Tag:Adam Larsson
Posted on: February 24, 2012 8:58 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 9:02 pm

Marek Zidlicky traded to Devils

WildDevilsBy: Adam Gretz

In a move that had been rumored and expected for a couple of weeks now, the Minnesota Wild have traded defenseman Marek Zidlicky to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Kurtis Foster, forwards Nick Palmieri and Stephane Velieux, as well as a pair of draft picks.

Zidlicky has been struggling through one of the worst seassons of his career in Minnesota, and recently sounded off about the number of times he had been a healthy scratch under first-year head coach Mike Yeo. In 41 games this season he's yet to score a goal and has 14 assists, and throughout his career the 34-year-old rearguard has usually been a around 40-point producer from the blue line, providing most of his offense on the power play. Perhaps a change of scenery is what he needs at this point. It certainly can't hurt.

He's signed throug the end of next season and his contract pays him $4 million per year.

Zidlicky is going to a Devils team that could certainly use some offensive production from its defense, as their leading scorer among defensemen this season is 19-year-old rookie Adam Larsson with 16 points in 48 games.

The key player for Minnesota, along with the draft picks and the additional cap space it will save for next season, is probably the 22-year-old Palmieri. He's spent limited time with the Devils over the past couple of years scoring 13 goals in 78 career games.

The Devils acquired Foster in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks earlier this season in exchange for Mark Fraser, Rod Pelley and a seventh-round draft pick. Foster previously spent time with Minnesota from 2005 to 2009.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 19, 2012 9:58 pm

Henrik Tallinder to miss 6-8 weeks

By: Adam Gretz

The New Jersey Devils are going to be without one of their top defenseman, Henrik Tallinder, for the next 6-8 weeks as announced by general manager Lou Lamoriello on Thursday night.

Lamoriello said that the veteran was diagnosed with acute thrombophlebitis (a blood clot) in his leg, which is obviously not a good thing.

In 39 games this season he's recorded six assists and has played an average of just over 21 minutes per game, second most on the team, trailing only rookie Adam Larsson.

The Devils lost to the Bruins, 4-1, on Thursday night, and currently sit in the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference with 54 points.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 18, 2012 4:11 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 4:43 pm

Rookies facing the toughest assignments

CouturierBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at which top rookies are playing some of the toughest (and easiest) assignments in the NHL.

Most NHL teams are going to put their rookies into favorable situations on the ice.

They are usually not going to be asked to play the toughest minutes on their team, against the best opponents and in defensive situations, and instead are going to be put into low pressure situations where they have the best opportunity to succeed. There are, of course, always exceptions, and some youngsters are asked to take on larger (and more important) roles, whether it be out of necessity, or because the player has shown that he's capable of taking on such an assignment at a young age. 

This year's rookie class has had some pretty impressive performances so far, including that of top overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (currently the NHL's leading rookie scorer) in Edmonton, Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson with the Devils and, of course, Philadelphia's young forwards Sean Couturier (pictured) and Matt Read, who have not only flashed some offensive ability, but have also proven themselves to be more than capabale penalty killers.

But which of the NHL's top rookies are being asked to play the toughest minutes this season?

Well, that's what the scatterplot picture below helps us figure out. We're using Relative Corsi Quality of Competition (the level of competition the player is playing against -- the higher the number, the tougher the opponent, and vice versa) and Offensive Zone starts (both via Behind The Net) during 5-on-5 play to determine which rookies are being asked to play in the toughest situations by their respective teams.

The closer a player is to the top left of the chart, the harder the assignments he's being given (playing against better players and starting fewer shifts in the offensive zone), while the closer a player is to the bottom right, the easier the assignment (playing against weaker competition and starting more shifts in the offensive zone).

