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Five teams you could call winners at the NHL Draft

Jun 27, 2011, 10:57 AM EDT

Dale Tallon, Jonathan Huberdeau, Scott Luce Getty Images

The NHL Draft is a great time for the kids who get selected to play for any of the 30 NHL teams and getting to live that dream where your name is called and you get to throw on the team sweater is a huge thrill. Of course, not every team makes the pick that turns out to be the big winner and sometimes kids (they are kids after all) don’t turn out the way a team hopes they will. When you’re right, you’re a genius but when you’re wrong you’re on the unemployment line as a scout or general manager.

With all that said, there are five teams who we looked at in the draft who came away looking like big winners for one reason or another. Making the right picks is a tough thing to do at the draft but these five teams stood out above all others for what they were able to pull off.

1. Detroit Red Wings

They traded out of the first round swapping their first round pick for a pair of second rounders from Ottawa and managed to land super skilled forward Thomas Jurco and defenseman Xavier Ouellet. Defense was a key point in this draft for the Wings as they also took defenseman Ryan Sproul with their own second round pick. Overall Detroit grabbed five defensemen with the nine selections they had in the draft. Perhaps Nicklas Lidstrom‘s eventual retirement finally set in on their thinking.

In Jurco they land a puckhandling wizard the likes we haven’t seen since… Oh right, Detroit already has Pavel Datsyuk to do silly things with the puck. That said, if we see Datsyuk doing the kinds of things we’ve seen Jurco do in highlight reels on YouTube, the NHL world might implode.

They also landed forward Philippe Hudon in the fifth round. The NHL Central Scouting bureau had Hudon ranked 31st at their midseason rankings but when the final list came out, Hudon dropped to 74th. Could the Wings have tripped and fallen into another late-round success story? Time will tell, but Hudon is worth keeping an eye on at Cornell next season in the NCAA.

2. Florida Panthers

Aside from the Panthers swinging a draft day deal with Chicago that landed them Brian Campbell to play defense for them in exchange for Rostislav Olesz, GM Dale Tallon did pretty well at the top half of the draft as well. With the third overall selection they grabbed potential goal scoring machine Jonathan Huberdeau and in the second round they took diminutive spark plug forward Rocco Grimaldi.

Grimaldi’s skills at North Dakota and with the Team USA World Junior Championship teams has people thinking of Brian Gionta when they see him. Those kinds of comparisons are nice to have as Gionta made a killing in college hockey and carried it on to the pros in a big way. If Grimaldi can develop like that, the Panthers all of a sudden have some great skill on the wings.

A handful of other picks could turn out nicely as well for them including what they did in the third round grabbing center Vincent Trocheck, right wing Logan Shaw, defenseman Jonathan Racine, and center Kyle Rau. Four third round picks give Florida a nicer shot at landing someone else who could pan out in the NHL.

3. Minnesota Wild

What the Wild lacked in the number of picks they made up for it by having the prototypical great Round 1 for the hometown fans. While their first pick of Swedish defenseman Jonas Brodin may or may not have been a great pick for them as a reach at tenth overall, the Wild helped keep things exciting for the fans that didn’t go streaming for the exits immediately after that selection.

Minnesota swung the huge deal with San Jose that sent Brent Burns to the Sharks and Devin Setoguchi to Minnesota. That deal also gave the Wild a second first round pick which they used to take centerman Zack Phillips out of Saint John in the QMJHL. Phillips was Jonathan Huberdeau’s linemate on that Memorial Cup winning team and he’s got a ton of upside as a potential set up man in the NHL. Trading up to add Minnesota boy Mario Lucia late in the second round was another great thing to make the fans get excited as there’s nothing they love more than having guys from Minnesota play there.

4. New Jersey Devils

Full confession, the Devils making this list is based solely upon what happens when you hit the lottery both literally and figuratively. When the Devils won the NHL Draft Lottery that allowed them to move up to fourth overall, they had their fingers crossed that maybe Swedish stud defenseman Adam Larsson could fall their way. With how unpredictable things would be with the three teams ahead of them, it was a toss-up how things could go.

Lucky Lou Lamoriello proved to get things to go his way once again as the Oilers took Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Colorado grabbed Gabriel Landeskog, and Florida took Huberdeau. Hello future career stud defenseman. Larsson’s skills on the blue line have people making all kinds of lofty comparisons, but the one we’re thinking of here is Scott Niedermayer. Larsson is going to be very good and there’s a distinct chance he’ll be playing in New Jersey right away next season. It’s good to be Lou Lamoriello.

5. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers weren’t set to have much to do at the NHL Draft before they cleaned house sending Jeff Carter and Mike Richards out of town. The Carter deal, while it’s got him in hiding feeling upset about the whole thing, landed the Flyers the eighth pick overall in the draft. There they lucked out in a big way after Winnipeg went off the board somewhat and took center Mark Scheifele ahead of them. That left the Flyers to take big centerman Sean Couturier from Drummondville of the QMJHL.

