A Day in the NHL: The Top Ten Preview

Today we’re doing something a little different, as following news and notes, we’ll bring you the top ten picks (or the teams expected to pick in the top ten of tonight’s draft), and break down what they need in their system of prospects, and who they could target where they are.


New and Notes:

-The Philadelphia Flyers had a busy day yesterday, making three moves:

1) The Flyers signed recently acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51-million deal. According to NHLNumbers.com, the Cap Hit is $5.667-million.

2) Jeff Carter was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets for un-signed, restricted free agent Jakub Voracek, Columbus’ first round pick (8th overall) and third round pick.

3) Then, in shocking fashion, Philadelphia dealt Captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and a second-round pick.

-For those waiting and hoping for a name, Winnipeg is expected to announce the name of it’s franchise soon, if not tonight before the draft. Claude Noel is also expected to be named Head Coach of the team.

-In terms of players re-signing, Andrei Markov will be staying in Montreal after signing a three-year, $17.5-million contract. Devin Setoguchi will also be staying with his club, as he and San Jose worked out a three-year, $9-million deal.

-Two players were approached about waiving No Movement/No Trade clauses recently. Brad Richards was approached by the Dallas Stars and reportedly declined to do so, while Robyn Regehr has become the centrepiece in a trade between Buffalo and Calgary, which is believed to be a precursor to Calgary making a play for Ryan Smyth. Nothing can happen however until Regehr decides whether or not to waive the clause.

-Ottawa also added two OHL Coaches to their coaching staff yesterday. Mark Reeds (Owen Sound) and Dave Cameron (Mississauga). Both coached in this year’s Memorial Cup.


Now on to the breakdown of the top ten teams (currently) for tonight’s draft. There are a couple of things to keep in mind:

1) This is not a mock draft. The players listed with the teams are merely options that would best suit the needs of the franchise selecting. While everyone would like to draft Adam Larsson or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, not everyone can, so the players listed are also the most likely to be there when the team is selecting.

2) All picks can be traded, but some are more than others. We’ve tried to keep to mentioning trades only where they’ve been rumoured, or if it would make sense for the franchise.

3) The process does its best to consider what teams have at both the junior and minor league levels, as well as in the NHL, as some “complete” teams may have holes at lower levels.
1. Edmonton Oilers
Organizational Needs: The Oilers have plenty of young depth on the wings, and while there are options for lines two through four at centre, they don’t have a prospect who could challenge for that number one slot. The same can be said about their blueline, where they have a handful of prospects to fill out the mid-ranks, but no one to take the lead. Fortunately enough, both needs have prospects available to fill them at the top spot in the draft.

Players to Target: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Red Deer (WHL); Adam Larsson, D, Skelleftea (SWE)

What They Could Do: The obvious choice is to draft either of these players, and my money would have the Oilers leaning towards Nugent-Hopkins. The reason is that, while there are plenty of forward possibilities in this draft, few have the abilities of Nugent-Hopkins. The potential is there to draft a strong defensive prospect at 19 (Edmonton’s other pick), or move up to do so. There are also rumours floating around that the Oilers could be flipping positions with the Florida Panthers.

2. Colorado Avalanche
Organizational Needs: The Avalanche have two centres in place in Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny, but not much else, and that could change if they deal Stastny. There isn’t top-end quality on the wings in the system, while the defense has prospects, but could use a second top-pairing defender to go wtih Erik Johnson.

Players to Target: Adam Larsson, D, Skelleftea (SWE); Gabriel Landeskog, W, Kitchener (OHL); Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Saint John (QMJHL)

What They Could Do: Well let’s start with the rumour shall we? Word is that Colorado is looking at trading Stastny. If they do that, then the organization has to ask the following: Is Joey Hishon a future second-line centre for this team? If the answer is yes, then move on to Landeskog or Larsson. If it’s no, then Huberdeau could go at number two. If Colorado goes with Landeskog, they fill a huge hole on the wing, and introduce a new level of toughness to the team and plenty of leadership and an NHL-ready prospect. If they go with Larsson, their top-pairing will be set for years to come. The hot rumour is that Gabriel Landeskog will not fall beyond this point in the draft.

3. Florida Panthers
Organizational Needs: Provided he signs, the Panthers have solidified their defense for years to come with Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov, and even Keaton Ellerby. Adding another play-making centre to the mix wouldn’t hurt, and getting bigger and tougher on the wings while continuing to add skill will help the Panthers compete down the road.

Players to Target: Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Saint John (QMJHL); Gabriel Landeskog, W, Kitchener (OHL); Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)

What They Could Do: Centres are a very realistic option for this team as Dale Tallon loves to strengthen the centre of the ice and it would give Nick Bjugstad a lot of help in the future. Drafting a winger like Landeskog however, would give the Panthers that dynamic presence down the sides of the ice and give them a leader for the future. The Panthers are rumoured to be trying to move up to a position to take Nugent-Hopkins as well, so plenty of options are there for Tallon and company.

4. New Jersey Devils
Organizational Needs: New Jersey could address needs at wing, centre and defense with this pick, but they’ll be at the mercy of the teams ahead of them. The Devils could use another top-level defender in the system to go along with John Merrill, while a young winger would certainly breath some life into the ranks up front, and a high-end centre is definitely a need with no one left in the system to make an elite offensive jump.

Players to Target: Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Saint John (QMJHL); Gabriel Landeskog, W, Kitchener (OHL); Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville (QMJHL); Adam Larsson, D, Skelleftea (SWE); Dougie Hamilton, D, Niagara (OHL)

What They Could Do: Couturier could be the more likely centre available, but it really depends on Edmonton: If the Oilers go Nugent-Hopkins, Huberdeau might be gone at three. If they go Larsson, Huberdeau could easily be there at four. The same thing can be said of Landeskog, despite it being doubtful he falls past two. The selection probably comes down to Hamilton or Larsson, and the saavy and cool of Larsson could win out (if available), although the offensive instincts and physicality of Hamilton make him way more than just a consolation prize.

