The 2011 NHL draft wasn’t how it’s been the past few seasons. It had the typical surprises, trades and fluctuating stocks but there was no NHL ready superstar. The past few years have churned out NHL ready players who were a guarantee to go first overall, players like John Taveras, Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane. It was a bit different in Minnesota this weekend, as there was plenty of real good talent deep into the first round but it is unlikely we will see much of these guys at the professional level for quite some time.
So who were the winners and losers this season?
Arguably the biggest winner this weekend was a team that really doesn’t need to build for the future, seeing as they just won their first Stanley Cup in close to 40 years – the Boston Bruins. The Bruins had the ninth overall pick, which they got from Toronto and used it to draft defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Don’t be fooled by a grown man with the name Dougie because Hamilton is a 6-foot-5 defenseman who could be a force to reckon with in a few seasons, especially if he gets the chance to play alongside Zdeno Chara. The Bruins added a lot of grit and physicality with their later picks and mixed in some highly touted offense with Alexander Khokhlachev in the second round. The left winger had 76 points in 67 games last season in the OHL. It could be just a few years until he is a household name, though we’re not sure anyone will be able pronounce it correctly.
Another winner was a team the Bruins swept out of the playoffs this spring. The Philadelphia Flyers made headlines just days before the draft by wheeling and dealing it’s captain as well as it’s leading goal scorer but they hope the eighth overall pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the Jeff Carter trade becomes a cornerstone of their future. The Flyers selected American born Sean Couturier, a dynamic player who was the unanimous pick to go No. 1 overall until he suffered an injury this past season in the QMJHL. He still managed 96 points in 58 games and was the league leader in plus minus. He was definetly the steal the Flyers had hoped for. Is he a future captain? Well with Mike Richards gone someone will have to take over sooner rather than later.
The Ottawa Senators also had a very good draft. They selected Swedish born Mika Zibanejad sixth overall. Zibanejad has a high upside and plays center, a position the Sens definitely will need to address in the upcoming years. With the next pick the Sens went and got who many believe was the best pure scorer in the draft, left winger Matthew Puempel. In his last two seasons in the OHL, Puempel had 67 goals in 114 games.
The New Jersey Devils had a good draft and selected Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson after he fell into the team’s lap. He was the best defenseman in the draft and should be a perfect fit for the Devils and could become one of the best the league has to offer in a few years. The later picks were good players based mainly around the offensive side of the puck but the Devils are winters because of the big piece added to its defense, a team traditionally known for shut down defense.
On the other side of things, the NHL’s newest franchise, which moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg, had a bit of a rough draft. They finally unveiled the franchise’s name, going back to Winnipeg Jets, the name of the city’s previous professional club. The Jets surprised experts when it took Mark Scheifele with the No. 7 overall pick. The 6-foot-2 center led rookies in assists last season in the OHL but wasn’t slated to go until at least midway through the first round. Later in the draft, the Jets might have picked up a steal in Austen Brassard but all in all the Thrashers, ahem we mean Jets, could have had a better first draft.
Last years’ runner-up, the Vancouver Canucks must have still been nursing their hangover because it did not have a good draft. The Canucks’ first pick was Niklas Jensen who has a good upside and was a good pick considering the team’s first round pick was 29th overall. But then Vancouver took a goalie, despite the fact that Roberto Luongo is locked up for a few more seasons. It just continued to go downhill from there and no pick after that left Canucks fans buzzing in a good way, not in a riot way.
While this year had plenty more winners than losers, there were plenty of teams that had somewhat of a quiet, ho-hum draft. Now like each and every general manager who put weeks, or even months into this past weekend, we now watch as the players begin their ascent to the professional level.
We will let you know how it all turns out.
In three to five years.
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press