The 49th annual NHL Draft returns to the Land of 10,000 Lakes with the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with the Minnesota Wild serving as hosts. The last time the NHL gathered in Minnesota the year was 1989 and the site was the Met Center in Bloomington with the Minnesota North Stars presiding as hosts of a 12-round draft that featured 21 NHL teams.

The Edmonton Oilers will be making the first selection for the second consecutive Draft – the first time that has happened since the Ottawa Senators did it in 1995 (Bryan Berard) and 1996 (Chris Phillips) – although a couple of teams did come close. In 2006, the Chicago Blackhawks owned the third overall pick (Jonathan Toews) and the first overall pick in 2007 (Patrick Kane).

The Pittsburgh Penguins nearly went the Oilers one better when they made the first overall selections in 2003 (Marc-Andre Fleury) and 2005 (Sidney Crosby) and the second overall selection in 2006 (Evgeni Malkin).

The impact of making the first selection in consecutive drafts is not lost on Oilers GM Steve Tambellini.
“Winning this first overall pick is an important moment for the organization and it’s an integral part of the process moving forward,” Tambellini told the Canadian Press.

“This is a very exciting time for our organization and our fans as this just adds to the already bright future of our team.”

It is obvious that Edmonton will dictate how the first round will shake out given they have the first overall pick. However, considering they also own the 19th and 31st overall picks, the Oilers are in a position to do some wheeling-and-dealing.

“I think it’s my responsibility to stay open to anything. If I feel it really helps our organization, I’ll consider it,” Tambellini explained to “I’m not afraid of moving up with the 19th pick or the 31st pick, if that’s something [chief amateur scout] Stu McGregor and his staff really feel is important. If they really believe in it, then I’ll consider it.”

Tambellini upped the stakes in a conversation he had with Craig Custance of the Sporting News on June 9.
“I’ve had a few calls of people kicking the tires of how they can help me make the Oilers a better team,” Edmonton’s GM admitted. “For me to move the No. 1 pick would have to be something exceptional.”

While Tambellini admitted to that this year “… there’s possibly four or five [players] that all could legitimately be the top pick,” the consensus is that it will come down to center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and defenseman Adam Larsson.

While the Oilers have a few first round draft picks among their forwards corps, the general consensus from the experts is that Edmonton will draft the center over the blueliner.

In a April Mock Draft among the 14 non-playoff teams, former Calgary GM and current analyst Craig Button placed Nugent-Hopkins at the top of his draft board.

“He’ll make Taylor Hall better,” Button said. “Players like Nugent-Hopkins do not come around very often. I think this sets up the Oilers for a great future.”

In this Mock Draft, each player has ratings for the following scouting services: The Hockey News (THN), (TSN), Red Line Report (RLR), NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), and International Scouting Service (ISS). CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters, European skaters, North American goaltenders and European goaltenders. THN lists each prospect’s NHL Translation. Both ISS and RLR provide a prospects’ comparable NHL player. TSN ranked the Top 60 players and listed 25 Honorable Mentions.

The draft positions are as of June 23 and presume that no trades will have been made since then.

1. Edmonton Oilers – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – C –
THN: # 1 (Offensive forward) —– TSN: # 1 —– CS: # 1 NA
RLR: # 1 (Pavel Datsyuk) —– ISS: # 1 (Niklas Backstrom)
The temptation will be great to go after Larsson, but in the end the Oilers will opt for the consensus number one prospect in the Draft. With three picks among the top 31 picks, Edmonton will have plenty of chances to address their blue line – with the possibility of moving up with their second pick in the first round.

2. Colorado Avalanche – Adam Larsson – D –
THN: # 2 (Two-way defenseman) —– TSN: # 2 —– CS: # 1 E
RLR: # 2 (Brent Seabrook) —– ISS: # 2 (Niklas Lidstrom)
It is inevitable that Larsson would draw comparisons to fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom – especially when you consider his potential as a “franchise defender” – which is what ISS described as his NHL potential.

