*(Not affiliated with the Boston Bruins or the New England Hockey Journal)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grading the 2011 Draft Part 2

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.

Edmonton Oilers
Grade: A+
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.

Florida Panthers
Grade: A
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
Grade: B
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.

Minnesota Wild
Grade: A-
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.

Montreal Canadiens
Grade: B+
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.

Nashville Predators
Grade: B-
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
Grade: B+
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
Grade: A
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
Grade: B+
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 Senators
Grade: A
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.

NHL Draft Video: Bruins Assistant GM Jim Benning on state of Bruins organization

We posted Boston assistant GM Jim Benning's recap of the 2011 draft picks, but here's a quick video of his commentary on the overall state of the organization and what the team is building.

NHL draft video: Shane Prince

Here's some video of Shane Prince after the Ottawa Senators made him the 61st overall pick on Saturday.

Good move by the Sens- they get him with the pick the Bruins traded them for Chris Kelly. With a Stanley Cup in tow, not a bad deal, but had the B's ended up with Dougie Hamilton, Alexander Khokhlachev AND Prince, they would have some serious skill in their organization right now.

Grading the 2011 Draft Part 1

Now that the 2011 NHL Draft is in the books, it's time to assess each team's draft class based on what we know now.

The analysis is subjective and limited at the same time. There will be some picks who look great right now who will go on to have a minimal or no impact, just as there are those who don't look like a whole lot of anything but will pick up their developmental curve and become NHL players, perhaps even stars.

However, given what we have to go on, there's always time to reflect and at least make an initial assessment. In three-to-five years, we can go back and see how close we were. Until then, the jury will be out.

This is the first of three posts that will look at each team and analyze their draft day efforts.

Anaheim Ducks
Grade: B+
The Ducks traded down from 22 with Toronto (Tyler Biggs) and picked up Swedish forward Rickard Rakell with the final pick in the first round. B2011DW has liked Rakell since seeing him in the WJC. He doesn't have ideal size or elite skill, but he's a slick forward who is underrated on the offensive side of things. He plays a gritty, agitating game. With Toronto's second-rounder, they got excellent value with American goalie John Gibson, who has cornerstone-type potential. Unlike Jack Campbell, he won't have a lot of pressure on him as the 39th overall pick compared to being 10th. We also like the pick of undersized but plucky William Karlsson. The draft went off the rails a bit with the selection of Joe Cramarossa early in the third round. "Cram-berry" is a solid player, but his upside is limited. They could have done better. Andy Welinski generated some buzz in the USHL this season and is fine value in the third. Don't see a lot of upside in smallish Swedish forward (that's two with Karlsson) Max Friberg, but as a fifth-round selection, probably worth the risk. Sixth rounder Josh Manson did not get high marks from scouts we talked to beyond his size.

Boston Bruins
Grade: A
Stanley Cup champs and they land two high-end talents in Dougie Hamilton and Alexander Khokhlachev. That's not supposed to be how it works. Anthony Camara was a surprise and reach pick, but the same things were said about Milan Lucic in 2006, so it will be interesting to see if there is something more to this player skill-wise. His toughness even despite being average-sized is unquestionable. Ferlin, O'Gara and Volden are all developmental depth picks, but we keep going back to the team's two first picks in the top-40. From the looks of it, they could not have done any better, especially given that Marc Savard looks to be at the end of the line, with what could very well be a retirement announcement coming this summer.

Buffalo Sabres
Grade: A-
First pick Joel Armia was solid value at 16 where the Sabres got him and he has some real potential as a big scoring forward. Buffalo also got nice value with third-rounder Daniel Catenacci, who reminds us a lot of a Brad Marchand-type player. Terrific wheels, good hands and a real buzzsaw/agitating presence. We're not bullish on Colin Jacobs, who attended the draft with his arm in a sling after recent shoulder surgery and scouts didn't have great things to say about his long-term potential. The Sabres landed a homegrown product in the 5th round with West Seneca, N.Y. native and Barrie defenseman Alex Lepkowski, a shutdown guy with size who doesn't have any offensive upside but could be an effective bottom pair player one day. Big goalie Nathan Lieuwen, who had a terrific WHL season and playoffs in leading the Kootenay Ice to the Chynoweth Cup as WHL champs is a solid value pick and good story after being passed over twice previously because of concussion issues. Wisconsin high schooler Brad Navin has size, skill and is very raw but is an interesting project pick in the seventh round.

Calgary Flames
Grade: C
We like the Sven Bartschi pick, but, and we regret that Flames fans may be unhappy with the rest of the analysis, but new GM Jay Feaster and his staff took too many unnecessary risks the rest of the way. Bartschi won us over after a perimeter WJC, but we think Markus Granlund went way too high at 45- he's nowhere near the player his brother is. Tyler Wotherspoon is a good defensive player, but at barely over 6-foot, he simply doesn't have the size to be a shutdown D in the NHL, and his offensive upside/sense is pretty poor. We like John Gaudreau a lot- but not as a fourth-rounder. He's the smallest player ever on record to be drafted, and he's going to be hard-pressed to overcome that size deficit. Laurent Brossoit salvaged things in the sixth round- he's a big goalie with skill and potential, but it was too little, too late. This draft could haunt the Flames more for who they left on the board than anything else in about five years.

Carolina Hurricanes
Grade: A
The Hurricanes aren't getting enough credit for their draft- Jim Rutherford and company quietly cleaned up. Ryan Murphy at 12 and Victor Rask at 42 are excellent value picks. Murphy was a popular choice to go to the Bruins, but the thought of him working the power play with Justin Faulk in about three years...yikes. Watch out NHL! Rask underachieved, but to get him 12 picks into the second is good news for Carolina. Keegan Lowe was a tad high, but he is as steady and dependable as they come. Getting Swiss forward Gregory Hofmann was a steal in the fourth round, but unfortunately, he elected to stay in Switzerland rather than come over to Shawinigan, who was prepared to take him in the CHL Import Draft this week. Goalie Matt Mahalak and Brody Sutter (Duane's kid) are nice developmental project picks late. No flaws in this group.

Chicago Blackhawks
Grade: A
This is another team who gets high marks for their draft. Mark McNeill was a solid, solid pick at 17 just like his build. He's a perfect player for the blue collar folks in Chi-town. Phillip Danault was a bit of a surprise, but understand this- the kid is going to play and his intangibles- leadership, work ethic, desire- all rate him near the top of this class. He'll probably be a third-liner, but when you want to win hockey games, this is a guy who will do it for you. Adam Clendening AND Brandon Saad in the second round. Seriously? We like Mike Paliotta more than others in the third- he's a mobile, shutdown guy and winner. Klas Dahlbeck (overager) and Maxim Shalunov are solid value and risk/reward picks in the 3rd and 4th. Andrew Shaw is an overager who had a great playoffs in leading Owen Sound to the OHL championship. Sam Jardine, Alex Broadhurst and Johan Matsson are nothing to write home about, but this was one hell of a draft from the initial look.

Colorado Avalanche
Grade: A-
It's hard to argue with a draft class that headlines with Gabriel Landeskog. B2011DW absolutely loved this stud, and Colorado fans will too. We weren't as big on Duncan Siemens, but knew he'd go a lot higher than where we had him. If he can be the next Adam Foote, the Avalanche will have done just fine. Joachim Nermark had a disappointing season, but he has skill and upside. If he can get his development back on track, he'll be a good one for a fourth-rounder. Garrett Meurs slid down to the fifth round, but again- is decent value given that he was seen as a potential first-rounder coming into it. The Gabriel Beaupre and Dillon Donnelly picks don't do much for us, but for an organization needing grit and toughness, they at least meet that requirement.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Grade: C+
Boone Jenner is a good pick in the early second round for the Blue Jackets, but he's more likely a third-line character guy than a top-six stud. T.J. Tynan is a gutsy pick, but he was passed over a year ago, so can he thrive in the NHL with his lack of size? If his life is anything to date, he'll keep proving doubters wrong. Mike Reilly is a long-term project because of his lack of physical maturity, but has the tools to be an interesting project. Now, people will say Seth Ambroz is a great value pick in the fifth round, and on paper he is, but we're just not sold that he'll ever be the player he could be. More power to him if he can prove everyone wrong, but let's just say that his prodigious fall was not an accident. And we'll leave it at that. Lukas Sedlak and Anton Forsberg aren't much to speak of as legitimate NHL prospects. On paper, this draft class looks OK, but it lacks any real true high-enders, save for Tynan. And with his size, he's a risk until he can fight his way into the NHL and stay there. Columbus gets bonus points for landing Jeff Carter, but Brian Campbell's rejection in not waiving his no-trade to go there stings.