The players included: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Oilers), Adam Henrique (Devils), Nick Johnson (Wild), Luke Adam (Sabres), Cody Hodgson (Canucks), Jared Cowen (Senators), Adam Larsson (Devils), Gabriel Landeskog (Avalanche), Sean Couturier (Flyers), Matt Read (Flyers), Ryan Johansen (Blue Jackets), Raphael Diaz (Canadiens), Craig Smith (Predators), Colin Greening (Senators) and Kaspars Daugavins (Senators).

Rookie Assignments

A few thoughts:

1) When it comes to the NHL's rookie of the year debate the two most common names are, naturally, Nugent-Hopkins and Henrique. They are, after all, the top two scoring rookies in the league, and before Nugent-Hopkins went out with his injury they were neck-and-neck in that scoring race. Now that Henrique is running unopposed for the foreseeable future, he's going to take over that scoring lead (barring an injury of his own, of course) and will probably become the front-runner for the award by seasons end.

Both players have arguments working in their favor.

When we did our mid-season award picks I went with Henrique based on the fact he and Nugent-Hopkins were nearly identical offensively, while Henrique was being asked to play in tougher situations (as the chart above illustrates). Along with that, he is also one of the top penalty killing forwards on the best penalty killing team in the league, and has proven himself to be a threat offensively even when his team is down shorthanded, currently tied for the league in shorthanded points. Conversely, Nugent-Hopkins is getting some of the easiest minutes in the league among the top rookies, and has played just a total of one minute and 16 seconds of shorthanded ice time this season.

That said, it can't be ignored that Henrique is already 21 years old while Nugent-Hopkins is one of the youngest players in the league at the age of 18. Actually, he's the second-youngest player to have skated in an NHL game this season, having been born just six days after Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad, who appeared in nine games for the Senators.

He may not be asked to play in tough situations, but his performance is still darn impressive given his age.

2) Don't overlook the rookie duo in Philadelphia. The Flyers completely re-tooled their roster over the summer, and halfway through the 2011-12 season they haven't missed a beat as far as being a contender in the Eastern Conference is concerned.

 Losing Mike Richards and Jeff Carter looked like it was going to be a major blow to their forward depth, and while they are definitely a different team from a year ago, they're still boasting an impressive group of forwards, including their two prized rookies Couturier (selected with the draft pick that came from Columbus in exchange for Carter) and Read. Both are among the Flyers' top penalty killing forwards, and among Flyers forwards that have played at least 20 games this season Read is currently facing the fourth-toughest competition on the team.

3) Mike Yeo, head coach of the Minnesota Wild, appears to have a lot of faith in Nick Johnson, a player the team picked up on waivers before the season. Not only is he playing, by far, the toughest minutes of any of the top rookies in the NHL (he's currently 11th among rookie scorers) his Qual Comp is the highest of any forward on the Wild roster. Perhaps that faith shouldn't be much of a surprise given the connections both have to the Pittsburgh organization (Johnson was drafted by the Penguins, while Yeo was a former assistant).

Of course, age once again needs to be taken into account. While Johnson is playing tougher minutes than all of these other rookies, he's also by far the oldest player on the chart having already turned 26 back in December. A 26-year-old rookie and an 18-year-old rookie aren't exactly the same thing.

Taking into account performance, assignments and age I'd still choose Henrique as the top rookie in the NHL this season (so far), with Nugent-Hopkins, Read and Craig Smith coming in just behind.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 18, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 5:09 pm

Weekend Wrap: Selanne returns, but Jets take off

By Brian Stubits

Saturday night in Winnipeg was just a little bit louder this time. That's because the Jets fans were more than eager to welcome back Teemu Selanne, a one-time favorite son in the 'Peg under the Jets 1.0.

He didn't leave Winnipeg in a bad fashion (he was traded to the Ducks). He didn't burn any bridges or ever say anything negative about Winnipeg and the fans there. Oh, and he was pretty damn good when wore the red, white and blue of the old Jets, too.

As good as Selanne has been throughout his career, he was never better than he was in his first season in the NHL, playing for the Jets. He set career highs that season with 76 goals and 132 points, marks that he really hasn't come even close to seeing since.

So it took an awful long time (try 15 years) for the Jets fans to get their chance to welcome him back, and they took it.

When Selanne's Anaheim Ducks took to the ice, the crowd was already cheering for the hometown team. The cheer was almost doubled when Selanne came out and the ovation continued through Selanne getting a standing ovation. It was a great moment.

That was well and good, a highlight of the weekend to be sure.

But then came the hockey game. And with that came another Jets home win, 5-3 over Selanne's Ducks.

Yes, the Jets are playing some pretty good hockey these days, especially at home. Coming into the season, the assumption was easy to make that the Jets would be a much better home team, but I still don't think many believed that would translate into Winnipeg having the best home record in the Eastern Conference a week before Christmas.

As things stand right now, the Jets are the closest competitor to the Southeast-leading Panthers. They got off to a bad start, but have flipped the script. The Jets have won six of their last eight games and are just one point behind the Sabres and Maple Leafs in the East playoff picture.

It's essentially the same team that was playing in Atlanta as the Thrashers this time last season, so we can still draw comparisons and warnings from that team. So I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everybody that the Thrashers were leading the Southeast Division this week one season ago. How did that turn out for them, exactly?

Still, it's hard not to believe this team is taking strides, as small as they might be. Evander Kane is beginning to break out and become the player the franchise thought he could be. The young sharpshooter has a team-high 15 goals, five behind the league-leading pace from Steven Stamkos. Dustin Byfuglien, for as rough of an offseason as he had, is still playing well ... offensively at least.

More from the weekend

Ondrej Pavelec has been good enough in goal. His numbers are hardly stellar, but that's pretty much the goalie that he is. He won't compete for any Vezina trophies, but he is good enough to hold the Jets in a lot of games.

If the ship continues to take on water in Anaheim -- and really, at this point it seems like the holes won't be patched this season, even with a new coach in there -- they will have decisions to make with the roster. Talks about Bobby Ryan were already a hot topic. But the Ducks might consider doing more.

At this point in his career, Selanne made it very clear that he was going to only play in Anaheim if he were to play this season. He likely wouldn't waive his no-movement clause if asked. But maybe, if there were one place he would consider it, perhaps it would be Winnipeg. At his age, the Ducks obviously don't have Selanne in the long-term plans, so if they were able to get a player/players or picks for Selanne, they probably would love it at this moment.

That's all pure speculation and the chances of a Selanne trade are awful at best. But wouldn't it be great if Selanne had another return to Winnipeg later this season?

Wish finally granted

For months, Kyle Turris made it clear that he didn't want to play for the Phoenix Coyotes any more. His contract negotiation was long and contentious. During that time, Coyotes GM Dan Maloney was insistent he wasn't trading Turris, no matter what teams offered for the 22-year-old former first-round draft pick. He held firm and eventually got Turris under contract or two years and $2.8 million.

But the calls didn't stop and Turris certainly didn't seem to be secure in his position with the Coyotes. He had to be under contract or risk sitting out the entire season. So this weekend Maloney found a deal to his liking for Turris from Senators GM Bryan Murray. In exchange for Turris, the Coyotes received young and promising defenseman David Rundblad and a second-round draft pick.

I had long held the notion that any return in the trade that netted the Coyotes even a decent return would be a good deal. This would qualify as at least a decent return.

I have just never understood the drooling over Turris from a lot of teams. There was reportedly a lot of interest on Turris from numerous teams, both before he signed the contract and after. And just as he should have, Maloney was playing hard to get and making it obvious that it was going to take a lot for him to trade Turris.

Who knows, maybe Turris will find the environment suitable enough to become the player that everybody seems to think he can be. Maybe getting more of a chance to play and being in a less-regimented system will allow him to put up the best numbers of his career. If he does, I'll eat my crow.

But at this point in his career, he has been underwhelming, for sure. Heck, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett had made Turris a healthy scratch in his final two games as a member of the Coyotes. The interest in him still surrounds that potential tag, and I don't know how many seasons a player gets to play while still holding onto that tag.

