Eight for the Ages

The first 30′s are coming in from the usual sources and honestly it looks like a crazy draft. My early 30 is here and speeds has his up here; similar but enough differences to make it interesting.

Lots of news coming out of yesterday’s combine, the biggest item (imo) being that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins proved to NHL men that it isn’t all smoke and mirrors.

The other two things worth mentioning are that Bob McKenzie believes the Oilers choice is between RNH and Adam Larsson. This runs counter to all of the discussion we’ve heard about Jonathan Huberdeau making a late charge, but does jive with what Jim Matheson has been saying for months now. McKenzie told us that Steve Tambellini had discussed Larsson at length after seeing him in the SEL playoffs, and that in his (McKenzie’s) opinion it was a choice between the Burnaby center and the big Swedish defender.

The final item: NHL teams don’t have matching lists after about number 4. Why is that a big deal? Teams will trade up and down like a yo-yo so we should be prepared for it.

The elite 8 look like this:

  1. C Ryan Nugent Hopkins: Elite playmaking skills and fewer worries about size (officially 6.01, 171 at the combine) make him the number one prospect in the draft. Cerebral player with exceptional vision and anticipation. I think the gap between RNH and Couturier is so small that an item like “first step quickness” or “wide range of skills” will make the difference for a drafting team. I don’t think there’s a wrong answer.
  2. C Sean Couturier: Big frame, soft hands and a nice range of skills. If he ends up being Darryl Sittler or Joe Thornton the team taking him will have made a very astute selection. I have a feeling he’ll go higher than many believe, although the experts are projecting him to go 4-6 overall.
  3. D Adam Larsson. The big defender has a lot going for him and I suspect he’s the de facto “safest player in the draft.” Smooth defender who has all the tools, he should have a long career as an effective two-way NHL defenseman. Offensive ability and the worry over defensemen and their injuries mean he’s number three on my list, but he could go number one.
  4. L Jonathan Huberdeau. Closed late to join the top 5 and could go as high as number two. I’ve been reading some unusual things about his size (as in he’s a big center) but the truth is that at least on paper he’s about the same size as RNH. No matter, across the board skills and crazy offensive ability (including a sniper’s shot) make him a nice option inside the lottery.
  5. C Ryan Strome. The NHLE’s suggest Strome is the best offensive option in the draft, but the difference at the top (between Strome, Couturier, RNH and Huberdeau are clear of the field) is so close that Strome ends up being the trail forward on my list.
  6. L Gabriel Landeskog. There’s just no way he goes this low, but the other kids above him have more offensive potential. Having said that, Landeskog is exactly the kind of guy the good drafting teams of yore (Bruins, Islanders, Habs, Sabres back in the day) would always grab at the first opportunity. If he scores 20 a season you’ve got an excellent player. At 30 goals a season, GMs who passed over him will cry themselves to sleep at night.
  7. D Ryan Murphy. I think he could go as high as #4 to NJD. He’s such a unique talent–Murphy’s NHL equivalency is equal to Landeskog’s–that he’s impossible to ignore. A stunning talent.
  8. D Dougie Hamilton. He’s a beauty, real NHL calibre size, strength and mobility. He could calm the waters around the blue for years and years, and Hamilton has some offensive ability too.

There they are. I’ve seen ZIbanejad and Siemens plus maybe Bartschi in the conversation but as the month begins to count down these are the real gems that can be seen at this time in the 2011 entry draft.

Choose wisely, MBS.

Nation Radio is on again at noon today, with the following guests scheduled to appear:

  • Jonathan Willis: The draft, Winnipeg-Atlanta, and the value of scorched earth team building will be on the docket.
  • David Staples: We’ll talk about the arena, RNH, errors and Desjardins.
  • Kent Wilson: Flames observer and a talented guy. We’ll talk Erixon, Hartsburg and the draft.
  • Blue Bullet–along with speeds–are the best Oiler related draft observers I’ve come across. Over the years I’ve looked forward to their read on draft day and BB will give us his opinion about this year’s edition. His 2007 draft edition remains a gem.

Hope you can join us; emails at nationradio@theteam1260.com are welcome.

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