Dallas Stars
Grade: B
Jamie Oleksiak is a solid selection where they got him with major upside if he keeps developing and becomes more Zdeno Chara than Hal Gill. Sarnia power forward Brett Ritchie was also a solid value pick with upside at 44th overall in the second round. The rest of the guys, Emil Molin (not well known in Sweden), Troy Vance (another huge D but very raw), Matej Stransky and Jyri Jokipakka are some risky picks who may not return big dividends.

Detroit Red Wings
Grade: A
They did it again. After trading their first-rounder (23) to Ottawa (Matt Puempel) they still landed a first-round talent in Tomas Jurco, who looks like an absolute natural with that winged wheel crest on his chest. GM Ken Holland then worked the board like the draft pro he is, grabbing value picks like they were going out of style: Ryan Sproul in the second, Alan Quine in the third. Marek Tvrdon in the fourth, Philippe Hudon in the fifth. Alexei Marchenko could be better than any of them, and they got him in the seventh round. Seventh! Xavier Ouellet was a bit high for us, but with his smarts and puck skills, if anyone can thrive in that system it is him. Once again, the Wings prove that you don't need to have high picks to build your organization.

We'll be back with part two, commencing with the Edmonton Oilers, who are at the head of the class.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On way home

On the way back to the East Coast today and Bruins 2011 Draft Watch is going to take a bit of a hiatus and breather for a few.

The draft is in the books, and our work is largely done for this edition.

Ahead this week, we'll try and do some team-by-team analysis for all the non-Bruins folks who frequent the site. You guys are the best and I do want to try and break it down for you beyond what was already done for the B's.

Next week, will be in Wilmington for development camp, which I suspect will be crazy given the Stanley Cup win and buzz surrounding "D-Hammer" and "Koko" plus the other usual suspects of Spooner, Knight, Sauve and the rest of the youngsters who will be there. Still waiting for a roster, but get to Ristuccia early for your seat, because the place was pretty slammed last year with all the Seguinmania even after the crushing loss to Philly. Being an NHL champion who struck gold with its first two picks will bring the people out in droves as well.

Thanks for reading and give it a couple of days before we fire it up again.

As was the case last year, we'll cover the scrimmages and then close out the blog with a ranking and analysis of every Bruins prospect in the system.

In the meantime, here's a very rough pre-camp swag on the B's new prospect top-10:

1. Dougie Hamilton, D
2. Alexander Khokhlachev, C
3. Jared Knight, RW
4. Ryan Spooner, C
5. Max Sauve, LW
6. Jordan Caron, RW
7. Steve Kampfer, D
8. Jamie Arniel, LW
9. Matt Bartkowski, D
10. Ryan Button, D

Grading the Boston Bruins 2011 draft (From New England Hockey Journal)

The following is an article I wrote posted on the New England Hockey Journal website. The draft grades on each Boston Bruins draft pick are out, but the reality is that every one of them is an "incomplete" for another 3-5 years until we see how they ultimately turn out.

To read the rest of the grades, and for more coverage on the Boston Bruins and anything New England hockey-related, be sure to check out the website.

Making The Grade- The 2011 Boston Bruins draft
By Kirk Luedeke
Full story at hockeyjournal.com

Although trying to pick winners and losers the day after the NHL Entry Draft is often an exercise in futility, grading a team’s prospect haul based on current projections has become an annual tradition.

While walking back to the hotel with members of the Anaheim Ducks scouting staff from the shuttle drop-off point, one scout declared: “Everyone is a winner on draft day- 30 winners and no losers.”

That sentiment reflects the euphoria and optimism that often permeates the atmosphere right after a team invests a big portion of its future in the seven or so young players who comprise a normal NHL draft class. However, once the next several seasons progress, the clear-cut winners and losers only truly emerge.

The Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks and yes- the Detroit Red Wings once again- all seemed to have the drafts that can lay a solid foundation for a team for years to come. Short of a crystal ball to see into the future, it certainly seems as if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom and David Musil could have a course-altering impact on the Oilers in time. The Senators worked the draft effectively, taking skilled and passionate players who should be able to inject the kind of talent and energy needed to get the former 2007 Stanley Cup runners up into contention. As for Chicago and Detroit, the 2011 draft was all about value, as both teams made an art out of landing name players with lower selections.

But what about the Boston Bruins?

The 2011 Stanley Cup champions would have picked 30th and 61st overall in this draft if not for deals involving Phil Kessel and Chuck Kobasew nearly two years ago that allowed the B’s to pick ninth and 40th.

When the team came away with defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Alexander Khokhlachev, they appeared to position themselves perfectly to keep in place teams capable of contending for NHL championships well into this decade. While the other selections the Bruins made are not particularly exciting, they all seem to fit the mold of what the club values: character, commitment and potential.

Time will tell whether Hamilton, Khokhlachev and the rest of the Boston draft class manages to become impact players in the Black and Gold, but for now, this looks like a pretty impressive haul.

Dougie Hamilton, D Niagara (OHL)
NEHJ grade: A+
The scoop: How does a player of Hamilton’s size and skill set drop to ninth overall? A lot of times it has to do with luck and just hoping that other teams value others more. New England Hockey Journal learned that the Bruins did not expect Hamilton to be there at nine and were fully intending on drafting Ryan Murphy as the projected player to fall to them at nine. However, when the Winnipeg Jets made Mark Scheifele an off-the-board pick, the B’s were given the rare opportunity to choose between the big, rangy two-way defenseman in Hamilton or the undersized but dynamic playmaker in Murphy. Boston opted for the former and it will be interesting to follow the career progression of both players.
Quotable: “Well I’ve grown a lot in the last few years and haven’t really filled into my body yet, I think I’m working hard right now in the gym, I need to work a lot harder and get bigger and that will help with my physical game as well. I think you have to improve everything because the guys in the NHL are a lot better than OHL players.”- Dougie Hamilton

Alexander Khokhlachev, C Windsor (OHL)
NEHJ grade: A
The scoop: This dynamic offensive Russian center was available to the Bruins at 40 for another outstanding value pick. He had 34 goals with the Spitfires in just his first North American season and is primed for a big breakout year. New England Hockey Journal spoke to Windsor President and GM Warren Rychel in Minnesota and Rychel praised “KoKo’s” skill and passion for the game, calling him a “Godsend” for Windsor after the team gambled a bit by bringing him over in the CHL Import Draft. The youngster plays with a lot of passion and should energize the crowds at Bruins development camp in early July with his speed and puck wizardry. The thought of a possible d-camp line of KoKo, Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight there must have Bruins fans eagerly checking their calendars. Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning was emphatic in stating that signing Khokhlachev will not be an issue, stating his commitment and desire to play in the NHL.
Quotable: “Well, he’s thick like a [Montreal center Scott] Gomez, but he’ll, he likes to score, he’s more of a shooter and a scorer. But he’s elusive like that and strong, but that’s kind of a comparison to him, but it’s different that KoKo likes to shoot the puck and to score, I would say, more.”- Jim Benning

Anthony Camara, LW Saginaw (OHL)
NEHJ grade: B-
The scoop: One tough nut, but there isn’t a lot to get excited about with this guy skill-wise. Or is there? Camara is one of those “pet” picks the Bruins scout out and make seemingly every year. Milan Lucic was one in 2006, and Camara was buried on a deep team up front. He plays bigger than his size (6-feet, 194 pounds) and may end up being more than the sum of his parts.
Quotable: “Yeah, he’s a typical Boston Bruin-type player. He’s a good skater, he plays a north-south game, he’ll fight anybody, he’ll take anybody on, he hits on the forecheck, so he, when he was there in the third round, it was a good fit for his style of game to the way we play. So, you know, he’s not big but, well, tall, but he’s thick and he’s a fearless player, kind of like a Shawn Thornton-type for us.”- Benning

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bruins Assistant GM Jim Benning recaps Bruins draft

Bruins assistant GM (and scouting guru) Jim Benning met with the media after the Bruins selected Lars Volden in the sixth round to break down the events from the last two days.