Rundblad, meanwhile, has that potential tag, too. But he's a rookie in the NHL, so the sample size is much, much smaller. And with the way Erik Karlsson has developed this season for Ottawa, it made Rundblad a bit more expendable. However it is never an exciting prospect when you give up a young defenseman with loads of potential, those are pretty solid commodities.

My immediate reaction is that I don't like the deal for Ottawa. But like any trade, you can't truly judge it for another five years or so.

Give the Devil his due

The New Jersey Devils are starting to play some pretty good hockey. With their 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens and interim coach Randy Cunneyworth, New Jersey has run off four wins in a row and has two points in six of their last seven games. They have moved into sixth place in the East, joining Atlantic foes the Penguins, Flyers and Rangers in the top six.

The line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and rookie Adam Henrique has been spectacular. Henrique is the name that sticks out like a sore thumb in that trio with two perennial All-Stars, but he has been just as terrific. Any time this line is in the game right now, you get the sense that the Devils are on the verge of scoring.

But there is still some secondary scoring coming right now, including two goals from Patrik Elias in Saturday's win. Why is that noteworthy? Because the two goals allowed Elias to tie then surpass John MacLean as the franchise's all-time leading goal scorer.

Also on the minds of the Devils is the status of this year's top draft pick, defenseman Adam Larsson. He took an elbow to the head from the Canadiens' Erik Cole behind the net, a hit that Brendan Shanahan didn't deem worthy of a suspension.

Outside of that, things are going pretty well for the Devils these days.

Tip of the hat

Without Sidney Crosby on the ice, it's a lot easier for Evgeni Malkin to get the spotlight and attention that he deserves. That's easy when you have a game like he did on Saturday, with or without Crosby playing.

Malkin had a hat trick and two assists (of course I'm going against him in Fantasy this week) as the Penguins drilled Ryan Miller and the Sabres, 8-3. That brings Pittsburgh's goal total to 107 this season, behind only the Flyers and Bruins for the most in the league.

What makes it even all the more amazing is this gem of a stat from @PensInsideScoop.

"#Pens salary of their 20-man roster Sat was $38.9 million. That's 25 mill under cap (64.3) and 9 bellow cap bottom (38.9) missing $25 million in salary w injuries 2 Crosby, Staal, Letang, Martin, Michalek. That doesn't include 5 other hurt guys"

Speaking of injuries ...

This won't surprise too many fans out there, but San Jose Sharks forward Martin Havlat appeared to injure himself pretty badly in San Jose's 3-2 win on Saturday night.

When he was hopping onto the ice in a line change, Havlat seemed to get stuck for a second on the boards and immediately came right back off the ice in pain, seemingly in his leg.

It comes just when the Sharks appear to be finally piecing things together a little bit. For the first time this season, San Jose has won three games in a row at the shark Tank and is now in first place in the Pacific, tied at the moment in points with the Stars while having a game in hand.

For Havlat, though, maybe a break could give him a chance to revitalize himself. It's been a big struggle for him since being traded to San Jose this summer. He has just two goals and 13 assists through 26 games, well off his 22-goal, 40-assist season he had with the Wild last year.

Quote of the weekend

"The Leafs have always been a team I hated as a kid. For some reason it feels good to play here -- it's a great building, the fans are great, it's nice to play. I know a lot of fans in Vancouver don't like this team. ... It just makes it extra special." -- Alex Burrows, Vancouver Canucks.

Burrows, who hails from Quebec and grew up a Canadiens fan, finds it awfully easy to hate the Maple Leafs for that reason alone.

So for him, scoring the game-winning goal in Toronto is always special, particularly when it's on Hockey Night in Canada.

And with the 5-3 win, the Canucks keep climbing back to where people expected them to be this season. They are now 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and have climbed to within five points of the Wild in the Northwest Division.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 20, 2011 4:06 pm

Slide risks: Who returns to juniors, who stays

By Brian Stubits

One of the rules of the CBA I love is the ability to give young prospects extended tryouts with the parent organization without risking a contract kicking in. It's a great opportunity for players to learn from some NHL experience and, in some cases, prove they are too good to be sent back to their junior team.

