Although making the playoffs is the goal for every team at the beginning of the season, for those unfortunate enough to not make the cut, the next most exciting event for their fans is the NHL Draft held in June.
But before that happens, the National Hockey League Draft Drawing (also known as the “NHL Draft Lottery”) is used to determine the selection of the first 14 picks a few months prior—this year’s drawing will occur on Tuesday April 12 at 8pm EST.
While only the five worst teams in the league are eligible for the first overall selection, all teams in the top ten have a chance to grab a very valuable player.
Going by the current standings, local teams drafting in the top 10 are the New York Islanders (selecting 4th) and the New Jersey Devils (selecting 8th).
While the Islanders are stocked with young rising stars in John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and—most notably—Michael Grabner, General Manager Garth Snow could go a different route and take a defenseman instead of another scorer.
Although that would be the unconventional pick, as many expect the Islanders to nab center Sean Couturier, a defenseman could be a reasonable selection.
Topping the list for all defensemen is 6’3”, 200-pound defenseman Adam Larsson. Larsson, who has had a solid career playing for Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League, is a fluid skater who could become a great addition for New York’s defensive unit.
Should he not be available when the Isle pick, they could go with another excellent defensive player in OHL (Ontario Hockey League) standout Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers. The 5’10”, 160-pound Murphy has a great upside, is lightning quick on the ice, and projects as a top offensive defenseman.
After New York makes its selection, the Devils will make theirs, where the logical choice would be on defense.
Injuries aside, the Devils defense could definitely use a young talented player to bolster their depth.
Both Larsson and Murphy figure to be gone when it's their turn.
Should Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello choose not to trade down for extra picks, New Jersey could have a chance at landing the best remaining defenseman on the board in 6’3”, 180-pound Dougie Hamilton.
Hamilton, who plays for the Niagra Ice Dogs of the OHL, is an extremely smart player and is also a feared enforcer on the blueline with good puck handling skills. If selected, he could learn under the tutelage of Devils veteran defenseman Henrik Tallinder who helped rookie Mark Fayne elevate his game several notches this season.
Hamilton also possesses another trait that Lamoriello covets in his players: excellent character and discipline.
Another defenseman the Devils could take a look at is Nathan Bealieu who plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). Bealieu is a smooth skater with a high motor and is another character guy.
Whomever the Devils or Islanders take will be up for debate from now until June. One thing is for certain though, should they go for defense they could likely lock in a player who could flourish for many years to come.
The 2011 NHL Draft will take place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.—the first round will occur on Friday, June 24, and culminate on Saturday, June 25, with rounds two through seven.
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