Warning- this video is more than 9 minutes long, so only the hardest of the hardcore draftniks will likely have the attention span to sit through it. Wish I had broken it up into two segments, but here is Benning's remarks in their entirety from Alex Khokhlachev (and he recaps Hamilton later on) to Volden.

Bruins grab Ferlin in 4th round

Indiana Ice (USHL) forward Brian Ferlin was Boston's fourth-round selection, 121st overall. The 1992 birthdate from Jacksonville, Florida was eligible for the 2010 draft but passed over.

Red Line Report's Max Giese said that the Florida native is a big kid with good hands. "He's an awkward skater- he skates with a weird style but is more quick and agile than fast. He has a wide base, but is hunched-over when he moves."

In 55 games, Ferlin had 25 goals, 73 points and 26 penalty minutes.

Bruins grab Camara in 3rd round

The Boston Bruins picked Saginaw left winger Anthony Camara with their third-round selection, 81st overall.

Although undersized by a physical forward standpoint, Camara is a big hitter who will take on any comers.

He cited a tough upbringing with an older sister who beat on him when younger as the impetus for his hockey toughness.

He doesn't have a lot of points, but could evolve into a lower-line energy player with some hands/upside.

Bruins open 2nd day with Alexander Khokhlachev

The Boston Bruins got tremendous value with the selection of Windsor Spitfires forward Alexander Khokhlachev with the 40th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Draft.

With the selection of the dynamic scoring forward, the Bruins get a serious upgrade at forward.

Friday, June 24, 2011

That's a wrap on Round 1

B2011DW is finished with analysis for tonight. Will be back tomorrow with more breakdowns and a pick-by-pick synopsis of the Bruins and whatever else we can glean.

Thanks for reading!

2011 NHL Draft video: Peter Chiarelli weighs in on Boston 1st round

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli discussed the Dougie Hamilton pick with Boston media Friday at the Xcel Energy Center.

Dougie Hamilton to the Bruins

We've skipped over some of the picks, but since this is a Bruins-centric blog, we'll bring you the post-pick video of newest Boston defender Dougie Hamilton.

To be honest, we didn't expect Hamilton to be there at ninth overall, but when the Winnipeg Jets went off the board to pick Barrie center Mark Scheifele seventh overall, the Flyers took Sean Couturier eighth, leaving the Bruins the choice between dynamic, undersized Kitchener defender Ryan Murphy and the bigger, offensively-savvy blueliner Hamilton who weighs in at 6-4.

Here's the video of Hamilton, but remember that B2011DW made the case for Dougie in Boston way back in January. We lost sight of him a bit because Toronto's pick fell from fifth at the time to ninth, but the B's got their man.

Strome goes 5th overall to Islanders

Love this pick for the New York Islanders. Ryan Strome is one of the more talented offensive centers in all of the draft and he will eventually make John Tavares that much more dangerous.

Excellent pick for Isles.

Givng the Devil his due: Adam Larsson off the board at #4 to Jersey

New Jersey Devils got themselves a tremendous value in Swedish defender Adam Larsson, who dropped down to them at four.

We've always loved his skill and poise, and you heard it would happen- not surprised it did. But, that's the victor getting the spoils- Devils won the draft lottery and did a Jeffersons-like move on up to grab the skilled puck mover.

J-Money a Panther

The Florida Panthers followed the script and took Saint John ace Jonathan Huberdeau. Can't go wrong with this player- parlayed his talent into a productive season and Memorial Cup MVP performance.

The Sunshine State is going to love this kid. We called him J-Money after he put on a clinic in the QMJHL playoffs and Mem Cup tourney, and he'll be making a splash for the Panthers real soon.

Nugent-Hopkikns and Landeskog go 1-2

These two picks make perfect sense.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the top talent and if Edmonton had passed on him, the second-guessing would have been immense. Stud forward and high-end talent who deserved to be No.1 and will be a good fit for the Oil.

Kudos to Colorado for taking Gabriel Landeskog, whom we don't think gets enough credit for his skills. His physical talents, leadership/maturity are second to none. Hard to go wrong with Gabe- he will play next year and make an impact as a player who can perform any role for the rebuilding Avs.

Florida now up.

2011 NHL Draft video: Peter Chiarelli

Had a chance to do a media scrum with Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli about an hour before the draft got underway. The quality isn't the greatest, but he weighs in on Tomas Kaberle near the end. He also confirmed Matt Dalton would not return and that Anton Khudobin has an offer in place for the KHL. Looks like goaltending will be a position of interest in 2011. He did say (after the video ends) that the Bruins use a separate list to rank their goaltenders and they will integrate that list and look for value as the draft rolls on.

Ready to roll

We are here at Xcel Energy Center and ready to get underway on the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

We'll bring you as much draft analysis and content as we can provide, but be sure to read the blog this week for the more detailed recaps and breakdowns.

Let's git-r-done!

Draft day rumor: Nathan Beaulieu to Bruins?

Been hearing a lot of talk about Saint John defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to the Bruins last night and today.

This would be an off-the-board pick, because Beaulieu is not considered in that established top-nine (or Divine Nine- h/t DT) but he's the kind of character player the B's covet and gravitate toward.

The pros of Beaulieu are his size, skating, puck-moving ability/PP skills and grit/toughness.

The cons are that some question his hockey sense (while others list it as a strength- consider opinions divided) and the fact that he failed to generate a lot of offense on the CHL's most dominant team. The pros outweigh the cons, but even some scouts like Red Line's Kyle Woodlief, for example, feel that a top-10 selection for Beaulieu is too high for him.

If Beaulieu is in fact the guy, there are bound to be some disappointed folks out there, just as there will be some happy ones. Given the position of the pick, you hope there is more untapped potential he has yet to show off.

However, if Beaulieu does prove to be Boston's man at nine, there will be some second-guessing involved, even if a lot of the media sources seem to be impressed with him and will likely tout him as a good pick by the Bruins there.

As the 80's group Asia once sang, "Only time will tell..."

NHL Draft Friday

All the work, all the effort, all the scouting trips, scouring the internet for online streams, emails, phone calls and hours in front of the computer.

It is time for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Last night, had the pleasure to meet and mingle with many of my peers in the hockey media. It was a good time at the News Room in Minneapolis and it underscored all of the great people in the business.

Even had a chance to sit down with Shane Prince and his family and agent Larry Kelly for a few minutes after they got into town from Rochester, NY last night. Prince has been a B2011DW favorite for his play and potential, but he has a strong family foundation and has put in a lot of work in the weight room to get himself into tip-top shape. Whoever picks him is getting a player in our view.

This is a tremendous time for all the kids and their families- they've put in the work over the years and are at their first major milestone toward a possible career in pro hockey.

It has been a thrill to bring you this coverage since the 2011 blog started up in August.

Time to bring it all home.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Splashdown in Minneapolis

Here in Minneapolis/St. Paul in time to see the news of the Jeff Carter to Columbus trade break. Nice to get it right, but again- these things are always about the source. Ours was right, and though B2011DW took some heat over it, the deal was essentially done in principle at the beginning of the week, with the finer points of Jakub Voracek and the additional third-rounder to Philly in the deal.

We'll have a little fun with the doubting Thomases with this little tune here, but your continued support of this blog is appreciated.

Now, we have news of Mike Richards being traded to Los Angeles for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. Can't say we saw that one coming. Busy day for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren and company for sure.

Now the question becomes: who are the Flyers targeting with the eighth pick, and does it mean that Ryan Murphy will fall to the Bruins tomorrow?

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Off to Minnesota

The offerings will be light today- traveling to MInnesota and settling in.

Will try to update the blog Thursday as we have time, but there is plenty to look over in the archive.

Thanks for the support and the posts will start up again fast and furious by Friday.

NHL Combine video: Brodin in the mix for top-10?

Swedish defenseman Jonas Brodin has become an interesting topic of conversation lately, with him appearing 10th overall on Bob McKenzie's 2011 NHL draft list released Monday. Additionally, Pierre McGuire and Craig Button did a live mock draft for TSN and McGuire had Brodin going to Boston at ninth overall.

That's a bit of a surprise, but when it comes to the draft, you never want to emphatically state something will not happen.

Brodin is as cerebral a player on defense as there is for this draft. He has good wheels and thinks the game better than just about anyone at the position. He's a top puck-mover and is mature for his age, having played on the SEL championship squad as a 17-18-year-old this past season.

