Craig Button, hockey analyst for NHL 'On the Fly' on the NHL Network, recently offered some insight on a few of the top prospects eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25.
In his analysis, Button admitted each of his top five choices had a unique quality.
"You have two defensemen, two centermen and a winger, and when you put them together, they all add something different but I think they'd be difference-makers for a team," Button said. "That'll be important after the scouts have spent those endless hours and long miles trying to gather reports and assess these players."
When NHL Central Scouting released its top five North American skaters in January, Kitchener Rangers captain Gabriel Landeskog was considered the No. 1 prospect, followed by No. 2 Sean Couturier of Drummondville, No. 3 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer, No. 4 Jonathan Huberdeau of Saint John and No. 5 Tyler Biggs of the United States National Team Development Program. Adam Larsson of Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League was the top-ranked international skater, following by No. 2 Joel Armia of Finland's Assat in Finland and Mika Zibanejad of Sweden's Djurgarden. Zibanejad, who is moving up the ranks following his promotion to the Elite League, has been said to have better upside than current Devils forward Jacob Josefson.
Here's how Button, a former NHL scout and General Manager, feels the top five selections might turn out on June 24 at Xcel Energy Center.
5-Ryan Murphy, Kitchener (OHL), defenseman: "He might not be big in stature (5-10 1/2, 176), but don't be fooled. He's a superb skater. His quickness, agility, and being able to turn and get the puck up ice is great. He opens up ice for himself. Ryan Ellis went 11th overall to the Nashville Predators (in 2009) and Ryan Muphy is in that class of player. He has great vision, great hands and he knows how to play with his size. Muphy has all the qualities to be a top NHL player."
4-Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John (QMJHL), center: "I think he's a complete player. He brings a lot of everything. He brings skill, he brings a great awareness on the ice, he competes and plays hard, he goes to the net and plays along the boards. He's the type of player who can create chances offensively in a lot of different ways. As he gets bigger and stronger, he's going to be even more of a force. He's got a determination and spirit about him that makes him really hard to play against."
3-Adam Larsson, Skelleftea (Swedish Elite League), defenseman: "I like him for the completeness of his game. He's a guy that can play defensively. He's got the size (6-3, 200) and poise defensively, but offensively, he knows how to create chances. He's got a great shot, he can pass the puck and jump into the attack. He can make good decisions and, for an 18-year-old defenseman, sometimes you're looking for that player who has to make better decisions. I really like the way he gets himself into position defensively and offensively, and he can control the game. Those types of players, who can play a lot of minutes, are hard to find."
2-Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener (OHL), left wing: "Any way you want to play, he'll oblige. He can skate, play a skill game or a power game. If you want to get down into the heavy parts of the game, he's fine with that too. He's strong, he'll battle in the hard areas and can beat you with his shot, beat you with a pass and has superb hockey sense. I was in Dallas (as Director of Scouting) when we drafted Brenden Morrow (25th overall, 1997) and Gabriel reminds me a lot of Brenden Morrow."
1-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer (WHL), center: "No. 1 centers are really hard to find. No. 1 centers that make everyone around them better, are even more difficult to find. Hopkins has unbelievable vision, he's got unbelievable creativity and when you combine it with great quickness in his feet, and hands, and the ability to see what's unfolding, he's hard to check. He's elusive … a lot like Brad Richards, maybe even a Joe Sakic although not as good a shooter as Sakic. But if you're looking for similarities to that type of player, I think it's fair to compare him to a Brad Richards or a Joe Sakic-type. I know those are lofty expectations, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins if a premier player."