While the chase for this year’s Stanley Cup is running at full throttle, the rest of the NHL is gearing up for next season’s potential championship season. The first task in the offseason is the NHL Entry Draft, this year held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Who will go where? How will your team meet its needs? It’s all part of the intrigue of draft day. Let’s put the Edmonton Oilers on the clock. To find out who they pick, and every other NHL team pick, read after the jump.
The NHL draft is a little different than most other drafts, as the draft is based on age and not where you’re coming from. Teams retain a player’s rights until the draft the following season, allowing a team and player to sign anytime in between. While this year’s draft doesn’t have the name power that last year’s debate over the top pick, it might be deeper in terms of overall talent pool. This year’s draft should have something for everyone. So, with the first pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers select………
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Red Deer (WHL)
It seems the Oilers are following the Capitals’ blueprint to success, and are loading up on offense, and worrying about defense later. Nugent-Hopkins gives them someone to slot between past picks Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall for the next decade or so.
- Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Kitchener (OHL)
This past season was a step back for a team who snuck into the playoffs only a year earlier. Landeskog gives the Avalanche a strong two way player to help improve its porous defense. A playmaker to get the puck to the other young, up and coming forwards on the roster.
- Adam Larsson, D, Skelleftea (SWE)
The Panthers continue their rebuilding project, although Larsson gives the team a strong blue line presence that they haven’t had since Ed Jovanovski left South Beach. While he may not be ready to make the jump immediately, he will be an important piece of this team in the future. His talents will truly be appreciated by the Florida goaltenders.
4. New Jersey
- Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Saint John (QMJHL)
The Devils ridiculous season was capped off by them winning the draft lottery and moving up the most spots in the draft. New Jersey needs some cheap offensive weapons thanks to the huge Kovalchuk contract, and Huberdeau will give them a strong centerman to help with the scoring load.
5. NY Islanders
- Dougie Hamilton, D, Niagra (OHL)
The Islanders have spent the last few years fighting for a new arena and drafting skilled forwards. Hamilton gives them a blueliner who can mesh with the young, fast roster, and help change a losing culture. However, the Islanders have proven themselves to be rather incompetent at the draft, so no one can be sure of their pick until it is actually made.
- Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
The Senators have always been known as Daniel Alfredsson’s team since their inception, but the big redhead is growing in years, and soon will be gone. Couturier is the future. Couturier is a skilled forward who knows how to score, but has slipped in the eyes of the scouts as this year has gone on. Ottawa won’t be disappointed with their selection.
- Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL)
The Thrashers abrupt decline at the end of this past season showed the lack of goal scorers on the roster besides Big Buff. The selection of Strome gives Atlanta a strong man on the faceoffs who can also bury the puck in the net. Wherever this franchise ends up, Strome will be relied on for goals.
- Nathan Beaulieu, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
The Blue Jackets have yet to have a true franchise defenseman in their ten years of existence. Beaulieu may eventually be that player for this franchise. Having someone with the ability to shutdown skilled forwards will do a lot to helping Columbus make the leap forward.
9. Boston (via Toronto)
- Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener (OHL)
For a still playing for a chance at the Cup, the Phil Kessel deal continues to pay off for the Bruins. A selection this high allows Boston to take the best available, and that’s Murphy. Murphy will give them yet another big, strong defenseman to clog up the blue line. The Bruins’ drafting will keep them in the chase for a championship for years to come.
- Sven Baertschi, LW, Portland (WHL)
The Wild need true goal scorers probably worse than any other team in the NHL. Just as bad is their depth at the left wing position. Baertschi fills both of those needs, and becomes a player that could be potentially slotted into the top line. With the team hosting the events, don’t be surprised if GM Chuck Fletcher tries to make something big happen to appease the locals.
11. Colorado (via St. Louis)
- Duncan Siemens, D, Sakatoon (WHL)
The Avalanche’s second pick in the first round, acquired in the blockbuster with the Blues that brought in Erik Johnson, gives Colorado a defenseman to pair right up with Johnson. Duncan Siemens is a quick footed defenseman who can get up and down the ice, and will also provide some firepower from the point.
- Mika Zibanejad, C, Djurgarden (SWE)
One of the highest rated European players in the draft, Zibanejad will have an opportunity to showcase his offenseive skills with the Hurricanes. The speedy center will give the Carolina offense a little more flair, and will give the Hurricanes someone to pair with last year’s great pick, Jeff Skinner.
- Vladimir Namestnikov, C, London (OHL)
The Flames have struggled to score recently due to injuries and salary cap problems. Namestnikov gives Calgary a young, cheap offensive weapon that should help improve their lackluster goal output. Namestnikov will also give the Flames a breakaway weapon that they sorely lack.
- Jonas Brodin, D, Farjestad (Sweden)
The Stars are building a core group of young players who will keep this franchise competitive for years to come. Brodin gives them a possible shut down defenseman who can neutralize opponents’ top players. Brodin can also show an offensive flair and will contribute points from the blue line.
15. NY Rangers
- Zack Phillips, C, Saint John (QMJHL)
The Rangers continue to throw money around like a team from New York does. However, their drafting is the real reason they have slowly been returning to respectability. Phillips gives the Rangers another strong player up the middle, and fits into the mold of recent skilled, quick forwards that the Blueshirts have drafted.
