My 2011 NHL Draft Top-30

I know the hockey world is swamped with mock drafts and top-30 lists at the moment, but I thought I’d add one more – mine. This is not a mock draft; rather, this is how I rank the players I feel are the top-30 prospects for tomorrow’s draft.

The List

Rank Player League Stats Brief Comments
1 Adam Larsson SEL 37GP – 1G – 8A – 9PTS Two-way defender is already handling tough opposition in one of the world’s best leagues
2 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins WHL 69GP – 31G – 75A – 106PTS Smallish power play dynamo is the consensus first overall pick; has been compared to Datsyuk
3 Sean Couturier QMJHL 58GP – 36G – 60A – 96PTS Big forward plays a strong two-way game, skating is a concern
4 Gabriel Landeskog OHL 53GP – 36G – 30A – 66PTS Gritty winger is a better scorer than he gets credit for; he outscored Nugent-Hopkins at even-strength
5 Jonathan Huberdeau QMJHL 67GP – 43G – 62A – 105PTS Top scorer for the best team in the ‘Q’; will probably be selected before Couturier
6 Ryan Strome OHL 65GP – 33G – 73A – 106PTS Complete player is in the draft’s upper tier, though (relatively) poor playoff showing might hurt him
7 Dougie Hamilton OHL 67GP – 12G – 46A – 58PTS 6’4" defender can do it all – he really isn’t that far behind Larsson
8 Ryan Murphy OHL 63GP – 26G – 53A – 79PTS All-offense defenseman put up a lot of points on the powerplay, but defensive game is weak
9 Alexander Khokhlachev OHL 67GP – 34G – 42A – 76PTS One of the youngest players in the draft, Khokhlachev’s got high-end puck skills
10 Duncan Siemens WHL 72GP – 5G – 38A – 43PTS Tough as nails defender has pretty good skills too.
11 Mika Zibanejad SEL 26GP – 5G – 4A – 9PTS Physically mature two-way forward is rising fast and seems to have broken into the draft’s top tier
12 Zack Phillips QMJHL 67GP – 38G – 57A – 95PTS Goal-scorer was a key member of Huberdeau’s powerhouse Saint John team
13 Mark McNeill WHL 70GP – 32G – 49A – 81PTS Smart, two-way forward lacks a glaring weakness
14 Sven Bartschi WHL 66GP – 34G – 51A – 85PTS Small winger played for a ridiculously good Portland team, but is gritty and can score
15 Matt Puempel OHL 55GP – 34G – 35A – 69PTS I really like this natural goal-scorer, despite injury problems
16 Nikita Kucherov MHL 41GP – 27G – 31A – 58PTS Phenomenal offensive player is a gamble because of the ‘Russian factor’
17 Mark Scheifele OHL 66GP – 22G – 53A – 75PTS 6’3" centre has plus hockey sense, doesn’t mind traffic
18 Jonas Brodin SEL 42GP – 0G – 4A – 4PTS Intelligent finesse defender needs to bulk up; offensive upside is a bit of a question mark
19 Michael St. Croix WHL 68GP – 27G – 48A – 75PTS 5’11" centre has scoring skills, defensive play described as "indifferent"
20 Rocco Grimaldi USNTDP 23GP – 12G – 13A – 25PTS 5’6" forward is one of the best players in the draft, but stands 5’6"
21 Joel Armia Fin. 48GP – 18G – 11A – 29PTS Big, highly-skilled shooter gets knocked for vision and hockey sense
22 Ty Rattie OHL 67GP – 28G – 51A – 79PTS Another offensive player from that ridiculously loaded Portland team
23 Scott Mayfield USHL 52GP – 7G – 9A – 16PTS Huge defender played big minutes for a lousy Youngstown team
24 Joe Morrow WHL 60GP – 9G – 40A – 49PTS I wonder if this offensive defenseman would have managed these total outside Portland
25 Connor Murphy USNTDP 9GP – 3G – 1A – 4PTS I’m a sucker for hockey sense, but his back injuries scare me. This late, I’d risk a selection.
26 Dmitrij Jaskin Cze. 33GP – 3G – 7A – 10PTS Had a great U-18 tourney; 6’3" winger went 1st overall in the KHL’s 2010 Draft
27 David Musil WHL 62GP – 6G – 19A – 25PTS Defensive defenseman’s scouting report sounds a lot like he’s a higher-end version of his dad
28 Jamie Oleksiak NE 38GP – 4G – 9A – 13PTS Massive (6’7") player is a decent skater for his size, provides minimal offense
29 Nicklas Jensen OHL 61GP – 29G – 29A – 58PTS Big Dane had a great playoffs, scoring seven times in 10 games
30 Oscar Klefbom SEL 23GP – 1G – 1A – 2PTS Defenseman had a great U18 tournament as Sweden’s captain

