Home > OHL, Prospects, QMJHL, WHL > [Part One] 2011 Draft Class Hierarchy

[Part One] 2011 Draft Class Hierarchy

(Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

Special Thanks to Aaron Bell of CHLImages for the use of his spectacular images.

Part One – Number 1 to 10

The 2011 NHL Entry Draft is fast approaching and analyzing top prospects is in full gear. The 2011 Draft class has been called weak in the past due to the fact that it does not possess that one true “draft stud” that every team covets. However, do not let this years’ draft prospects hear that as many of them have made their case to NHL clubs that picking them will not go unnoticed.

The top position of this years’ draft class has been held by not one, not two, not three but four individuals this past season. On June 24th as the NHL clubs convene in St. Paul, Minnesota, the entire hockey world will be on edge as Edmonton Steps up to the podium for the second consecutive year to make the first overall selection. Who will it be? Only the Edmonton Oilers know that at this point but the following rankings should help you to understand the names that will be thrown around draft tables in the first round.

Before we start, a few disclaimers are needed:

  • Rankings are not based on fantasy value
  • Rankings are not a mock draft (to be released later)
  • Estimated Time of Arrivals (ETA) are best personal guesses and will depend largely on the team who selects them. Subject to change

Here we go! Check back for the next ten best prospects as the 2011 NHL Entry Draft approaches.

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Position: Centre, Shoots: Left, Height: 6’0″, Weight: 164 lbs, Hometown: Burnaby, BC

164GP – 31G – 75A -106P

NHL.com Draft Prospect Video

Nugent-Hopkins was the first overall selection of the 2008 WHL Bantam draft so the Burnaby native will be used to stepping up to the podium first. The WHL`s top playmaking center (75 assists) and third leading scorer (106 points) has been on a tear since the CHL prospects game. RHN has been compared to a number of current and past NHLers including Datsyuk for his hockey vision and Sakic for his shot release. The player comparisons are always nice but in the end, Hopkins-Nugent brings an elite level of puck skills to his game which opens up a lot of space for himself and linemates on the ice. Ryan has become the clear-cut favourite for the first overall pick in this years NHL draft.

ETA: 2012-13

Readiness: RHN has the intelligence to play in the NHL immediately but I am sure scouts would prefer to see him bulk up and fill out his 6-foot frame.

2. Adam Larsson, Skellaftea (SEL)

Video (Swedish audio)

Position: Defenseman, Shoots: Right, Height: 6`3`, Weight: 220 lbs, Hometown: Skelleftea, SWE

37GP – 1G -8A-9P

Larsson has been atop the 2011 draft crop for three years now and it is not surprising that he has kept his position among the top three for so long now. Larsson plays a calm, cool and collected game that has often been compared to a young Niklas Lidstrom. Now, being compared to the one of the NHL`s all-time greatest defenseman is hardly fair for an 18-year old but it does seem accurate when describing his approach to the game. Larsson`s offensive game is still relatively unknown but the skills are there to put up points. The 6-foot-3-inch Larsson is already built for the rigors of the NHL and the expectation is that he will likely suit up for whichever NHL club is priviledged enough to select him.

ETA: 2011-12 (NHL ready)

Readiness: Larsson has the physical tools to step right into a NHL lineup as the 5th or 6th defenseman but some say Larsson may return to the SEL for another season.

3. Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Position: Right Wing, Shoots: Left, Height: 6`0, Weight: 207 lbs, Hometown: Stockholm, SWE


NHL.com Draft Prospect Video

The young Swede (with no trace of an swedish accent) has become a favourite of scouts around the NHL with his comparisons to NHL captains Mike Richards and Jerome Iginla. In all honesty, Landeskog probably plays the most `Canadian game`of all NHL draft eligible players. Landeskog oozes leadership abilities and will surely become a captain for his future NHL club. The Stockholm native plays a complete game with no noticeable holes in his game. Landeskog does have similarities to the swedish icon Peter Forsberg. Gabriel does not have Forsberg`s elite scoring abilities but he does play an aggressive game and he likes to mix it up. Plus, Landeskog can put up the good numbers and is no stranger to fighting.

ETA: 2011-12 (NHL ready)

Readiness: Landeskog has a lot of team scouts drolling because he is likely the most NHL-ready forward of the draft class. If Gabriel can put together a strong NHL camp, he should find himself skating on an NHL team’s third line to start the 2011-12 season.