He's rail-thin and stands in stark contrast to his close friend and teammate Oscar Klefbom in terms of where his physical development is. If Klefbom is the flashy, wild young colt then Brodin is more of the chess master who skates well and makes complex plays look simple.

He's clearly not as much at ease with his English skills and in front of a camera as Klefbom is, but make no mistake- Brodin is a heck of a player. B2011DW isn't as high on him as others are, but that's due more to the fact that the B's already have a similar kind of prospect in their system in one Yury Alexandrov. Brodin could end up being much better than the disappointing former second-rounder in '06 has been for Boston to date, but the two are highly similar in terms of their playing styles and physical frame/build.

NHL Combine video: Landeskog reflects

For whatever reason, we couldn't get this video posted on Gabriel Landeskog's draft profile in the 50 in 30 series, so here is the Kitchener Rangers captain in his own words after completing the fitness testing portion at the NHL Scouting Combine in early June.

Whichever NHL club lands this kid is getting a beaut.

NHL Combine video: Robbie Russo ascending

Gold has a way of taking away blemishes, and for U.S. NTDP defenseman and Notre Dame recruit Robbie Russo, he picked the best time to shine.

Team USA's captain and one of its three stars at the World Under-18 tourney in Germany back in April, Russo silenced the critics (B2011DW included) with an outstanding performance in leading his squad to USA Hockey's third-straight gold medal at the Under-18s.

Russo doesn't have ideal size, but is a very good skater with excellent vision, passing skills and a penchant for making the right play in the offensive zone.

The Illinois native could very well be a top-60 pick this weekend, but even if he falls out of the second-round, Russo is a no-brainer in the third. We don't think it will come to that, but if it does, he will be one heck of a nice value.

The Fighting Irish will be adding one more skilled player with a winning pedigree to a program that made it to the Frozen Four last spring (losing to eventual NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth in a close contest). They were on the cusp of a championship, and Russo gives them a chance to re-load and make another run in 2012.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Clendening ready for NHL draft

Like the other 100-plus peers of his who are in Minnesota this week to hear their names called at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Adam Clendening has put in a lot of work over the years to see his pro hockey dreams fulfilled.

He still has a ways to go, but the defenseman who scored five goals and 26 points in 39 games as a freshman at Boston University, is excited for the next big step and wearing an NHL jersey on Friday or Saturday. Although projected as a clear-cut top-60 pick, Clendening is on the bubble for the first round and may end up being a second-round selection on the draft's second day.

B2011DW sat down with him in Toronto during the NHL Scouting Combine a few weeks ago to get some of his thoughts on his season, the combine experience and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Even though he grew up in Buffalo, he's a Bruins fan, and he proved to be a pretty good prognosticator as you will read later on.

"I think my freshman season at BU went very well overall," he said. "The team- we kind of underachieved as a group of guys, but I think we’ll come back ready next year. We have the same group of guys coming back- great guys who love to work hard. So, hopefully we can put it all together."

Like many others at the combine, Clendening had a lot of interviews jammed into three days, with the majority frontloaded Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I got into Toronto on Monday and settled in, getting ready for the busy week," he said. "The first few days were pretty much the same: Early wakeup, around 8 a.m. and the get some breakfast. Meetings all day on Tuesday- I had 10 meetings on Tuesday. Same thing on Wednesday- I had nine on Wednesday. Had a light day on Thursday- only four. Get some rest and get a little food in mw Thursday to get ready for the testing Friday. And then once testing is done, be home Friday night."

He said there wasn't much grilling for him, but did single out a couple of questions he got throughout his 23 different interviews that stood out in his mind:

"The weirdest hockey question I got asked was: What is one thing I hate about hockey? I answered that I didn’t like the wait after the morning skate- - you’re ready to go after the morning skate and you still have to wait seven or eight hours. The weirdest non-hockey question was: Would I rather read a good poem or own a gun?"

Clendening opted for the softer side and chose the poem, adding that he decided to play it safe because he didn't have strong feelings one way or the other, so to box himself into a potential by answering about the gun might open himself up to having to defend a position he wasn't committed to.

He tested well in the fitness events portion and showed that he has some power to go with a more diminutive physical package.

Although undersized by defenseman standards, Clendening is strong. He's a dedicated gym rat who reminds us a lot of Don Sweeney (minus Sweeney's outstanding wheels) in terms of a smaller guy who has the strength and athleticism to play at the next level. Clendening's vision and hockey sense are outstanding, and it is his lack of elite speed combined with the size that is really the only thing holding him back from being a first-round pick.

Chicago and Boston have showed a lot of interest in him down the stretch. Neither team is particularly positioned to take him in the opening round at nine and 18 respectively, but you never know. At 40, the Bruins could snatch him up in the second and come away with a pretty intriguing player who may end up being more than the sum of his parts.

As for his Stanley Cup pick, we talked to him the day after Boston dropped Game 1, but Clendening kept the faith.

"My favorite NHL team is the Boston Bruins. Hopefully, they do well in the Stanley Cup finals. I watched the game (Game 1) last night in the hotel room here and it was a tough loss, but Tim Thomas is playing well. They’re a deep team and I think it will go a long way, probably seven games."

The more important pick- where Clendening ends up in the NHL draft- is yet to be made, but we'll all find out soon.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nation Radio interview archive posted

Instead of editing the old post about the Nation Radio appearance with host Allan Mitchell on Saturday, we'll just post a fresh link so people can check it out and it doesn't get buried.

Not a ton of draft talk as in past appearances, but still some good discussions.

Go to the Nation Radio link here and scroll down to Segment 3.

Bob McKenzie's 2011 final draft rankings are out

Death. Taxes. Bob McKenzie's annual NHL draft rankings on TSN.

It's an annual rite of summer when the ultimate NHL insider posts his annual top-60 prospects for the draft, plus honorable mentions. TSN has scout Grant McCagg weighing in on each profile, while McKenzie does the rankings based on a poll of 10 NHL scouts and a special mathematical formula he uses to triangulate the top-60 submissions he gets from each scout.

The link to his rankings are here.

He mentioned on the NHL Live Show that the aforementioned "elite 8" expanded to one more player (a "divine nine" perhaps?- w h/t to Dominic T. for that one). Swedish center Mika Zibanejad broke into the party, which means that the Bruins are looking at having their choice of at least one player from that select group assuming they don't go off the board for someone else.

Not surprisingly, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is on top of the list, and assuming that the Oilers keep the No. 1 pick, the Red Deer Rebels star will go to Edmonton, where that team is assembling an embarrassment of riches up front.

Not surprisingly, defenseman Adam Larsson is No. 2 on the list and he could be the second overall pick to Colorado. If not, we can't imagine he will fall too far.

Jonathan Huberdeau (whom we started calling "J-Money" after his playoff run) is the third player on the list, which isn't a surprise given his meteoric rise up the draft boards all season.

Gabriel Landeskog is a nice fit at 4th- the feeling here is that if he gets to New Jersey, they would snap him up. He's ready to come in and contribute right away, and the Devils have to love his character and potential as a leader and impact player on that roster.

Rounding out the top-five is Sean Couturier, who was at one time thought to be the consensus choice for No. 1 overall. We actually think Couturier will fall out of the top-five based on what we hear, but he's a natural fit for Ottawa if he were to drop a bit.

A pair of Niagara Ice Dogs, defenseman Dougie Hamilton and center Ryan Strome, are 6 and 7 respectively. Hamilton and Strome were both major impact players as 17-year-olds on a team that wasn't expected to contend, yet finished as one of the OHL's top seeds and made it to the eastern conference final series before getting hammered by Mississauga.

At eighth overall is Kitchener defenseman Ryan Murphy, who is a popular topic of conversation among B's fans. He may be however, perfectly slotted at eight if the rumored Columbus-Philadelphia deal does not go off and the Blue Jackets keep the pick. Murphy is the kind of player who would appeal to Columbus given his dynamic element and ability to run the power play.

Zibanejad is ninth on McKenzie's list, but we hear this is too low for the Swede who has come on like gangbusters. He's looking like a player who will come off the board much closer to five than at nine.

Rounding out the top-10 is another Swede- defenseman Jonas Brodin, who is extremely slight and doesn't have a big shot, but who may think and process the game better than any other defenseman in the entire draft class. Off the ice, he's quiet and shy, but when in action, he plays with the cool, confident poise of a veteran and always seems to make the right play with the puck and his positioning.

