LOWDOWN: Nugent-Hopkins completed the 2010-11 season having scored 106 points for the WHL's Red Deer Rebels. His on-ice vision is superb, complementing an elite skill-set with and without the puck. Size is the only concern, but with wingers Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in need of a skilled centre, Nugent-Hopkins' talent might be too good to pass up.
D Dougie Hamilton - Niagara (OHL)
LOWDOWN: At 6'4", 187-pounds, Dougie Hamilton brings the complete package as a reliable, two-way defenceman. Following a season in which he produced 12 goals and 58 points (and a remarkable +35 rating), Hamilton ascended the North American rankings to the No. 4. spot. With the need to acquire depth on defence, Hamilton would fit in nicely following the trade of Kevin Shattenkirk to St. Louis.
LW Gabriel Landeskog - Kitchener (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Florida added a physical, shut-down defenceman last year when Erik Gudbranson was chosen with the third overall pick. The Panthers have several options this year, but Gabriel Landeskog is a unique talent on the wing. Not only can he score with that protoypical Swedish style, but his physical edge is punishing and relentless, adding to what is already an unmatched arsenal up front.
New Jersey Devils
D Adam Larsson - Skelleftea (SWE)
LOWDOWN: New Jersey has made a habit of acquiring bulk on the blueline. Of the prospects currently in the Devils system, no defenceman is shorter than 6'1" and weighs less than 195 pounds. With Adam Larsson still on the board, this is a no-brainer. The talented Swede will bring skill, physical play and a puck-moving style similar to that of Victor Hedman (2nd overall in 2009).
New York Islanders
C Sean Couturier - Drummondville (QMJHL)
LOWDOWN: Building up the middle is never a bad philosophy. With the loss of Doug Weight to retirement and the need for more depth at centre, Sean Couturier is the logical selection. He brings size, experience and a scoring touch rivaled only by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer. Couturier will add plenty to the Islanders organization and could potentially dress in the opening night lineup.
C Jonathan Huberdeau - Saint John (QMJHL)
LOWDOWN: Ottawa's rebuild will get a major kick with the selection of the Memorial Cup MVP. Much like Nugent-Hopkins and Hamilton, Huberdeau progressively climbed the North American rankings all season, eventually landing in the No. 3 spot. behind Gabriel Landeskog. The 6'1", 170-pound pivot notched 105 points this season, in addition to his three goals and six points in four Memorial Cup games.
C Ryan Strome - Niagara (OHL)
LOWDOWN: The relocated Winnipeg franchise will be looking to make a splash with a dynamic goal-scorer, and Ryan Strome will most certainly be the ticket. With 33 goals and 106 points in 2010-11, Strome's offensive ability is rivaled only by his remarkable two-way edge. Strome is a reliable centre that will add a new dimension to an already loaded pool that includes Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd and others.
Columbus Blue Jackets
D Ryan Murphy - Kitchener (OHL)
LOWDOWN: GM Scott Howson and the Columbus Blue Jackets have made a habit of securing defencemen with a slick scoring upside. Ryan Murphy led the OHL with 79 points this season, 26 of which were goals, including 14 on the power-play. Columbus will have the option to pick several rearguards in this spot, but Murphy's unparalleled offensive ability will be too good to pass on.
Boston Bruins (via TOR)
D Nathan Beaulieu - Saint John (QMJHL)
LOWDOWN: Last season, Boston was graced with the opportunity to choose a dynamic scoring centre by the name of Tyler Seguin with the second overall pick. The Bruins are strong on the blueline, but Nathan Beaulieu should help procure long-term stability on defence. Widely considered a strong skater and puck-mover, Beaulieu will help provide a spark with his speed and goal-scoring knack.
D Duncan Siemens - Saskatoon (WHL)
LOWDOWN: Minnesota is always eager to add size, particularly on the backend. Siemens, 6'2" and 193 pounds, certainly provides that. Siemens is widely considered the most physical of the defencemen available in the opening round, but he also brings an offensive side that produced 43 points in 72 games this season. He will complement the Wild's existing core nicely.
