Adam Larsson provides skill, fit
What NHL teams need, these top draft prospects can provide in our first mock draft
Editor's Note: Mock draft updated to include Toronto-Boston trade for Tomas Kaberle and Bruins' first-round pick.
It might not be the strongest draft ever, but you'd have to count it as one of the more interesting ones.
The first tier is distinct, as the top four prospects in the 2011 draft have clearly separated themselves from the field. What's more, each of the players looks nothing like the three others.
Swedish D Adam Larsson came into the season as the most finished talent, already having an excellent season as a teen in the Swedish Elite League (SEL). Scouts were familiar with C Sean Couturier, the defending QMJHL scoring champ, getting an eyeful of the big Drummondville center over the previous two seasons. Red Deer C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has a rink-rat's game and a burglar's nerve. Though he's physically behind the other three top prospects (just 170 pounds at 6-foot-1), he's the most capable of making the spectacular play and is the most creative of player in the draft. Kitchener LW Gabriel Landeskog came into the season with question marks attached to his puck skills and scoring, but he put those to rest early in the season.
There's a drop after No. 4 but not a severe one. The next 8-10 players are fairly interchangeable and some have an overlap in skill set. Jonathan Huberdeau and Ryan Strome are centers in the same mold -- with Huberdeau the more consistent, while Strome is more of a highlight-reel player -- but really, who the scouts prefer is a matter of personal taste rather than significant differences in degrees of talent.
After No. 15, form goes out the window. Thirty players (some scouts say it might even be more than that) are candidates to go in the second half of the first round. You can get more details on each of them in our previous ranking of this year's Top 50 Prospects.
A couple of other notes: Scouts I spoke to the past few weeks suggest no goalies may get picked in the first round, but the front-runners to be the first netminder selected are Finn Samu Perhonen, Finnish-born Christopher Gibson of Chicoutimi in the QMJHL and John Gibson (the two are not related) of the U.S. national team development program.
Another positional theme: Last year we saw the draft skew to offense, which was a major factor in D Cam Fowler dropping out of the top 10 after being projected as one of the top two players in the draft class in the fall of 2009. Scouts figure that the run on offense is going to continue. Thus a B-plus forward is likely to outstrip not only a defenseman of the same grade but quite possibly an A-minus blueliner.
The draft order that we're working with here (as of the standings on Feb. 15) is bound to be significantly shuffled by the time the picks are made in St. Paul, but after talking with scouts and GMs since August, this is our look at how the draft would shake out if it happened today.
Click on a prospect's name for a detailed breakdown of each prospect, including graded evaluations on key traits.
The Senators can use help at every position. It seems to make sense that Ottawa will go with the best player available (BPA), but with priority to the center of the ice. The notion that Couturier overlaps with Jason Spezza isn't a hindrance. You'd draft Couturier to be better than Spezza.
The Isles almost certainly would want to see Larsson still on the board. It's probably a coin flip that Islanders GM Garth Snow moves the pick in a convoluted deal to add picks, but it's also easy to envision Landeskog on John Tavares' wing. The selection of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might work with Tavares moving to the wing, which is what a lot of scouts figured would be his natural position in the pros.
He's the best player available in this slot, though he's not the usual Devils pick -- neither collegian nor Swede. Still, with Ilya Kovalchuk as the franchise forward to feed until the end of time, RN-H projects as a better fit than Sean Couturier, who will likely be off the board anyway.
To see picks No. 6 to No. 30 in Gare Joyce's first 2011 NHL mock draft -- you must be an ESPN Insider.
MORE NHL HEADLINES
- Canes captain Staal has core muscle surgery
- Wild re-sign winger Fontaine to 2-year deal
- Frolik remains with Jets, agrees to 1-year deal
- Tatar agrees to 3-year deal with Red Wings
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
NHL Insider Content
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Prospectus: Rating B's, Canucks' depth
CapGeek: Bs, Canucks provide cap blueprints Conn Smythe Watch: Thomas takes the lead
Greenberg: Projecting Tyler Seguin
Greenberg: Lapierre is Canucks' MVP
Prospectus: Special teams aren't that key
Conn Smythe Watch: Kesler's charge
Joyce: Sharks stars lack 'it'
Greenberg: Best Gs vs. the best shots
Conn Smythe Watch: Thomas rises
Button: Philly's crisis of crease confidence
Greenberg: Can blocks carry Bolts to Cup?
Prospectus: Ranking Caps' playoff failure
Prospectus: Top playoff rooks since 1998
Conn Smythe Watch: Roloson No. 1
Prospectus: Datsyuk remains underrated
Conn Smythe Watch: Neuvirth shines
Greenberg: Best D pairs vs. Alex Ovechkin
Prospectus: Thomas doesn't give B's big edge
Prospectus: Playoff team depth rankings
Cooper: Preds try to ditch Rd. 1 jinx
Prospectus: Team-by-team odds to win the Cup
Prospectus: Ranking the first-round netminders
Prospectus: These Sharks built to last
Prospectus: Puck luck could pluck Ducks
Cooper: Why playoff hockey is so different
Team Scouting Reports
How to beat the Boston Bruins
How to beat the Philadelphia Flyers
How to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins
How to beat the Washington Capitals
How to beat the Anaheim Ducks
How to beat the Detroit Red Wings
How to beat the San Jose Sharks
How to beat the Vancouver Canucks
May 11: Why Wings may soon fall off
April 28: Strome surges in Mock Draft 2.0
April 13: Nashville tries to overcome history
April 11: D. Sedin tops final player rankings
April 7: Coaches feeling the hot seat
April 6: How Caps' draft strategy has worked
March 30: Can Flyers win Cup with Bobrovsky?
March 9: Re-ranking Top 50 draft prospects
Feb. 28: Traded prospect evals
Feb. 28: Rating trades in the West
Feb. 28: Rating trades in the East
Feb. 17: Worst. Trades. Ever.
Feb. 17: NHL Mock Draft 1.0
NHL Rumor Central
Get news and rumblings before anyone
NHL Experts Blog
Daily ice shavings of insight
NHL Draft Blog
A look towards June 2011