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Checking Out the 2011 NHL Draft Class

Adam Larsson of Skellefteå terrorizes a player from Timrå. Photo courtesy of Sverigesradio
Adam Larsson of Skellefteå terrorizes a player from Timrå. Photo courtesy of Sverigesradio

I had every intention of doing a detailed analysis of the potential draft picks for the upcoming festivities June 24-25, 2011 in St. Paul, Minnesota. However, I started talking with Yeti and discovered he'd already done it. He sent me his notes to help me, and I've decided I couldn't say it better than he has. And since he's the one who did the work, I'm going to give you his low-down with full credit where it belongs. Thus, with no further ado, here's the IncredibleEdibleYeti and the 2011 NHL Draft outlook...and some suggestions from me for ad campaign slogans.

Top 14 potential Avalanche picks: 

While there are other potential picks, the players I list are typical of what the Avalanche may want or need (aka - NOT RUSSIAN). 14 teams won't make the playoffs, so that's why I chose 14 players to highlight. Also, I'm not Dick Pracy (or whatever our chief scout's name is). I rarely get to see any of these players actually play.  So these are primarily based on scouting reports, rumors, and stats.  Not the surest way to form an opinion, but it's all I've got!
The exciting thing for Avs fans this year should be - with 4 players all rated tops and a slew of other top-15 that could turn out well - with a top-10 pick we may be able to land a top-5 player.  Not a sure thing, but our scouts seem to be very good (Hishon, Barrie- aka 3rd round pick) so a big clump at the top should allow us to scope the 2-3 players we really want and be aggressive in getting one of them.
General summary - No Goalies.  4 D-men (3 with much needed size).  10 forwards (mainly with size - though there are a handful that seem to be smaller players with great puck skills.) This year's draft should give us a really good indication of Sherman's policy on size vs. talent vs. positional needs. 

Oh - and the "NHL equivalency" do-hickey at the ends are just the most common NHL player with which they are associated style-wise and most likely an absolute peak of what they can accomplish. There's a good chance they'll be a notch or two below the player listed though.



In no particular order:
Adam Larsson - Losing it for Larsson -Roughly 6' 2"  - 200 lbs.  In his 2nd year in the Eliteserien. He was originally pegged as the top prospect in 2011 but injuries and lackluster play have thrown other names in the hat.  However he is the clear-cut #1 defenseman in the draft.  Plays a well-rounded game and has been playing against men in Sweden for the past 2 years. Plus, 17 points from a 16 yr old D-man in the Swedish Elite League is impressive.  A very strong World Juniors Championship (WJC) has put him back in top-pick contention.  Also with Edmonton and New Jersey in prime position to land the # 1 pick - and their needs for defense over adding more scoring - Larsson is still my pick to go first.  Most common NHL equivalency - Victor Hedman (Larsson is better offensively and on par defensively) though I have heard Lidstrom comparisons a few times.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Rigging it for Ryan - Roughly 6' - 170 lbs.  He's been slated as a potential top-3 for a while.  Smallish center with great hands and vision.  I wouldn't expect him to be on the Avs radar with Hishon already in the fold, but there's a chance we go for another playmaker instead of a big goal-scoring winger.  Most common NHL equivalency - Patrick Kane (but lacking Kane's shooting ability)
Gabriel Landeskog Languishing for Landeskog (Stick tap to the MHHer who came up with that one) - Roughly 6' - 205 lbs. He does it all: kills penalties, PP time, sometimes plays center even though he's listed as a LW, likes to hit and is praised for all intangibles.  Seems like the kind of player who the Avs love to pick up, and he plays a needed position on LW.  He was listed as first on the ISS list before the WJC, but injuries have sort of derailed him.  He may have a lesser peak than a few of  "elite" scorers, but Landeskog is a more sure-fire bet to be a solid NHLer.  He seems to match up well with Nino Niedereiter from last year's draft (5th overall), and his coach (who also coached Mike Richards) often compares him to Richards.  He is just the 2nd European born player to captain an OHL team.  Quite an honor to come over and get a captaincy, and the Avs seem to love "character guys" and "intangibles." At this point, I'd be happy if we moved up in the draft to swipe him away.  Most common NHL equivalency - Mike Richards.
Sean Couturier - Collapsing for Couturier - Roughly 6' 4" - 200 lbs.  Summary - Center. Big. Plays all zones. Scores.  If the Avs draft Couturier - it may be a sign of Duchene flipping out to wing or Radar being traded as that size down the middle with faster wings makes the most sense to me. If we somehow drafted 4th - and he was what's left - we may just have to take him.  Most common NHL equivalency - Jordan Staal.

