Adam Larsson, Gabriel Landeskog produce solid showings at 2011 Draft Combine

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In some draft years, the No.1 pick is painfully obvious. With all due respect to the exceptional scoring skills of second overall pick Bobby Ryan, the 2005 NHL Draft Lottery was all about landing Sidney Crosby. In other years, hockey writers occasionally receive the tantalizing opportunity to play their own version of the Kevin Duran-Greg Oden debate, like what we saw before the last two drafts (Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin in 2010; John Tavares vs. Victor Hedman in ’09).

The 2011 version’s race for the No. 1 spot seems much more crowded, though. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Gabriel Landeskog could be the top pick in the draft, if you ask many experts. (Heck, some even say that Jonathan Huberdeau might sneak up the list a bit as well after his strong performance in the 2011 Memorial Cup tournament.)

A slight majority seem to peg Nugent-Hopkins as the odds-on favorite, but Mike Morreale reports that strong 2011 Draft Combine workouts could keep defenseman Larsson and forward Landeskog in the No. 1 pick discussion.

“It is probably more important for fans than I think it is for the players,” Landeskog said of being picked No. 1. “It would be an honor for anybody to go first overall, but like Cam Fowler (Anaheim, No. 12) and Jeff Skinner (Carolina, No. 7) showed last year, it doesn’t matter what number you go, it’s what you do afterwards.”

Landeskog never appeared fatigued or bothered by any of the tests on Friday at the Toronto Congress Centre. He produced 33 push-ups, well above last year’s average (26.1). He also bench-pressed 150 pounds 11 times, besting last year’s 10.7 average.

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“Larsson played a big role on Skelleftea, which went as high as to the Swedish playoff Finals, so in a way, he’s ready, yes. He could play here (in 2011-12),” Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. “I think what he wants really is having a big role when he comes over, so it’s perhaps better for him to stay one more year at home. It’s always in the individual. Some say it’s good to come over, others say it’s not good.”

Larsson scored exceptionally well in the grueling aerobic-max VO2 bike test, which measures the endurance capability of a player’s heart, lungs and muscles. He lasted 14 minutes, far ahead of last year’s average of 11.33.

Of course, it’s easy for scouts to fall into the same trap that NFL ones do with 40-yard dash times, ignoring flaws and needs for pure athleticism. After all, hockey is a sport in which on-ice IQ is often just as important as speed or strength.

That being said, the post-lockout game does require more athleticism than the days of clutching and grabbing more skilled skaters. Here is a look at the leaders in a few of the more hockey-relevant tests from the combine, via NHL.com.

Peak power output — The Wingate Cycle Ergometer — also known as the bane of prospects’ existence — measures how hard a player can go in a 30-second shift. Portland Winterhawks forward Ty Rattie and Shawinigan Cataractes defenseman Jonathan Racine led the way at 15.9 watts of energy per kilogram of body weight.

VO2 Max test duration — The players who stuck with it the longest were a pair of defensemen, Skelleftea’s Adam Larson and the Vancouver Giants’ David Musil, each at 14 minutes. Next were Niagara IceDogs defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Saginaw Spirit forward Brandon Saad.

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Bench press — [Adam] Clendening, [Mark] McNeill and Saint John Sea Dogs forward Tomas Jurco each did 13 reps with the 150-pound weight on the bench. Omaha Lancers forward Seth Ambroz and Northeastern defenseman Jamie Oleksiak were next with 12.

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Push/pull strength — The hardest player to clear from the front of the net might be McNeill, who had 32 goals in 72 WHL games this season. His 366 pounds of push strength was far ahead of Oleksiak, who was next at 312. McNeill’s pull strength of 306 pounds was second only to U.S. National Team forward Tyler Biggs, who totaled 323 pounds.

Stay tuned for more 2011 NHL Entry Draft coverage as June 24 approaches.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.