2011 NHL Entry Draft Analysis: Winnipeg/Manitoba First Round Primer

Posted by Ezra Ginsburg in Features,Illegal Curve News,Jets Prospect Pulse,NHL Draft,NHL Draft Preview,Prospect Pulse,Roster Analysis,Winnipeg Jets on June 7, 2011 — 23 Comments

We’re number 7!

Well, the good news for Winnipeg/Manitoba hockey fans is that might mean the chance to draft the next Jeff Skinner for our new NHL franchise.

Winnipeg/Manitoba will have the 7th overall pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Friday, June 24, 2011 and if last year’s 7th overall pick, Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner, is any indication of the draft number’s potential, we very well could be watching the next Calder Trophy Winner (Skinner is nominated for and is expected to win The 2010’11 Calder Trophy for the league’s top rookie player) in just under four months at The MTS Centre.

The purpose of this article is to give you a little sneak peek at who the Winnipeg/Manitoba franchise might select with its First Round draft pick and what may lead True North Sports & Entertainment and its management team to make said decision.

Let’s look at The Top 20 Rated North American Prospects as ranked by NHL Central Scouting.  To read entire article, click read more.

1 NUGENT-HOPKINS, RYAN WHL 04/12/93 6′ 0.5″ 164 C 69 31 75 106 51
2 LANDESKOG, GABRIEL OHL 11/23/92 6′ 0.5″ 207 LW 53 36 30 66 61
3 HUBERDEAU, JONATHAN QMJHL 06/04/93 6′ 1.25″ 170 C 67 43 62 105 88
4 HAMILTON, DOUGIE OHL 06/17/93 6′ 4.25″ 187 D 67 12 46 58 77
5 BEAULIEU, NATHAN QMJHL 12/05/92 6′ 1.75″ 174 D 65 12 33 45 52
6 COUTURIER, SEAN QMJHL 12/07/92 6′ 4″ 197 C 58 36 60 96 36
7 BAERTSCHI, SVEN WHL 10/05/92 5′ 10″ 181 LW 66 34 51 85 74
8 STROME, RYAN OHL 07/11/93 6′ 0″ 175 C 65 33 73 106 82
9 MURPHY, RYAN OHL 03/31/93 5′ 10.5″ 166 D 63 26 53 79 36
10 SIEMENS, DUNCAN WHL 09/07/93 6′ 2.5″ 192 D 72 5 38 43 121
11 NAMESTNIKOV, VLADISLAV OHL 11/22/92 5′ 11.5″ 166 C 68 30 38 68 49
12 MORROW, JOSEPH WHL 12/09/92 6′ 0.25″ 197 D 60 9 40 49 67
13 OLEKSIAK, JAMIESON H-EAST 12/21/92 6′ 7″ 244 D 34 3 9 12 51
14 MCNEILL, MARK WHL 02/22/93 6′ 1.5″ 201 C 70 32 49 81 53
15 PHILLIPS, ZACK QMJHL 10/28/92 6′ 1″ 178 C 67 38 57 95 16
16 SCHEIFELE, MARK OHL 03/15/93 6′ 1.75″ 182 C 66 22 53 75 35
17 RATTIE, TY WHL 02/05/93 5′ 11″ 163 RW 67 28 51 79 55
18 JENNER, BOONE OHL 06/15/93 6′ 1.25″ 204 C 63 25 41 66 57
19 SAAD, BRANDON OHL 10/27/92 6′ 1.25″ 208 LW 59 27 28 55 47
20 JURCO, TOMAS QMJHL 12/28/92 6′ 2″ 187 RW 60 31 25 56 17

Source: TSN NHL Draftcentre

Now, as we discussed on The Illegal Curve Hockey Show this past week, we believe that The Winnipeg/Manitoba franchise’s strength currently lies in its defence and goaltending and its biggest weakness is depth at the forward position.  Because Winnipeg/Manitoba has young, talented defensemen in abundance in Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian, plus prospects Arturs Kulda and Paul Postma (stay tuned to Illegal Curve as we’ll have detailed prospect reports on these players), we feel that their focus at The NHL Entry Draft and in Free Agency should be securing skilled forwards.