These players are known as "Slide-Risk" players. Here's what the CBA rule states specifically:

"In the event that an 18 year old or 19 year old player signs a Player Contract with a Club but does not play at least 10 NHL games (regular season and/or playoffs) in the first season under that player's Player Contract, the term of his Player Contract and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for a period of one year, except that this automatic extension will not apply to a player who is age 19 according to Section 9.2 by virtue of turning 20 between September 16 and December 31 in the year in which he first signs a Player Contract."

To summarize, if a player under the age of 20 doesn't play more than 10 games at the NHL level, his contract doesn't kick in. So that's one more year to hold off restricted free agency. What's not to like about the provision?

This season, there are 12 players who could be returned and have their contract years delayed. Without further ado, let's see the names (in alphabetical order, of course).

Brett Bulmer, Minnesota Wild: Bulmer was selected 39th overall by the Wild two drafts ago, but his toughness and energy seem to be welcome as far as first-year coach Mike Yeo is concerned. Bulmer seems like he has earned a spot on the third line, although he hasn't been playing all that much (9:38 per game). He does have a pair of assists in that time. He might not play a whole lot, but Yeo talks pretty glowingly about him. Verdict: Wild ride continues.

Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning: This is an iffy call. Connolly, taken sixth overall two drafts ago, has the skill. That's evident by his playing alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis at times already this season. Here's what coach Guy Boucher told the Tampa Tribune: "He eventually will be an NHL player. Now will he be an NHL player starting this year for a long time? It's up to him and it's up to, I think, circumstances, too, for us to see if he can manage it because we don't want to hurt the kids." Verdict: 50/50 still.

Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers' top pick in this summer's draft might have surprised a few by earning such a strong look from the staff in Philly, but he has continued to impress. Couturier at this point seems like a fixture already on the team's penalty-killing unit and he is averaging 14:53 minutes on ice per game. He also has a goal and two assists through the first five games. Verdict: Looks like a lock to stay.

Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers: The rough-and-tumble defenseman who went third overall two years ago has found himself a defensive partner in Ed Jovanovski, the veteran the Cats brought in this summer. He has only managed 11:49 of ice time in five games, but that's partly because he has racked up 24 minutes in penalties already, getting himself into a pair of fights against the Lightning. Verdict: There seems to be no inclination to send him down. Fine in Florida.

Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets: He has played in only three of the Blue Jackets' six games this season, getting on the ice for just 8:18 per game. If he sticks around, his role won't be a big one, likely finding a home on the third of fourth lines. He is their big prospect in Columbus, but he might benefit from more time in the WHL, especially if the team isn't committed to playing him night and night out. Verdict: Could go either way still.

Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche: Landeskog was the player who was universally dubbed with the "most NHL ready" tag prior to this past summer's draft. The expectation for whichever team took him, he would become a fixture almost immediately. That still seems to be the case in Colorado as Landeskog is playing close to 17 minutes a game, has shown solid speed and strength and amassed three points (two goals and an assist). Things are going good in Colorado with him there, that should say enough. Don't mess with a good thing. Verdict: Get comfortable in Denver, kid.

Adam Larsson, New Jersey Devils: Many believed the Devils got a steal by grabbing Larsson with the fourth pick of the draft this summer. But the three that went before him look pretty darn good too, so it's understandable. But that doesn't mean he might not be the best rookie of them all. The Calder candidate has been averaging a whopping 24:14 of ice time with New Jersey and is expected to be a rock on the blueline at the Rock. Verdict: Jersey boy for sure.