Further Explanation

I have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at number two, and despite my worries about his even-strength scoring I want to make something clear: I like this player. He’s a high-end prospect, a dynamo on the man advantage, and a guy people I respect have seen a lot and gushed about. I expect him to go first overall, and I’d be drafting him fairly high as an NHL G.M. That said, I think there’s a small chance (say one in 15) that his career turns out to be a disappointment.

I’m a huge fan of Gabriel Landeskog, and I think if he’d put up a few more points with the man advantage he would be going first overall. Character, grit, and goal-scoring aren’t often wrapped up in the same package, and he’s a guy I’d love to see in the system.

Portland was a ridiculously loaded club, with three players likely to go in the first round this year, plus high picks from last year like Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter and Brad Ross. Because the team was so good, I’m a little suspicious of some of the totals we’ve seen from prospects in this year’s draft.

Jonas Brodin was compared to Nicklas Lidstrom in Bob McKenzie’s TSN list, and seems to be a guy that might skyrocket on draft day. It only takes one team to love him that much.

I really, really like Connor Murphy. From what I’ve read, I can’t find a scout that disagrees with that statement. He’s suffered through some terrifying injuries the last few years, and it’s fair to ask whether he’ll be permanently damaged as a result – if he isn’t, a 25th overall selection would be brilliant, but then again he might be retired by 25.

Everyone has Jamie Oleksiak higher than I do because he’s so huge, and could turn into the next Tyler Myers or Zdeno Chara. My worry would be that he turns into Boris Valabik.

  • Love Monkey

    Thanks for shedding some light on Russian prospect Nikita Kucherov! Sounds like he could be a game-breaker. I bet he’s taken with one of Washington’s picks, or if he falls maybe Winnipeg (they already have Burmistrov so he might come over).

  • @ Love Monkey:

    St. Croix was one of the toughest players to rank – over the course of the year I’ve had him anywhere from the middle of the first round to outside the top-30 entirely. In the end, I moved him up because his offensive potential is so high.

    • everton fc

      Anyone think Kucherov’s worth a punt for the Flames, if he’s available? Either first or second round?? He’s only 165lbs… But maybe he can beef up ten pounds and be an effective player here?? He’s bigger (height-wise) than Khokhlachev…

      Also… anyone like Tyler Biggs in a Flames jersey? Not as our first pick… But if available…

      Thoughts??

      • Souby

        No offense, but you do know that this is Oilersnation right? I would love to discuss what the Oil will do and speculate about who they will pick and all of that.

        I will give you this though; I would rather see Biggs in an Oiler uniform rather than the Flames.

        • No offense, but you do know this article is posted on Flamesnation as well right?

          Anyways, on Kucherov…the Flames have been allergic to Russians for neearly a decade. The risk of drafting them, plus Sutter’s general disdain cut them out of the plans completely. Heck, I don’t even know if the team even scouts them.

          I’ll start considering Russians for CGY if/when that changes under Feaster.

      • Tyler Biggs is possible, yes, but 13 is a little early, even for his player type. Having said that I could see the Flames doing it, only because their scouting seems to value some of the things he has.

        As for Khokhlachev, I’m not sure that Calgary will dabble much outside of the WHL or maybe the OHL but rairly do they go to Europe (see what happened with Tim Erixon recently? not helping that) almost never Russia.

        • everton fc

          I meant Biggs in Round 2… But I like him.

          I still think Kucherov’s worth a punt if he’s still available in round 2… Not Khokhlachev… Kucherov….

          • everton fc

            Ya, my bad, I ment Kucherov (just learning more about him today as a pose to Khokhlachev) but my feeling is the same, that they won’t take Russian prospects.

  • Good post JW; I feel the same way about Jonathan Huberdeau team as you do with Portland, I’m not saying Huberdeau is going to be a bust, I just think his numbers may have been inflated a tad.

    Also, If you could trade up in the draft,(the Olers) would you take Larsson or Landeskog, As good as think Larsson is going to be I have this feeling that Landeskog is going to be that Cam Neely type player…..Kick his ass sea bass!

  • Love Monkey

    You and I agree on McNeill as the Flames first pick. Played very well on a mediocre junior squad. Lots of development ahead, but will be a great offensive contributor down the road.