Based on this assertion, The Winnipeg/Manitoba franchise will almost surely target a player that may be ready to step into The NHL next season with its first round selection.

We must mention a few things before we continue. Firstly, the incoming 2011 NHL Draft class is considered to be strong by some and a little weak by others. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Larsson (Swedish defenseman who played for Skelleftea and was ranked 2nd overall by International Scouting Services) and Jonathan Huberdeau are considered to be top-flight prospects and are expected to go somewhere in the top four but after that this draft class is fairly unknown.

Hold on though. Don’t get too jaded.  Heading into last year’s NHL Entry Draft, Jeff Skinner (then of of The OHL’s Kitchener Rangers) was ranked 34th overall by Central Scouting and we all know how he turned out.

Of the Top 20 rated prospects, Winnipeg/Manitoba would love to get their hands on Landeskog, Nugent-Hopkins or Huberdeau but it’s expected that those three will be gone by the time Craig Heisinger/Mark Chipman/New GM step to the podium on June 24th with the 7th overall pick.

Now, with Larsson expected to go to either Edmonton or Colorado at either 1st or 2nd overall, here’s where it gets interesting. The New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators are picking fifth overall and sixth overall respectively, right ahead of the Winnipeg/Manitoba franchise.

The Islanders are rebuilding but have lots of young offensive talent in John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Michael Grabner while Ottawa is also stronger at forward than on defense. Ottawa’s top rearguards right now are Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips, who are not exactly youngsters (It should be noted that Erik Karlsson is an up-and-comer on the Sens blueline).

What this means is that Center Sean Couturier (Drumondville Voltigeurs), the 2010’11 QMJHL MVP and only draft eligible player to play for Canada at The 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships, may be available at the 7th overall pick.  Couturier simply oozes offensive potential, as he was the first 17 year-old since Sidney Crosby to lead the QMJHL in scoring (96 points in 2009’10). Couturier had 96 points again in 2010’11 which is fine but Couturier fell down the draft rankings (He was ranked 2nd overall by NHL Central Scouting at mid-season) as some believed his play and work ethic tailed off down the stretch this year. Regardless, Couturier has the size, speed and hands that any NHL team would want in today’s fast and furious game. Winnipeg/Manitoba will be forced to consider him at 7th overall. It should be noted that Couturier does have work to do on his defensive game and conditioning, but so do many players at this age.

Moving down the list, Center Ryan Strome may be the next best option at forward. This is no knock to Winger Sven Baertschi (Ranked 7th overall, played for WHL’s Portland Winterhawks) but Strome is pure offensive power personified. Strome skyrocketed up the draft rankings this year (Strome was ranked 19th by CSS at mid-season) playing for Niagara in The Ontario Hockey League. Strome finished 3rd in OHL scoring with 106 points and impressed many scouts with his offensive creativity and ability to find his teammates at all areas of the ice. Strome is hot right now and might not even be available at 7th overall and Ottawa/New York could be interested in him.

There are two more players that we want to look at who we consider to be good options but let’s pause for just a second.

You may have noticed that Couturier and Strome are both center prospects. Well, this sits well with IC as The Winnipeg/Manitoba franchise, in our opinion, does not have enough depth at this all-important position.  Nikolai Antropov (31 years old, 41 points in 76 games last year) centered the top line at times last year along with Bryan Little (23 years old, 48 points in 76 games)  while Alexandre Burmistrov (20 years old, 20 points in 74 games) centered the third line. Finally, Tim Stapleton, Jim Slater and Ben Maxwell took turns centering the team’s fourth line.

So back to the prospects.

Another good option for Winnipeg/Manitoba at the 7th overall slot may be Zack Phillips (Saint John Sea Dogs of The QMJHL), who is rated a little further down the list at 15th overall by CS but who could easily be ranked several slots higher. Phillips has been ranked in The Top 15 for North American prospects for quite some time now but his stock has gone way up since The Sea Dogs won the Memorial Cup. Phillips had 38 goals and 95 points for Saint John this year and another 24 points in the playoffs. The scouting report on Phillips is that he is strong on the puck, has nifty hands and is extremely intelligent in all three zones. Most importantly, however is that he is known for a very strong work ethic and for pushing his teammates. These are intangibles that True North loves.

Mika Zibanejad is an interesting wild card. Zibanejad is a offensive-minded center who played for Djurgarden in Sweden and has an all-around bang and crash type of game. Zibanejad is ranked 7th overall by International Scouting Services and there have been rumblings that a team could take him as high as fourth. Zibanejad describes himself as playing a Canadian style of game and even though scouts have disagreed on his offensive upside, he has garnered quite a bit of positive attention.

Other players that Winnipeg/Manitoba may strongly consider at the 7th overall pick are Center Mark McNeill (WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders), Center Mark Scheifele (OHL’s Barrie Colts) and RW Ty Rattie (WHL’s Portland Winterhawks).

Let us know who you think should be taken with the first ever pick by the Winnipeg/Manitoba franchise.  Sound off in the comments section.

  • Wow.  Talk about comprehensive.  When do we draft after 1st round again?

  • Would love to see a Winnipeg caravan of fans invade Minneapolis for the draft to celebrate the first draft pick of our reborn team

  • Great article.  Agree with Zak – would be great to hear a loud GO JETS GO chant before the pick….or to come out firing with a draft day trade!

  • Outstanding work. Calling this comprehensive would be an understatement, and it’s good to know that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scouting the draft

  • What do you do if best player left is a defenseman?  Do you take best position player or best fit?

  • Kyle Kosior

    I think you have to go best player available. Drafting for need is a sure fire way to be disappointed.

  • Kyle Kosior

    PS, I think your Top 20 is North Americans only.

  • Luke Miguez

    Our next pick after the first round is in the third round 67th overall.

  • Luke Miguez

    We’re in need of offensive strength particularly at Centre.  I figure that Couturier, Strome and Zibanejad are the best choices at the moment, but whom we take will be dependent on how clubs above us draft.

    I have a feeling that we’ll trade for a second round pick.  Any ideas of anyone that management would want to look at likely to be drafted in the second round?

  • Question:  Will the team draft someone with hope of making impact now or in a few years?

  • Lawrence Morrison

    Mika Zibanejad has been playing in the SEL.  If he’s available at #7 he should be the man!!!

  • I agree with Lawrence.  Take Mika if we get the chance.  Very nice upside.

  • Won’t it be great if 1000’s of people from Manitoba drive down to St. Paul to take in the draft.

  • Good points Kyle. I usually tend to subscribe to the “Draft the best player available” axiom but decided to focus in on the forward prospects as I feel the pick is best used on that position. Changed the list name at the top too.

  • Man.. Winnipeg is going to be invading Minnesota for the draft..Get ready Minnesota, truck loads of Manitobans are on their way!

  • David Pusey

    Atlantan here, going to follow the team to Winnipeg (from afar). I went to 35 games last year and this team needs a legit center prospect badly. Always have. Time to address that for the next 5 years this year (finally). Enjoy the Birds, Winnipeg. Thank your lucky stars that you no longer have Don Waddell and terrible ownership holding this team back. They’ll be quite a show!

  • Anonymous

    We are lucky in that need meshes with talent this year at pick #7 . I said before , from Couturier , Strome  , and Zibinajed I believe it is a 90% chance we draft one of them. This btw is a very very deep draft. Some picks in the teens and 20’s will big time players.

  • this article would seem to imply that the senators are coverting forwards, infact, the same ones that Winnipeg would be looking at


    I personally think that if they ended up with either Strome or Couturier (especially strome…check his goal on youtube)  that would be a good building block to add to the forward position

  • Kyle Kosior

    If it comes down to any of the aforementioned centres, I think you Couturier. Remember that he peaked really early as a potential #1, giving scouts/pundits/etc. a full year to FIND flaws in his game. Contrast that with Huberdeau, who came on late and everyone is in love with him now. Its just like dumping your hot gf who cooks and likes hockey for the newest waitress at Earl’s just because you saw her one time in a low-cut shirt and she mentioned you were cute when it came time for the tip.

  • Happy to have you on board David.

  • Anonymous

    Definitely hoping for Strome or Zibanejad. I’d like to see them get an early 2nd and target someone like Phillip Danault. He’s a skilled center with a ton of leadership qualities.

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