second best league as a 17 year old and he's about as smart a defenseman as you will find in the draft. The Wild have always been known for drafting European players, so the pick wasn't a surprise.

11. Colorado Avalanche: Duncan Siemens (D, Saskatoon-WHL): Siemens is a solid skater who has a defensive edge to his game. He is willing to fight and stand up for his teammates and he hits hard. His offensive skills aren't outstanding, but they are good enough to get by. Colorado's top two defensive prospects, Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott are both offensive type defensemen, so a defense first defender like Siemens was exactly what Colorado needed.

12. Carolina Hurricanes: Ryan Murphy (D, Kitchener-OHL): Murphy is as talented an offensive defenseman as there is in the draft. The comparisons to Ryan Ellis are endless, but Murphy is a better skater. His strength and size is a real concern as some scouts think he is going to have a very hard time playing even strength minutes in the NHL. His defensive game is almost non-existent and it needs a ton of work. Carolina thought they had their power-play quarterback of the future in 2010 second round pick Justin Faulk, but they couldn't pass up Murphy at this point.

13. Calgary Flames: Sven Bartschi (LW, Portland-WHL): Calgary's prospect pool rivals Winnipeg's as the league's worst, so they needed help just about everywhere. They traded top prospect Tim Erixon to the Rangers after he refused to sign with them, but they went with a forward with their first pick. Bartschi is undersized, but he's an offensive dynamo who played on a loaded team in Portland. He is going to need at least another year in juniors, but to give you an idea of the dire situation the Calgary prospect pool in currently in, Bartschi immediately becomes their top prospect.

14. Dallas Stars: Jamie Oleksiak (D, Northeastern-HE): At 6'7 and 245 pounds, Oleksiak is one of the biggest and strongest players in the entire draft. He can probably use his size a bit more, but that will come with age. He's a good skater with good offensive abilities, especially for his size. He had a very impressive season as a freshman at Northeastern. Dallas' top defensive prospect, Phillip Larsen is just 5'11, so Oleksiak brings some much needed size to the Dallas prospect pool.

15. New York Rangers: J.T. Miller (LW, US NTDP): It was quite clear that the Rangers wanted a forward since they have more young defensemen then they know what to do with, but not many thought Miller would go this high. The Hockey News had him ranked 59th. The Rangers need goal scorers, but Miller is more of a physical forward. He works his tail off and does have some skill so the pick does make some sense. Miller made a verbal commitment to play next season at the University of North Dakota, but there are rumors he is considering playing in Plymouth of the OHL instead. If the Rangers get their way, he's almost certainly headed to Plymouth.

16. Buffalo Sabres: Joel Armia (RW, Assat-Finland): Armia is a pure goal scorer who had a great year for Assat. He was awful and non-existent at the World Junior tournament, but everyone is in agreement that Armia has the potential to be a big time scorer at the NHL level. The Sabres never ever take European players, so they must have really seen something they liked with Armia. He also has good size at 6'3 and 190 pounds.

17. Montreal Canadiens: Nathan Beaulieu (D, Saint John-QMJHL): Montreal needed a defenseman and there's no doubt they were absolutely thrilled to see Beaulieu on the board at number 17. Beaulieu has good size and is a fantastic skater. He had 45 points in each of the past two seasons and that total figures to go up this season with teammate Simon Despres turning pro. No one would have blinked an eye had Beaulieu been selected closer to 10 as opposed to 17.

18. Chicago Blackhawks: Mark McNeill (C, Prince Albert-WHL): There aren't many players in this year's draft that already have a body that is capable of standing up to the rigors of an NHL season, but McNeill is one of them. McNeill is a prototypical power forward who scored 32 goals this season for Prince Albert. Chicago already has plenty of talented forwards on their roster, but expect McNeill to see NHL action sooner rather than later.

19. Edmonton Oilers: Oscar Klefbom (D, Farjestad-Sweden): The Oilers opted for the European defenseman with the pick they acquired in the Dustin Penner trade. Klefbom didn't get a ton of playing time for Farjestad, so teams had a difficult time getting a read of him. At 6'4 and 200 pounds, Klefbom has the size to do some serious damage in his own zone. Klefbom doesn't project to put up many points as a pro, but the Oilers are drafting on pure potential with this pick.