One player making real noise not only on McKenzie's rankings but in Red Line Report as well is Barrie center Mark Scheifele. Both have him at 12th, one spot behind Nathan Beaulieu. Scheifele played well on a bad team and was a top forward for Canada at the Under-18s this spring. He's bright and committed- someone will take a chance on him early. McKenzie likened him to Ryan Johansen as 2011's super riser who will take people by surprise in terms of where you hear his named called. Might he be a guy who sneaks into the top-10 to Boston? They do love their OHL guys...

Ohio winger Tyler Biggs cracked the top-15, which is good to see, because he's probably underrated now after being overrated by Central Scouting's mid-term rankings. After seeing the Vancouver Canucks get manhandled in the Stanley Cup Finals, is it any secret why teams covet those big-bodied power forwards? Even if Biggs' upside is a question mark, his size and nastiness is not- he should go somewhere in the first round. 15 might be a tad high, but top-20 would not surprise.

Another bit of a surprise at 30 is another Buckeye (headed to Miami University along with Biggs) in Connor Murphy, but then again, with his potential and mental makeup/maturity, if teams are confident that he's not going to be a huge injury risk going forward, he's definitely a first-round talent. It's a chancy move simply because Murphy hasn't seen as much action as most of his peers, but when he played, his performances were usually quite memorable. Just ask Team Sweden about him.

Just missing the first-round cut at 31 and 32 are a pair of OHL imports from Russia and Sweden- Vladislav Namestnikov and Rickard Rakell- both of whom are knocking on the first round's door and will be interesting to see if they make it in.

One interesting omission from the first round is John Gibson at 37, who we thought did enough to break into the top-30 based on his performance at the World Under-18s. Will he pay the price of the current down cycle on drafting goalies high, exacerbated by the Conn Smythe performance of one former ninth-round pick in Tim Thomas?

The rankings are worth checking out. Last year, McKenzie got 25 of 30 right, which was a down year by his standards most of the time. We shall see if he can get back closer to his high of 28.

Bob McKenzie's final 2011 NHL Entry Draft list debuts tonight on TSN

As always, this list is eagerly anticipated because of Bob McKenzie's status and connections.

His rankings closely resemble the kids who are going to be the first-round picks if not the order. A year ago, he got 25 out of 30 of the 2010 draft's players in round 1. He came onto NHL Live today with E.J. Hradek and Bill Pidto to say his low-end was 23 right, with a high of 28.

McKenzie shed light on his rankings and how he comes up with it. He said that for the 2011 list, he talked to 10 scouts in the NHL and polled them to get a numerical reading of where everyone will go and use a mathematical formula to see where they will go. Not like a scouting service saying where they should be taken, but a consensus opinion among 10 NHL scouts who feel the players will be taken.

The TSN show comes on at 7:30 p.m. and once we can digest the list, will provide some analysis on some of the more interesting selections. He confirmed that there is a top-9, near consensus this year, which jives with the evidence that Mika Zibanejad has worked himself squarely into the high-end picture.

In the meantime, here's the link to our analysis of his mid-season edition for your perusal.

Monday rumor mill and draft strategies

It's hard to believe that the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is already upon us with the first round happening Friday night at 7:00 p.m. (EST) from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

It's been a long season, and we're approaching 500 posts here on the B2011DW blog. It's been a pleasure to bring you the information and insights on the 2011 draft (and even a small look ahead to 2012 and 2013 as well) so we're going to put the head down, find the hidden energy reserves, and finish out strong.

Much of the draft rumor talk this week revolves around speculation that Steve Tambellini and the Edmonton Oilers are entertaining moving back a few spots to give up the No. 1 choice. Now, while this thought could be dismissed out of hand given the popularity of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but Edmonton at least entertaining offers makes sense for them. This is the second consecutive year that the Oilers own the top pick, and while they will need a pretty sweet offer to move it, one team that could make sense for them to make a trade with is Florida. Dale Tallon has some pretty good currency to work with in terms of extra picks, prospects and even a roster player or two the Panthers could flip to Edmonton for the right to draft Nugent-Hopkins. The Oil would only be moving back two spots, giving them a shot at Adam Larsson or Jonathan Huberdeau, plus they would have extra assets to work with.

It all comes down to how much Tallon is willing to give up, but Florida could use the bounce they would get by selecting RNH a year after trading with the Bruins to send Nathan Horton to Boston as one of the key missing pieces to a Stanley Cup champion.

B2011DW talked to a source who said that Tambellini has quietly taken some calls about that No. 1 pick. A year ago, he was adamant about not moving it, and even tried to trade with Boston to get the first two selections. The philosophy has changed somewhat given Edmonton's need to be a better team now and not later. We can't confirm if the Oilers have talked specifically with Florida about that top selection, but if there is a deal to be made, it makes sense for them because moving back just a couple of spots keeps them in the running for a top forward in Huberdeau or even Gabriel Landeskog, or allows them to land their high-end defenseman in Larsson while adding other pieces to the cupboard.

We shall see whether the Oil stands pat at 1 or they flip the pick for more assets.

Another option for them is to try and package additional assets to try and move up from 19, where they currently own L.A.'s first pick, to the top-10 to try and land a second high-profile prospect.

As far as players go, Mika Zibanejad looks like a slam-dunk inside the top-8, which means that the Bruins will have a nice shot at any one of Ryan Murphy, Ryan Strome and maybe even Sean Couturier. Zibanejad exploded onto the scene after playing very well in Sweden's top pro league and impressing NHL teams with his winning attitude and personality. Where the B's once hoped to have a shot at him at ninth overall, that isn't happening. We don't think he'll get past Ottawa at six.

Also hearing from a good source and friend that the rumored Jeff Carter to Columbus from Philadelphia for eighth overall (and possibly a player) deal is done and that the Flyers will jump ahead of Boston in the draft order, with announcement pending sometime this week. If this is in fact true, then expect the Flyers to snap up Strome if he is on the board, which we would expect would mean that Murphy would probably be the guy to go to Boston at nine. Strome or Murphy- Ryan's Hope- either way, Boston wins. They get another Tyler Seguin-style high-end scorer to insure them against an early Marc Savard retirement, or they get a Phil Housley-type elite skills offensive-minded defender who becomes the best skater in the organization right from jump street.

With the Bruins having won the Stanley Cup, don't expect them to move up on Friday. They will likely hold onto the assets they have (9th, 40th, 81st picks in the first three rounds) and add to the organization rather than surrender ones at a premium to try and move up a few spots. The math does not lie: a nice player will drop to the B's at 9- there is no need to move forward unless the cost isn't going to hamstring them. The Bruins have a rare championship winner's opportunity to strengthen their organization with two non-playoff picks in the first two rounds.They'll take advantage of that.

It's all winding down now. Bruins fans aren't yet coming off their euphoria of a Stanley Cup victory, but the team is focused on having a good draft. They're having defenseman Nathan Beaulieu in town for a quick visit on his way to Minnesota. Their list is essentially done- it's decision time.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Going to take a day off from the draft blog to celebrate with the family and play some Guitar Hero.

Enjoy your Sunday and B2011DW will be back on Monday.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

50 in 30: #1 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C Red Deer Rebels (OHL)
6-0, 174
Born: April 12, 1993 in Burnaby, British Columbia
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

Strengths: Outstanding skater with explosive burst, top-end speed, excellent lateral agility and superb edgework. Shifty, with quick feet and the ability to accelerate rapidly over short spaces. Elite stickhandler; can make any play at top speed or in traffic when there isn't much time or space. Soft touch on the puck for on-target passes. Can thread the needle through a maze of skates and sticks to hit the open man. Lightning release with a bullet shot that is accurate. Will pick corners at will. Hides his release point well and confounds goalies with his ability to get the puck on net from just about anywhere. Off-the-charts hockey sense- puck follows him around the ice. Always in the middle of the action and makes quick cuts to open up room for his linemates. The most creative player in the draft and a deadly scorer with the man advantage. Makes everyone around him better. Leads by example with his hustle and work ethic. Never quits on the play. Will initiate contact and not afraid to take the hit to make the play. Good character kid- wants to be a leader and has game-breaking ability to put his team on his shoulders at any given time.