Colorado Avalanche (via STL)
C Mika Zibanejad - Djurgarden (SWE)
LOWDOWN: The prospect ranked second among European skaters is scooped up by a Colorado team looking to acquire supreme talent up front. Zibanejad is the most improved international skater, according to Central Scouting's rankings, and brings a unique dimension that combines the assets of a power forward and a smooth-skating finesse player. It's a winning combination that the Avalanche will love.
LW Sven Baertschi - Portland (WHL)
LOWDOWN: Of Portland's four eligible prospects, Sven Baertschi led the way in terms of scoring. In 66 games this year, Baertschi produced 34 goals and 85 points, good enough for second on the Winterhawks. His dynamic scoring touch would be a welcomed addition to a Hurricanes club that has already established a fine crop of young prospects.
D Jonas Brodin - Farjestad (SWE)
LOWDOWN: Calgary was unable to sign top defensive prospect Tim Erixon, losing a prospective stud on the blueline. Although the Flames were able to work a trade with the New York Rangers, acquiring picks and a prospect in exchange, the need for a replacement became evident. Calgary will take this opportunity to snag Jonas Brodin, a technical puck-mover from the SEL champions.
C Boone Jenner - Oshawa (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Although Boone Jenner put up 66 points (25 goals) this season, his name has been associated to a higher ranking due to his intelligent two-way game. Jenner is renowned for his defensive awareness, which includes his ability to read and react to plays, win one-on-one battles and engage physically with an opponent. Overall, Jenner will be a solid addition to the Stars organization.
New York Rangers
C Mark McNeill - Prince Albert (WHL)
LOWDOWN: Edmonton-native Mark McNeill scored 32 goals and 82 points this season in Prince Albert, but he brings so much more as a strong, two-way centre. His game usually mirrors the style of Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf, whom he looks up to as his pro role model. In doing so, he presents himself as a player willing to mix things up physically, play in all situations and score at a furious pace.
C Zack Phillips - Saint John (QMJHL)
LOWDOWN: Another one of Saint John's talented scorers is snagged with the 16th pick, as the Sabres add Zack Phillips to the mix. The 6'1", 178-pound centre amassed 38 goals and 95 points in 2010-11, leading the Sea Dogs with 15 power-play markers. Although considered a man-advantage specialist by many, he has the skill and will to produce at evens as well.
LW/RW Nicklas Jensen - Oshawa (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Nicklas Jensen spent the 2009-10 season in Herning, Denmark where he played with the Blue Fox Hockey Club. In his rookie season with the OHL's Oshawa Generals, Jensen had immediate success, scoring 29-29-58 in 61 games. He can play either wing well, allowing coaches to adjust line combinations under certain game situations. That should be a valued commodity for the Canadiens.
C Mark Scheifele - Barrie (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Mark Scheifele ascended from the No. 21 spot to No. 16 on NHL Central Scouting's list. Scheifele's rookie season with the OHL's Barrie Colts saw him produce 22 goals and 75 points. Although he was a concerning -22 on the season, much of that was due to Barrie's subpar season in which they were only able to collect 15 wins. Scheifele will be a great addition to the Blackhawks organization.
Edmonton Oilers (via LAK)
D Joseph Morrow - Portland (WHL)
LOWDOWN: Lifelong Oilers fan and Edmontonian Joseph Morrow gets his wish as the Oilers select the rugged, two-way rearguard with the 19th overall pick. The Oilers used No. 1 overall to select the centre they desired, so the next choice was a logical path to follow along the blueline. Morrow presents an intimidating physical force, along with elite puck-moving skills and an accurate scoring touch.
D Jamieson Oleksiak - Northeastern (HE)
LOWDOWN: At 6'7", 244 pounds, Oleksiak is giant on the blueline with a build similar to Boston's Zdeno Chara. Although he's continually working toward improving his foot-speed, his command of the pace and physical play makes this a worthwhile selection. He's a force on the backend. Oleksiak scored 12 points (three goals) in 34 games this past season at Northeastern University.