3. Florida Panthers – Gabriel Landeskog – LW –
THN: # 3 (Two-way forward) —– TSN: # 4 —– CS: # 2 NA
RLR: # 2 (Brendan Shanahan) —– ISS: # 5 (Mike Richards)
This is where the Draft starts to get a bit tricky. Jonathan Huberdeau would be a good fit in South Florida. However, Landeskog’s leadership ability should push him to the top of Florida’s list. THN noted that he hit an unusual exacta with Kitchener (OHL) – he was named team captain at 17 despite being an import player.

4. New Jersey Devils – Jonathan Huberdeau – C –
THN: # 5 (Offensive forward) —– TSN: # 3 —– CS: # 3 NA
RLR: # 4 (Vincent Damphousse) —– ISS: # 3 (Peter Forsberg)
Lou Lamoriello could go for a blueliner, but has been able to patch together his defense corps well enough to land a big-time offensive player. If Huberdeau ends up in Colorado, then Larsson should be a Devil. If Larsson is gone, then Lamoriello will go for Huberdeau.

5. New York Islanders – Dougie Hamilton – D –
THN: # 10 (Two-way defenseman) —– TSN: # 6 —– CS: # 4 NA
RLR: # 5 (Alex Pietrangelo) —– ISS: # 5 (Brett Burns)
The Islanders struggles over the past few years has allowed them to start refilling their cupboards. Lots of offensive weapons available, but Hamilton (6-4/193) gives the team a future partner for former first rounder Calvin de Haan.

6. Ottawa Senators – Sean Couturier – C –
THN: # 4 (Offensive forward) —– TSN: # 5 —– CS: # 6 NA
RLR: # 4 (Joe Thornton) —– ISS: # 8 (Jordan Staal)
With rumors swirling that Jason Spezza could be headed out of Ottawa, Couturier fits in perfectly as the future number one center as his size (6-4/195 should be too much to pass up. If the Devils take Couturier, Ottawa will happily gobble up Huberdeau. The Senators will have a chance to get better in hurry as they own five picks in the first two rounds.

7. Winnipeg – Ryan Strome – C –
THN: # 6 (Playmaking forward) —– TSN: # 7 —– CS: # 8 NA
RLR: # 9 (Logan Couture) —– ISS: # 7 (Martin Havlat)
New GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have chance to put his stamp on the former Thrashers. Strome combines playmakers ability, excellent hockey sense and potential goal scoring ability to help pave a new hockey era in Winnipeg

8. Philadelphia Flyers – Ryan Murphy – D –
THN: # 7 (Offensive defenseman) —– TSN: # 8 —– CS: # 9 NA
RLR: # 6 (Brian Leetch) —– ISS: # 8 (P.K. Subban)
What Murphy lacks in size (5-11/176) and defensive play, he more than makes up for it, as ISS said, as he is one of “the most elite offensive defenders to come along in recent years and he can simply dominate play with the puck.” Although the Flyers dealt away Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, they should still look to inject some youth on defense because they covered their forward corps by bringing in Brayden Schenn, wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek.

9. Boston Bruins – Nathan Beaulieu – D –
THN: # 18 (Two-way defenseman) —– TSN: # 11 —– CS: # 5 NA
RLR: # 18 (Alex Goligoski) —– ISS: # 14 (Mike Green)
The Stanley Cup champions get richer. There has to be concern over the health of their centers due to post-concussion problems, but the Bruins need to address their power play problems as well. While his calling card is his offense, he is not lost in the defensive zone.

10. Minnesota Wild – Mika Zibanejad – C –
THN: # 11 (Two-way forward) —– TSN: # 9 —– CS: # 2 E
RLR: # 14 (Brendan Morrow) —– ISS: # 7 (Jarome Iginla)
The Wild have always placed importance on taking care of the defensive zone – sometimes to the detriment of their offense. Zibanejad offers the opportunity to add offense and size (6-2/191) in the form of a player who is good defensively and has the ability to play wing (as he has in international play) and center (league games).

