(L-R) Third overall pick Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers, first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers and second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche pose for a photo during day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.
Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The Edmonton Oilers chose to stay close to home with the opening selection at the National Hockey League entry draft Friday night at Xcel Energy Center.
Edmonton went with Red Deer Rebel centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — the consensus top pick. Nugent-Hopkins had 31 goals, 106 points and was a plus-30 rating in 69 games for Red Deer this season. He added another four goals, 11 points and was a plus-5 in nine playoff games.
“It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true to be honoured like this. I always watched Edmonton this year and it’s just amazing that I got picked there,” Nugent-Hopkins told TSN after being selected.
The Oiler prospect is considered a complete package with a great feel for the game.
It marked the second straight year the Oilers had the first overall pick. Last year Edmonton grabbed forward Taylor Hall from the Windsor Spitfires.
Nugent-Hopkins said he’s excited about the possibility of playing with Hall.
“It would definitely be awesome. I met Taylor earlier in the day and it was great to finally meet him,” he said.
Nugent-Hopkins was ranked first in Central Scouting’s North American list of skaters.
There had been some debate whether the Oilers would address their blue-line instead and take Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson instead. Larsson entered the draft as Central Scouting’s top international prospect.
Colorado picked second, and selected Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog, who was captain of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers.
Landeskog is described as being the most physically ready, and charismatic, prospect in the draft. He had 36 goals and 66 points in 53 games with Kitchener this season.
Landeskog’s favourite player growing up was former Avalanche legend Peter Forsberg. The fit, he said, is perfect.
“It means a lot (going to Colorado),” Landeskog told TSN. “It was a big dream (of mine). I’m very happy.”
Jonathan Huberdeau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Saint John Sea Dogs was picked third by the Florida Panthers.
Huberdeau, a centre, came into the draft as a Memorial Cup winner, tournament MVP and a reputation as an offensive force.
The prevailing thought is Huberdeau will remain in junior hockey next season.
“I will work out hard and do my best to make the NHL,” Huberdeau said.
The defensively sound New Jersey Devils — not surprisingly — took Larsson with the fourth selection. He played last season in the Swedish Elite League and was the youngest skater on Skelleftea.
Larsson is rich with skill and size — he is six-foot-three and 200 pounds.
The New York Islanders, with pick No. 5, selected centre Ryan Strome of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs. Strome had 33 goals and 106 points for the IceDogs this past season.
Strome is a noted playmaker.
“I love the colours and I think I’ll fit in great there,” Strome told TSN. “I work out with (Islanders) John Tavares and Matt Moulson in Mississauga . . . and I couldn’t be happier right now.”
With the sixth selection, the Ottawa Senators grabbed Swedish centre Mika Zibanejad of Djurgarden. An all-around talent, Zibanejad is eventually expected to fill the Senators need for a second-line centre behind Jason Spezza.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Zibanejad.
“We’ve got a big guy here who can skate and handle the puck,” Senator GM Bryan Murray added.
A large contingent of Winnipeg Jet fans made the trek to Minnesota for the draft and rose to greet the reborn franchise’s first pick. Winnipeg — with GM Kevin Cheveldayoff at the podium — took centre Mark Scheifele of the OHL’s Barrie Colts with the seventh selection.
Scheifele rose quickly in the rankings after a strong, 75-point season with the Colts.
“I’ve gone so far since last year. I’ve worked so hard to get here,” he told TSN. “I’m really excited to go to Winnipeg and it’s a great hockey town.”
Scheifele’s coach in Barrie is former Jets star Dale Hawerchuk.
The fourth centre in a row was taken at No. 8 — Sean Couturier from the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs was selected by Philadelphia.
With pick No. 9, the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins closed the book on the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto. The Bruins, with the Leafs’ pick, took all-around defenceman Dougie Hamilton from the IceDogs.
