We're back with the final installment of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft grades.
GM Paul Holmgren made a bold move to re-shape his team before, during and after the draft via free agency. Dealing Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets allowed the Flyers to come away with Sean Couturier, who was a coup with the eighth overall selection. Nick Cousins was a nice value pick for the Flyers in the third round as an undersized but skilled and energetic centerman with good hockey sense. Oshawa defenseman and Florida native Colin Suellentrop doesn't bring much in the way of upside, but big German Marcel Noebels wasn't a bad pick in the fourth. Petr Placek is a risky pick after a season marred with injury, while Derek Mathers isn't much of a hockey player, but is the most feared fighter in the draft. Couturier is the obvious prize, but there is a lot of wait and see here, and the pressure is on, especially given the players who were moved out of Philly.
We like Connor Murphy as a player and person, but taking him 20th overall was a bold stroke that could pay off brilliantly or be a bad draft decision that could keep the Desert Dogs mired in mediocrity. We're not fans of the Alexander Ruuttu pick at 51st, either, which is two rounds too early at a minimum in our view. Lucas Lessio has his fans, but B2011DW is not one of them. Not a bad value talent-wise, but Lessio has major boom-or-bust potential. Harrison Ruopp again is a pick that seems perplexing in terms of him being a third-rounder, though we do think that nasty forward Kale Kessy might be Phoenix's best pick of the day. Getting him in the fourth is a steal. Darian Dziurzynski, Andrew Fritsch and Arizona native Zac Larraza are all interesting late-round developmental guys, but there is too much risk with this class to be fully on board.
Puck mover Joe Morrow is a solid selection for the Pens at 23, but there isn't much else in the cupboard to get excited about. Scott Harrington was a disappointment this season, and if he gets his development back on track, could end up being a player, but likely will not ever have the offensive dimension scouts hoped for coming into the season. Taking him in the second round is something of a reach. We don't have much else to say about Dominick Uher, Josh Archibald or Scott Wilson- they're clearly project guys who are going to take some time to see pay off (if at all). All in all, a mediocre class and not all that unexpected given the Pens did not have third- or fourth-round selections.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks added Brent Burns but at the cost of their first-round pick to Minnesota (Zack Phillips). In Matt Nieto, they get a speedy scoring winger, and the team's first-ever California native taken in the draft. Justin Sefton is one nasty dude, but third round for a guy who has major skating issues? Sean Kuraly is a solid middle-tier prospect for the fifth round, and Russian Daniil Sobchenko could do something if they can sign him and bring him over. Dylan Demelo is another long-term project who didn't get much playing time on the stacked Misssissauga St. Mike's while we loved Colin Blackwell this season, but he is what he is: an undersized guy who played Massachusetts public school hockey and is headed to Harvard. Sharks fans will have to wait a long time for payoff with him. Nieto's a good pick, but there were some reaches and projects in here- hard to grade the Sharks all that well in the here and now, but chief amateur scout Tim Burke could make us all look foolish in time. We push them below B- for trading Charlie Coyle, though. They're going to regret that.
St. Louis Blues
No first-rounder? No problem. Three second-rounders can make you a lot of hay. Ty Rattie at 32 was a steal. We like Dmitrij Jaskin at 41 and Joel Edmundson is the kind of tough kid with upside who's worth taking a chance on. Jordan Binnington needs to put on some weight, but he had an eye-opening OHL championship series. Ryan Tesink is very good value for the Blues in the sixth round, too. We never understood why Central had him so high, but where the Blues got him is very nice. We also like the Yannick Veilleux pick- he's underrated. And Teemu Eronen is a nod to former chief scout Jarmo Kekalainen. Not a bad draft at all when you look at the picks St. Louis had and they still came away with Rattie, who could have been a top-20 guy.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Did Stevie Y get some nostalgia for some of his former Russian teammates or what? We really like the Vladislav Namestnikov pick- great kid and real nice player for the Bolts who has a gritty agitating side to him as well. A pair of Nikitas- Kucherov and Nesterov- are excellent value picks, but also carry high risk with them for signability concerns. We expect that Tampa will somehow get them over eventually, but if they don't those are two players taken in the meat of the draft who won't pay off. Matthew Peca was a nice late-round pick for them, but in the end, this draft has a little more risk to it than we would accept ourselves. However, if Kucherov and Nesterov pan out, could be huge. All three of the Russians don't have a lot of size, but Martin St. Louis has certainly proved to the hockey world that size doesn't always matter.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Tyler Biggs makes the Leafs nastier- they certainly can use his size, toughness and he does have upside. Stuart Percy is a solid defender who appears to be hitting a developmental curve upward, but first round? Too early for us. Sudbury winger Josh Leivo had a strong playoff series against Ottawa to propel himself into the third round. Can Leivo raise his intensity and consistency to make the most of his talent? Tony Cameranesi can really fly, and David Broll is legitimately tough to go with some skill. We like the Max Everson pick as good value in the seventh. All in all, a solid draft- but nothing to get too excited about.
Nicklas Jensen has some legit skill and is not a bad option at all for Vancouver at 29. David Honzik was excellent value for the Canucks in the third round. Alexandre Grenier is huge and an overager/late-bloomer who had injury problems this season, but has some upside. Joe LaBate is a solid value for them in the fourth round, but is a good ways away from contributing. He'll be a freshman at Wisconsin this season and has talent to burn but doesn't always bring it. They went with project guys late, including overage Swede Pathrik Westerholm (will they invite his twin brother to camp?).
Acquiring Troy Brouwer was a good move for Washington (as has been George McPhee's free agency moves) However, the effect of not having a pick in the first three rounds will likely hurt the system in the long run. McPhee has built the Capitals to win now, and he's all in as the latest acquisitions have proven (though the Caps will eventually land in cap hell to get there). Nowegian goalie Steffen Soberg put on a goaltending clinic at the Under-18s, and we like Pat Koudys's potential as a two-way defenseman even though the RPI frosh had a very conservative first year. Travis Boyd and Garrett Haar are fine late picks, but nothing to write home about.
Underrated draft by Kevin Cheveldayoff and company. They shocked folks by taking Mark Scheifele seventh overall, but that kid could justify the pick in time.They hit on two nice picks in the third with Adam Lowry (we don't know how he was there) and U of Michigan-bound Brennan Serville. Zach Yuen is an underrated guy with skill andcharacter we like a lot and was solid value in the fourth, while Austen Brassard in the fifth could be a steal. Not much to say about Jason Kasdorf, but Aaron Harstad is another solid seventh-rounder who could play someday. The Jets accepted some risk with Scheifele, but they mitigated it with some value guys who could very well pan out. Not bad.