26. Washington Capitals: Vladislav Namestnikov, C – London (OHL) – The slick young Russian center is all kinds of talented. He’s one of the most talented skaters in the draft – he possesses a high-end top speed, excellent acceleration (seems to blow by defenders at will), and a top-notch agility level. He’s got Datsyukian puck skills and is exceptionally shifty in tight places. He’s got great vision, and can look off defenders to find the guy he wants, open. His shot is merely above-average, but he’s got a quick release and as he gets stronger he’s only going to have a more potent weapon. He’s still very unfinished in the defensive end and sometimes plays ‘weak’ even for his 6’, 165 lbs. frame. However, he sets his edges to gain leverage well, and gets to the nasty areas of the ice despite his physical shortcomings. If he fills out, he could become a very dominant offensive player. Washington sees an opportunity to add to their Russian talent pool, and does so, grabbing a guy I see with the talent of a top-10 pick…and one of the big steals in this draft.
Projects at Prime as: 22-43-65 (Best-Case 30-50-80) (Worst-Case 15-40-55)
Playstyle Compares to: Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Samsonov
Wild Card Selection – Victor Rask
27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Joe Morrow, D – Portland (WHL) – This talented, young puck-moving defenseman Kirk Leudeke described as “flying under the radar” could shock many by being a first-round selection in the 2011 draft. With the much-sought-after ability to make excellent first passes out of the defensive zone, and excellent skating ability, Joe is one guy not likely to be available past 40. He’s not a plus defensive player, though he will throw his body around and drop the gloves; but expect that to improve with time. After a nine-goal, 49-point season with Portland, bet on seeing Morrow’s name called in the first day or very early on the second. Tampa snatches him up to bolster their defensive prospect corps and hopefully one day anchor a second pairing or join Victor Hedman on the first.
Projects at Prime as: 10-30-40 (Best-Case 15-40-55) (Worst-Case 5-25-30)
Playstyle Compares to: Mark Giordano, Cody Franson
Wild Card Selection – Connor Murphy
28. San Jose Sharks: Ty Rattie, RW – Portland (WHL) – Surprisingly being the third Winterhawk taken, the Alberta native might look like no more than a project pick to some. His outstanding upside in the offensive zone will no doubt garner serious looks from teams earlier in the draft, with his superb playmaking, puckhandling, offensive acumen and vision being very potent selling points. However, Rattie has made his money so far as a perimeter player; and without game-breaking skating ability that is no easy task in the new NHL. His shot is only a bit above-average and while he doesn’t shy away from the physical aspects of the game, he frequently takes the path of least resistance. Still, he’s probably a great value selection in the late 20s, and San Jose picks him up to fortify their future.
Projects at Prime as: 15-40-55 (Best-Case 20-50-70) (Worst-Case 10-30-40)
Playstyle Compares to: Loui Eriksson Jason Spezza-lite
Wild Card Selection – J.T. Miller
29. Vancouver Canucks Tyler Biggs, RW – USNTDP (USHL) – Biggs certainly is worthy of his surname, at 6’3”, 210 lbs., he’s a two-way power-forward with soul. He may not have the offensive upside that’s sought in a first-rounder but at worst he’ll be a third- or fourth-line grinder who can put up 10-20 goals a year while providing a great physical two-way game and excellent leadership. At best, we could be seeing a Lucic-type power forward who gets to the dirty areas and can drop ‘em. He displays very good skating ability and a great cycling game. He would be a no-doubter for the top-20 if he was a bit more creative, but perhaps that will develop in time. Vancouver snatches him up here late in the first round due to his indisputable NHL future and physical tools, adding some significant sandpaper to their organization.
Projects at Prime as: 15-25-40 (Best-Case 25-30-55) Worst-Case (15-20-35)
Playstyle Compares to: Nathan Horton without the creativity and plus shot, smaller Dan Boyle
Wild Card Selection – Scott Mayfield
30. Toronto Maple Leafs: J. T. Miller, C – USNTDP (USHL) – Another sterling young product of the U.S. National Development Program, Miller has the makings of an excellent two-way center. While he may not have first-round upside (this analyst estimates his career high for points will probably be in the mid-fifties) he’s the type of guy you need to be a successful team. With a plus-shot and strong skating, he’s no slouch offensive prospect either and will probably develop into a Ryan-Kesler-type netfront presence. When his head’s screwed-on right, he can be even better, but all too often he seems to lack the offensive awareness to be a future top-line player. Toronto wisely gobbles him up at 30, hoping he reaches his high-end after some years with North Dakota.
