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Monday, June 20, 2011

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.

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