20. Phoenix Coyotes: Connor Murphy (D, US NTDP): A back injury wiped out nearly all of Murphy's draft-eligible season, but he was fantastic when he was out there and he skates well and has some real offensive ability. He needs to get stronger, but he has good size at 6'3. Murphy is going to need three or four years to develop. He heads to Miami University next season.

21. Ottawa Senators: Stefan Noesen (C, Plymouth-OHL): Skating behind Tyler Seguin in Plymouth two seasons ago, Noesen got very little ice time and finished with just eight points in 33 games. With Seguin and Phil McRae both turning pro this season, Noesen's role grew and he finished with 34 goals and 77 points in 68 games. Not many thought Noesen would go this high, but the skill is there and he's a fantastic skater.

22. Toronto Maple Leafs: Tyler Biggs (RW, US NTDP): Biggs is mean, tough, and a real pain to play against. He has great size at 6'2 and 210 pounds and he will fight anyone that he has to. When you add to the fact that he has a real good touch around the net, he's a great pick for the Leafs at this point in the draft. Like Connor Murphy, he is also headed to Miami University next season.

23. Pittsburgh Penguins: Joe Morrow (D, Portland-WHL): Morrow's game really developed over the past season led by his improved skating. He had 49 points in 60 games this season, but many think that high total is the result of playing on such a strong Portland team. Morrow is also willing to stand up for his teammates by fighting if necessary. He's a typical WHL defenseman who does nothing fantastically but everything well.

24. Ottawa Senators: Matt Puempel (LW, Peterborough-OHL): Ottawa needs goal scorers and they got the best one available in Puempel. A hip injury ended his season early, but he has 67 goals in 114 games with Peterborough in the last two years. He isn't a great skater, but he always finds ways to score goals. Puempel joins Mika Zibanejad and Stefan Noesen as forwards selected by Ottawa in the first round.

25. Toronto Maple Leafs: Stuart Percy (D, Mississauga-OHL): Percy had a nice season but his coming out party came in the Memorial Cup, where he was named to the tournament All-Star team. Percy is a smooth skating, puck moving defenseman who needs to get stronger and meaner. Toronto was known to have serious interest in Percy leading up to the draft, so it's no surprise to see him end up with the Leafs.

26. Chicago Blackhawks: Phillip Danault (LW, Victoriaville-QMJHL): Danault is an extremely high character player who projects as a potential future captain down the road, but there are questions about how much he will score as a pro. Considering all the offensive weapons they already have, Chicago could afford to take the risk.  He's best suited as a third line checker with the ability to chip in offensively now and then.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Vladislav Namestnikov (C, London-OHL): NHL teams are seemingly always hesitant to spend first round picks on Russian players these days without a transfer agreement in place, but Namestnikov skated for London of the OHL this season, so GM Steve Yzerman felt safe about making him Tampa's first round selection. Namestnikov is very talented, but also very weak physically. If he bulks up, he has the potential to be a good offensive player.

28. Minnesota Wild: Zack Phillips (C, Saint John-QMJHL): Phillips' poor skating is a huge concern, but no one doubts his elite offensive ability. Spending most of the season centering Jonathan Huberdeau, Phillips finished with 38 goals and 95 points in 67 games. Minnesota is another team that needs all the scoring help they can get and Phillips can certainly help in that area.

29. Vancouver Canucks: Nicklas Jensen (RW, Oshawa-OHL): It took a little while for Jensen to adjust to his first season in North America, but once he got it going, he was really good. The skill is there, but Jensen seemingly avoids physical contact if possible. Vancouver drafted Michael Grabner in the first round in 2006, and there were similar questions about him when he was selected and he has since turned into a 34-goal scorer and Calder Trophy finalist with the New York Islanders. Jensen has that kind of potential.

30. Anaheim Ducks: Rickard Rakell (RW, Plymouth-OHL): Rakell is a rare European player who excels on the forecheck and enjoys the physical aspect of the game. He is another player who may be limited offensively once he turns pro, but the other parts of his game are solid enough that he should have no problem eventually forging a career as a regular in the NHL.