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NHL Draft 2011

June 25, 2011

Burnaby, BC native Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was drafted first overall. The Red Deer Rebel sported the Oilers’ “newest” away threads. Also, this year’s batch of pictures with the mirror in the background in a locker-room style environment are an improvement over the “peekaboo” curtain poses from last year, but check on the random lady’s head in the right corner.

A confession: I was out in Libertyville, IL watching a play last night. Consequently, I did not witness the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in real-time, but rather by furtively sneaking glimpses at my phone during intermission and on the way home, and later watching it all (and day two) today, via DVR. Last year I watched it in its entirety live. I regret not having that same experience. But now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move ahead.

It was some draft! I do love it. It’s like an arcade game–lots of prizes, that seem free, but eventually aren’t. But in terms of a “free-for-all” and the egalitarian nature of the whole event, it’s pretty great. As long as teams have done their research and due diligence, which is in itself expensive and time consuming, the draft will generally yield a little something for everyone. And that’s if you have draft picks, because if you squandered them all away in trade, well, oops.

There were a few surprises, a few interesting points. Here’s me hashing them out.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

The new sun king. Were there any surprises here? Did anyone genuinely believe Adam Larsson would take the cake? I don’t know. But I think the Taylor Hall heir-apparent was the correct decision. A franchise centerman already playing in Alberta? Perfection. I am pleased to hear that he’ll be keeping the hyphenated name. He may take flak from folks, but it’s real progress for hockey for him to do so. I think it has a nice ring, too. Whether he actually plays in Edmonton or Red Deer next year is the bigger question. How many pizzas can he down this summer? Can he hit 180, maybe? Who knows. But Edmonton is looking MIGHTY mean.

Edmonton Oilers

This brings me to my next point, that big there about Edmonton looking mighty mean. They’ve cleaned up at the draft the last few years. And it’s not purely a matter of high draft picks (though certainly that’s helped). Starting with Linus Omark and Jordan Eberle, you’ve got Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall, Martin Marincin, now Nugent-Hopkins and Musil, and a slew of others. Combine that will a still blossoming Dubnyk in net, Hemsky, Horcoff, Gagne and Brule, and you have a team that will slowly but surely start to challenge. They are very well stocked. And those are just a few of the names. Edmonton is an exciting team to watch, and the nature of my work this past year had me up late at night watching those games from a seemingly freezing Rexall Place. The team is young, boisterous, fast and extremely skilled. Yes, they finished 30th last year. Yes, the West is tough. But this is team that’s going to be strong for years if not decades to come. This is a quality rebuild the likes of which many teams never see.

New York Islanders

All welcome Ryan Strome. Like the other team in orange and blue, the Islanders are loaded with prospects. But why do they lack the excitement and cohesion of the Oilers? Just curious. I can’t figure it out, but it seems to rest with management. They have also had a similar trajectory in terms of 80s dynasties and ownership and arena issues. It’s odd.

Risers, sliders

So, Sean Couturier. All’s well that ended well, right? He’s big, NHL-ready, has a French-Canadian last name and now finds himself on the Flyers. That can’t be a bad way to go, right? Right? But waiting until that eighth pick must have been nearly excruciating. What is it about Couturier? That he already reached his potential? Something in the interviews? Or the tried and true idea his peers simply rose above? Maybe all three. We’ll never quite know. But landing with the Flyers, especially with Carter and Richards shipped out, is certainly a fine deal. How about Mark Scheifele? Mark who? Led all rookies in OHL scoring. Heading to Winnipeg. Definitely not expected to be drafted at number seven. Then again, it’s Winnipeg, it’s a fresh start (they’ll be the Jets, though) so why not shake it up? I don’t know that Mika Zibanejad could be called a riser, but I was surprised to see him taken by Ottawa at six.

Bruins

How ’bout them Bruins? It must be a strange experience for both and player and management for a team that JUST won a Stanley Cup less than two weeks earlier. For the management, it’s probably business as usual, especially for scouting staff, but there must be the sense of “we’ve reached the apex.” There must be some fatigue. And for the player, he must wonder whether the same hunger will there in the organization. I know neither of these are likely to be real factors, but one must wonder. Six foot four Dougie Hamilton looks to be a superb choice that fell to the Bruins. I hate to say this for fear of sounding nerdy, but I am impressed by just how strong his academics are. His grade-point average and his taking physics and calculus and getting As. That’s awesome. Also that his parents are both Olympians. And not in hockey. I think that’s important in terms of rounding a player out and their ability to offer him advice on a life in sports. Alexander Khokhlachev? Awesome. And much like Hamilton, not anticipated to be available by the point at which the Bruins picked in the second round. The Bs haven’t been keen on Russians, as I’ve noted before. But this looks like a sound choice, as he is already playing in Windsor and is only a rookie to the OHL.

Matches made in heaven

Nathan Beaulieu and the Canadiens? There’s a beautiful match. The kid admitted today he didn’t actually speak French, but was planning on learning ASAP. That will endear him to all. But how perfect he fell to the blue, blanc and rouge. A good French name goes a long way on the back of their sweaters. I’m genuinely happy for all involved. Ryan Murphy to Carolina? Kitchener-tastic with Skinner.

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