5. New York Islanders
Organizational Needs: The Islanders could use another winger to augment the talent they’ve got in the middle of the ice, while a defender to go along with Calvin de Haan would give New York strength in front of the crease as well. A potential number one goalie could be a consideration, but this is way too early for any of the ones in the draft.
Players to Target: Gabriel Landeskog, W, Kitchener (OHL); Dougie Hamilton, D, Niagara (OHL); Nathan Beaulieau, D, Saint John (QMJHL)

What they Could Do: Drafting a Sven Baertschi or Joel Armia might be a stretch here, but they reached on Nino Niederreiter last year so if they miss on Landeskog maybe they do that again. Larsson falling to five is way too unlikely, while they’ll have a fair shot at the hard-hitting Hamilton. Memorial Cup champion Beaulieau would be the next-best available blueline option. A trade is not out of the question for the Isles either if they can get some pieces to build with out of the deal.

6. Ottawa Senators
Organizational Needs: A second centre to play behind Jason Spezza is a necessity, and while they have an abundance of wingers, you have to wonder if they’re going to be able to score at a first-line level long-term, so a winger (and leader) is on the wish-list too.

Players to Target: Gabriel Landeskog, W, Kitchener (OHL); Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville (QMJHL); Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL)

What They Could Do: Trade up. The Senators are in love with Landeskog, so they could try and sweeten up a package for one of the top three or four spots. They would likely have to nab the first or second pick however, and Colorado seems set on taking the bullish young Swede. With Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen on the blueline, Ottawa will probably look to the forwards, and while wingers remain a reach at this spot, Couturier or Ryan Strome are strong possibilities here.


Organizational Needs: With young, controllable strength on the back end at the NHL level and prospects that will be able to slide in on lower pairings and work their way up, Winnipeg can concentrate on securing it’s biggest need: A gamebreaking forward. There are players in the system that will play ‘game-on-the-line’ minutes in the NHL, but no one that can score that ‘game-on-the-line’ goal.

Players to Target: Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville (QMJHL); Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL); Mika Zibanejad, C, Djurgarden (SWE), Joel Armia; W, Assat (FIN)

What They Could Do: If everything falls right ahead of them, Winnipeg will have the opportunity to select Ryan Strome out of Niagara and let his offensive talents and playmaking abilities flourish alongside Evander Kane. Unless Couturier is available (unlikely but you never know), the selection comes down to Strome or the powerful Swedish pivot Mika Zibanejad. The selection of another top-flight centre will allow last year’s first rounder Alex Burmistrov’s excellent two-way game to really get some exposure.

8. Philadelphia Flyers

Organizational Needs: Depth at centre in the prospect pool has become an issue shoved in the face of the Flyers’ brass now that they’ve traded two long-term options down the middle. Adding young wingers through trades made sure that the wing prospects have time to ready themselves, but the system lacks any defensive depth or strength.

Players to Target: Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener (OHL); Nathan Beaulieu, D, Saint John (QMJHL); Duncan Siemens, D, Saskatoon (WHL); Mika Zibanejad, C, Djurgarden (SWE); Jonas Brodin, D, Farjestad (SWE)

What They Could Do: It’s entirely possible that the Flyers’ Paul Holmgren has something else up his sleeve and he turns around and deals this pick to a team desperate on getting into the top ten. If he holds on to it, Zibanejad, Beaulieau or Siemens seem like possibilities. Beaulieu and Siemens seem like Flyer-type defensemen, although Ryan Murphy’s name keeps getting brought up and can’t be ignored.

9. Boston Bruins

Organizational Needs: The Bruins have a slew of forwards either near or at their prime at the NHL level, which means they can probably shrug off any need up front for another season. The defense is well-sized and well-blended in terms of age, but could use that dynamic, puck-carrying presence that they had hoped to get when the team traded for Tomas Kaberle.

Players to Target: Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener (OHL); Nathan Beaulieau, D, Saint John (QMJHL); Duncan Siemens, D, Saskatoon (WHL); Jamie Oleksiak, D, Northeastern (US-HS)

What They Could Do: While Ryan Murphy would add another dynamic to the Bruins’ defense that might make this team hard to stop when he establishes himself in the NHL, he’s not big or bad and that’s what Cam Neely wants. Beaulieau (rumoured to be Boston’s ideal choice) can score and has an edge, while Siemens would probably fight a guy in a shootout if he were allowed to. Oleksiak is a bit of a reach here, but who better for a 6’7” guy to learn from than Zdeno Chara? Boston trading out of this spot is not out of the realm of possibilities either, and may be more likely than last year.

10. Minnesota Wild

Organizational Needs: Although Marco Scandella tops the list of defensive prospects in Minnesota, another impact defender is needed as Tyler Cuma continues to be dogged by his troublesome knee. Outside of Mikael Granlund, the Wild lack an impact up front, and can’t be picky: If they want a forward, grab the best available regardless of position.

Players to Target: Duncan Siemens, D, Saskatoon (WHL); Nathan Beaulieau, D, Saint John (QMJHL); Sven Baertschi, W, Portland (WHL); Joel Armia, W, Assat (FIN); Mika Zibanejad, C, Djurgarden (SWE)

What They Could Do: Either swing for the fences on a defenseman like Beaulieau or Siemens (if available), or strengthen themselves down the wing with Joel Armia. A pairing of the tough Finn with centre Mikael Granlund would make the Wild very formidable in the future and would be a good fit.


You can follow Bryan on Twitter at BryanThiel_88.

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