Now that NHL Central Scouting has released its final rankings of the top players available for the 2011 Entry Draft, all 30 NHL teams are studying that list, as well as their own rankings, in preparing for this year's selection process.
How will the teams decide to use those valuable picks? No one knows for sure, but NHL.com certainly is willing to take a guess.
NHL.com's three Draft experts -- Mike Morreale, Adam Kimelman and Steven Hoffner -- have taken their crystal balls out of storage and have attempted to predict how the first round will turn out.
For this exercise, the order is based on the final standings. The first 14 slots go to the teams based on Tuesday's NHL Draft Drawing, followed by the playoff teams in inverse order of points.
All three of our prognosticators are in agreement that the Edmonton Oilers
will select Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
-- 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, and according to Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan
, Nugent-Hopkins has some pretty big fans in Edmonton.
"A couple of people high up -- and not naming names -- said Hopkins has the best vision since No. 99 (Wayne Gretzky
)," Sullivan told NHL.com. "That's the highest compliment you can get."
All three also are in agreement that the Colorado Avalanche
will take Kitchener Rangers power forward Gabriel Landeskog
with the second pick.
After that, however, things start to go in different directions. Morreale and Hoffner believe the Florida Panthers
will choose a defenseman with the third pick, although they differ on which blueliner it will be -- Morreale believes it will be Swedish star Adam Larsson
, while Hoffner thinks they'll opt for Saint John's Nathan Beaulieu
Kimelman sees them going in a different direction -- Drummondville center Sean Couturier
How do they think the rest of the first round will play out? Well, you'll have to check out all three drafts for yourself.
You can check back in a little more than two months to see how smart our experts really are.