With the first pick in the 2011 Draft,…

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The NHL had their draft lottery last night, where the bottom few teams found out which of them would be picking first overall. Follow along after the break to find out who will be selecting first on June 24th, 2011, and who the bottom handful of teams could wind up taking.

First, a quick explanation of how the NHL Draft Lottery works.

I say quick, because the long explanation would involve lots of complex math that neither I nor you need to bother with.

The easiest explanation of the Draft Lottery is that all 14 teams that failed to qualify for the post-season have a certain percentage chance, beginning with the Dallas Stars at 0.5% chance, and ending with the Edmonton Oilers, who had a 25% chance of having their number combination selected.

For the team that had their number combination selected, they would move up the draft board a maximum of four spots. Therefore, the Dallas Stars could move up from 14th to 10th, the Calgary Flames could move up from 13th to 9th, and so on and so forth.

This means that only the teams that finished in the bottom 5 spots (Ottawa, the New York Islanders, Florida, Colorado and Edmonton) could pick first overall because teams 6-14 would not be able to move up enough spots in the lottery.

For that reason, the Oilers held a 48.2% chance of selecting first overall; their 25% chance of winning the lottery themselves, plus the 23.2% chance that a team from 6-14 would win.

That’s exactly what happened, when the New Jersey Devils and their 3.6% chance won and moved up from the 8th overall pick to the 4th. In doing so, they bumped Ottawa out of the top 5 picks, and moved the Islanders to 5th, the Thrashers to 7th, and the Blue Jackets to 8th.

I’ll now offer my own mock draft of the first 6 selections in the draft, in honor of the 5 lottery teams and the New Jersey Devils who jumped into the top 5.I’ve conducted my research by scouring the internet, comparing the eligible players to current NHLers now and in their draft years, examining the rankings provided by NHL Central Scouting and other experts on the subject, and watching video of the players in action.

Enjoy!

1st overall: Edmonton Oilers

C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (WHL – Red Deer Rebels)

Nugent-Hopkins led the WHL in assists this year, and is an absolutely electrifying playmaker. At 6’0″ and barely 170 pounds, Nugent-Hopkins is a prime example of how in the new NHL, where there is less clutching and grabbing, a small, skilled player is often valued higher than a big bruising body.

It probably isn’t fair to do this to him, but the only player I’ve ever seen who Nugent-Hopkins skill set reminds me of is Pavel Datsyuk. Yes, he is that good, at least at the junior level. And I’m not just talking about his hands or passing ability either. Nugent-Hopkins could find himself a Selke trophy winner at some point in his career, because he seems to have the same knack for creeping up behind opponent’s and stealing the puck and turning it into a scoring chance for his team.

His lateral movement, while simulataeneously being able to control the puck, is superb. We’ve all seen Pavel Datsyuk’s abiilty to dodge defenders with a quick move to his left or right, and Nugent-Hopkins has that same ability.

I was so tempted to place Adam Larsson in this position as first overall, mainly because the Oilers have a bevy of talented young players in Hall, Eberle, Omark and others, and really lack that cornerstone franchise defenseman. However, I think Nugent-Hopkins is the kind of player who, if you have the opportunity to take him, you just can’t pass up, no matter what your needs are elsewhere.

Oh, and add that to the fact that the Burnaby, BC native has already expressed a desire to play for the Oilers, and you’ve got your first overall pick right there.

2nd overall pick: Colorado Avalanche

D Adam Larsson (SEL – Skelleftea)

How fitting that in the same calendar year that long-time franchise defenseman Adam Foote retires, the Avalanche have a chance to replace him with another franchise defenseman named Adam? Foote was a first round pick of the franchise (then the Quebec Nordiques) in 1989.

Larsson has NHL-ready size, at nearly 6’3″, and over 200 lbs, and could very well be in the Avalanches starting lineup from day one of the 2011 season. At just 17 years of age in 2009, playing against full grown men in the top league in his country, he put up 17 points in 49 games.

