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

2011 Draft

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.

1NUGENT-HOPKINS, RYANWHL04/12/936′ 0.5″164C69317510651
2LANDESKOG, GABRIELOHL11/23/926′ 0.5″207LW5336306661
3HUBERDEAU, JONATHANQMJHL06/04/936′ 1.25″170C67436210588
4HAMILTON, DOUGIEOHL06/17/936′ 4.25″187D6712465877
5BEAULIEU, NATHANQMJHL12/05/926′ 1.75″174D6512334552
6COUTURIER, SEANQMJHL12/07/926′ 4″197C5836609636
7BAERTSCHI, SVENWHL10/05/925′ 10″181LW6634518574
8STROME, RYANOHL07/11/936′ 0″175C65337310682
9MURPHY, RYANOHL03/31/935′ 10.5″166D6326537936
10SIEMENS, DUNCANWHL09/07/936′ 2.5″192D7253843121
11NAMESTNIKOV, VLADISLAVOHL11/22/925′ 11.5″166C6830386849
12MORROW, JOSEPHWHL12/09/926′ 0.25″197D609404967
13OLEKSIAK, JAMIESONH-EAST12/21/926′ 7″244D34391251
14MCNEILL, MARKWHL02/22/936′ 1.5″201C7032498153
15PHILLIPS, ZACKQMJHL10/28/926′ 1″178C6738579516
16SCHEIFELE, MARKOHL03/15/936′ 1.75″182C6622537535
17RATTIE, TYWHL02/05/935′ 11″163RW6728517955
18JENNER, BOONEOHL06/15/936′ 1.25″204C6325416657
19SAAD, BRANDONOHL10/27/926′ 1.25″208LW5927285547
20JURCO, TOMASQMJHL12/28/926′ 2″187RW6031255617

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.
Zack Phillips2444

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.