- Mark McNeill, C, Prince Albert (WHL)
The Sabres continue to be a plucky, defensive team that nobody wants to play come April. The pick of McNeill fits into Buffalo’s defensive philosophy. McNeill will be strong in both ends of the ice, and could be a big time playmaker given the right opportunity in Buffalo.
- Joel Armia, RW, Assat (FIN)
The Canadiens have built a roster full of small, lightning fast forwards who rush the puck up and down the ice. Armia gives Montreal that same fast dimension, but an even bigger frame. Armia could be a goal scoring power forward in the future, especially if he learns to take up residence in front of the crease.
- Jamieson Oleksiak, D, Northeastern (HE)
While the Blackhawks suffered this past season from a post championship hangover, the front office has been, and continues to be, busy keeping the Hawks under the salary cap. Most of the recent draft picks have seen time with the big club already, and Oleksiak could make the same type of quick impact that Nick Leddy did this past season. Oleksiak gives Chicago youth at every position for years to come.
19. Edmonton (via Los Angeles)
- Mark Scheifele, C, Barrie (OHL)
The Oilers’ second pick of the first round will go a long way towards making sure Edmonton has at least two full, skilled lines of forwards. Scheifele gives Edmonton another player at center who can both score and play defense. Scheifele might not make the instant impact of past Edmonton selections, but could be just as good in the future.
- Jonathan Miller, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
The Coyotes know they will be in Arizona at least one more season, so there is a chance that Miller might get to play in Phoenix during his career. The ‘Yotes struggle up the middle, especially in the face off circle. Having a quick handed centerman to help control the puck could keep the Phoenix goalies from having to work so hard.
21. Ottawa (via Nashville)
- Joseph Morrow, D, Portland (WHL)
Ottawa gets this pick from the Mr. Carrie Underwood trade (Mike Fisher), and will shore up their blueline with the puckmoving Morrow. A potentially devastating weapon on the power play, Morrow will give the Senators offensive production from the defensive corps that they haven’t seen in a while.
- Ty Rattie, RW, Portland (WHL)
Anaheim has been been a very good drafting team in recent years, and Rattie could be another scoring machine that Anaheim drafts. Rattie has good hands and is just as good at dishing the puck as he is finishing the play. Look for the winger to fit in well on this fast and feisty team.
23. Tampa Bay
- Christopher Gibson, G, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
The Lightning have shown that a steady owner and intelligent front office can make wonders in a very short time. Assuming the team resigns Steven Stamkos, the only glaring weakness in this organization is in net. Gibson gives the Lightning a goalie who has shown impressive stats on a less than stellar team. Gibson could be the starter in net in the very near future.
24. Toronto (via Boston)
- Tomas Jurco, RW, Saint John (QMJHL)
The Maple Leafs need someone besides Phil Kessel to score goals, and Toronto hopes that Jurco will fill that role. The big winger gives Toronto some size and skill up front that hasn’t been on the roster since at least the lockout. While they aren’t drafting as high as they could thanks to the deal with Boston, Jurco fills the Maple Leafs’ needs perfectly.
- Boone Jenner, C, Oshawa (OHL)
The Red Wings continue to defy both the skeptics and time by winning again and again. Jenner gives this squad that boost of youth that keeps the eventual roster transition seamless. Skilled hands and a penchant for defense will help Jenner fit right in with the Red Wings.
26. San Jose
- Scott Mayfield, D, Youngstown (USHL)
The Sharks have done a great job the last few years drafting skilled forwards, and have relied on veteran blueliners to do the job. Mayfield gives San Jose a big, strong kid who can give them an offensive punch from the point for years to come.
- Brandon Saad, LW, Saginaw (OHL)
A Pittsburgh prodcut gets to come home to the Penguins, as Saad will get a chance to join one of the best franchises in hockey. Saad might finally be the player that they slide next to Crosby, as long as he’s healthy, and be the finisher for Sid.
28. Toronto (via Philadelphia)
- Nicklas Jensen, LW/RW, Oshawa (OHL)
The Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke likes fast and physical players in his roster, and Jensen will help change the Maple Leafs even more. A possible pairing with Kessel could create a dynamic duo in a hockey mad city who are starving to win another championship.
- Tyler Biggs, RW, USA U-18 (USHL)
The Capitals tried retooling their philosophy on the fly this season. And it worked, for one round. Washington needs big bodies up front to bang around and score the dirty goals. Biggs can be this player in Washington, hopefully giving them that extra dimension they seem to lack come postseason play.
- David Musil, D, Vancouver (WHL)
While such a strong, deep team may not seem to have many holes, their defensive corps had a hard time keeping healthy and in the lineup all season long. Selecting a local player like Musil gives the Canucks that much more depth in the future.
There you have it, a look at the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Check back often at The Sports Bank as we get closer to the draft, as the mock draft will be updated regularly right up until the first selection is called out in St. Paul.
Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms. He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long. Look for new articles throughout the week. He can be followed on Twitter at @bryanvickroy. If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .