2011 NHL Entry Draft - Round One

So much for the 2011 draft class not being immediately NHL-ready

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Remember when many analysts thought that the prospects in the 2011 NHL Draft weren’t going to be immediately NHL-ready? Taking a look around the league and at the signings as for who is going to break through to start the year, you’d think that this past June’s draft was the best one since 2003.

When you look up and down the first round, and at least a peek at the second round, there are a good number of names that we’ve seen inked to their entry-level deals who will at least get to spend the first nine games of this season in the NHL.

Seven out of the first eight picks in the 2011 draft will get a shot to prove themselves this year while one player in the second round will also be starting off in the NHL. The lone player out of the top eight not getting a shot at the NHL this year is Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau as he’s headed back to juniors, but aside from that the preconceptions that this draft was lacking on premiere talent outside of the top five are looking shaky.

Take a look at the crew of names and teams which will see 18 year-olds getting a chance to play the part of Jeff Skinner this season and make a run at the Calder Trophy.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton), Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado), Adam Larsson (New Jersey), Ryan Strome (NY Islanders), Mika Zibanejad (Ottawa), Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg), and Sean Couturier (Philadelphia), Brandon Saad (Chicago, 2nd round pick).

That’s a lot of green out there and we’re not talking about money. Given all the reports that are going around about all of these guys, you’d have to think that guys like Zibanejad, Larsson, Landeskog and Scheifele are virtually guaranteed to stick with their teams while guys like Nugent-Hopkins, Strome, Couturier, and Saad might not want to start calling their cities “home” just yet.

Is there a Calder winner in this bunch? Perhaps so. Guys like Larsson and Scheifele are going to have the keys to their future tossed to them right away and given every opportunity to succeed immediately. Larsson will have the chance to shine on New Jersey’s blue line while Scheifele becomes Winnipeg’s instant go-to playmaker on offense. Zibanejad will start the season next to Daniel Alfredsson (never a bad thing) and Landeskog should get to play off either Matt Duchene or Paul Stastny.

Much like Jeff Skinner could in Carolina last year next to Eric Staal, having a superstar mentor on a line with you helps a lot. That’s what helps make Brandon Saad’s start up in Chicago so fascinating to watch as he’ll be on the Blackhawks’ top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. No pressure, kid.

We’re still about a month away from seeing if any or all of these kids can stay in the NHL, but the one thing that’s for sure here is that veterans have to be ready to play at all times or else the latest hot prospect might be coming up fast to take their job.

Kopitar dominates with a hat trick to help Kings defeat Rangers in OT

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Anze Kopitar received high praise from L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter following Friday’s win over the New York Rangers.

All Kopitar did was score three goals on four shots on goal. He was also credited with five hits while winning 65 per cent of his faceoffs. His third goal of the evening with 30 seconds remaining in regulation pushed this game into overtime, where Tanner Pearson scored the winner for L.A. in a 5-4 victory.

“It was Kopi’s best game of the season, that’s for sure,” said Sutter, as per LA Kings Insider.

“Not just because he scored three goals, but it was his best game all around in terms of using his whole package. I mean, he was a pretty dominant player.”

L.A. maintain an eight-point lead on the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division lead.

The Kings’ victory came at a cost. Marian Gaborik left the game in the first period after being involved in an awkward collision. He did not return, and Sutter didn’t have an update on the veteran forward when the game ended.

Video: P.K. Subban tossed after on-ice outburst toward officials

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P.K. Subban was given a game misconduct on Friday after an outburst directed at officials in the final minute against the Buffalo Sabres.

Subban was furious after the puck got caught up in the skates of the linesman in the neutral zone before Evander Kane then picked it up and scored into the open net. That put the Sabres up by two goals with 55 seconds remaining in regulation and ended any hopes of a Montreal comeback.

Subban had some choice words for officials but his argument ultimately landed him with an early exit from this game. The Habs lost by a final score of 6-4.

The Sabres scored four straight goals between the first and second periods, chasing Ben Scrivens from the net 1:28 into the second period.

 

Video: Doan ties Hawerchuk for most points in Jets/Coyotes history

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Shane Doan on Friday scored his 20th goal of the season, and tied a historical mark for the initial Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes franchise in the process.

Doan scored in the first period against the Calgary Flames, tying him with Dale Hawerchuk for most points in Jets/Coyotes history with 929.

Now 39 years old, Doan has spent his entire career with that organization, playing one season in Winnipeg before the organization moved to Phoenix.

He also joined another impressive list, too.

Leafs’ Corrado returns to Vancouver with a chip on his shoulder

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Just as the Vancouver Canucks are once again struggling through injuries and with their depth on defense a constant question mark, Frank Corrado returns to town with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It’s a quick visit. The Leafs and Canucks do battle on Saturday, with the hosts wearing their famous ‘Flying Skate’ logo from the 1990s.

But the return of Corrado with a different team provides a juicy storyline in Vancouver.

The Canucks waived the 22-year-old defenseman in October.

He was claimed by the Leafs, which ended his time in Vancouver when it previously started with promise and optimism.

He quickly ascended as a prospect after being selected in the fifth round five years ago. But when training camp rolled around this season, Canucks GM Jim Benning was of the belief that Corrado had been passed in the depth chart by a few other defensemen in the system.

The move has been criticized in Vancouver because the Canucks lost an asset — a 22-year-old right-shooting defenseman with potential — for nothing.

Corrado had some interesting things to say about how his time in Vancouver eventually played out, as per Josh Clipperton of the Canadian Press.

Two examples:

Corrado has played 10 games for the Leafs this season, with three assists. He made his Leafs debut more than two months after being claimed.