Those are the top-4.  They seem to all be a fuzz ahead of the rest, but not by as distinct measures as in years past.  I still would expect all 4 of them to go in the top-5.
Here are the rest:
Joel Armia - All in for Armia - Roughly 6' 3" - 190 lbs.  My favorite of all the "big" wings available in the top-14.  He's playing in Finland and putting up some goals.  While calling him the next Selanne is ridiculous, a big, finishing Finnish winger is good to have.  RW and playing with men in a defense first league, scoring 17 goals in 45 games is very solid, especially for an under-age rookie. If I were to make a prediction of whom could pull off a Jeff Skinner-esque season - as in a 6 through 15 draft pick sticking and scoring a ton - Armia is my bet. Due to being Finnish, he gets a ton of Selanne comparisons, but I'd most likely equate him to a less physical David Booth or maybe Phil Kessel.
Dougie Hamilton - Dogging for Dougie - Roughly 6' 3" - 190 lbs - Big puck-moving D-man.  We like to draft PMDs all the time, and at least Hamilton has descent size.  If we can't settle on one of the surplus forwards, it looks like Hamilton is the best defensive option.  I haven't seen him compared to many NHL players, but my own petty assessment would line him up with Ron Hainsey - but the Hainsey of near-40 point seasons as a 2nd pp QB.  May have a higher ceiling than that, but I try to be realistic with comparisons rather than just what style they play.
Duncan Siemens - Slapping Slacking for Siemens - Roughly 6' 3" - 200 lbs - Similar to Hamilton, but less offense and more defense.  His junior stats are cushioned due to playing on the high powered Saskatoon Blades.  Intrigue here is that he's Stefan Elliot's D-partner.  Also - as of writing this - he has 91 PIMs in 53 games.  We could use some of that feistiness on the back end!  It's hard to resist saying he's like Weber, but I will.   Personally I'd project him as a Keith Ballard.  I'd be happy with that.
Ryan Murphy Missing the Boat for Murphy - Roughly 5' 10" - 160 lbs.  Small.  Fast.  Reads game well.  Top pick if he had size.  PMD.  I really can't see the Avs drafting Murphy but the offensive skills are obvious.  But with Elliot, Barrie, and Shattenkirk all in line, taking Murphy seems redundant.  He seems like an Erik Karlsson, but with a better team or PP, his points would look superior to Karlsson. 
Brandon Saad - Sucking for Saad - Roughly 6' 2" - 200 lbs.  Winger.  Big.  Hits.  Has some scoring potential but his size is his biggest asset.  Hopefully a James Neal or Dustin Brown type. (Beachie's note: from what I've read, I really like what this guy has to offer. Power forward on the LW would certainly give the Avs some more fire power and protection for Duchene.)
Tyler Biggs - Bombing for Biggs - Roughly 6' 2" - 200 lbs. See Saad, Brandon.

Here's a nice surprise!  I can basically run-down 4 players with 1 review!  The following guys are smaller, scoring forwards.  I can't dictate who is better than another, but I'll trust our scouts to do that.  They all score and play defensively against players typically their same size.  The fact scouts are saying they are good defensively is kind of a joke.  They may be "responsible" in their own leagues, but size is sort of a factor once you get up to the big leagues.


Fucking up for more Fast as Fuck Forwards 
Jonathan Huberdeau (Center) - 6' 1" - 170 lbs - Actually has a fair amount of reports saying he's solid everywhere.  Could fill out to average size with skill.  Plekanec?
Ryan Strome (Center) - 6'- 180 lbs - Huge numbers on a team with minimal forward support.  See: Hishon, Joey circa 2009.  Turris?
Sven Baertschi (LW) - 5' 10" - 185 lbs - May be best scorer of small forwards; doing exceptionally well in his first North American season. Skinner?
Matt Puempel- (LW) - 6' - 190 lbs - Scores and such.  Not great on D, but +/-  of -34 must be due in part to the fact that his team has had 78 more goals scored against them than by them. It's still ugly but not as much so.  He kind of strikes me as a Galiardi or Jones.  Could fill in for top-6 forwards or be the 6th guy who doesn't see as much PP time.

From the looks of it, the talent pool isn't that far different from the past 3 years, at least not early in.  The big difference is the lack of a true #1 vs. #2 debate.  So...same talent pool as 2008 but with no Stamkos/Doughty at top.  Or 2009 but with no Tavares/Hedman/Duchene.  Or 2010 without Hall/Seguin.  In summary, the "depth" of this first round really only affects the top-3 teams and their decisions, in addition to the last 10 or so teams where players start being borderline 2nd round picks from years past.  But there are players this year that would still get drafted in the same spot in years prior, and it looks like the Avs should land in the middle of that group.
Hopefully we don't fall too far down the draft chain, and there's always a chance we win the lottery and move up 5 spots.  So here is my personal list of top-5 realistic picks I'd like.
Larsson - Have to go with him if there's a chance to get him.
Landeskog - Same deal as Larsson although a step down from Larsson.
Armia - Just good vibes.  Probably won't take him; he's Finnish, and Sherman is racist.
Siemens - Size and grit on the back end.  Kind of like a higher pedigree Quincey, I hope.
Baertschi - With Hishon, we showed size dosen't matter all that much. I really could see him pulling a Skinner or like a Skinner after one more year of Juniors.

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