With the NHL Draft quickly approaching, and Florida likely to pick high in the 2011 Draft, we're going to take a more in-depth look at the top 7 players in this year's draft. Read on!
Often compared to NHL greats Joe Sakic and Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is currently ranked at the top of the 2011 ISS NHL draft rankings, and for good reason. Nugent-Hopkins is considered the premier offensive talent in the 2011 draft, putting him on nearly every team’s radar on draft day. Playing 69 games this season for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL (currently the home of Florida Panthers 2010 draft choice Alexander Petrovic), Nugent-Hopkins posted 31 goals and 75 assists for 106 points to lead his team in scoring. The Rebels are currently the second seed in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, and so Nugent-Hopkins will be given yet another stage this season to increase his draft value before the NHL draft takes place in June. Expect to hear his name called early in June.
A natural center, Nugent-Hopkins has unsurpassed vision on the ice, and is likely the top playmaking center in the 2011 draft. His ability to control the puck in and around traffic is excellent, and his ability to find space to create offensive chances has allowed him to develop as a solid scorer in addition to his great passing ability. He is a smooth, quick skater, and although still physically slight compared to a lot of the big bodies in the NHL, if drafted Nugent-Hopkins will almost definitely be given time to develop with another season in the minors, as he will just be turning 18 this April. However, many scouts and coaches believe he is ready to make the jump to the NHL quickly, and if smaller skill players like Patrick Kane are any indication, there is a good chance you may see Nugent-Hopkins in an NHL sweater at some point during the 2011-2012 NHL Season.
Nugent-Hopkins could fit into any team’s draft plans, but only those with the first or second selections will likely have a shot at him, as he’ll be off the board by the third pick at the latest. Florida GM Dale Tallon will not be able to pass up Nugent-Hopkins if he falls to the Panthers in the 2011 NHL draft. Although Nugent-Hopkins is lacking in size, he is the type of offensive talent the Panthers currently do not have on the roster (outside of Stephen Weiss), and he is a high-character leader at nearly every level he has played at. Tallon will likely have Nugent-Hopkins as his first or second choice, and all Cats fans will be holding their breath at the lottery drawing in April, hoping for a shot at a player as special as Nugent-Hopkins.