Ottawa Senators (via NSH)
G John Gibson - USA U-18 (USHL)
LOWDOWN: Ottawa has struggled to locate a consistent starting netminder over the past few years, so the opportunity to cash on the top-ranked North American goalie makes this an obvious choice for the Senators. Gibson, 6'3" and 205 pounds, appeared in 32 games with the United States U-18 Development Team, posting a .918 save-percentage and a 2.64 goals-against average.
RW Rickard Rakell - Plymouth (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Although Rakell hails from Sweden, he was a student of the NHL game well before he came over to North America last season. In his rookie campaign, Rakell scored 19 goals and 43 points in only 49 games, quickly establishing his name as one of the OHL's elite up-and-comers. His gritty, hard-nosed style will complement the Ducks' existing youth core nicely.
D Scott Mayfield - Youngstown (USHL)
LOWDOWN: The Penguins love smooth-skating, puck-moving defencemen. Youngstown's Scott Mayfield brings elite skill and intelligence to the game. He reads the play well, has the wherewithal to skate the puck up ice or make a crisp tape-to-tape pass on the breakout. He was named Team USA's MVP at the 2010 World Junior 'A' Challenge and scored 16 points in 52 games this season.
Detroit Red Wings
LW Matt Puempel - Peterborough (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Matt Puempel is a self-described goal scorer: "I love to score goals and I love that role. That's something I take great pride in." Puempel has excelled in that role, scoring 34 goals and 69 points in 2010-11. Even so, he's working hard to developing more of a two-way game. While Peterborough struggled as a team, Puempel concluded the season with a -33 rating. He'll fix that in Detroit.
Toronto Maple Leafs (via PHI)
RW Ty Rattie - Portland (WHL)
LOWDOWN: Size could be a concern, but with 28 goals and 79 points highlighting his 2010-11 resume, Ty Rattie's dynamic scoring ability will be a great addition to the Maple Leafs organization. Along with Winterhawks teammates Sven Baertschi, Joseph Morrow and Jeremy Wotherspoon, Rattie is coming from an excellent junior organization in Portland that has prepared NHL prospects well.
RW Joel Armia - Assat (FIN)
LOWDOWN: Armia dropped to the No. 4 spot following his No. 2 midterm ranking among international skaters earlier in the season. He's a big, hard-working winger that scored 18 goals and 29 points last season with Assat. At 17 years of age, he was easily the youngest player on the squad, but was still able to finish sixth in team scoring; an impressive feat in Finland's professional ranks.
Tampa Bay Lightning
LW Phillip Danault - Victoriaville (QMJHL)
LOWDOWN: Danault scored 23 goals and 67 points during the regular season but elevated his play in the post-season, recording 15 points (five goals) in only nine games and leading Victoriaville in playoff scoring. Although he isn't the most skilled guy on the ice, he makes up for his shortages with an unbelievable work ethic and smart, two-way play.
San Jose Sharks
C Vladislav Namestnikov - London (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Of all the players available in the opening round, Namestnikov's name is the hardest to spell. That aside, he's a highly-talented scorer that lacks a little defensively, particularly in the corners. He makes up for this with a tenacious, hard-working forecheck that generates quality scoring chances, but is unable to handle stronger opponents in his own end. This could be a boom or bust selection.
LOWDOWN: Teammate of Jonas Brodin, who was selected earlier by the Calgary Flames. Standing at 6'4" and weighing-in at 200 pounds, Klefbom brings a dominant physical presence with a smart, stay-at-home style to help carry the defensive load. He recorded one goal and two points, along with only two penalty minutes in 23 games with Farjestad this season.
LW Brandon Saad - Saginaw (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Saad could potentially be one of the steals of the opening around, despite his 19th North American ranking by Central Scouting. With incredible talent, raw skill and hockey sense, he's a dangerous player that can easily cash on his chances. In order to improve, he needs to work on his shot so he can become more of a goal-scoring threat, in addition to upping his compete level.