    With some of the posturing that Mr. Feaster has done, I suspect we will see the Flames use one and trade one of the second rounders.

  • Action Jackson

    So many projections and trade rumors my head is going to explode! This draft is going to be awesome to watch! Whether it’s trading up, trading down, or staying put, I just hope Steve and Stu can outsmart everyone and come out with some draft steals!

    • Souby

      I feel the same way! I think archeology guy said that if the Oilers choose anyone but RNH they’ve gone off the board.

      I just hope they can move up, and steal another high pick, the next 24+ hours are going to kill!

      This is the culmination of all that sucked last year!

  • Petr's Jofa

    Is this still considered to be a weaker draft? I’ve read countless times that there are no Crosbys, Ovechkins or even Tavares or Halls in this class, so what are we really looking at when we talk about the top 5 or 8 players in this draft class?

    If we look at RNH’s scouting report, where would he be taken if he were up against the 2010 draft class, or even better, the 2007 draft class?

    Same goes for the other top 8 picks people seem to be gitty about. Are they really this good, or are people just blinded by hope and potential? Is this like an isolated field camp where the few women suddenly all become 8s and 9s because there is nothing else to compare them to? While in camp you’re happy to have bagged the top one availible, but then you return to civilization and you realize the horrible mistake you’ve made. I just hope Tambo doesn’t have his bush-goggles on.

    • Souby

      If RNH was drafted in 2010, he would have to be in the discussion of top 3 with Hall and Seguin would he not? Similar production, tons of potential. I would think he would have been a solid #3 behind Taylor and Tyler IMO.

    • Souby

      No expert has said this is a week draft, what they say is that the top ten are all very good to excellent, the top 5 are almost interchangeable and are elite class players.

      It may have been said here or on a sports show but I heard RNH would have gone anywhere from 3rd to 5th last year. Possible even second.

      • Petr's Jofa

        Thanks Wes.

        Doing some Google research just to prove to myself I’m not crazy…

        In march 2009, this 2011 class looked weak*. 7 months later, Nov 2010, the draft class was starting to look average**. Another 7 months after that, and days away from the draft, many want to trade up for a second top 5/8/10 pick.

        I just hope that were not all caught up in the NHL draft hype machine because it’s getting closer, I hope it’s because the players are getting better.

        *http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/24538-A-Scouts-Life-2011-draft-looking-weak.html

        **http://futureconsiderationsdotca.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/2011-nhl-entry-draft-at-a-glance/

  • icedawg_42

    I might like Rattie better than Biggs for a second rounder..still undecided on that. Any of you Oiler fans think they should draft RNH and dangle Hemsky for an established high end defender?

    • Souby

      As an Oiler fan I am not too keen on trading Hemsky. He has had some injury trouble as of late but when healthy, he is a very good player.

      For me, dealing him would really depend on the player we got in return. If the Oil were able to get that “established high end defender” you speak of, it is definitely worth considering.

      • icedawg_42

        Yeah – that’s kind of where I was going with it..the need for a high end D man. I may be out to lunch here, but maybe use Hemsky to go chasing a Bogosian type young guy with a high ceiling.

        • Souby

          You’re not out to lunch at all on this. The Oil need a defender, no doubt. Bogosian is young, but he has lots of untapped potential. I think the Oil would certainly love to get him, but the question is, would Winnipeg give him up?

          On a side note…isn’t it nice to be asking what Winnipeg would do as opposed to Atlanta? Any Winnipeg “Insert name here” fans here?

    • icedawg_42

      Yes, they draft RNH first, if they don’t, you will hear a big pop in Edmonton! that would be my head exploding!

      As for Hemsky I’ve been beating that one dead for a month now, yes we should dangle Hemsky for another high end pick. I for one don’t believe Tambo at his press conference the other day, sounded a lot like Penner before he got traded

  • everton fc

    Interesting to read your thoughts on Connor Murphy, I have similar comments myself, ranking him at 27.

    If the Oilers took him at 19, that would be a bit of a gamble but it’s possible he has more upside than anyone else available at that point in the draft, especially if you particularly want a D.

  • Souby

    To those Flames fans, peace. Who are you looking at for that 13th spot.

    I would have thought a week ago you might have had a shot at Zibanejad, but he is climbing fast. Would a player like Bartschi do.

