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.

NHLPA hire Bruce Meyer brings a ‘wealth of knowledge,’ says Fehr

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Bruce Meyer’s résumé of victories as a lawyer is a long and impressive one, and he has now joined the NHL Players’ Association as a senior director of collective bargaining, policy and legal, the union announced Thursday.

During his tenure of more than 25 years at the law firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP, Meyer represented the NHLPA, NFLPA and NBPA.

The NHLPA said in a statement that in his new position, Meyer “will focus on a wide array of policy and legal issues.”

In working for those unions, he was involved in matters such as collective bargaining and arbitration, as per his online profile.

“Bruce will be a great addition to the NHLPA’s staff. He brings a wealth of knowledge to this new role coming from his law firm where he gained three decades’ worth of valuable experience, including effectively representing the NHLPA and other Players’ Associations as outside counsel,” said NHLPA executive director Don Fehr in a statement.

The NHLPA said Meyer will begin at his new position in mid-August.

The news of this hire comes more than a month after the league sued the NHLPA after Dennis Wideman‘s 20-game suspension for hitting linesman Don Henderson was reduced to 10 games by a neutral arbitrator.

Related: Report: NHL dismisses neutral arbitrator who reduced Wideman’s suspension

Sweet ride: Blackhawks sponsor CJ Wilson Racing’s Porsche Cayman at Road America

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Chicago Blackhawks fans, start your engines!

Yes, according to MotorSportsTalk, the Blackhawks have become the main sponsor of CJ Wilson Racing’s No. 35 car, a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport, for the upcoming IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge event at Road America next month.

That’s a sweet ride.

From MotorSportsTalk:

The partnership will officially launch at the United Center on Wednesday, August 3, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m in advance of Saturday’s race. Fans will have the opportunity to get up close to the car, meet the drivers and Blackhawks Ambassador Denis Savard, and have their picture taken.

The race takes place Aug. 6 at Road America in Wisconsin.

Third team’s the charm? Devils ink Gormley to one-year, two-way deal

<>during the first period at TD Garden on November 12, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.
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Since being selected by the Coyotes at 13th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft, Brandon Gormley has had a difficult time breaking into the league on a full-time basis.

On Thursday, the 24-year-old Gormley joined his third NHL team, signing with the New Jersey Devils on a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 at the NHL level, the club announced.

Despite his draft status, Gormley has yet to play a full season in the big league, although this deal could give him an opportunity to end that. For the Devils, the deal adds more depth to the blue line in the organization and for a friendly price.

Last season, Gormley split time between the Colorado Avalanche and its farm team, the San Antonio Rampage. Despite some high expectations about where he could fit on the Avs’ blue line, he was eventually put on waivers in January.

He ended the season with one assist in 26 games with the Avalanche, and hit the open market after Colorado didn’t give him a qualifying offer.

Wild sign Dumba to two-year, $5.1M deal

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After ongoing contract talks between the Minnesota Wild and restricted free agent defenseman Matt Dumba, the two sides have come to a deal.

The Wild announced Thursday that they had signed Dumba to a two-year deal, worth a total value of $5.1 million.

A breakdown of the new deal:

— In 2016-17: $2.35 million.

— In 2017-18: $2.75 million.

Selected seventh overall by the Wild in 2012, Dumba had his most productive campaign this past season, with 10 goals and 26 points in 81 games.

Known for his offensive skills — he had 20 goals and 57 points with Red Deer in the WHL in his draft year — Dumba also brings a coveted right-shot to the Wild blue line, which features four players with contracts of four or more years of term remaining.

As per General Fanager, the Wild still have $2.168 million in projected cap space, but they have secured all their remaining restricted free agents.