Devil of a Draft

Dobber Sports

2011-04-13

The New Jersey Devils walked away the big winners at the 2011 NHL Draft lottery, moving from the eighth spot to fourth. How does this change the complexion of the Draft?

1. Edmonton Oilers- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer, WHL)

While Adam Larsson has steadily held down the position in our lists as the top player available for the 2011 Draft, it's becoming harder and harder to ignore both Hopkins and the buzz building about him in Edmonton. While it could be a pick mired in debate for years to come, adding a high-end playmaking center- no matter his size- to a burgeoning core loaded with finishers like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi would be an inspired choice.

2. Colorado Avalanche- LW Gabriel Landeskog (Kitchener, OHL)

The Colorado Avalanche likely couldn't be happier to remain firmly in the #2 spot. After all, cleaning up the left-overs leaves the team with a desirable talent either way. Want to supplement Erik Johnson with another hulking but skilled defender? Adam Larsson fits. Need to replace the hole left by trading power winger Chris Stewart? Kitchener Rangers forward Gabriel Landeskog is a great choice. For now, Landeskog appears to be the top player on Colorado's draft board, and it's likely little changes between now and the combine to alter that decision.

3. Florida Panthers- C Sean Couturier (Drummondville, QMJHL)

With talk strong in Florida that the team's first round selection will be a forward regardless of who is available, options are limited for those who wish to prognosticate the affair- especially if the first two picks also happen to be forwards. Drummondville's Sean Couturier is the right player in this scenario.

A solid 6'4 and over 190 lbs, Couturier has shown at every level this year- QMJHL regular season, WJC, playoffs- that he is willing to take advantage of his frame in order to win games. And he does it the right way: although initially a lackadaisical player in minor hockey, Couturier has become something of a jack-of-all-trades, crashing the net, winning board battles and playing strong defensive hockey in addition to packing a hard shot and a soft pair of hands.

4. New Jersey Devils- D Adam Larsson (Skelleftea, Elitserien)

So, what's New Jersey's reward for going on one of the most incredible runs in NHL history? Well, the same pick they likely would have had had the Devils never enjoyed such a streak in the first place. The victors of the 2011 lottery, the Devils have a unique opportunity at hand to finally replace the series of All-Star defencemen lost to retirement and free agency. Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski and even Paul Martin helped the anchor sequentially successful bluelines, but New Jersey had hit something of a dry spell. Well, until now.

Regardless of whether it's Larsson or one of the next few names on this list, it's quite likely GM Lou Lamoriello uses his first-ever lottery pick as GM in 24 seasons on a rearguard. Wait, did we say first? The Devils had the 3rd overall selection in 1991, but acquired it from (snicker) Toronto. I guess some things never change.

5. New York Islanders- D Dougie Hamilton (Niagara, OHL)

Set at wing with Kyle Okposo, Nino Niederreiter and Matt Moulson among others and now solid at center thanks to the 2008 and 2009 Drafts, like their Eastern Conference cohorts, the New York Islanders are in a position to finally add a premier blueliner after years of frustrations.
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