11. Colorado Avalanche – Joel Armia – RW –
THN: # 15 (Goal-scoring forward) —– TSN: # 14 —– CS: # 4 E
RLR: # 20 (Tomas Vanek/James Neal) —– ISS: # 13 (Johan Franzen)
Colorado could take a long look at one of the Gibson goaltenders, but it might be a little early to take a netminder. They could gamble and move down, or they could just cash in on Armia. The Finnish native is a big-time goal scorer that uses skill and a power forward’s size (6-3/191).

12. Carolina Hurricanes – Sven Bartschi – LW –
THN: # 8 (Offensive forward) —– TSN: # 16 —– CS: # 7 NA
RLR: # 27 (Patric Hornqvist) —– ISS: # 11 (Loui Eriksson)
Bartschi saw the success of fellow Swiss native Nino Niederreiter and copied it when he left home to play Juniors. Bartschi scored 34 goals and 51 assists with Portland (WHL) during the regular season and added 10 goals and 16 assists in 20 playoff games.

13. Calgary Flames – – Duncan Siemens – D –
THN: # 12 (Two-way defenseman) —– TSN: # 13—– CS: # 10 NA
RLR: # 24 (Chris Phillips) —– ISS: # 12 (Kevin Bieksa)
The Flames need to restock an organization that has finished in the bottom third of the THN’s Future Watch issues the last four seasons. With Tim Erixon being traded to the Rangers, Siemens is a solid replacement that offers size (6-3/197) and the ability to be a solid matchup d-man.

14. Dallas Stars – Alexander Khokhlachev – C –
THN: # 13 (Two-way forwards) —– TSN: # 44 —– CS: # 29 NA
RLR: # 13 (Tomas Plekanec) —– ISS: # 23 (Martin Havlat)
With Brad Richards set to test the waters of UFA, the Stars are going to need to bring in a top playmaking forward to replace him. Another European player who left home to play Junior hockey. He had a good rookie season with Windsor (67-34-452-76), but he really picked up his game in the playoffs scoring 20 points in 18 games.

15. New York Rangers – Mark McNeill – C/RW –
THN: # 16 (Power forward) —– TSN: # 19 —– CS: # 14 NA
RLR: # 16 (Brandon Dubinsky) —– ISS: # 16 (Jamie Benn)
The Rangers have done a good job in the last couple of years of injecting youth into the organization. The acquisition of Erixon from Calgary points to the rangers looking for an impact forward. McNeill’s ability to play center or wing makes him a solid fit in NYC – as does his size (6-2/204).

16. Buffalo Sabres – Mark Scheifele – C –
THN: # 41 (Power forward) —– TSN: # 12 —– CS: # 16 NA
RLR: # 12 (Jeff Carter) —– ISS: # 18 (Dustin Brown)
Scheifele continues the Sabres recent plan of adding size (6-2/177) to their talented finesse forwards. His offensive numbers will improve (66-22-53-75) as he continues to mature physically and as his Barrie (OHL) team improves on its 49-loss season.

17. Montreal Canadiens – Oscar Klefbom – D –
THN: # 37 (Defensive defenseman) —– TSN: # 21 —– CS: # 6 E
RLR: # 11 (Brent Burns) —– ISS: # 10 (Ryan Whitney)
The Habs will be undergoing some changes on the blueline this year as nine d-men are set to test free agency. Klefbom’s skating is reminiscent of the old Flying Frenchman and should play major minutes as a two-way defenseman in the NHL.

18. Chicago Blackhawks – John Gibson – G –
THN: # 27 (Franchise goaltender) —– TSN: # 37 —– CS: # 1 NA-G
RLR: # 29 (Steve Mason) —– ISS: # 1 G (N/A)
For all of their success recently, Chicago has had concerns with their goaltending. With two Gibsons to choose from, the Blackhawks will go with the American version. John has been a mainstay with the USA U-17 and U-18 teams, using his size (6-3/205) to his advantage. While he is set to attend Michigan, Kitchener (OHL) owns his Junior rights.