At 6’3″ 197, Couturier is set to be a big, physical and well-rounded center with the skills to defend and dish it out on offense as well. He plays well physically and can score with the best of them (96 points in 58 games last season, including 36 goals). Sounds like the ideal kind of guy to play in Philadelphia, wouldn’t you say? Their third round pick, center Nick Cousins, could turn out to be a nice complimentary player in the future as a playmaker type but for the Flyers, their culture change moves helped them land one of the five guys that was slated to be one of the best talents in the draft. Not a bad deal at all.

  1. theslippy - Jun 27, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    Certainly biased as fan, I don’t kow how you omit Ottawa fromt this list. Three first round picks, a good offensive talent in Prince in the 2nd round, and turning a third round pick into Nikita Filatov (which has the potential to be the biggest additon to the team).

    • Constantia Private Security - Jun 27, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      Ottawa ALWAYS gets omitted…the bias isn’t you, the bias is the reporting. After an 11 season playoff streak, as all teams tend to do, they hit their wall because of constant low draft pick placement. Ottawa doesn’t have the market for all the endorsement deals that augment players salaries beyond the caps, so they aren’t “fan favorites”.

      Look at Alfredsson…he’s been a stellar captain and leader, generally tends to have high numbers, and excels in ALL areas of being a player, but is almost always overshadowed by lesser talented fan favorites from these big market teams. Even after as many seasons as he’s played, and all the injuries that age tends to bring on, he can still skate and handle the puck better than most forwards on the ice.

    • polegojim - Jun 27, 2011 at 2:23 PM

      Sorry guys – Ottawa has a TON to live down before they get credit for many hockey decisions.
      They’ve had STELLAR talent for years, but did squat with it in the post season.

      @ConstantiaPS – Alfredsson may enter the HOF with huge stats, but a Leader…not so much. You have to LEAD your team to something more than the locker room showers after regular and dependable quick post season exits to be a ‘STELLAR’ leader.

      The Sens have no one to blame but themselves for the deserving ommission. They’ve earned it.

      • Constantia Private Security - Jun 27, 2011 at 2:52 PM

        You know, @polegojim, I can’t argue with your logic. My biggest bone of contention was always how well they could do in the regular season, only to be brushed aside in the first round…Forget always a bridesmaid, never a bride, they’ve barely made it past flowergirl.

        But as far as Alfie is concerned, there are a lot of players out there who never get a chance to lead, who don’t have his talent, but get tons more recognition. The sens have 1/2 seasons…they either start well, and hit the skids, or more often, start slow, and pull their socks up to get into the playoff spot.

        I live in California…if the Sens don’t perform, I may have to start buying seasons tickets to the Ducks (*puke*). Better yet, Winnipeg has a team again, and it would be nice to be able to cheer for my home town’s team. I’m a sucker for the underdog.

      • Constantia Private Security - Jun 27, 2011 at 2:57 PM

        Mind you, that really isn’t the question…the question was how the teams did in the draft, and to not say Ottawa did’t fare well enough to get in the top 5, with 3 good picks and a good trade in the first round, is insane.

        Its not a question of how well they do in the season, its a question of bias towards big market teams.

      • polegojim - Jun 28, 2011 at 9:53 AM

        That’s exactly how I fee Constantia – even as an avid Red Wings fan, born and bred in Detroit, I was regularlly pulling for Ottawa for several years (once we were out of course).

        I wanted to see them win, but even I got tired of the results. Alfie will get his due only after some serious contention… ala Rick Nash. Both awesome players whose presence has not lifted their team to any significant level of success.

        I’d go the Winnipeg route before the Ducks!

        But your second post really does lend to the issue – big market or small market (I don’t think Florida is a ‘big’ market tho), it starts with building the reputation for ‘getting it done’. If Joe, James, and other Hockey reporters said good things about Ottawa’s draft, it would have this asterisk… **** “It appears that the Senators did well in the draft, but we’ve said this before and they’ve yet to prove us right any further than the regular season”.

        The Ottawa org has to shake things up to find out why that is true..and fix it.

  2. govtminion - Jun 27, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    I’d have to include Boston as well. Fresh off winning the Cup, you get a top-10 pick and get a massive shutdown-defenseman? Not bad- maybe not quite up there with the others here, but still a pretty good way to put an exclamation point on one hell of a season.

  3. triplepropalm - Jun 27, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    With the Regehr trade done and the Sabres getting a couple of guys with really solid offensive upside in Armia & Catenacci, I’m really happy with what the Sabres got done over the weekend.

  4. polegojim - Jun 27, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    Great Job to the Wings front office and scouting.

    Here’s to another 20 years of post season play and Stanley Cup Contention

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