The Edmonton Oilers tabbed Red Deer's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
ST. PAUL - The draft never lacks for drama and the first round of 2011 lived up to that premise. While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins did indeed go first overall to the Edmonton Oilers, there were plenty of surprises after that to keep pundits on their toes. Here’s how I saw the results:
Edmonton – Is that too obvious? The key here is the Oilers still got a big, mobile Swedish defenseman in the opening round, but also got Nugent-Hopkins. That’s because GM Steve Tambellini tabbed Farjestad’s Oscar Klefbom with the 19th pick, giving his organization a fast-rising blue-chipper.
Mark Schiefele – I wanted to tag whomever Winnipeg selected as a loser based purely on the fact the kid would have to don an NHL sweater instead of a team jersey, but Schiefele was such a shock at No. 7 and so happy to be a Jet that it’s impossible. “It was a little different,” he said, “but they said they’d get that jersey on me soon.”
Schiefele, ironically, played for Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk this year in Barrie and was given the gears by his coach about Winnipeg’s winters. “He joked that they’d give me a parka on stage instead of a jersey,” Schiefele said.
Colorado – Like the Oilers, the Avs had two first-rounders and got physical players with both picks. Right winger Gabriel Landeskog was practically pre-ordained at No. 2, but defenseman Duncan Siemens was a good call at No. 11. How to describe the Saskatoon Blade? “My first shift in (contact hockey), all I did was hit,” Siemens said. “I don’t think I even followed the puck.” He’s rounded out his game since, but the big blueliner also cited Scott Stevens as his idol growing up and noted that he also played football and rugby as a youngster.
New Jersey – Having the potential No. 1 fall to you at No. 4 is pretty good, but the Devils also have a rather impressive lineup to begin with and Adam Larsson comes into a good situation. “I’m happy and excited for next year,” Larsson said. “They also have three Swedes on the team (Josefson, Tedenby and Tallinder) which makes it easier, of course.”
When asked what it will be like to play in front of the legendary Martin Brodeur, the usually stoic Larsson practically giggled at the premise he was so happy.
Chicago – Grabbing a second first-rounder by dealing Troy Brouwer to Washington, the Hawks got two excellent prospects in the second 15 of the night. Mark McNeill is a highly-skilled power forward, while Phillip Danault brings speed, penalty-killing and skill.
Plymouth – The Ontario League’s Whalers had two surprise first-rounders in Stefan Noesen (Ottawa, 21st overall) and Rickard Rakell (Anaheim, 30th), who also happen to be linemates. Both are skilled and gritty players who don’t mind digging in the corners.
Los Angeles – The Kings gave up their first round pick in the Dustin Penner trade, which hasn’t exactly been a great deal for them so far. Of course, Los Angeles fans have to be pretty happy grabbing Mike Richards on Thursday, so maybe it’s a muted disappointment.
Detroit – Although Toronto GM Brian Burke said he was unaware if they had interest, the Wings traded out of the first round right after the Maple Leafs traded up to leapfrog them on the board to take Tyler Biggs. While the surly power forward doesn’t fit the typical Red Wings mould, it was a pretty curious turn of events.
Small Guys – Rocco Grimaldi was not selected, while Sven Bartschi and Ryan Murphy fell out of the top 10. The only other sub-six-footer in the first round was Vladislav Namestnikov, who went to Tampa with the 27th selection.
Goalies – While only one was really expected to go, even John Gibson was shut out of the proceedings as no netminders went in the first round.
The “State of Hockey” – The Xcel Center was surprisingly roomy for a big hockey market such as Minnesota. Only one-third of the seats were filled on the evening, which may have something to do with the fact no local high-schoolers were expected to go in the first round for the first time since 2003. They were right, by the way, while local product Seth Ambroz (Omaha, USHL) also stayed on the board.
The Fallers – Along with Grimaldi, Brandon Saad, Tomas Jurco and Alexander Khokhlachev were among the players who must wait until Saturday to find their team.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/THNRyanKennedy.