19. Edmonton Oilers – Christopher Gibson – G –
THN: # 29 (Starting goaltender) —– TSN: # 42 —– CS: # 2 NA-G
RLR: # 77 (Josh Harding) —– ISS: # 2 G (N/A)
The Oilers passed on a defenseman with the 1st overall pick and should do so with the 19th pick because the drop off in goaltenders is that big between the Gibsons and the rest of the field. Christopher Gibson was born in Finland, but his game is all Canadian since leaving home at the age of 15 – the last two years with Chicoutimi (QMJHL).

20. Phoenix Coyotes – Brandon Saad – LW –
THN: # 14 (Two-way forward) —– TSN: # 22 —– CS: # 19 NA
RLR: # 21 (R.J. Umberger) —– ISS: # 24 (Patrick Marleau)
While the Coyotes managed to avert a move back to Winnipeg, ownership questions still surround the team. GM Don Maloney could look to go for a player who will enter college next year (e.g. Tyler Biggs or J.T. Miller). However, Maloney, who was a moving force between the Rangers drafting Hugh Jessiman in 2003, will draft the 6-1/208 LW. Saad has all of the components to be a big-time player, it is just a matter of him harnessing and developing his tools.

21. Ottawa Senators – Nicklas Jensen – RW –
THN: # 19 (Power forward) —– TSN: # 24 —– CS: # 21 NA
RLR: # 22 (Patrick Marleau) —– ISS: # 22 (Ryan Kessler)
Ottawa continues its stockpiling of offensive talents with the left shooting RW who is another player who has Top-10 skills, but needs to find a consistency to his intensity. Jensen is yet another European player who crossed the Atlantic to further his career, playing for Oshawa (OHL) and scored 29 goals and 29 assists in 61 games.

22. Anaheim Ducks – Jamie Oleksiak – D –
THN: # 17 (Defensive defenseman) —– TSN: # 17 —– CS: # 13 NA
RLR: # 28 (Mobile version of Hal Gill) —– ISS: # 16 (Tyler Myers)
While the Ducks need to address some aging issues among the forwards, the success of the likes of Chara and Myers make Oleksiak (6-7/244) too good to pass up – even if the Ducks have not always placed a premium on size.

23. Pittsburgh Penguins – J.T. Miller – LW –
THN: # 59 (Checking-line forward) —– TSN: # 18 —– CS: # 23 NA
RLR: # 9 (Erik Cole) —– ISS: # 17 (Drew Stafford)
Solid two-way player who has been a member of the USA U-17 and U-18 teams. Miller has committed to North Dakota, but THN thinks his drafting team will push him to play with Plymouth (OHL). Miller is a fine complementary player for a Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

24. Detroit Red Wings – Tyler Biggs – RW –
THN: # 20 (power forward) —– TSN: # 15 —– CS: # 22 NA
RLR: # 23 (Chris Neill) —– ISS: # 31 (Keith Tkachuk)
With Nicklas Lidstrom coming back for a 20th season, the pressure/need to look for a replacement lessens enough for Detroit to bring in Biggs – whose father Don Biggs played 12 NHL games while making a name for himself as a minor league scoring machine. Unlike dear old dad (5-8), Tyler (6-2/210) is your prototypical power forward who has made his way up through the USNTDP. He has the potential to be a top six forward, but will definitely stick as a third line forward at the least.

25. Toronto Maple Leafs – Jonas Brodin – D –
THN: # 22 (Two-way defenseman) —– TSN: # 10 —– CS: # 3 E
RLR: # 26 (Brad Stuart) —– ISS: # 20 (Kris Letang)
GM Brian Burke will not be happy to see Biggs off the board at #25. If he gets a whiff of Detroit taking him, Burke might think of trading ahead of the Red Wings. If the Leafs don’t move up, Brodin is a nice consolation prize as he is a good two-way d-man who will help run both special teams.