Weaknesses:Slight frame and lacking in strength- isn't ever going to be all that big even when he matures, but with his high-end skills and hockey sense, won't be an issue. Production tilted more on the power play than while on 5-on-5- will be interesting to see if it is an ongoing trend with him.


Another nice highlight montage from YanthaCanada on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (YanthaCanada)

NHL.com interview with Nugent-Hopkins (RedMaryKidd876)

Future Considerations on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

(Having trouble uploading combine video on Blogger lately- will try to fix the issue soon)

Style compares to: Matt Duchene

Draft prediction: The No.1 overall pick to Edmonton with a bullet. Elite skill set and hockey sense- can make any play on the 200 x 85 and often makes opponents look silly in the process. There isn't a whole lot to say about this kid that hasn't been said already- he's the top player in this draft with the highest offensive ceiling and is a perfect fit for the Edmonton Oilers, who are in the catbird's seat.

Projection: Top-line center who could turn Taylor Hall into a 50-goal scorer in a few years. Nugent-Hopkins has all the makings of a big league scoring star, but may need at least one more year of junior to better mature and grow. His intent is to play in the NHL right away and he's been gaining weight, so it will be interesting to see how he looks at his first NHL training camp in the fall.

Background: Second of Roger Hopkins and Debbie Nugent's two sons, his brother, Adam, five years his senior. Received 2008 BC Hockey Player of the Year award. Was the first overall selection in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft by Red Deer. Scored 65 points as a rookie, but exploded in his second season finish fourth in the WHL in scoring with 31 goals, 75 assists for 106 points. Led WHL in helpers. Scored gold medal-winning goal at Ivan Hlinka/Eight Nations tourney in Slovakia in Canada's 1-0 win over Team USA. Favorite NHL teams: Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators Favorite player: Sidney Crosby

If Nugent-Hopkins had his own soundtrack it would be: "Savior"- Rise Against

"Not Falling"- Mudvayne


"Controls the flow and pace of the game and knows where everyone is on the ice at all times."- Red Line Report, 2011 Draft Guide (#1 player w/ Most Natural Hockey Sense)

“(Nugent-Hopkins) has very good puck-handling capabilities. His on-ice awareness is very good. He's one of those guys that knows where everyone is and where they should be and where the puck should go . . . He can dish both right or left, either on his backhand or forehand with that kind of vision. But not just the vision, but the fact he can lay that puck between the skate boot and the skate blade -- that's hard to find.”- Central Scouting's Blair McDonald to NHL.com (full profile here)

“A couple of people high up -- and not naming names -- said Hopkins has the best vision since No. 99 (Wayne Gretzky). That's the highest compliment you can get. But the other thing is the way he competes. He never takes a night off and he works as hard in his own end as he does in the offensive zone and that takes a special player with a special set of skills to do that.”- Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan to NHL.com

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in his own words:

“It’s been good. It’s been fun. I just go in and try to have fun with it, just enjoy it. I don’t like to be cocky and I don’t like when hockey players get cocky and stuff. Some hockey players in the WHL are pretty cocky. I don’t like cocky people in general. I don’t like when people are very arrogant.”- RNH to Edmonton Journal (for full story, see link below in The Scoop)

"When I first started skating I was two and then I joined hockey when I was four. When I was younger I grew up in Vancouver, and I eventually moved to Burnaby. I used to go public skate a lot with my older brother who played hockey. My dad wanted to get me into hockey but he was always a baseball guy, so he was kind of surprised that I took a liking to hockey more than baseball. Ever since I was four I started playing hockey, and have loved it ever since."- Nugent-Hopkins on how he got his start in hockey to NHL.com (more quotes here)

The Scoop:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins profile by David Staples, Edmonton Journal

Nugent-Hopkins ascends to top of draft rankings by Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com

50 in 30: #2 Gabriel Landeskog

Gabriel Landeskog, LW Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
6-1, 207
Born: November 23, 1992 in Stockholm, Sweden
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

Strengths: A good skater with a long, powerful stride and strong balance. Isn't a blazer, but does have nice jump and can separate. He's very strong on his skates and uses that lower leg drive to go right to the net, fight off defenders and make things happen in close. Good four-way change of direction. Hustles on every shift; plays with energy. Possesses an accurate shot. Underrated backhand-- can sky it up under the crossbar with limited time and space. Good passer and unselfish-- looks to find open teammates for scoring chances. Landeskog sees the ice well and distributes the puck as his pretty even split of goals and assists attests. Physical presence who relishes the hitting aspect of hockey and won't hesitate to fight if the situation warrants. Disciplined, plays in control despite his "angry" style. Tremendous leadership and intangibles: unparalleled work ethic, intelligence, sets the example with offensive and physical play, has mastered English and is "just one of the guys."

Weaknesses:Initial first-step quickness is fine, but could stand to improve to get a little faster out of the gate. Shot isn't overpowering-- even with its quick release and accuracy-- not all that heavy.


Open Ice feature on Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Murphy and Tobias Rieder at CHL Top Prospects Game (Open Ice Hockey)

NHL.com interview with Landeskog

Landeskog video/stills montage on You Tube (bestkeeper14)

(Having trouble uploading combine video on Blogger lately- will try to fix the issue soon)

Style compares to: Brendan Shanahan, Jarome Iginla

Draft prediction: Should be a top-three pick in the NHL draft, but will not slip past New Jersey based on the math. The strength of his game is in his completeness as a player: he can play the finesse game or grind it out, blocks shots, kills penalties, fights and does whatever his team needs him to do. He's compared a lot to Jarome Iginla, which is apropos, considering Landeskog looks up to the Calgary captain the most as his model player.

Projection: He's got the size and ability to project solidly into the top-six both as a power winger and special teams ace. But, his immeasurables are off the charts, so even if he doesn't live up to the offensive billing, he's going to be a solid third-line NHL player simply because he can play the finesse, high-energy, or grinding, in-your-face game. We see 35-goal, 70-80 point upside.

Background: 11 days younger than fellow Swede and high draft candidate Adam Larsson. Father, Tony played defense in the Swedish Elitserien. Has a fraternal twin sister, Beatrice. Originally property of the Djurgardens IF Stockholm hockey system, even playing for them for a few games in '08-09, becoming the youngest player ever to suit up for that Elite League team (3 games -1 assist) at age 16. Landeskog opted to come to North America in 2009 when the Kitchener Rangers traded for his rights with the Plymouth Whalers after that club made him the 3rd overall selection in the 2009 CHL Import Draft. Named Kitchener Rookie of the Year after 24 goals and 46 points in 61 games last season. Named to OHL All-Rookie Team. Named team captain by Kitchener Rangers Head Coach/General Manager Steve Spott on October 24, 2010. First European captain in team history and youngest Rangers captain in 30 years. Landeskog suffered a high ankle sprain just before the WJC, and then re-aggravated it in Sweden's first game against Norway, forcing him to miss about 6 weeks of the season. Finished the season with 36 goals, 66 points in 53 games. His hockey idols growing up: Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin. Now: Jarome Iginla, Mike Richards.

If Landeskog had his own soundtrack it would be: "Invincible"- Adelita's Way

"50,000 Unstoppable Watts"- Clutch


"Extremely fit and strong, wins nearly every corner battle and isn't afraid to dust it up when necessary. Great teammate who plays with a contagious enthusiasm for the game. Should put up much better numbers this year now that he'll be seeing first line and PP duty."- Red Line Report, September 2010

"As for Landeskog, he's precisely the kind of player the Colorado Avalanche want and need. I can envision him playing in the NHL next season with his refined power game, character and maturity. He doesn't have the elite skill level of other players in class, but as the total package, there are none better. At the beginning of the year, I saw him play and likened him to a Mats Sundin/Brendan Shanahan hybrid. He's not quite as big as both guys or as skilled, but is every bit as powerful and just a tough competitor and leader. You take a guy like Landeskog and put him with Matt Duchene and he's going to do some damage in the NHL. Maybe not right away, but I don't think you can miss with this player."- Kirk Luedeke/B2011DW on Landeskog to In Lou We Trust blog; May, 2011

"Gabriel does remind me of former Kitchener Ranger (and Philadelphia Flyers captain) Mike Richards. He sticks up for his teammates and is as strong at both ends of the rink as any player in the draft this year. He competes as hard if not harder than anybody. He's got all the assets that you need to be a team leader and, for a potential No. 1 overall, that's what you would want."- Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan to NHL.com (full profile here)

