The 2011 Entry Draft is more than five months away, and the race for the top spots is as wide-open as ever. Who will go No. 1? It's anyone's guess.
And since anyone can guess, the draft experts at NHL.com are going to take our shot at guessing how the first round could turn out.
The questions seemingly start right at the top, where NHL Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire said, "as many as eight players could be taken first."
Could one of the Swedish-born players atop Central Scouting's mid-term draft rankings become the first person born in that country to become the first pick of an Entry Draft since Mats Sundin in 1989? Kitchener Rangers left wing Gabriel Landeskog and Skelleftea defenseman Adam Larsson top the North American and European rankings, respectively.
Also up for consideration are Drummondville Voltigeurs center Sean Couturier and Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. All Couturier has done is lead the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring last season and become the only draft-eligible player to make Canada's World Junior Championship team this season. Nugent-Hopkins leads the Western Hockey League in assists and is a point-per-game scorer.
The next level of talent is just as good.
If you're looking for talented forwards, there's Tyler Biggs of the U.S. National Team Developmental Program, Saint John Sea Dogs' Jonathan Huberdeau, Tomas Jurco and Zack Phillips, the Saginaw Spirit's Brandon Saad, the Portland Winterhawks' Sven Baertschi and Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs.
If defense is a need, there's Niagara's Dougie Hamilton, Saint John's Nathan Beaulieu, Kitchener's Ryan Murphy, Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades, Scott Mayfield of the Youngstown Phantoms or Portland's Joseph Morrow.
What about a goalie? USNTDP's John Gibson or the Chicoutimi Sagueneens' Christopher Gibson (no relation) may just do the trick.
The draft order in place for this exercise was based on inverse order of the standings as of Monday, Jan. 10. Only one team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, don't have a first-round pick. That belongs to the Boston Bruins as part of the Phil Kessel trade.
Also, the New Jersey Devils hold the option of forfeiting their first-round pick over any of the next four years due to League-imposed penalties from the Ilya Kovalchuk contract.
Take a look at what NHL.com thinks might happen, and if you feel so inclined, send us your opinion.
One advantage to making the picks from this side of the aisle -- we'll be able to do this again in a few weeks.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org