Projects at Prime as: 20-25-45 (Best-Case 30-30-60) (Worst-Case 15-25-40)
Playstyle Compares to: Patrice Bergeron (with more net-front presence and worse acumen)
Wild Card Selection – Victor Rask
31. Edmonton Oilers: John Gibson, G – USNTDP (USHL) – It’s a growing trend in the NHL to shy away from using high draft picks on young goalies, which is probably the only reason I don’t have the number one goalie in the draft going in the late teens or 20s. Gibson has the talent to be a starter in the NHL, but the drive and poise to challenge for all-star teams. He’s got plus athleticism, a big 6’3” frame, and quickness to react to today’s quick-strike offenses. He played particularly well in the World U-18s, greatly solidifying his value to scouts. With prospects Oliver Roy and Tyler Bunz failing to live up to their potential thus far, and Devin Dubnyk improving but far from a bona fide #1, Edmonton would be wise to select this rising star (should he be available here) as their goaltender of the future. His value even in the early second round is very high, so should he fall, the Oil should have no qualms about taking him.
Projects at Prime as: 2.45-.915-35 (Best-Case 2.15-.925-40) (Worst-Case 2.75-.900-20)
Playstyle Compares to: Jonas Hiller
Wild Card Selection – David Honzik
32. St. Louis Blues: Connor Murphy, D – USNTDP (USHL) – The Blues make it four straight from the U.S. National Team Development Program with their selection of defender Connor Murphy with the 32nd overall pick. The second Murphy defenseman taken is a big, talented guy with both offensive and defensive promise. The son of former NHL (and Bruin) blueliner Gord Murphy, the young man has a powerful slapper, strong skating and excellent defensive positioning for a kid his age. On the downside, Murphy is not extremely physical and lingering injury concerns might keep him on the outside of the first round. As a result, he’s a risky selection at 32 for the Blues, but unless they like Mayfield significantly better, Murphy has the ability to be a top-pairing guy for their future defense.
Projects at Prime as: 10-30-40 (Best-Case 15-40-55) (Worst-Case 10-20-30)
Playstyle Compares to: Smaller and less physical Victor Hedman; Joe Corvo with better size
Wild Card Selection – Scott Mayfield
33. Florida Panthers: Nicklas Jensen, LW – Oshawa (OHL) – While I may have Jensen far lower than most draft boards, I am not suggesting he is without first round size and talent. The Great Dane scored at just under a point per game during his rookie OHL season with the Generals, and owns a rifle of a shot with a lightning-quick release. His physical tools are impressive and he plays as big as his frame. He’s not an exceptional skater but that shouldn’t matter given how outstanding his offensive potential is. His primary problem is inconsistency and effort. And it’s a pretty considerable and widely-known problem that could keep this mid-1st talent out till the early second. If he is available here, Florida will snatch him out without much worry and hope the character issues work themselves out.
Projects at Prime as: 25-25-50 (Best-Case 35-30-65) (Worst-Case 20-20-40)
Playstyle Compares to: Erik Cole, Less Gritty Scott Hartnell
Wild Card Selection – Shane Prince
34. New York Islanders: Gregory Hofmann, C – Ambri-Piotta (SUI) – Perhaps a reach here in the early second round, Hofmann played his first full season in the Swiss A League against men, tallying a respectable twelve points in 41 games. He’s a very skinny 6’0” 165, but he has top-end puck skills and is capable of extremely creative play. He’s capable of bursty speed and has nice moves in close. His English has improved significantly and outwardly described his desire to play in the NHL, which may have upped his stock significantly and bumped him out of the late and into the early-mid second. The Isles already have a Swiss presence in Nino Niederreiter, so they may feel more confident in bringing him in.
Projects at Prime as: 15-30-45 (Best-Case 20-45-65) (Worst-Case 10-25-35)
Playstyle Compares to: A Skinny Travis Zajac, Andy McDonald
Wild Card Selection – Dmitri Jaskin
35. Ottawa Senators: Scott Mayfield, D – Youngstown (USHL) – At 6’4”, 200 lbs., the defenseman from the USHL is really raw and there are some huge questions about his awareness and general hockey acumen. However, with outstanding size, strong all around offensive capabilities (plus shot, plus breakout and plus playmaking) and a strong defensive abilities; someone’s bound to take him, and sooner rather than later. Ottawa hopes their strong development program can effectively teach young Scott so that in a few short years he’ll be sharing a defensive line with Erik Karlsson.
Projects at Prime as: 10-20-30 (Best-Case 20-35-55) (Worst-Case 10-10-20)
Playstyle Compares to: Anton Babchuk, Keith Ballard
Wild Card Selection – Rickard Rakell
36. Chicago Blackhawks: Stuart Percy, D – Mississauga (OHL) – Percy is not the flashiest defenseman in this year’s draft. He doesn’t have any real high-end physical abilities or puck skills. He’s not the most punishing hitter or a top outlet passer. However, he’s one of the smartest kids available, plays sound all-around hockey and very rarely makes critical mistakes. He projects very solidly as the anchor of a second defensive pair with his decent mobility and overall acumen. With a few more years under his belt and a bit more mass to face the rigors of NHL play, he’s a virtual lock to make it. The Blackhawks understand the need for intelligent and mobile d-men in today’s NHL and snag Percy a little earlier than most would project.
