Commentary

Grading out the 2011 NHL entry draft

The Blackhawks and Wild score high marks for their draft hauls

Updated: June 26, 2011, 10:33 AM ET
By Gare Joyce, Grant Sonier | ESPN Insider
Chuck FletcherAP Photo/Andy KingThe Minnesota Wild's draft spoils should put a smile on GM Chuck Fletcher's face.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With the conclusion of the 2011 NHL entry draft, it's clear that some teams, like the hometown Minnesota Wild, brought aboard some significant talent. Then there were the Washington Capitals, who took a step back after several wildly successful drafts, largely due to a series of trades that left them without a pick before Round 4.

Here's who earned high marks for their 2011 hauls, according to Gare Joyce, and which draft classes didn't pass muster. Plus, notes from veteran scout Grant Sonier on each team's most intriguing picks:

Honors classes

Chicago Blackhawks: A


There's a lot to like in the further reloading of the Blackhawks. Mark McNeill offers toughness and enough skill; Phillip Danault's got savvy and hockey sense. In the second round it's either-or with a couple of sliding prospects who are late-birthday alumni of the U.S. National Team Development Program. Both Adam Clendening and Brandon Saad played their best hockey on championship teams in Ann Arbor and then struggled at BU and Saginaw, respectively. If one of the two lands, it's a win.

Sonier's prime picks: McNeill and Danault both have good chances to play and if Saad finds his game he could surpass both of them. Chicago drafted smart players who, given their hockey sense, have an improved chance to play.