For fans of 16 NHL franchises, the future begins on Wednesday or Thursday. Yet for 14 other teams, it’s already about October 2011.
The latter group will want to follow the action tonight, as Versus and NHL.com will carry the 2011 NHL Entry Draft Lottery at 8 pm ET.
The Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators are the only teams with a chance to earn the top pick of the 2011 draft. After that, no team can move down more than one spot from their season-ending position. For a deeper rundown of how exactly the draft lottery works, click here.
Of course, beyond who gets the top pick, the bigger question might be: who should fans want? As Joe pointed out, there isn’t a clean-cut No. 1 in this year’s draft. Some even call it one of the weakest in recent years.
That being said, there are some prospects who are gaining some attention. The league’s Central Scouting Service released their final rankings (with heavy hearts on the heels of EJ McGuire’s passing) recently, with North American and European players ranked separately.
First, here are the top five North American skaters according to Central Scouting:
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (forward)
2. Gabriel Landeskog (forward)
3. Jonathan Huberdeau (forward)
4. Dougie Hamilton (defenseman)
5. Nathan Beaulieu (defenseman)
Next, here are the top five European skaters:
1. Adam Larsson (defenseman)
2. Mika Zibanejad (forward)
3. Jonas Brodin (defenseman)
4. Joel Armia (forward)
5. Dmitri Jaskin (forward)
We’ll keep you informed regarding where each NHL team lands in the top 16 picks of the draft. The playoffs will decide where the rest of the chips shall fall.