“He is a good-size guy who is solid on his skates, not afraid to take the puck to the net or battle for it along the boards. His skating is very good in all areas. He plays the game with so much passion, he plays the game hard, he's a great mentor for players that are younger and older, maturity beyond his years. (He) doesn't need one game in the American league next year -- he should step right into the NHL. I think the team that gets him next year is going to get a player that helps them win a Stanley Cup.”- Central Scouting's Chris Edwards to NHL.com

Gabriel Landeskog in his own words:

"He played hockey for a team named Hammarby, and he played two seasons in the Swedish Elite League. After that, he played all of his career in the second tier league. He's a big defenseman that liked to play physical and could also move the puck, from what I've heard. He's always been a really good mentor for me. He's always been there and given me advice on the way here. Just been a great mentor for me all my life not only on the ice but also off." Landeskog on his father, Tony, to NHL.com (full profile here)

"It was kind of where I stood. I had two ways to choose: I could play in the Swedish Elite League or come here. I felt that I wanted to try something new. Canadian junior hockey has always been one of my dreams. I felt that if I would come here to Kitchener and play for a team that really believed in me I would improve a lot more as a player and also as a person because moving from home and moving to another country would be really great experience."- Landeskog on leaving Sweden for the OHL to NHL.com

The Scoop:

There's nothing soft about Landeskog's game by Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com feature

Landeskog blog post on his combine performance at hockeynewsdigest

One more time on the airwaves with Nation Radio

B2011DW was on the radio a week ago with our good friend Allan Mitchell, host of Nation Radio out of Edmonton, but given Boston's Stanley Cup victory, going back on to close it out before the draft.

Once again, I thank Allan/Lowetide for giving this hockey analyst a place to go to talk hockey and the NHL draft.

You can listen here live at approximately 2:40 pm EST on Saturday (12:40 Mountain) or the archive will be up in the next 24 hrs or so.

Just click the listen live button at top right of screen

Special thanks to producer Connor Halley, who is a great guy and has shared some pretty funny emails with me over the past week. Allan and Connor are a great team, and you really should give their show a listen regularly. Fantastic stuff for any hockey fan.

- Kirk

Friday, June 17, 2011

Erasing the stain

Have another column on the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup championship over at New England Hockey Journal website.

The focus: on how the Bruins erased the stain of their humiliating defeat of a year ago in dramatic fashion. Couldn't have happened any better, and when I spoke to a pair of front office members this afternoon, they could only chuckle in disbelief at how it all worked out.

Here's a teaser from the piece:

Boston hockey’s rags-to-riches tale is no less compelling in the annals of sports lore. In the span of a little less than 400 days, the Bruins went from bums and chokers to Stanley Cup champions.

With one resounding Game 7 road victory (the first such event in the team’s 87 years, and what better a time to make history?) the B’s erased the pain, the humiliation and devastation of having blown a 3-0 series lead to the hated Philadelphia Flyers in May, 2010.

The Bruins didn’t just bounce back from what was just one more kick to the crotch of a franchise and fan base that had seen its share of nut-punches since Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and their merry band of hockey miscreants beat the New York Rangers on Broadway to snatch Lord Stanley’s chalice in 1972. No, these modern wearers of the spoked-B eviscerated decades of frustration, always capped with a half-hearted “there’s always next year” spoken quietly by only the most fanatical of the Gallery Gods and Bruins devotees.

Although sweet, Boston’s 1972 Stanley Cup championship had become obscured to the mists of legend, like the elusive sword of fable Excalibur, as it might have appeared sinking into the waters clutched in the Lady of the Lake’s grip.

That moment, captured in the washed-out, grainy images of that last decade of bare-headed hockey heroes flying down the ice with their hair on fire, stood as the last testament of Boston hockey supremacy. But in the pre-video and internet age, it was almost as if the Bruins never won at all.

In the 39 years since the WHA and Ken Dryden (at one time a Bruins draft pick until the team foolishly traded him to Montreal) helped break up what should have been a powerful dynasty of multiple Stanley Cups on Causeway Street, the Bruins and their fans have seen some doozies.

Full story here.

Could Oscar Klefbom be an off-the-board pick for Boston?

Swedish d-man Oscar Klefbom isn't getting a lot of mention as a possibility to break the top-10 at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but why not?

He's got the size, skating, shot, spirit/leadership and offensive potential to be one of those surprise early selections that gets everyone buzzing.

Working against him is his questionable hockey sense and lack of discipline when it comes to playing the position, but he is a physical presence who likes to take the body. While B2011DW could indict him by mentioning Klefbom in the same sentence as Bruins defender Johnny Boychuk, Klefbom has a higher ceiling but plays a similar style. He's faster and more powerful than Boychuk, but does struggle at times with making the right reads and gets caught pinching when he should stay home. As far as pure upside goes, Klefbom is significantly ahead of where Boychuk was at the same age.

So, while we're not comparing Klefbom to Boychuk, we are saying that there is some risk when you go for a guy who has the big shot, likes to hit but doesn't think the game as well as others. If Klefbom did, he's be right up there with Adam Larsson as a top-three candidate.

If the Bruins were to draft Klefbom ninth, it would certainly be a debated, even criticized pick. However, with his impressive offensive ceiling, exuberance and willingness to work at his shortcomings, this is one of those swing-for-the-fences type picks.

Here's what Red Line Report had to say about Klefbom in the 2011 Draft Guide: Could turn out to be the top d-man from this class. Needs to work on positional play and defensive awareness- gets lost in coverage at times. But overall, great upside. Team captain is a confident, take-charge guy and obvious team leader. Red Line also compared Klefbom style-wise to Brent Burns.

Again, B2011DW was blown away by how terrific Klefbom came off at the combine. We have to think that if he sold NHL teams on his character/personality as well as his impressive hockey acumen may have during the course of the season, then Klefbom just might be the kind of player the Bruins would roll the dice on. He's exactly the kind of guy they like- big, skilled, passionate. If he had the hockey sense in spades, he wouldn't be an option for them. It's something they might be willing to gamble on.

A week from tonight, we'll be sitting in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota getting set up for the primetime coverage of the big event.

Bruins are the first Stanley Cup champion since the New York Islanders in 1983 to have a top-10 pick (Pat Lafontaine). They can afford to eschew safe for a little more risky with this one. Perhaps it will enable them to add to championship #6 instead of making their fans wait another long almost four decades for the next one.

50 in 30: #3 Adam Larsson

Adam Larsson, D Skellefteå AIK (Sweden)
6-3, 205
Born: November 12, 1992 in Skellefteå, Sweden
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

Strengths: Excellent size with room to fill out and long limbs. Powerful skater who is smooth with his stride and footwork. Smooth and graceful in his movements; quick acceleration and fine speed. Moves well laterally and backwards. Very good puckhandler and passer from the back end. Makes the crisp breakouts and quick clears. When in control, has as much poise and skill as anyone...can confidently move the puck out on his own and will jump into the play. Good, hard shot-- getting more involved offensively as the games go on. Larsson has very good hands and vision for advancing the puck and hitting teammates with speed coming out of their zone. He plays a smart positional game and has a big shot. He can run the power play effectively as both a distributor and triggerman. He showed off his powerful stride and ability to move well laterally, and was especially good at moving the puck and making outlet passes. Larsson is a smart guy who sees the ice well and has a high panic point, meaning he'll hold onto the puck until the last possible second for his teammates to get open, meaning he often takes a good amount of hits over the course of a game and season. He also has a booming shot and can score his share of them from the point.

Weaknesses:Struggled with injuries this year- missing time because of an injury and he got banged up in a March 22 playoff game against Luleå, injuring his shoulder and not dressing for the next contest. With forecheckers in his grill, his decision-making deteriorates and he turns the puck over. Like most players, disrupt his time/space and he starts to make mistakes. As many with late birthdates who emerge as draft frontrunners early, he's had his game nitpicked and some wonder if he can truly be a legitimate No. 1 two-way cornerstone at the NHL level, but he has all the tools to be very, very good regardless. Needs to improve upper body strength, but will do so when he gets on an NHL strength and conditioning program.


