We came up with the idea of Future Watch 25 years ago because we wanted to gauge how draft picks were advancing in their most formative years. Prospect progression goes way beyond goals and assists and burgeoning vital stats.
Future Watch taps into the minds of hockey’s top talent-seekers and delivers a progress report on NHL-affiliated prospects in the system. The issue came out last week and our panel of scouts selected Washington 2010 first-rounder Evgeny Kuznetsov, a skilled center, as the No. 1 prospect.
Others in the top five are: Finnish center Mikael Granlund, property of the Minnesota Wild, Saint John center Jonathan Huberdeau, who belongs to the Florida Panthers, Niagara defenseman Dougie Hamilton, property of the Boston Bruins (thanks to the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto) and Swedish center Mika Zibanejad, who belongs to the Ottawa Senators.
Most of the 300 prospects in this year’s edition of Future Watch (10 for each of the 30 teams) are players selected in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 drafts, although there are some from earlier drafts or signed as free agents.
One exercise I like to do in this spot every year is re-order the most recent draft based on where prospects ranked among the top 75. We have a panel of 14 scouts, directors of player personnel and GMs who have ranked the prospects based on long-term upside. With that large of a judging panel, individual biases are easily filtered out.
So let’s look at the actual first round of the 2011 draft (in chart below). Four players from that class played regularly in the NHL this season: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with Edmonton, Gabriel Landeskog with Colorado, Adam Larsson with New Jersey and Sean Couturier with Philadelphia.
We’ll rank those players one to four for now, though we’re not necessarily saying the prospects who didn’t make the NHL this year won’t have a more significant impact down the road.
The second chart below shows how the rest of the first round should have unfolded after five additional months of player assessment this season. Now remember, these are the opinions of our scouting panel at large. Individual teams may be perfectly pleased with their prospect’s progression since the draft.
The study illustrates 13 players would have moved up in the 2011 draft were it to be re-held today. Twelve would have dropped positions to varying degrees and another would have stayed the same.
Players gaining the most spots were second-rounders Brandon Saad, Ty Rattie, Alexander Khokhlachev and Boone Jenner. Our scouting panel had them ranked higher than many actual first-rounders. The players losing the most number of positioning spots were Duncan Siemens, Jamie Oleksiak and Connor Murphy. They still would have been selected in the first round, just not as high.
Four other actual first-rounders wouldn’t have gone in this amended first round according to our scouting panel. How much they would fall isn’t known as they weren’t ranked among our top 75 prospects like the rest of the players on our amended list.
ACTUAL 2011 FIRST ROUND
1 Edm Ryan Nugent-Hopkins C
2 Col Gabriel Landeskog LW
3 Fla Jonathan Huberdeau C
4 NJ Adam Larsson D
5 NYI Ryan Strome C
6 Ott Mika Zibanejad C
7 Wpg Mark Scheifele C
8 Phi Sean Couturier C
9 Bos Dougie Hamilton D
10 Min Jonas Brodin D
11 Col Duncan Siemens D
12 Car Ryan Murphy D
13 Cgy Sven Baertschi LW
14 Dal Jamie Oleksiak D
15 NYR J.T. Miller C
16 Buf Joel Armia RW
17 Mtl Nathan Beaulieu D
18 Chi Mark McNeill C
19 Edm Oscar Klefbom D
20 Phx Connor Murphy D
21 Ott Stefan Noesen RW
22 Tor Tyler Biggs RW
23 Pit Joe Morrow D
24 Ott Matt Puempel LW
25 Tor Stuart Percy D
26 Chi Phillip Danault LW
27 TB Vlad. Namestnikov C
28 Min Zack Phillips C
29 Van Nicklas Jensen LW
30 Ana Rickard Rakell R
AMENDED 2011 FIRST ROUND
(information includes where they were drafted and the number of spots they gained or dropped.)
1 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2 Gabriel Landeskog
3 Adam Larsson
4 Sean Couturier
5 Jonathan Huberdeau, drafted 3rd, drop-2
6 Dougie Hamilton, drafted 9th, gain-3
7 Mika Zibanejad, drafted 6th, drop-1
8 Mark Scheifele, drafted 7th, drop-1
9 Ryan Strome, drafted 5th, drop-4
10 Jonas Brodin, drafted 10th, same
11 Sven Baertschi, drafted 13th, gain-2
12 Oscar Klefbom, drafted 19, gain-7
13 Joel Armia, drafted 16th, gain-3
14 Brandon Saad, drafted 43rd, gain-29
15 Ryan Murphy, drafted 12th, drop-3
16 Joe Morrow, drafted 23rd, gain-7
17 J.T. Miller, drafted 15th, drop-2
18 Nathan Beaulieu, drafted 17th, drop-1
19 Rickard Rakell, drafted 30th, gain-11
20 Vlad. Namestnikov, drafted 27th, gain-7
21 Ty Rattie, drafted 32nd, gain-11
22 Duncan Siemens, drafted 11th, drop-11
23 Mark McNeill, drafted 18th, drop-5
24 Alex Khokhlachev, drafted 40th, gain-16
25 Phillip Danault, drafted 26th, gain-1
26 Jamie Oleksiak, drafted 14th, drop-12
27 Nicklas Jensen, drafted 29, gain-2
28 Boone Jenner, drafted 37th, gain-9
29 Stefan Noesen, drafted 21st, drop-8
30 Connor Murphy, drafted 20th, drop-10
Slipped out of the first round
— Tyler Biggs, drafted 22nd by Tor
— Matt Puempel, drafted 24th by Ott
— Stuart Percy, drafted 25th by Tor
— Zack Phillips, drafted 28th by Min
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.