4. Sean Couturier, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)

Position: Centre, Shoots: Left, Height: 6`4, Weight: 197 lbs, Hometown: Bathurst, NB



Couturier was ranked first among all 2011 NHL eligible skaters to start the season but has seen his draft stock fall over the course of the season. Why? Couturier has not necessarily fallen but moreso, others have passed him with their exceptional play. However, it is important to realize that the strong two-way center brings a level of consistency (at both ends of the rink) as he finished with back-to-back seasons in the Q with 96 points. Couturier’s all-around play should be extremely attractive to all of the top drafting teams this summer. Couturier possesses a high-level of hockey IQ, can shoot and pass with the best of them but does have a slow first step in the skating department. Fortunately, skating is a skill that can be improved and Couturier will surely look to improve his skating this summer.

ETA: 2011-12 (NHL ready)

Readiness: Couturier’s game is very mature and is likely to start the 2011-12 NHL season (at least for the 9 game trial) skating among the big boys.

5. Dougie Hamilton, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Position: Defenseman, Shoots: Right, Height: 6’4, Weight: 187 lbs, Hometown: St. Catharines, ON


NHL.com Draft Prospect Video

Dougie Hamilton has quickly ascended up the draft boards as he has become somewhat of a unexpected riser over this past season. Hamilton brings a complete package of size and skill (both offensive and defensive). This past season, Hamilton set the new defenseman scoring record for the Niagara IceDogs with 58 points (previously held by Alex Pietrangelo). Hamilton is almost assured to be a very good NHL based on his versatility. Dougie is a very good skater that covers the ice with exceptional lateral movement. If Hamilton fails to display the offensive skills at the NHL level that he has shown this past season the team who drafts him will be able to use him as a very reliable shutdown defenceman. It has been said before, Dougie Hamilton could end up being the steal of this draft class as he possesses a full tool box of skill.

ETA: 2011-12 but likely 2012-13

Readiness: As always, a lot depends on the team players are drafted to but Hamilton could step into an NHL roster if he has a strong camp. However, I would not be surprised to see Hamilton get a 9-game stint and return to Niagara to build upon his impressive 2010-11 season.

 6. Jonathon Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Position: Centre, Shoots: Left, Height: 6’1″, Weight: 170 lbs, Hometown: Laval, QC


NHL.com Draft Prospect Video

Huberdeau continues his surge up the draft ranks as his powerhouse Sea Dogs compete in the QMJHL conference finals. Huberdeau currently sits second in the Q’s playoff scoring race with 21 points in just nine playoff games (10G, 11A). Huberdeau is just one of nine Saint John Sea Dogs on the Central Scouting list so some people are concerned about the teammate affect.

Ironically, Huberdeau says that one of his favourite players is Mike Ribeiro and his play definitely mimics that of Ribeiro’s. Huberdeau has trememdous creativity and is a great playmaker with exceptional hockey IQ. Like Ribeiro, Huberdeau is a “dangler” and good skater that makes his teammates better with crisp, accurate passing. It should be noted that Huberdeau has the ability to play the wing as well which makes him an attractive prospect to many teams as they go shopping this year in St. Paul.

ETA: 2012-13

Readiness: Huberdeau needs to fill out his lanky frame so I fully expect his development to be longer. Huberdeau is likely one or two years away at least.

7. Ryan Strome, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Position: Centre, Shoots: Right, Height: 6’0″, Weight: 175 lbs, Hometown: Mississauga, ON


NHL.com Draft Prospect Video
Video Interview, Highlight Reel Goal

Ryan Strome seems to be one of the bigger question marks in this years’ draft class. It appears that some scouts love him while others are a bit weary since he missed most of the 2009-10 season. Strome’s production this past season will surely get him drafted in the first round but at which position remains to be seen. Ryan Strome was voted the Most Improved and Best Playmaker in the OHL Eastern Conference Coaches’ poll and also tied Ryan Spooner for the Best Stickhandler. Strome’s strength as a player are his quick feet and puckhandling abilities but he is not afraid to mix it up with the physical play either. Strome is a very likeable kid and that will surely help his draft stock as the June Entry draft draws closer. There are some scouts who have Strome ranked higher than fellow OHLer Landeskog so it will be interesting to see which team drafts Strome and at what position.

