EDMONTON — Trying to guess which players will go where in the first round of the NHL entry draft is like throwing darts blindfolded. Sometimes your aim is way off, but it's only a game. That said, here's a look at how things might unfold at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Friday for the first round of this year's talent bonanza:
1. New York Islanders, John Tavares (C, London, OHL). It's likely a smokescreen by Islanders general manager Garth Snow to continually mention Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman. He can get a defenceman later in Round 1.
2. Tampa Bay, Victor Hedman (D, MoDo, Sweden). He's towered over his opposition for years, sprouting to six-foot-five when he was 14. Hedman is more like Nicklas Lidstrom with his effortless play than Chris Pronger and will easily be a top-two NHL defenceman.
3. Colorado, Matt Duchene (C, Brampton, OHL). There have been heady comparisons to Joe Sakic as a two-way player, but many scouts think he's a lot closer to Mike Richards.
4. Atlanta, Evander Kane (C, Vancouver Giants, WHL). He's slender, but plays much bigger than his 176 pounds when he goes to the net, where he had 48 goals in 61 games. Thrashers need help with Brian Little and Ilya Kovalchuk up front.
*5. Toronto, Brayden Schenn (C, Brandon, WHL). The Maple Leafs will likely trade up from No. 7 spot to get defenceman Luke Schenn's little brother. Brayden Schenn is a big body (198 pounds) and a pure scorer from the blue-line in. In other words, Leafs GM Brian Burke's type of player.
6. Phoenix, Jared Cowen (D, Spokane, WHL). The Coyotes have loaded up with good youngsters up front in recent drafts, but need help on the back-end. Cowen is a Braydon Coburn type of player.
*7. Los Angeles, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (LW, Timra, Sweden). The Kings took defencemen Drew Doughty and Thomas Hickey with their previous two drafts and can't pass on this guy, who has Mike Gartner-like wheels. He's the fastest player in the draft and weighs 200 pounds.
8. Dallas, Dimitri Kulikov (D, Drummondville, QMJHL). The Russian taught himself French and English in the QMJHL and he's what the Stars need, with Sergei Zubov on his last legs.
9. Ottawa, Nazem Kadri (C, London, OHL). He's slight, but he's got a long reach and some of the sweetest hands in the draft. Plus, he played for Dale Hunter in junior, which never hurts.
10. Edmonton, Scott Glennie (C, Brandon, WHL). The Oilers want Svensson, but he'll be long gone by their turn. Kadri, also on their radar, might not be there, either. Glennie is a scorer along the Jonathan Cheechoo mould, but with better wheels.
11. Nashville, Chris Kreider (C, Andover, Mass.). The Predators took Hobey Baker finalist Colin Wilson (Boston University) last year and Kreider, the second fastest player in the draft, is going the college route, too.
12. Minnesota, Jordan Schroeder (C, University of Minnesota). He's only five-foot-eight and 180 pounds, but he's sturdy and homegrown and the cupboard is almost bare of prospect forwards.
13. Buffalo, Zach Kassian (RW, Peterborough, OHL). The Sabres have lots of small forwards, and Kassian has some of Milan Lucic in him. Could be a second-line NHLer.
14. Florida, Ryan Ellis (D, Windsor, OHL). He's only five-foot-nine and 173 pounds, but he's a dynamic power-play type defenceman with a big shot, and he's not afraid.
15. Anaheim, Peter Holland (C, Guelph, OHL). There are some issues about his competitive fire on a nightly basis, but he's got good hands and the Ducks badly need a No. 2 centre down the line after Ryan Getzlaf.
16. Columbus, Oliver Ekman-Larsson (D, Leksand, Sweden). The Jackets are dying for puck-moving players who can run a power play and this defenceman is six-foot-three with an effortless skating stride.
17. St. Louis, Zach Budish (C, Edina, Minn.) Very strong power forward type, coming off major knee surgery. Reminds some of Keith Tkachuk.
18. Montreal, Louis Leblanc (C, Omaha, USHL). With Saku Koivu likely moving on, they need help down the middle and Leblanc has evasive moves. He's off to Harvard, so he can crack a book, too.
19. New York Rangers, John Moore (D, Chicago, USHL). The Rangers need big bodies up front, but it's hard to pass up this talent who could drop into their lap.
20. Calgary, Landon Ferraro (RW, Red Deer, WHL). Strong two-way player and had 36 goals this year and has good bloodlines as Ray's son. Also played for Brent Sutter's junior team, so there's a tie-in there.
21. Philadelphia, Jordan Caron (F, Rimouski, QMJHL). A big body like a Steve Bernier, with a fair touch around the net, but tougher than Bernier.
22. Vancouver, Carter Ashton (F, Lethbridge, WHL). His father Brent once played for the Canucks, one of his many NHL stops. The Canucks don't have much prospect depth at forward.
23. New Jersey, Calvin de Haan (D, Oshawa, OHL). Very good hockey sense and has uncanny knack for getting his shots through to the net. The Devils need defence help in worst way.
24. Washington, Jacob Josefson (C, Djurgarden, Sweden). Reminds people of Mats Lindgren. Nice skater, very average hands, but very competent without the puck.
25. Boston, Dylan Olsen (D, Camrose, CJAHL). The Bruins took Kodiaks centre Joe Colborne in first round last June before he went to the University of Denver. Olsen is a mean customer on the back-end who's off to Minnesota-Duluth.
26. New York Islanders, Stefan Elliott (D, Saskatoon, WHL). The Isles need help on the back-end just as much as at centre and Elliott can move the puck. Some say he's got a shot like Mike Green, too, but that may be a reach.
27. Carolina, Nick Leddy (D, Eden Prairie, Minn.). A prototypical offensive defenceman with a flare to his game.
28. Chicago, Kyle Palmieri (RW, U.S. development team). He was top three in strength at the combine tests and they could use a big kid up front, since the 'Hawks are loaded on defence.
29. Detroit, Carl Klingberg (F, Sweden). The Wings always mine this country with super scout Hakan Andersson. Klingberg has some of Tomas Holmstrom in him.
30. Pittsburgh, David Rundblad (D, Skelleftea, Sweden). The Stanley Cup champs could use an offensive D-man with Sergei Gonchar getting up there in age. Rundblad is a rarity, a right-handed shooter, something every team needs. He's also NHL ready physically at six-foot-two and 210 pounds.
* The Maple Leafs will likely make a trade with Los Angeles to flip picks and unite the Schenn brothers in Toronto.
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NHL top prospect John Tavares talks to the media after the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings Team Practices before Game 3 of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Mellon Arena on June 2, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photograph by: Getty Images, Getty Images