26. Washington Capitals – Matt Puempel – LW –
THN: # 21 (Goal-scoring forward) —– TSN: # 27 —– CS: # 28 NA
RLR: # 15 (Patrick Sharp) —– ISS: # 29 (Patrick Sharp)
The Capitals should look for some secondary scoring to help support Alexander Ovechkin. Scored 33 goals in 55 games in a season cut short by a hip injury that should not limit his progress. Not only does Puempel bring scoring, he will also bring leadership.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning – Connor Murphy – D –
THN: # 55 (Two-way defenseman) —– TSN: # 30 —– CS: # 25 NA
RLR: # 41 (Ryan Whitney) —– ISS: # 19 (Alex Edler)
The son of former NHLer Gord Murphy has battled a stress fracture of a lower vertebra for the last two seasons. However, his size (6-3/185) and emerging offensive game make him a fine complement to Victor Hedman.

28. San Jose Sharks – Scott Mayfield – D –
THN: # 24 (Smooth-skating defenseman) —– TSN: # 46 —– CS: # 24 NA
RLR: # 35 (Ryan O’Byrne) —– ISS: # 32 (Victor Hedman)
The Victor Hedman comparisons fit given Mayfield’s size (6-4/197), skating ability and physicality. Mayfield still needs to develop his game and should do that as he heads to the University of Denver.

29. Vancouver Canucks – Zack Phillips – C –
THN: # 9 (Goal-scoring forward) —– TSN: # 28 —– CS: # 15 NA
RLR: # 34 (Antoine Vermette) —– ISS: # 34 (Mike Ribeiro)
It is easy to overlook Phillips because of the exposure of his teammate Jonathan Huberdeau. Zack has all of the tools needed to be a big-time playmaker: great hands, ice vision and hockey sense. The one drawback to his game is his average skating.

30. Toronto Maple Leafs – Rocco Grimaldi – C –
THN: # 32 (Goal scoring forward) —– TSN: # 23 —– CS: # 32 NA
RLR: # 10 (Theo Fleury) —– ISS: # 15 (Martin St. Louis)
Brian Burke needs to make a big splash with his two first round draft picks and Grimaldi gives him that chance. The only thing that prevented Grimaldi from being the first player drafted is his size (5-6/163). The future Fighting Sioux of North Dakota does not let his small stature prevent him from adding a feisty style of play to his big-time scoring ability.

First Round Draft Pick Transactions

1. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ 1st round pick goes to the Boston Bruins as a result of the September 18, 2009 trade that sent Phil Kessel to Toronto in exchange for 1st round picks in 2010 and 2011 and a 2010 2nd round pick.
2. The St. Louis Blues’ 1st round pick goes to the Colorado Avalanche as a result of the February 19, 2011 trade that sent Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and a conditional 2nd round pick to St. Louis in exchange for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a conditional 2011 2st round pick. The condition – the Blues pick was not to be among the top 10 picks – was converted on April 12, 2011 when St. Louis retained the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
3. The Los Angeles Kings’ 1st round pick goes to the Edmonton Oilers as a result of the February 28, 2011 trade that sent Dustin Penner to Los Angeles in exchange for Colten Teubert, a 2011 1st round pick and a conditional 3rd round pick in 2012.
4. The Nashville Predators’ 1st round pick goes to the Ottawa Senators as a result of the February 10, 2011 trade that sent Mike Fisher to Nashville in exchange for a 2011 1st round pick and a conditional draft pick in 2012.
5. The Philadelphia Flyers’ 1st round pick goes to the Toronto Maple Leafs as a result of the February 14, 2011 trade that sent Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia in exchange for a 2011 first round pick and a 2011 3rd round pick.
6. The Boston Bruins’ 1st round pick goes to the Toronto Maple Leafs as a result of the February 18, 2011 trade that sent Tomas Kaberle to Boston in exchange for Joe Colbourne, a 2011 1st round pick and a conditional 2nd round pick in 2012.
7. The Columbus Blue Jackets’ 1st round pick goes to the Philadelphia Flyers as a result of the June 23, 2011 trade that sent Jeff Carter to Columbus in exchange for Jakub Voracek, a 2011 1st round pick and a 3rd round draft pick in 2011.

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