Experts say race for No. 1 spot in 2011 NHL Entry Draft is wide open

Variety might be the spice of life, but for sports writers, it’s often a lot more appealing to set one irresistible force versus an immovable object. Sure, the NBA must be delighted by the fact that Kevin Durant is emerging as a big star, but do they want him to muddle the Kobe vs. Lebron picture they’ve been trying to paint for the last few years? (OK, they probably don’t mind, but “Magic vs. Bird” is still the gold standard for the league’s marketing.)

With the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the top storyline was quite simple: do you go with Taylor (Hall) or Tyler (Seguin)? Everyone else was a rung or two lower on the ladder; just look at how far the supposed third best player Cam Fowler dropped in the actual draft.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie writes that the storyline won’t be as clear for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota, with at least three players coming into their final pre-draft seasons with a chance at the top spot.

This year’s battle for No. 1 could not be more wide open, shaping up at the starting line as at least a three-man race. In fact, for the first time ever, TSN’s pre-season ranking of the Top 10 NHL Prospects has produced a dead heat at No. 1 overall.

Drummondville centre Sean Couturier and Swedish blueliner Adam Larsson finished with identical results in the annual survey of 10 NHL scouts by TSN. Remarkably, they each had four first-place votes, four seconds and two thirds. The only other prospect to get top-dog consideration was Red Deer centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was No. 1 on the other two ballots.

It’s the first year in quite some time when there hasn’t been a consensus No. 1 to start the season.

“All three guys have something special,” one scout said. “Couturier is a big, skilled centre, Larsson is a total package defenceman and Nugent-Hopkins is a tremendous offensive talent with elite skill. It’s going to be the most interesting race for No. 1 we’ve seen in a long time.”

While Tyler Seguin isn’t guaranteed to be a member of the Boston Bruins next season, chances are we’ll at least be able to see the first chapter of Tyler vs. Taylor this season. Will one, two or all of Larsson, Couturier and Nugent-Hopkins make a strong case for the top spot this year? It could be an interesting race to watch, especially if a dark horse emerges.

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    PHT Morning Skate: This artist paints a picture while singing the national anthem

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    PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

    –Artist Joe Everson  paints an amazing picture while singing the national anthem prior to an ECHL game. (Top)

    –Is Patrice Bergeron the greatest defensive forward of all-time? (The Hockey News)

    –Caps rookie Zach Sanford sang “Sweet Caroline” during the team’s Halloween party. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

    –This goalie makes his AHL debut and he was backed up by…his father! (NHL)

    Auston Matthews‘ Halloween costume had a political twist. (The Score)

    –10 NHL players that still don’t look right in their new uniforms. (Bardown)

    Report: Ducks put Despres on long-term injured reserve

    FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2015, file photo, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Despres skates before an NHL preseason hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. Despres has agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Ducks on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, solidifying his role in Anaheim after joining the club in a trade last season. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)
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    Simon Despres has played only once this season, back on Oct. 13, due to injury.

    It now appears the Anaheim Ducks don’t see the 25-year-old defenseman returning to their lineup any time soon.

    On Sunday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported on Twitter that the Ducks placed Despres, who carries an average annual value of $3.7 million, on long-term injured reserve, providing Anaheim with some flexibility in the salary cap situation.

    By placing Despres on LTIR, it’s been suggested this could possibly allow the Ducks to sign restricted free agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm.

    Lindholm, 22, missed training camp, instead deciding to stay in Sweden while he awaits a deal with the Ducks. Six games into Anaheim’s season, and still no deal.

    It was reported last month that Lindholm was seeking a deal of eight years, and at least $6 million per season.

    Last week, on TSN’s Insider Trading, McKenzie suggested the two sides could be about $250,000, annually, apart. He also added that there is a “cap hit penalty” when restricted free agents don’t get signed before the season begins.

    “For every day that (Lindholm) is not signed in this season, the cap hit for the team will increase by about $30,000 if he were to agree to a $5.5 million deal,” McKenzie reported.

    “Let’s say he agrees to a deal that’s $5.5 million AAV, well the cap hit’s going to be up around $5.8 (million) as of now, for each day that goes on.”

    Comeback Canucks? Not against the Ducks

    ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Alexander Edler #23 and Philip Larsen #63 of the Vancouver Canucks look on after Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks reacts to scoring a goal during the third  period of a game at Honda Center on October 23, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    The Vancouver Canucks have made a habit of third-period comebacks early this season. Playing with the lead, though? Not so much.

    Despite their early penchant for late-game magic — certainly not a sustainable method of winning in the long-term — the Canucks were unable to score a come-from-behind win against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

    Instead, they lost 4-2, as Nick Ritchie and Corey Perry scored late in the third period to nullify any chance of a Vancouver comeback.

    Henrik Sedin had gotten the Canucks back into a tied game early in the final period, before the Ducks killed off a Vancouver power play and then surged ahead for good.

    It’s Vancouver’s first regulation loss of the season. In six games, the Canucks have played with the lead only once.

    Really, the score flattered the Canucks, playing the second half of a back-to-back set in California. The Ducks dominated possession, but goalie Ryan Miller kept the Canucks in it until late in regulation.

    The Canucks are now 4-1-1. That’s still a good start, but there have been signs lately that they could soon be served a reality check.


    Meanwhile, the Ducks have won two in a row after losing their first four games to start the season.

    It was promising that their best players were their best players in Anaheim’s home opener.

    Ryan Getzlaf had three assists. Corey Perry had an assist on the winner and scored to put this one away. Defenseman Cam Fowler, who has been at the center of trade speculation in the past few months, scored Sunday and is now up to three goals, with points in four of six games.

    “He’s played great,” Getzlaf recently told the Orange County Register. “Cam put a lot on his shoulders last year. He had a great year for us last year and it gets overlooked a little bit because he does it in a little bit quieter way. He’s not flashy.

    “I thought his play has carried over from last year. He’s continued to play the same way and at a high level.”

    This win puts the Ducks within a point of the San Jose Sharks. The two California rivals face each other Tuesday in San Jose.

    Video: Dan Girardi’s first goal in nearly a year lifts Rangers to victory

    FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2012, file photo, New York Rangers' Dan Girardi looks on during an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia. The Rangers say they have agreed to terms with Girardi on a multiyear contract extension, taking the key defenseman off the trading block and keeping him away from unrestricted free agency. The deal was announced Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
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    An offensive defenseman, Dan Girardi is not.

    His last goal prior to this weekend? Nov. 12, 2015. It’s been a while. Almost an entire year now. But in his return to the New York Rangers lineup on Sunday, the 32-year-old Girardi was able to bust his scoring slump on a slap shot from the blue line that beat Arizona Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue.

    The Rangers eventually won by a final score of 3-2, with Girardi’s goal counting as the winner. He scored only twice last season, and hasn’t scored more than five goals in a single season since 2009-10.