We're back with team grades for the NHL's 11-20 for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Big winner is Edmonton, with the only A+ grade so far.
We'll start off on the right foot with the Oilers, who had a tremendous two days in St. Paul.
Potential franchise center in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Check. (We heard all year that 2011 didn't have top talent at the top, but several scouts said RNH was an exception) Potential top-two defenseman with upside and charisma in Oscar Klefbom? Check. Excellent value shutdown D in David Musil? Check. Goaltending depth in Samu Perhonen? Check. Upside and depth the rest of the way with Travis Ewanyk, Dillon Simpson, Tobias Rieder and Martin Gernat? Absolutely. Don't know anything about goalie Frans Tuohimaa, but with a class that strong, who cares? We don't think Steve Tambellini could have set the board up any better in his wildest dreams.
Panthers GM Dale Tallon has built quite a war chest in just two drafts. From the looks of it, the 2011 draft upgraded Florida's system even more after what looked like a strong 2010 showing. The Panthers get two high-end offensive players in Jonathan Huberdeau and Rocco Grimaldi with their first two selections. At the end of the second round, they landed intriguing Swedish d-man Rasmus Bengtsson. With a pair of third-round picks, the Panthers grabbed more help up front getting the big and skilled but needing to get more physical Logan Shaw from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and small, but fiery Vincent Trocheck out of Saginaw. They went to Minnesota for two later picks, grabbing Mr. Hockey Kyle Rau, a highly skilled forward out of Eden Prairie High and Burnsville's Eddie Wittchow. All in all, this is another solid draft in year 2 for Tallon and Co.
Los Angeles Kings
The draft grade is closer to a C, but in landing Mike Richards, the Kings get a full letter grade boost. After trading their first-rounder to Edmonton for Dustin Penner, Lombardi and company picked up goalie help with Christopher Gibson, a talented and good kid who had a strong season with Chicoutimi, but who also has some holes in his technique he'll need to address. They grabbed overage forward and 33-goal man Andy Andreoff from Oshawa and then got some nice value with utility forward Nick Shore at Denver University. They got some raw, but interesting picks later with Mike Mersch, Joel Lowry and Michael Schumacher, but not a great deal of upside here. They are no doubt hoping to make a splash by landing Brad Richards via free agency.
Some wheeling and dealing boosts Minnesota's grade from the B+ range. Jonas Brodin is one of the smartest defenders in the draft and will need to get a lot stronger, but could prove to be a very good puck mover and power play QB in time. After acquiring San Jose's first-rounder (along with Charlie Coyle) for Brent Burns, they snagged natural scorer Zack Phillips- no issues there- this kid can put the puck in the net. The Wild got nice value late in the second with Minnesota high school sensation Mario Lucia- the heat is on. They got another local product in Nick Seeler and then grabbed the busiest high school goalie in the country in Steve Michalek, who is going to Harvard next season. Closing out with big checking pivot Tyler Graovac out of Ottawa makes it a pretty solid class overall.
The Habs got nice value with a player they clearly wanted in Nathan Beaulieu, who surprisingly fell to them. They then lacked picks until the fourth round, grabbing intriguing defense prospect with size, skill out of the USHL in Josiah Didier, whose stock was on the rise in the second half of the season. Olivier Archambault is nothing to get excited about (one source cited character concerns with him as well), but Magnus Nygren is a skilled offensive-minded Swedish defenseman and overager who was at the top of Red Line's European draft eligibles list. After picking Darren Dietz out of Saskatoon in the fifth round, the Habs closed strong with two very good value picks in Czech winger Daniel Pribyl and U.S. prep defender Colin Sullivan.
We love the Magnus Hellberg pick, even if he was a bit of a surprise at 39. He's huge and pretty close to competing for an NHL job. That said, not as sold on Miikka Salomaki's upside. Josh Shalla has great hands but can't skate. Garrett Noonan was a reach (in our view) in the fourth round, while Simon Karlsson, Chase Balisy and Brent Andrews on the whole are not enough to make this an exciting class. It's lacking in value and upside.
New Jersey Devils
Getting Adam Larsson at fourth overall was a steal for the team that might have taken him first overall, which is where they were for much of the year until putting together a laudable late-season run. The Devils traded its second-rounder to Nashville a year ago for Jason Arnott (Hellberg) and forfeited its own third as part of the Kovalchuk signing fiasco, but picked up Dallas' third-rounder and used it on USHL scoring ace Blake Coleman. The Devs then got a value pick with Team USA sniper Reid Boucher, a steal at 99th overall after helping his team to the gold medal at the U-18s. The Devils got some solid value guys with Blake Pietila, Reece Scarlett and Patrick Daly.
New York Islanders
The Islanders landed a legitimate scoring force with character in Ryan Strome with the fifth overall pick. The, they added excellent value with raw but highly promising Scotty Mayfield early in the second. Not as high on Johan Sundstrom at 50th overall, but if he moves out of center (lack of creativity) he could be a horse of a wing and two-way guy. The Isles got more value with Andrey Pedan and Robbie Russo in the third and fourth rounds. Their Western scout got into the act with a pair of picks in the Dub: Red Deer's John Persson and Brenden Kichton of Spokane was a nice steal for them in the fifth. Mitchell Theoret was a nice way to finish out what looks like a quality and deep draft for the Isles.
New York Rangers
The Rangers got a skilled centerman in J.T. Miller, but we're concerned with his up-and-down season. He pulled it together at the right team for Team USA in the U-18s, but his overall performance was uneven. Steven Fogarty is a raw but interesting playmaking center project who is quite a few years away. Mike St. Croix was a good value pick, but we've never been huge on him based on reports about a lack of work ethic. Shane McColgan is another value pick- once thought of as a potential first-rounder, but who dropped after a slow start. Small, but feisty and skilled- the question is- can he bring the offensive element with him at the NHL level? He's Brad Marchand-type, so it could happen for him. Rangers went tough late with nasty d-man Samuel Noreau and then added a big shutdown guy in Slovak Peter Ceresnak who underachieved in his draft season, but could play one day.
Ottawa went wild with forwards in this draft class, which could get the sad-sack Sense back into contention in short order. Bryan Murray grabbed a gem with Swede Mika Zibanejad, but followed it up with two more promising players up front out of the OHL in Stefan "Tex" Noesen, a hard-nosed but productive forward out of Plymouth and Matt Puempel could be one of the most natural scoring wings available. They grabbed local 67's player Shane Prince with the Chris Kelly 2nd-rounder from Boston, then got mighty mite Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who had a tremendous playoff run with Gatineau. Fredrik Claesson was a bit of a head scratcher, but he has good wheels and could blossom as an offensive-minded guy when he gets a little more development. The rest of the picks didn't as much for us, but those first five are the types of players who could do big things one day.