Projects at Prime as: 8-22-30 (Best-Case 10-30-40) (Worst-Case 5-20-25)
Playstyle Compares to: Kevin Bieksa-lite (and more Cerebral)
Wild Card Selection – Adam Clendening
37. Columbus Blue Jackets: Shane Prince, LW – Ottawa (OHL) – The small winger from Ottawa has excellent playmaking abilities and a quick wrist-shot that is as sneaky as it is underutilized. He isn’t fast, certainly not for his size, but he’s strong on his skates and uses his low center of gravity to shield the puck and maintain possession against bigger and stronger opponents. His 88 points this year with the ‘67s make him one of the more prolific guys this far down. Some have questions about his compete level and consistency, I see a kid who needs some time to grow but is undeniably a NHL-caliber talent capable of being an effective second-line forward… particularly if he learns to more effectively use his shot.
Projects at Prime as: 15-30-45 (Best-Case 25-45-70) (Worst-Case 10-30-40)
Playstyle Compares to: Alex Tanguay; a less flashy Ales Hemsky
Wild Card Selection – Phillip Danault
38. Nashville Predators: Daniel Catenacci, LW – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) – The former no. 1 overall pick in the OHL priority selection had a disappointing first season with the Greyhounds in 09-10, only scoring 10 goals and 30 points – pretty underwhelming for a guy with so much promise. However, in his second season he put up 26 goals and 71 points, not exactly earth-shattering numbers, but far more in-line with what we perceive as his potential. He’s got excellent speed and agility, can be ridiculously creative and is the type of player an offense can run through. However, he gets in trouble by taking too many dumb penalties and by trying to do too much himself (and his size certainly leaves a good deal to be desired). He could just as easily be a bottom liner as an all-star at the next level, so grabbing in the second is a risky gambit. Nashville needs some productive forwards in their system so a guy like Catenacci is a good bet to wager on at this point.
Projects at Prime as: 20-35-55 (Best-Case 30-55-85) (Worst-Case 10-25-35)
Playstyle Compares to: Claude Grioux (at his best), a less smart (but faster) Patrice Bergeron
Wild Card Selection – Shane McColgan
39. Toronto Maple Leafs: Victor Rask, C – Leksands (Sweden-2) – Equal parts dynamic and infuriating, the young Swede came into the year topping many Euro draft rankings, and was believed to be a dark-horse candidate by some for a top-3 pick. How things have changed. Rask is now probably likely to be the fifth or even sixth Swede taken, and unless someone really liked what they saw last year or at the U-18s this year, he won’t be picked up until the second day. He’s got great hands, size and a good shot but his compete level is often significantly lacking. If he puts it all together he’d be a slam-dunk top-15 pick but as it stands he’ll be a nice value pick for a team like the Leafs in the early second round. Could be the steal of the draft if he gets his head on straight.
Projects at Prime as: 15-25-40 (Best-Case 35-45-80) (Worst-Case 15-15-30)
Playstyle Compares to: Olli Jokinen
Wild Card Selection --Seth Ambroz
40. Boston Bruins: David Musil, D Vancouver (WHL) – Musil was projected by some to be a top-10 pick before the season started. While he hasn’t regressed, the plethora of smooth-skating offensive defenseman ahead of him illustrates the Giant defenseman’s shortcomings. He might be one of the two or three best blueliners in the draft when it comes to in-zone play, but his heavy feet and lack of high-end offensive capabilities make him much less desirable as a first-round selection. His excellent athletic pedigree (son of a former NHL-er and nephew of Bobby Holik), excellent size (6’4”, 200+ lbs.) and powerful shot make him hard to pass up into the second round. Boston adds another top defender to its prospect corps, with the hopes that Murphy and Musil will one day form a dynamic duo wearing the spoked-B
Projects at Prime as: 10-15-25 (Best-Case 15-25-40) (Worst-Case 5-15-20)
Playstyle Compares to: Mike Komisarek (but less of an offensive liability)
Wild Card Selection – Dmitri Jaskin
And that does it for my top-40. Future updates of my draft board will discuss player movement within these ranks, (risers and fallers) and any additional info I come across. I leave you with ten picks to round out my top-fifty overall, which will presumably be part of future updates to the board.
41. St. Louis Blues: Rickard Rakell, C – Plymouth (OHL)
42. Carolina Hurricanes: Dmitri Jaskin, RW – Slavia Praha (Cze.)
43. Chicago Blackhawks: Michael St. Croix, C – Edmonton (WHL)
44. Dallas Stars: Adam Clendening, D – Boston University (NCAA)
45. Calgary Flames: Lucas Lessio, LW – Oshawa (OHL)
46. St. Louis Blues: Seth Ambroz, RW – Omaha (USHL)
47. Florida Panthers: Shane McColgan, RW – Kelowna (WHL)
48. Chicago Blackhawks: Matthew Nieto, LW – Boston University (NCAA)
49. Los Angeles Kings: Phillip Danault, C – Victoriaville (QMJHL)
50. New York Islanders: Colin Jacobs, C – Seattle (WHL)