    • icedawg_42

      Zibanejad and Bartschi would be great – either one of them. Most of us think they’ll be gone by then – some of us like the look of Mark McNeill at #13

  • Mantastic

    i think the flames need to draft a C like a Mark Scheifele, a guy with potential to be a high end center but as an organization they need everything for prospects…

      • Petr's Jofa

        @ icedawg_42 and Mantastic
        I think he is a darkhorse pick and reminds me of a Ryan Getzlaf “type” center. I also like Boone Jenner, but at 13, I’m not sure it would be a wise pick.
        Another pick would be Zack Phillips from Saint John Seadogs. Good vision and hockey sense, however his skating needs improvement.
        I think overall all the “experts” say this is a weak draft — however there is plenty of potential prospects which would improve Calgarys’ prospect pool later in the draft.
        I never thought when they drafted Max Reinhart with their first pick from last years draft he would show such improvement in one season.

  • Chris.

    The chances of RNH being a disappointment is more like 1 in a 100. C’mon people – 9 out of 10 scouts have him first overall. Stop overthinking yourselves. Draft best available player please.

    I know it has been discussed ad nauseum, but you simply don’t trade for or find elite centers in FA compared to elite defensemen.

    To illustrate my point I have picked the top 11 centers in scoring for the 2010/2011 season (doesn’t include Crosby, Backstrom, Datsyuk, Carter, M. Richards, etc which I think would even strengthen my argument) and have chosen a personal list of 11 of the best d-men in the league. Scoring, isn’t a strong indicator of overall effectiveness of elite d-men IMO. Yes, some of you won’t agree with a couple of my picks (like Pronger) but overall you should get the idea and agree that they are all considered by most to be elite or one step below.

    Centers (draft pick # / times traded (or avaliable via FA)):
    H. Sedin – 3 / 0
    Stamkos – 1 / 0
    B. Richards – 64 / 2 (includes July 1 FA)
    E. Staal – 2 / 0
    Toews – 3 / 0
    Kesler – 23 / 0
    Getzlaf – 19 / 0
    Kopitar – 11 / 0
    Riberio – 45 / 1
    Thorton – 1 / 1
    Tavares – 1 / 0

    Average draft pick for elite center: 15
    Average times traded or avaliable via FA: 0.27

    My TOP 11 Defensemen in League 2010/11 (draft pick #):
    Lidstrom – 53 / 0
    Weber – 49 / 0
    Chara – 56 / 2
    Doughty – 2 / 0
    Keith – 54 / 0
    Yandle – 105 / 0
    Visnovsky – 118 / 2
    Letang – 62 / 0
    Boyle – 100 / 2 (since he was undrafted, I gave him a 100 for draft pick – I’m in a generous mood)
    Erhoff – 106 / 1
    Pronger – 2 / 4 (skews the #’s a bit but no questioning his dominance and further proves ability to trade for elite d-men)

    Average draft pick for elite center: 64
    Average times traded or avaliable via FA: 1

    In summary:

    It is far more difficult to trade for, or attract via FA, elite C’s than D’s.

    There is only one choice for the #1 selection – RNH.

  • Horcsky

    Boris Valabik was the open-ice hitting (and fighting) machine for my NHL 09 Oilers defense, which include J-Bo, Eric and Jack Johnson, and Dan Boyle.

    ~If I was GM,Jamie Oleksiak would be high on my list~

  • icedawg_42

    I love this draft, it’s gonna make a lot of team look stupid, and a few look like geniuses. I’ve seen your #9 go to us at 31 on some list. I’ve seen Pumpel go anywhere from top 15 to 25, the Ice Dogs D (Beaulieu) go as high as 6th, and not in other peoples top 30. This draft is insane for that very fact. Armia 10th – 21, Klefborn 14 – 30, and so on. Getting a lot of picks in the first round might not be a terrible idea. If the Cogs for a 1st (15-25), plus 3rd or whatever it was is true, Could make us look like the smartest team on earth. Or… we just flushed a guy there wasn’t a ton of space for in the future anyway.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    Khokhlachev is a guy who might throw a wrench into most mock drafts. He has has high-end potential but is one-dimensional and it seems like his stock has really fallen. After the top tier, this draft seems wide open and I can’t wait to get it started!

  • @ C#### ####:

    Two points:

    1) I looked up and down to find Beaulieu and realized I somehow cropped him off my list in Excel. Originally I had him right behind Connor Murphy, and it was an accident that he wasn’t included.

    2) I’m not sure how a guy can be paying enough attention to spot the absence of Beaulieu and somehow blow right by the “this is not a mock draft” disclaimer two sentences into the article, as you obviously did.