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Slim pickings in the 2011 NHL Draft

by Bill Placzek on May. 10, 2011

This is the first time in the era of advanced scouting where almost thirty different players could be picked at one spot late in the first round. The thin 2011 NHL Draft has few marquee players and will become a fishing expedition of boom or bust players early on. Starting with pick 20, there could be any of 30 different players chosen at each respective pick. The reason for this is the 2011 draft class is much further away than the polished classes from the golden years of 2008 and 2009. 

Last year's 2010 crop created a vast amount of divergent thinking amongst scouts and GMs as to who was the best player on their boards. In fact, some teams had the potential rookie of the year and #7 pick, Jeff Skinner, listed as a second rounder. This year, there might even be less consensus with the unpolished "promise guys" beginning two-thirds of the way through the first round. The mediocrity of the players presumed to be selected between 20-50 means teams with several second rounders will be looking for the GMs in front of them to make errors and hope their guys fall to them. Hence if a team is going to take a chance on a guy early in the first, they better be sure about that prospect's character and upside.
 
There may be no elite superstar to pluck in the early picks but teams will be getting some pretty fine prospects at the top. This draft is strong to the eighth player, and then the next dozen will be players who can standout. However, it's the third tier of the first round players where the dropoff really starts and appear to be almost equal to the players that will be available by the end of the second round. 
 
NHL teams may have to wait much longer to see the finished product with this draft class than in other years.  In past drafts, so many youngsters impressed with their play when brought in early to the NHL. Teams often felt that the early draftees had the skill and size, and it was just a matter of adjustment as they made their way up through the leagues and ranks. This year though, they are far from the more complete players of yesteryear, and scouts are forced to view the players in parts and project as to whether or not they could get the other parts together and become whole. This draft may not be as thin as we predicted two years ago, but there is a very large group of top prospects who have as much of a chance of not developing as they do continuing forward and being successful NHL'ers. There will need to be plenty of wait time to let the kinks be ironed out on most of this crop.
 
It might be shades of the 2006 draft and then some. In the 2006 draft, you could argue seven guys picked early on are NHLs: Toews with trophies, Jordan Staal with a Cup, Kessel, Backstrom, and then Mueller and Brassard, although they both have some catching up to do.
 
After that you see the names such as Kyle Okposo, Chris Stewart, Nick Foligno, Michael Grabner, Claude Giroux, and a load of other names still trying to get there.
 
Drafts are very different from year to year. What truly makes a draft stand out is if the top shelf players end, and the draft continues to have a solid first round and a good second round. As always there will be guys picked later in the draft too that flourish and turn into nice top end players that will be representative of a good draft.
 
However, the 2011 draft is one where we may see similar dire results to 2006 for many of these teams. Unless of course, their scouting team is able to dig deeper than the surface and predict surprise blossoms to pop up in a later spring. Unfortunately though teams will have a difficult time delineating differences amongst picks 20-50, since the players are much further away from being complete players than in years past. This should make for an interesting draft on June 24th, one in which the fishing could produce unexpected results.