ETA: 2013-14
Readiness: Strome will likely follow along the same development path as former OHLer Bryan Little. Little was drafted in the first round (12th overall) in 2006 and then returned for his final OHL season. Strome and Little are both 100+ point producers at the OHL-level and Strome will likely return to Niagara and join a strong team.

8. Ryan Murphy, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Position: Defenseman, Shoots: Right, Height: 5’10, Weight: 166 lbs, Hometown: Aurora, ON


Coaches Corner Video, More Video

In the past two NHL Drafts we have seen two OHL offensive defensemen, Ryan Ellis and Cam Fowler, fall further than where they were “ranked” to be selected. Ryan Murphy should prepare for the same scenario as his NHL future is somewhat unknown. Murphy has world class hockey IQ and skating ability but there will be some NHL teams weary of his size (5’10”) and his gambling approach to the game. Murphy plays more like a fourth forward on most shifts in the OHL and that style of play may be difficult to translate to the NHL.

Offensively, Ryan Murphy is (by far) the best of his draft class but he will have to show NHL clubs that he can take care of his own end as well. Murphy has stated that his goal was to become better defensively and he looked to improve in that area this past season. Ryan Murphy is currently playing for Team Canada at the World under-18 Championships in Dresdan, Germany. The young defenseman leads all Canadian players with 8 points (3G, 5A) in five games (to date). Murphy also holds a plus-five rating through it’s round robin play which should appeal to NHL scouts. Murphy has the offensive talent to be a top 5 selection but could see him fall into the middle of the first round if teams choose not to gamble.

ETA: 2013-14

Readiness: Murphy should return to the Rangers next season as their leader. The offensive defenseman will need to improve on his defensive aspect of the game and that might require another year of junior hockey and one or two years of AHL seasoning.

9. Mika Zibanejad, Djurgarden (SEL)
Position: Centre, Shoots: Right, Height: 6’2″, Weight: 194 lbs, Hometown:Huddinge, SWE


Video of Big Hit, SEL Debut: Brut force to strip opponent and score, Zibanejad beats Larsson and scores

The rise of Zibanejad in the rankings over the second half of the season has been rapid, to say the least. The large physical swedish centerman is exactly what many NHL teams covet so it would not surprise me to see Zibanejad drafted well above the tenth position. Zibanejad thrives in the gritty areas of the ice and can simply skate right through the opposition en route to a goal. Mika began the season with Djurgarden’s junior team before getting the call up to play with it’s Elite League team where he scored five times and added four assists and was often one of the team’s best players. The large power forward has a strong work ethic and is extremely strong on the puck. Combine those rare physical attributes with good puck skills and a heavy shot and it sounds like Zibanejad might become one the drafts best prospects. Zibanejad is currently playing for Team Sweden at the Under-18 World Championships and leads his team with four goals and three assists in four games. Zibanejad might be a player that gets selected higher than projected by most experts – prepare yourselves.

ETA: 2012-13

Readiness: Zibanejad seems to be that one player who proves everyone wrong. Mika has the size and has already competed professionally but most Swedes prefer to spend multiple years developing in the SEL. The team who drafts Zibanejad will determine his ETA but the earliest we would see Zibanejad is 2012-13.

10. Duncan Siemens, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Position: Defenseman, Shoots: Left, Height: 6’3″, Weight: 200 lbs, Hometown: Sherwood Park, AB


Older Video, Fight

Siemens will tell you that his favourite childhood icon was Scott Stevens and if you watch Siemens play, you will not be surprised by that statement. Siemens has made several youtube videos with his fighting skills so the man-child is not afraid to fight. However, Siemens possesses a smooth skating stride and is very good at moving the puck. The Saskatoon alternate captain is exactly the defenseman every NHL team needs in the number two or three slot. Ryan Murphy is ranked ahead of Siemens on this list but I would not be surprised to see an NHL club opt to draft the steady, reliable and composed Siemens ahead of Murphy. Siemens is the less risky of the two prospects ranked later in the top 10. Duncan’s offensive upside is limited but he is more than capable of handling powerplay duties and his shot is very effective at finding the net. After Larsson and Hamilton, Siemens is likely the next best defensive prospect (in terms of all-around skills).

ETA: 2012-13

Readiness: Physically, Siemens has the size to play in the NHL but he will likely return to the Blades for his fourth junior season. Siemens could see NHL action in 2012-13 but the year following would be a better guess.

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