The hometown Minnesota Wild, picking 10th, chose Swedish blue-liner Jonas Brodin — known as a puck-moving defenceman. Brodin won a Swedish Elite League title this winter with Farjestad.
With the 11th pick, Colorado was back at the podium taking physical Duncan Siemens of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. Siemens was considered the toughest blue-line prospect available.
The Avalanche acquired the pick from St. Louis in a mid-season deal.
Carolina selected defenceman Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers with the 12th overall pick. Murphy was recognized as the best offensive defender available.
The next Canadian team up to the podium was Calgary. With the 13th pick, the Flames bolstered their forward troops with Portland Winterhawk left-winger Sven Bartschi. The Swiss-born player potted 34 goals and 85 points with the WHL club. Bartschi becomes the second-highest Swiss skater picked — Nino Niederreiter was taken fifth overall by the Islanders in last year’s draft.
Flames GM Jay Feaster said Bartschi becomes an important building block for a team in need of developing players.
“We have to start to bring good, young skilled players into the organization and then getting them ready and to the National Hockey League as soon as we can,” Feaster said to TSN. “Certainly we feel we’ve started down that path with this first selection.”
Defenceman Jamieson Oleksiak was taken 14th overall by the Dallas Stars. Oleksiak stands six-foot-seven and weighs in at 244 pounds.
The New York Rangers brought Aaron Boogaard to the stage as a tribute to his brother Derek, who died this spring suddenly at the age of 28. Derek was enormously popular in his years in Minnesota with the Wild.
With the 15th selection, New York chose winger J.T. Miller of the U.S. under-18 club.
Buffalo followed at No. 16 and selected winger Joel Armia of the Finnish Elite League.
The Montreal Canadiens stepped up next and picked defenceman Nathan Beaulieu — an offensive wizard who picked up 12 goals and 45 points with Saint John last season. Beaulieu also made the Memorial Cup all-star team.
“He’s and excellent skating defenceman. We had a couple of calls with teams wanting to move up, but we wanted him,” said GM Pierre Gauthier.
At No. 18, Chicago picked centre Mark McNeill of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. McNeill led Prince Albert in assists (49) and finished second in points (81) leading the Raiders to the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.
Edmonton was back up at No. 19 and the club chose Farjestad defenceman Oscar Klefbom. He captained Sweden to a silver medal at the 2011 under-18 world championship.
At No. 20, the Phoenix Coyotes selected defenceman Connor Murphy, the son of ex-NHLer Gord Murphy.
The Senators selected American forward Stefan Noesom from the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL with their second pick of the first round. He scored 34 goals and added 43 assists for 77 points last season.
With pick No. 22, which they received from the Ducks for their 30th and 39th picks, the Toronto Maple Leafs made six-foot-two, 210-pound Tyler Biggs their first selection. He was the captain of the United States’ under-18 development team.
The Pittsburgh Penguins made Portland Winterhawks defenceman Joe Morrow their first selection, 23rd overall.
The Senators, with the 24th pick received from the Detroit Red Wings for their 35th and 48th picks, then chose Peterborough Petes left-winger Matt Puempel, who had 34 goals and 35 assists for 69 points, with their third pick of the first round.
The Maple Leafs followed by selecting Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors defenceman Stuart Percy with their second pick of the opening round.
At No. 26 — a pick they received from the Capitals for forward Troy Brouwer earlier in the day — the Blackhawks selected Victoriaville Tigres left-winger Phillip Danault.
With their first choice of the draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning then chose London Knights centre Vladislav Namestnikov, a native of Russia. The Minnesota Wild followed with centre Zack Phillips, the third choice from the Memorial Cup champion Sea Dogs.
The Stanley Cup finalist Vancouver Canucks chose Oshawa Generals forward Niklas Jensen with their first choice, 29th overall. Jensen became the third-highest Danish-born player ever selected in the draft.
The Anaheim Ducks wrapped up the opening round by selecting Plymouth right-winger Rickard Rakell with their first choice.
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