NHL Draft rankings & mock drafts are all well and good but what we're really interested in around here is what type of impact these draft picks will have from a fantasy perspective... so below we offer you our 2011 Fantasy Draft Rankings. This is our top 10 draft-eligible players based on their long-term fantasy potential. Consider this a quick cheatsheet for your prospect draft or use this as a guide for your regular fantasy league draft.
A few things to note:
We're assuming that you're willing to take risks... the NHL Draft is such a bloody crapshoot, so you might as well swing for the fences... damn right you're gonna strikeout a bunch but considering only a few of these guys are going to become big time fantasy hockey contributors, its no time to play it safe.
Don't be discouraged by where a player is picked... guys like Brad Richards (64th overall), Derek Roy (32nd), Zach Parise (17th), etc., were all underestimated by scouts due to their size or thought to be one dimensional or something stupid like that but their numbers leading up to the draft indicated that they had a lot of fantasy hockey potential.
On the flipside, don't overrate players based on what the real scouts say... often scouts fall in love with guys because of their size or two-way ability or because they beat up on weak competition... a few names like Manny Malhotra (7th), Nikita Alexeev (8th) and Benoit Pouliot (4th) come to mind as guys who the scouts were wetting their pants over but we could have told you wouldn't be fantasy worthy based on their numbers.
Here's our top 10 heading into the draft, we reserve the right to revise it based on what happens at the draft (but that's unlikely)... our top 100 is available in our Fantasy Prospect Rankings DB:
#1 Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener (OHL), 63 GP 26+53=79
Plus: Elite offensive skills, he's head-and-shoulders above every other dman in the class... his numbers would even look good if he was a draft eligible forward.
Minus: Is small (5'10" & 166) and one-dimensional which likely means he won't be a big-minute dman for a while.
ETA: Would highly doubt you'll see him in the NHL in the next two years... but guys like this don't come around very often so we think it will be worth the wait.
#2 Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville (QMJHL), 58 GP 36+60=96
Plus: Led the Q in scoring as a 17-year-old and was even better this year (1.66 vs 1.41 ppg) on an inferior team that didn't have a great PP to pad his stats.
Minus: The real scouts have soured on him, our belief is that it's just a lack of hype as he's not the sexy pick but maybe they know something we don't know?
ETA: He's a late '92 birthday with great size so, depending on the situation, he should be in the NHL next season.
#3 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Red Deer (WHL), 69 GP 31+75=106
Plus: He's the consensus #1 ranked prospect who should only get better as he gets stronger.
Minus: 59 of his 106 pts came on the PP so if he's so unstoppable then why was he just ordinary at ES?
ETA: We'd expect him to head back to Red Deer next year but if Jeff Skinner can do it then there's no reason RNH can't make the jump immediately.
#4 Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Saint John (QMJHL), 67 GP 43+62=105
Plus: Improved as the year went along... was an absolute monster down the stretch, throughout the playoffs (Q Playoffs MVP) and at the Memorial Cup (Tournament MVP).
Minus: Played on a stacked squad so he had lots of help and scored on 21% of his shots, which will be hard to repeat every season.
ETA: He could go either way but at only 170 pounds another season in the Q to fatten up on poutine isn't a bad idea.
#5 Matt Puempel, LW, Peterborough (OHL), 55 GP 34+35=69
Plus: Was the best player on a terrible team that only scored 2.87 gpg, meaning he was in on around 44% of the offense... a hefty total. He's the Joey Hishon of this draft class for us and Hishon's stock has skyrocketed since the draft last year
Minus: We're basing our lofty ranking on conjecture that he would be putting up better numbers and be ranked a lot higher if he was playing on a better team.
ETA: He may not even be a 1st rounder so we wouldn't expect to see him in the NHL for 2-3 years.
#6 Sven Bartschi, LW, Portland (WHL), 66 GP 34+51=85
Plus: Great skills and really impressed us during the WHL playoffs as he seemed to step up in big games finishing tied for 2nd in playoff scoring with 10+17=27 in 21 games.
Minus: Played for a loaded Portland team with some great players and we don't have a lot to go on as he didn't produce much in the lower Swiss league last year or at international tournaments.
ETA: Would get the chance to take on a major role if he went back to Portland next season and that's probably a good move for his development.
#7 Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL), 65 GP 33+73=106
Plus: 106 points to finish 3rd in OHL scoring, an incredible 79 point improvement from the prior year.
Minus: Not really much bad to say about him... had just 2A & a minus-6 in five game playoff defeat to Mississauga, so he didn't step up when needed.
ETA: Would likely be sent back to Jr. for another season to bulk up or maybe he can be the Jeff Skinner of this draft and force his way onto the NHL roster.
#8 Joel Armia, RW, Assat (Fin), 48 GP 18+11=29
Plus: 18 goals and playing a regular shift against men (in SM-Liiga) as a 17-year-old is nothing to sneeze at.
Minus: Has nice size (6'3" & 191) but doesn't appear to use it and is mostly just a shooter so he may not be the most well-rounded fantasy prospect.
ETA: He'll probably stay in Finland for one or maybe two more years.
#9 Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Kitchener (OHL), 53 GP 36+30=66
Plus: Is a lock to be an NHLer for a long-time as he does a little of everything, hopefully that translates to being a six-category stud for his fantasy owners.
Minus: There are serious questions about his offensive upside as he doesn't project as an elite scoring forward but for those that are trying to balance upside with risk, Landeskog is a safe pick.
ETA: He may be the most NHL-ready prospect and if I had to wager, I'd say he's playing in the big leagues next season.
#10 Adam Clendening, D, Boston U (NCAA), 39 5+21=26
Plus: There's not a lot of high-end offensive dmen in this draft so we may be reaching here but we really like this kid... had a solid freshman season at BU after a big season with the USNTDP. He's also shown some edge to his game with 80 PIMs this season & 120 last year.
Minus: There has been no buzz about him at all and he's ranked 45th amongst NA skaters by CS so he may not even crack the 2nd round... but I like darkhorses and this is mine.
ETA: Will depend on who picks him but the trend these days is for prospects to leave college in favour of time in the AHL... either way, he's a few years off.
If you want to evaluate how we did last year, you can check out our 2010 Top 10 list here.