Larsson defensive highlight vs. Nikita Filatov from You Tube (NHLDraftVideo)

Larsson goal vs. Russia in 2011 WJC (NHLDraftVideo)

Style compares to: Dan Boyle

Draft prediction: Larsson will be a top-three pick in the draft. We don't think Edmonton will pass on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins over Larsson, but we can only imagine their war room debates have been fierce on the subject. He's simply too good, too skilled, too appealing to drop. However, were he to fall to New Jersey, the Devils would be thrilled to snap him up. We see Colorado taking Larsson at No. 2 despite the rumors surrounding Jonathan Huberdeau. That said, we could also see the Panthers taking Larsson at three- even though they have taken defensemen with their top picks in 2009 (Dmitri Kulikov) and 2010 (Erik Gudbranson), Larsson would give the Panthers three big studs on the backline. Why wouldn't Dale Tallon want to do that. If he's somehow on the board when the Devils pick, then it's a no-brainer.

Projection: Very good No. 2 with lower-end No. 1 potential if he hits his impressive ceiling. Would be a No. 1 on a lesser club, and we don't say this to sell Larsson short- it's just that some of the comparisons to Nicklas Lidstrom have gotten out of hand. There's absolutely nothing wrong with projecting Larsson as a top pairing defender, but seeing him closer to being a No. 2 than a cornerstone/franchise type. However, if one could prove B2011DW wrong in the prediction, it is Larsson. He has the tools.

Background: Born, raised and plays in the same hockey town that produced former NHLer Patrik Sundstrom. Father, Robert, was a sixth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 1988 and played in the SEL for Skellefteå. As a 16-17-year-old rookie in the Swedish Elite League in 2009-10, scored 4 goals, 17 points in 49 games, generating a fever pitch around him going into the 2010-11 season. Has 1 goal, 9 points in 37 games this season as he fought through nagging injuries. Added 4 assists in 17 playoff games with Skellefteå AIK, with his team defeated by Farjestad in the SEL championship series (fellow draft candidates Jonas Brodin and Oscar Klefbom- DNP were on the winning team). Favorite NHL teams: Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings Favorite player: Nicklas Lidstrom

If Larsson had his own soundtrack it would be: "Steady As She Goes"- The Raconteurs

"Smooth Up In Ya"- Bulletboys


"He isn't a flashy guy who is going to wow you off the rush like (Ryan) Murphy but he can play mistake-free hockey and put up solid point totals like another certain Swede."- NHL scout to B2011DW; June 17, 2011

A Swedish defenseman with good puck handling and eye for the game. Incredibly calm on the ice. Very large for a player of his age. Plays very smart. A fast skater but could improve his acceleration. A good playmaker. Has good offensive skills which will develop with time. Positions himself well. One of the top prospects for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.- Matias Strozyk, Elite Prospects.com (full profile here)

“Adam is one of the best skater’s in this year’s draft -- he has excellent speed and mobility. He also has patient puck handling abilities and can surprise an opponent with a solid hit. His size and skating ability make him comparable with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.”- Central Scouting's Chris Edwards to NHL.com

The Scoop:

Larsson has look of top 2011 draft pick by Adam Kimmelman NHL.com feature

Another top-notch feature from In Lou We Trust on Larsson, this time from Kevin Sellathamby, whom I enjoyed meeting in Toronto at the Combine (and yes, I'm quoted in it, but it's an accurate and thorough profile)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

One last History Will Be Made Moment

Why? Because it's already happened!

Bruins fans, enjoy this moment.

50 in 30: #4 Jonathan Huberdeau

Jonathan Huberdeau, C/LW Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
6-1, 170
Born: June 4, 1993 in St-Jerome, Quebec
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

Strengths: Good height with long arms and reach. Very good skater; rangy player with smooth, loping stride. Not all that explosive or possessing of elite speed, but can get from point A to point B effectively and has good shiftiness in open ice. Excellent hands; can stickhandle in traffic or dangle, using his long stick to maintain distance between the puck and would-be checkers. Soft touch for pinpoint passes. Gives and receives passes well. Heavy snap shot that he can get off very quickly. Accurate shooter who can elevate the puck in close or keep his bullet drives low to the corners when goaltenders give him an opening. Loves to score and looks great doing it. High-end offensive instincts; always around the puck and a deal-closer when the play is in tight to the net. One of the most creative players in the class; sees the ice extremely well and anticipates the unfolding play, knowing where his teammates will be and finding them with the puck. A good teammate; has a lot of flash to his game, but fits in well with the group dynamic because he isn't selfish nor does he put his own importance higher than others. Protects the puck and will go into the dirty areas. Versatile; can play center or wing. An asset more on the power play now, but has penalty killing potential at the highest level if he develops his positional awareness/play away from puck. Character kid who works hard and is a leader. Already speaks English passably, so will have no cultural challenges when he makes the jump to pro hockey. Memorial Cup MVP after a dominating performance in the QMJHL playoffs.

Weaknesses:Extremely slight frame; lacks in physical maturity and will require significant conditioning and added mass to set himself up for the rigors of the next level. Although willing to do the dirty work along boards and down low, often gets overpowered because he lacks the functional upper- and lower-body strength that should come to him in time. High center of gravity makes him susceptible to being knocked off stride. Defense is a work in progress; play without the puck needs to improve. Not an overly physical player or fighter, but that is not a knock-- he simply plays a skill game and doesn't concern himself with things like fighting (though he will do it as the YanthaCanada highlight video below can attest)


Huberdeau highlight film from You Tube (Alex20Wild)

Another highlight film of Huberdeau in action (YanthaCanada)

Jonathan Huberdeau combine video (B2011DW video)

Style compares to: Jeff Carter

Draft prediction: Anytime you lead your team to a Memorial Cup championship, you're going to be in demand, but Huberdeau lifted his stock all year with a consistent, productive showing in the 'Q'. He's a top-three pick, especially if the rumors linking him to Florida are true. Even though we rank him just outside the top-three, it's simply because we have Gabriel Landeskog rated ahead of him, where many lists do not. Huberdeau is a slam-dunk in the top-five and will very likely be gone even earlier.

Projection: First-line center or wing with 40-goal, 90-point upside. Huberdeau has all the offensive tools you look for, plus nice intangibles like work ethic and an honest desire to round out his game and get better defensively. He was a very good penalty killer in his rookie QMJHL season, so Huberdeau has proven his versatility to go along with the offensive explosion this season. He has all the makings of an NHL star and longtime, franchise-stabilizing fan favorite.

Background:18th overall selection (R1) of Saint John in 2009 Midget Draft out of the Saint Eustache Vikings. Set a team record for rookie playoff goals last season with 11 en route to the QMJHL finals (Saint John fell to Moncton). Won a gold medal with Team Canada at the August Ivan Hlinka Tourney. Named assistant captain for Team Orr in the 2011 CHL Top Prospects Game played in Toronto. Finished third in league scoring with 43 goals and 105 points. Ranked #3 among North American skaters on Central Scouting's final list. Favorite NHL team: Montreal Canadiens Favorite NHL players: Jordan Staal, Mike Ribeiro

If Huberdeau had his own soundtrack it would be: "Becoming the Bull"- Atreyu

"The Chauffeur"- Deftones


“He's the type of player who can change the outcome of a game suddenly and quickly. He's displayed unbelievably quick hands and an ability to set up and score goals. He definitely has NHL hands and playmaking ability . . . he's also gritty and does not back down when challenged.”- Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau to NHL.com

"The biggest surprise for me this year with Huberdeau is the goal scoring. I knew he was an excellent passer from seeing him last year, but I didn't see how aggressive he was going to be at taking the puck to the net and finishing off the play. He put a lot of work into his shot, and he's playing with a lot of confidence. The puck is going in a lot for him, and I don't see that it's a fluke. He's got some real upside."- Quebec-based NHL scout for Western Conference Team

"Without the work of this fluid, imaginative playmaker, there's no way (Zack) Phillips would be second in the Q in goals scored."- Red Line Report, December 2010

"Showed really soft hands on his rebound goal tight near crease. Beautiful look and cross-ice feed to set up one glorious PP chance. All-around impressive game. Made some instinctive plays at both ends. Stood up for himself and whacked a few guys with his stick. Lots of upside."- Red Line Report, February 2010 (CHL Top Prospects Game review)

The Scoop:

Huberdeau skating to the top of 2011 Draft rankings by Mike G, Morreale, NHL.com

Huberdeau making charge at top spot by Mike Ulmer from Mapleleafs.com