by Patrick Hoffman on 05/10/11 at 10:03 AM ET
Since we are getting closer and closer to the NHL Entry Draft, I figured now would be a good time to bring back an NHL Prospects/draft blogger in Brian Huddle.
Huddle covers prospects for HockeyBuzz.com, Future Considerations, The Hockey Writers and now The GoodPoint.com. Huddle was kind enough to take time out of his very busy blogging schedule to give us his thoughts:
PH: Just over a month until the NHL Entry Draft. What are your general thoughts?
BH: This draft really looks to be a wild one; seems fairly hard to predict where a lot of kids could go. With so many different lists, there should be some big surprises come June.
PH: In your opinion, who should be the top five picks? Why?
BH: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Jonathan Huberdeau, Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Murphy would be my five.
RNH is undeniably the best prospect in the class. He has world-class vision and IQ, a slick passer, and projects to be an elite center.
Landeskog, while not as talented as some of the other guys, is very NHL-ready. He’s such a class act, and one of the hardest workers in this draft class, while still having enough skill to be a top six player in the NHL. He’s a future Captain.
Huberdeau has been rising steadily all year. He’s really spearheaded the Saint John team to the top of the Q, and is another of those kids you just love; work ethic, high end skill, two-way ability, leadership. After RNH, he’s the most talented forward.
I get a lot of flak for this one, but I would take Hamilton over Larsson for top defenseman. He’s got size, mobility, good hockey sense, puck skills and two-way abilities. Not only that, but he’s so physically fit that he’s able to play big minutes and not be prone to errors.
Ryan Murphy probably has as much skill as anybody in this year’s draft class. He’s a world class defenseman, who really only has questions because of his size, and his lack of a defensive game early in his career, which he has put a LOT of work into. A big point shot, creativity with the puck, elite skating, high end hockey sense and vision. He’s going to be a game breaking defenseman.
PH: In your opinion, who will be the top five picks? Why?
BH: Likely Nugent-Hopkins, Landeskog, Larsson, Huberdeau and Couturier.
With Larsson, scouts and others have been watching him for a few years now as a potential top pick. He’s proven his skating abilities, and shown to be a top shutdown defender in a men’s league. He has the abilities to be an offensive guy too, but he needs some time to develop those skills next season.
And then with Couturier, he’s been a talked about guy for a number of years as well. He has the size that not a lot of centers have, and has been producing points for a couple years in the Q now. Not often a guy like him comes along. Teams will take the chance.
PH: If you’re the Edmonton Oilers, what do you do with the first pick? Do you dangle it in hopes of getting a good return for the present or do you use it to draft yet another talented forward? Why?
BH: I take Nugent-Hopkins and run.
Realistically, 1st round picks this season seem to be given out a bit easier. I can’t see many teams offering up what Edmonton would want for that 1st overall; namely a number one defenseman or a number one center.
In Taylor Hall, they have a guy compared to Mark Messier. RNH draws comparisons to Gretzky’s ‘vision’ on the ice. Can you imagine the marketing ability of those two being ‘re-united’?
PH: This draft isn’t being talked about like last year’s or even the year before was. Why do you think that is? Do you think that this draft should be getting more attention?
BH: Simply put: a lack of NHL-ready stars. Look down the list of the past few drafts. Taylor Hall, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Matt Duchene; all guys who stepped in and were impact players almost immediately. There really isn’t anyone of that nature this season, and because of it, there’s a lack of interest being generated by calling it a ‘weak draft.’
I really feel it’s unfair to call it that. While the top end isn’t quite developed as much this season, it’s a fairly deep draft with the guys from 20-60 all with some good upside.
PH: Since people who read this blog are New York Ranger fans, who do you think the Rangers should take with their pick? Why?
BH: I recently did a mock and had them picking Mark Scheifele, a center from the Barrie Colts of the OHL.
Sather has some legitimate prospects in the cupboard at all positions; Kreider, Thomas, Grachev, McIlrath, etc. So there’s no glaring need to be taken. Sather has also shown a willingness to go off the board for a guy he likes, and I have a feeling this will be it. Scheifele is a playmaking center to add to their depth down the middle; he should be able to play a top six role. If he’s able to make some big strides, he could be a real stud in a few years with added strength.
PH: When it comes to the Canadian Hockey League playoffs, what teams have surprised/disappointed you? Why?
BH: I was a little disappointed with the Kitchener Rangers, though not surprised. They had a good team, with Landeskog and Murphy. Not to mention Leafs prospect, Jerry D’Amigo, being added. They should have gone a bit further, but as soon as they drew Plymouth, I knew it would be a tough series. They made a good effort, forcing seven games, but Plymouth’s Wedgewood stood on his head.
I was surprised to see Saskatoon bow out so quickly. They were a top team through most of the season with guys like Josh Nicholls, Curtis Hamilton, etc. Then they go and add Brayden Schenn, and yet weren’t able to get it done.
PH: Who do you think has the best chance of winning the coveted Memorial Cup? Why?
BH: I have my money on Saint John being a team to really watch. They’re as deep as they come, and there’s a lot of talent there with Huberdeau, Beaulieu, Phillips, etc.
However, it’s hard not to count out those teams who are able to frustrate you with good defensive play and a physical game, and that’s what Dave Cameron’s Mississauga Majors (host team) are. While they get an automatic pass to the Memrial Cup for hosting, they’re also in the OHL Finals battling it out with Owen Sound.
PH: Tell us where we can find your work these days.
BH: I’m still doing a lot of work with hockeybuzz.com.
On top of that, I’m working with futureconsiderations.ca on their upcoming NHL Entry Draft Guide, as well as thegoodpoint.com for articles on the upcoming NHL prospects to watch for.
PH: Any other thoughts you’d like to share with Kukla’s Korner readers?
BH: For anyone in Ontario, please head out to the Memorial Cup in Mississauga this month. It’s great hockey, and a chance to see the stars of tomorrow.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.