As I do every year, I've poured over the rankings and scouting reports, team rosters and depth charts. The result? My take on a mock draft. I use the draft order as it stands today, the only assumption for the sake of completion is I have Vancouver picking last.
1) Edmonton Oilers- D Adam Larsson, Skelleftea
While it's extremely tempting for the Oilers to take Nugent-Hopkins, they already possess a handful of great young forwards in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi. What they lack is a stud on the back-end, and Larsson fits that bill.
2) Colorado Avalanche- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer Rebels
Picking in the two-slot, the Avs can't lose. If not Nugent-Hopkins, they'd be happy to take Larsson. Nugent-Hopkins adds a heavy dose of offense to the Avs, joining Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene. I wouldn't be surprised if he moves to the wing, riding shotgun to one of Stastny or Duchene.
3) Florida Panthers- LW Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener Rangers
The Panthers need a little bit of everything at this point, but they do have some quality young blueliners in their organization. Landeskog would instantly become one of, if not the best forward on the team. He's NHL-ready, and his addition will go a long way to getting the Cats back to the playoffs.
4) New Jersey Devils- C Sean Couturier, Drummondville Voltigeurs
With a pair of stud wingers in Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, the Devils could use a playmaking center to feed them pucks. Couturier would fit well in New Jersey, as he is responsible defensively and has a frame which projects him to be a big, dominant playmaker.
5) New York Islanders- D Dougie Hamilton, Niagara IceDogs
With John Tavares, Mike Grabner and Kyle Okposo leading the future up front, the Isles need a solid, dependable blue-chipper on defense, and Hamilton is just that. He will likely be more of a defense-first blueliner at the NHL level, but that would suit the Isles just fine.
6) Ottawa Senators- C Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs
Listen to anybody but a Sens fan, and they'll tell you that the Sens are in the midst of a rebuild. Daniel Alfredsson isn't getting any younger, and outside of Jason Spezza the Sens don't have much in the way of high-end offensive talent. Huberdeau fixes that problem, and could be a fixture on Spezza's wing (or complimenting him as number two center) for years to come.
7) Winnipeg- C Ryan Strome, Niagara IceDogs
Whether they are the Jets, Moose, whatever- Winnipeg's first pick since their return to Canada is Strome. He and Alexander Burmistrov would make a great pairing on a scoring line. Winnipeg is thin up the middle, and Strome changes that overnight.
8) Columbus Blue Jackets- D Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John Sea Dogs
The list is long in terms of things the Jackets never truly possessed, but Beaulieu has the potential to be one of those- a legitimate offensive stud on the blueline who can quarterback a powerplay. Beaulieu, along with former first rounder John Moore and another former QMJHL standout David Savard makes for a bright future on the Columbus blueline.
9) Boston Bruins- D Ryan Murphy, Kitchener Rangers
The Bruins can finally stop laughing now, as the Phil Kessel trade is completed with this pick. The Bruins are a deep team, but a quick look at their defensive prospects shows an area needing improvement. Murphy is a wizard with the puck, but is undersized. Then again, so was Ray Bourque.
10) Minnesota Wild- C Mika Zibanejad, Djurgardens
Zibanejad would be the perfect number two center behind Mikko Koivu. Both play a similar style, and the Wild could desperately use his offensive creativity. The future looks bright with Zibanejad and 2010 first rounder Mikael Granlund.
11) Colorado Avalanche- D Duncan Siemens, Saskatoon Blades
With their second pick of the first round, the Avs go for Siemens, a two-way blueliner. Looking down the road, he would seem to be the pefect defense partner for Erik Johnson. Avs fans can't help but smile after adding Nugent-Hopkins and Siemens to the mix.
12) Carolina Hurricanes- LW Sven Bartschi, Portland Winterhawks
A minor steal, Bartschi is a power-forward type, who would be the yin to Jeff Skinner's yang. While Skinner is a smaller forward who gets to the open areas and is a fantastic skater, Bartschi would rather go through a defender than around him, making room for his linemates. He's no slouch with the puck himself, however.
13) Calgary Flames- C Mark McNeill, Prince Albert Raiders
Fresh off the sting of losing former first round pick Tim Erixon after being unable to sign him, the Flames go for a Western boy in McNeill. This pick isn't a stretch- McNeill is a talented setup man who helps alleviate the relative dearth of talent up the middle in the organization.
14) Dallas Stars- D Joe Morrow, Portland Winterhawks
The Stars need an influx of talent on the blueline, that much is obvious. Morrow is a steady blueliner with offensive potential. He seems like a perfect fit for the Stars.
15) New York Rangers- RW Tomas Jurco, Saint John Sea Dogs
Some may consider taking Jurco in the 15th slot a bit of a stretch, but who better to mentor under than fellow Slovak countryman Marian Gaborik? There isn't anything Jurco can't do with a stick and puck, and he was dominant at times in the recent Memorial Cup, where his Sea Dogs claimed victory. The Rangers could definitely use the offensive boost that Jurco would provide.
