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The race for number one… In the 2011 NHL draft

Mar 6, 2011, 7:30 PM EDT

Boston Bruins v Ottawa Senators Getty Images

While attention to the playoff position jockeying is rightfully gathering a lot of attention through most cities in the NHL, there’s a special race of its own developing for the also-rans.

Fans in Ottawa, Denver, Edmonton, and Long Island haven’t had too much to get excited about this year but perhaps the prospect of being able to draft one of the NHL Central Scouting bureau’s top prospects is a reason to have hope for the future. Sure there’s no one guy like John Tavares or Steve Stamkos that stands out above all nor a Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin kind of debate shaping up for 2011, but there’s a host of potential stars that these playoff non-hopefuls can look forward to.

Among the names worth remembering right now there’s top ranked skater from the OHL Gabriel Landeskog, Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson, QMJHL forward Sean Couturier, WHL forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and QMJHL forward Jonathan Huberdeau. When it comes time to draft in St. Paul this summer, those names could be arranged in any order at the top of the draft and with the race for the top pick being as curious to see as the race for the playoffs is the speculation is rampant as to who people believe is the best.

As it stands as of this writing, the race for the best odds in the NHL draft lottery looks this way:

  1. Ottawa – 53 points
  2. Edmonton - 54 points
  3. Colorado – 60 points
  4. NY Islanders - 60 points
  5. Florida – 60 points

With things being as tight there, there’s a new storyline developing in the race for the top pick and it surrounds the Senators and Avalanche. As you recall, the two teams swung a deal at the deadline trading for each other’s starting goalie. Brian Elliott headed to Colorado and continued to be his mediocre self from this season whereas Craig Anderson has been lights out and fantastic in Ottawa. Depending on how you view things as a Senators fan, it’s either great to see the team rally like this or terrible because now they’re not tanking for the top pick.

The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater ruminates about things today and says that the work Anderson is doing in Ottawa helping them win more games might actually help his old team land the top pick in the draft.

Anyway, one of the reasons for paying attention to the rest of the season, for Avs fans, is where they’ll finish in the overall standings. Right now, they have more points than only three teams – Islanders, Oilers and Senators. All three teams are actually playing some of their best hockey of the season right now, and the gap between the Avs and the lowest-place team (Ottawa) was only seven points.

While it’s still likely the Avs will finish ahead of both Edmonton and Ottawa, the Oilers do play the Avs twice more this season, so that six-point gap could be more easily narrowed. That leaves Ottawa maybe only standing in the way of that No. 1 pick, and Anderson’s red-hot goaltending since the trade (though he lost his last start) could make the difference in dropping Colorado to No. 30.

Obviously Anderson isn’t a secret agent working against the Senators and for the Avalanche (or Oilers) to help them get closer to the top pick. If there was a definitive talent at the top of the draft in 2011 perhaps the tinfoil hat brigade could have a leg to stand on, but as it is who would be taken by which teams is anyone’s guess.

If you’d like a really premature scouting report on the 2011 draft, you’d have to think that Edmonton with their wealth of young forward talent in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, and Linus Omark they’d be looking at defense meaning Sweden’s Adam Larsson would ideally be at the top of their shopping list.

Ottawa has a dearth of young  forward talent in their farm system and haven’t had a great forward drafted since Jason Spezza. Any one of Couturier, Landeskog, and Nugent-Hopkins are possibilities for them.

For Colorado though, they’re a wild card. They could stand to have a little more forward talent but you’d have to bet they’d love to get their hands on Larsson and have him grow up with Erik Johnson along their blue line for the foreseeable future. Consider the Islanders also as a team that would love to get a hold of Larsson. The Panthers would like to get anyone talented at all, period.

  1. bcisleman - Mar 6, 2011 at 9:24 PM

    I was encouraged to see the Cats act like they cared about the outcome against the Caps today…and get a point with a late goal. Can’t say the same for the Avs.

    Given all the tanking, especially by the Avs, I can only hope that the Isles get bumped up by the lottery. It would seem only fair. In the end, however, the teams that tank are probably hurting themselves more in the long run. If a team lacks a culture of winning. it will be much harder to create that regardless of talent.

  2. spizzjr - Mar 6, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    These reports are foolish yes the teams that suck get good picks honestly there’s maybe A COUPLE of guys in this draft who can be in the NHL next season or theyll be rushed there and it wont work. As a die hard isles fan I hope they win every game here on out not so they make the playoffs I don’t expect it. However saying we should cheer when they Los is ridiculous raise the reputation of the team so that you can use all the free salary cap money you have to lure some above average free agents then rebuild around them. The isles have so much raw talent (your a moron if you disagree) that if there were even a few solidified NHL players around this lineup they would help these young unpolished guys develop. Our only real veteran and captain has been hurt all year the vast majority of the lineup haven’t even had a full season under there belt. Maybe I’m still bitter about kovalchuck but there is a reason he didn’t sign that monumental contract with the isles. He didn’t want to play for a team known for a shitty building shitty management shitty reputation and most importantly a team who finishes at the bottom all the time. If you think similarly or differently respond

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