NHL.com Experts Believe Nugent-Hopkins Will Go First
/ Toronto Maple Leafs
While the Boston Bruins celebrate their Stanley Cup triumph, the team's scouting staff is hard at work preparing for the 2011 Entry Draft.
While GM Peter Chiarelli and his scouts might have some idea what kind of player they're looking for with the ninth pick of the opening round June 24 in St. Paul, Minn., there's no telling what might be available. But that's why the draft experts at NHL.com are here to sort it all out for you.
For the final time before the start of the draft at Xcel Energy Center, Mike Morreale, Adam Kimelman, Steven Hoffner and Deven Persaud will attempt to predict how the first round might pan out.
All four of our prognosticators are in agreement -- the Edmonton Oilers will select Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, NHL Central Scouting's No. 1-ranked North American skater -- with the top pick. The 6-foot, 164-pound center led the Western Hockey League with 75 assists and was tied for third with 106 points this past season.
However, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini told NHL.com he and his scouting group haven't locked in on any particular player.
"We're going through the same process," he said. "This year it's different because I think there's more people in play. You can talk to 30 teams and they may give you many different answers in how they rank 1-5 in this year's draft, and they're all really good players. There's a lot of good depth, especially at the top. That's what's different about this draft."
Three of the four NHL.com predictors are convinced the Colorado Avalanche will choose left wing Gabriel Landeskog of the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers with the second overall selection. Only Persaud believes differently, penciling in Saint John Sea Dogs center Jonathan Huberdeau into the No. 2 spot.
"According to our scouts, they felt pretty comfortable in the No. 2 slot that there's a sure possibility that someone is NHL ready," Colorado general manager Greg Sherman said. "Everything seems to be very positive with (Landeskog), though, from what I've learned through our scouts. But, again, we'll look at all the options that are on the board for us and our group will make the right decision at the right time."
The drafts start to separate themselves starting with the third pick. Kimelman and Hoffner believe the Florida Panthers will grab Huberdeau, who won the MVP of the Memorial Cup last month, while Morreale and Persaud see Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson of Skelleftea in the Elitserien is the logical choice for the Panthers.
How do the NHL.com prognosticators think the rest of the first round will play out? Well, you'll have to check out all four drafts for yourself. You can check back in a week to see how astute our experts really are.