16) Buffalo Sabres- C Zack Phillips, Saint John Sea Dogs
The Sabres have been running with Derek Roy and Tim Connolly as their scoring line centers in recent seasons, but that may soon come to end with Connolly likely testing free agency. This opens up a spot for Phillips in the future. He would be a solid compliment to Roy, and given the success Phillips experienced playing with shooters like Jurco and Stanislav Galiev, the same could be expected when paired with a player like Thomas Vanek.
17) Montreal Canadiens - C Boone Jenner, Oshawa Generals
Recent first round pick Louis Leblanc is looking more like a defensive, checking center (not a bad thing...) so Jenner makes sense for the Habs here. He is an offensive pivot, known for his shot. He would be a logical replacement for Scott Gomez, and would make a fine number-two center behind Tomas Plekanec.
18) Chicago Blackhawks- D Jamie Oleksiak, Northeastern
The Blackhawks have talent at all positions, but Oleksiak gives them another future blue-chipper on the back-end. Oleksiak is going into his sophomore season at Northeastern, so the 'Hawks can be patient with him.
19) Edmonton Oilers- C Mark Scheifele, Barrie Colts
As I mentioned earlier, the Oilers have some great offensive forwards in their possession. After taking Larsson with their first pick, the Oilers find their future checking line stud in Scheifele. He is one of the most defensively aware forwards available, but he can also put up points. He's a perfect compliment to the scorers already on the roster.
20) Phoenix Coyotes- RW Joel Armia, Assat
The Coyotes aren't afraid of taking European forwards, and they get a great one here. Armia will join the likes of Mikkel Boedker and Kyle Turris as the future up front for the Dogs.
21) Ottawa Senators- RW Ty Rattie, Portland Winterhawks
The Senators have three future studs on the back-end with Erik Karlsson, David Rundblad and Jared Cowen, so taking another forward with their second 2011 first rounder makes sense. Joining Huberdeau is Ty Rattie, an offensive winger. What Rattie lacks in size he makes up for in tenacity.
22) Anaheim Ducks- C Shane Prince, Ottawa 67's
After Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks are relatively thin up the middle. They do however, have a pair of highly-touted wingers in the system in Devante Smith-Pelley and Emerson Etem. Those two will need a player to get them the puck- enter Prince.
23) Pittsburgh Penguins- C/W Vladislav Namestnikov, London Knights
Namestnikov slides a bit, and the Pens are all too happy to snatch him up-giving Crosby or Malkin a super-talented winger to play with. Namestnikov is already playing in North America, so hie may be fast-tracked to the NHL.
24) Detroit Red Wings- D Oscar Klefbom, Farjestad
With the retirement of Brian Rafalski, and Nicklas Lidstrom not far behind, the Wings go for another talented Swede. It's an extremely tall order to replace a player of Lidstrom's calibre, but Klefbom will help soften the blow.
25) Toronto Maple Leafs- C Tyler Biggs USNTDP
The future looks bright up the middle for the Leafs. After acquiring Joe Colborne in the Tomas Kaberle trade, now they add another solid centerman in Biggs. Biggs has the makings of a number-two center, I envision him playing with former first rounder Nazem Kadri.
26) Washington Capitals- LW Alexander Khokhlachev, Windsor Spitfires
At the risk of seeming cliche, I have the Caps taking Khocklachev at #26. They have certainly not shied away from taking Russians in the draft, and Khokhlachev is one of the most talented this year. With Alexander Semin anything but a lock to be with the team long-term, Khokhlachev seems like a good replacement.
27) Tampa Bay Lightning- LW Phillip Danault, Victoriaville Tigres
The Bolts add another young, talented forward in Danault. He is more of a two-way forward, which is a good compliment to the offensive studs like Stamkos, Lecavalier and St.Louis. He and Steve Downie would make good linemates.
28) San Jose Sharks- D Connor Murphy, USNTDP
The Sharks are relatively thin on blueline prospects, but Murphy helps offset that. He's got great size and offensive ability.
29) Toronto Maple Leafs- D Jonas Brodin, Farjestad
He's as steady as they get, and he is a fantastic skater. He's a prototypical puck-rushing blueliner, which all teams covet. He is the anti-Luke Schenn, and the two would make a great pairing with Schenn covering Brodin while he rushes with the puck. He will replace some of the offense lost in the Kaberle trade.
30) Vancouver Canucks- W Nicklas Jensen, Oshawa Generals
Jensen makes sense on a lot of levels for the 'Nucks. He could act as a replacement for Mikael Samuelsson down the road, and brings offensive talent to the high-flying Canucks. It's been said before about many players, but he would look great on a line with the Sedins.