Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NHL Draft: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Wins Race to be No. 1 Overall Prospect

Last year, Tyler Seguin topped Taylor Hall in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's final pre-draft rankings.

We all saw how that turned out on draft night in Los Angeles, when the Edmonton Oilers took Hall and left Seguin to go second to Boston.

It might not happen often that the CSB is wrong about the top prospect (at least when it comes to which player is actually picked first overall), but they were last year, and that might have Canadian junior star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins feeling a little uneasy on this day.

It's Nugent-Hopkins -- a star with the Western Hockey League's Red Deer Rebels -- who carries the No. 1 banner into June's NHL Draft, which will be held in St. Paul.

Nugent-Hopkins is best known for his playmaking skills, but his all-around ability is what has him atop the rankings.

He's got sick hands, great vision, and isn't too bad on a pair of skates. Simply put, he's the kind of center that bad teams crave.

And there are bad teams in the NHL.

Tuesday's draft lottery will determine which of those bad teams will pick first. While it might not look like Edmonton "needs" more young offensive players, and could opt for Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson with the first pick, there's also the "best player available" argument.

In other words, it might not behoove the Oilers to take a potentially inferior player. That's part of how organizations end up picking in the top five every year ... they don't draft the right players.

Same goes for Colorado, another team that needs help on the blue line, but also might have a hard time passing up a talent like Nugent-Hopkins.

The rest of CSB's top five in North America are mid-season No. 1 Gabriel Landeskog (Kitchener - OHL), center Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John - QMJHL), and defensemen Dougie Hamilton (Niagara - OHL) and Nathan Beaulieu (Saint John - QMJHL).

Larsson is the top player in Europe, followed by countrymen Mika Zibanejad (center) and Jonas Brodin (defenseman).

As far as any local ties, Wayzata's Mario Lucia (34th) is the highest-rated Minnesota high school player. Teammate Tony Camaranesi (178) is the highest-rated UMD recruit.

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