This year, he was named the top defenseman in the World Junior Championships. As someone who watches the World Juniors religiously (it is honestly one of my favorite times of the year), Larsson looked like a man amongst boys.

Adding Larsson to a young group of up-and-coming defensemen that includes 2006 first overall pick Erik Johnson, 2009 64th overall pick Tyson Barrie and the Avalanche are quickly on their way to becoming relevant in the NHL’s Western Conference again.

3rd overall pick: Florida Panthers

LW Gabriel Landeskog (OHL – Kitchener Rangers

The Panthers are not in a position to be picky when it comes to prospects right now. They need help everywhere, and thankfully with 10 picks in this draft, including 7 in the first three rounds, they will be able to restock the cupboard. They have to take the best available player each time they are up this year, and can’t really afford to be choosy. I see the best player available here as Gabriel Landeskog.

The Swede served as the captain of the Kitchener Rangers this year, becoming the first European to have such a distinction with that franchise. He was also named an alternate captain with Team Sweden at the World Juniors this year, where he was a teammate of Adam Larsson.

The World Juniors were supposed to be Landeskog’s coming out party, where he cemented his place as the top pick in the draft, but a high ankle sprain during the first game knocked him out of the tournament, and hampered his play with Kitchener for a while afterwards. In his one game played in the tournament, he registered a goal and an assist. He finished the season with 66 points in 53 games, though, and led Kitchener to a 3rd place finish in the OHL’s Western Conference. Kitchener was bounced in the opening round of the playoffs by the Plymouth Whalers.

Landeskog plays with more of an edge than what many people expect out of prospects coming out of Europe, and should be a very strong player at the NHL level.

4th overall pick: New Jersey Devils

D Dougie Hamilton (OHL – Niagara IceDogs)

I am in agreement with one of the NHL.com experts in that the Devils will be using their new-found top five pick on a big body on defense who possesses a skill set they’ve lacked since the retirement of Scott Stevens.

Hamilton is a 6’4″ monster who also put up 77 points from the back end this year. Adding to his appeal is the fact that he is a rare right-handed shot on the blue line, which is always coveted to pair with a more common left-handed shot, espcially on the power play.

The Devils have historically been a team that plays a strong defensive game, but have recently started to think a little more offensively with youngsters like Parise and free agent additions like Kovalchuk. Hamilton can give them both for the price of one.

5th overall pick: New York Islanders

C Jonathan Huberdeau (QMJHL – Saint John Sea Dogs)

There are a few things that are certain in the world. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Water is wet. Hockey is the best sport on earth. And the New York Islanders draft forwards in the first round.

There are a number of exceptional players available to them at this point in the draft, but I think Huberdeau is their man.

Sean Couturier was actually ranked higher than Huberdeau all year long, but the 105 point season by the Sea Dogs center cannot be ignored.

Huberdeau has amazing playmaking abilities, and according to some has the best set of hands in the draft.

6th overall pick: Ottawa Senators

C Sean Couturier (QMJHL – Drummondville Voltigeurs)

The Ottawa Senators, who had an opportunity to move into the first overall pick slot by winning the draft lottery instead find themselves outside of the top 5. They will make up for this by selecting the player who at the beginning of the year was being talked about by many as the number one overall pick this year.

He slid down the draft board a bit, not necessarily due to anything he did but more because of the outstanding seasons had by those now ahead of him.

Couturier was actually named the MVP of the QMJHL this season, despite Huberdeau outscoring him.

Like Landeskog, Couturier was supposed to state his case for #1 overall at the World Juniors with Canada, but he ended up taking a backseat to a team loaded with talented older players like Brayden Schenn, Zack Kassian and Ryan Johansen.

Also, look forward in the near future to an article from me examining a handful of players the Detroit Red Wings could be selecting with their pick in the first round! Also, I will be covering the draft for you in June and offering a detailed analysis of all of the Red Wings picks!

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