Nino Niederreiter, New York Islanders: The fifth overall pick two years ago was given an extended look last season when he played nine games for the Islanders, totaling two points. He was expected to earn a roster spot this year but he has yet to play because of a groin injury. When he's ready, he'll get his nine-game tryout started and they will go from there. Verdict: Good chance he's staying on the Island.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: There was some skepticism if Nugent-Hopkins was ready for the grind of an NHL season but the Oilers would keep him anyway, it's important the franchise show the future. Well if he's shown anything in the first few games it's that he's good enough to stick around on his own merits anyway. He leads the team in scoring thanks in part to a hat trick already in his career. Verdict: Bundle up for an Edmonton winter.

Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets: The Jets turned lots of heads with their selection of Scheifele early in the draft, but he was impressive during camp and the preseason. So he earned his right at an extended look from the team. He does have a goal on the power play but he has averaged just 11:25 of ice time. "We'll do what's best for him," was coach Claude Noel's cryptic response to Scheifele's place. Verdict: A little more seasoning in juniors before a full season in the NHL.

Devante Smith-Pelly, Anaheim Ducks: It wasn't long ago that Smith-Pelly seemed like a bit of a long-shot to make the roster. But he's giving his best effort to make it a tough call on the staff. He has seemed to work well with Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon on the third line. Averaging a little more than 11 minutes per game, he has picked up one assist. Verdict: Have a feeling he stays since he can't be recalled if he's sent to juniors again. Few more games will tell the tale for sure.

Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators: This is a tough call. From a physical standpoint, Zibanejad seems ready. This hit from his European days pre-draft drew a lot of attention. And earlier this year, GM Bryan Murray said Zibanejad would stay with the Sens. But with just one assist in 12:35 per game and Ottawa being as dreadful as it has been, you wonder if he wouldn't benefit more by being sent down. Verdict: Should probably return to Sweden but gut tells me he stays in Ottawa.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: June 23, 2011 11:45 am
Edited on: June 24, 2011 3:21 pm

NHL Draft Top 10: Nugent-Hopkins No. 1

Perhaps this year's draft doesn't have the same excitement as years past. Perhaps it might not have the true superstar potential others have had. Taylor vs. Tyler? No doubt about Stamkos? There just isn't the same kind of buzz.

It took until recently for the top prospect to really establish himself as such, and that's Ryan Nugent- Hopkins. Perhaps the reason the excitement about him as the top prospect isn't as high as it has been for others in recent years is the way in which he plays. You don't figure him to be a guy like Stamkos who comes out and by the time he's old enough to drink alcohol is one of the leading lamp-lighters in the NHL.

"I'm more of playmaker. I like to score and if I'm on my game, I can do that," Nugent-Hopkins told CBSSports.com in the middle of the Stanley Cup Finals. "I'm definitely more of a pass-first type of player."

So the guy might not play the game exactly like one of his heroes, Maurice "Rocket" Richard. So what? I'm stating the obvious here, but you don't have to score to be an impact player on offense.

The biggest knock he has had to overcome, though, has been his size and people wondering if he'll be durable enough to handle playing center in the NHL.

"I definitely need to gain some weight and put some muscle on," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Seeing these [NHL] guys in the hall, they’re all men. They are all big guys. I need to put some weight on and work on every aspect of my game."

What that criticism fails to mention, however, is his great skating ability, elusiveness and defensive responsibility.

"His vision, his creativity, his intelligence and his understanding of the game, and the skill package that goes with it is what make him so special," said Jesse Wallin, his coach and VP of hockey operations for the WHL's Red Deer Rebels. "He's got tremendous hands and passing ability, he's got a great release, he's a great skater, he's got tremendous agility ... it's just a really special package and a personality and makeup that allows him to utilize that skill set."

Just because there hasn't been a headlining story for the draft doesn't mean it doesn't have a headliner. Nugent-Hopkins fits that bill, and he thinks he would be a pretty good fit with the team picking No. 1.

"I think I can help [the Oilers] in the rebuilding stage that they're in. If I got drafted there, I could definitely learn a lot from all of them."

And we'll learn a lot more about him.

(Shameless plug: Join A.J. Perez and I with our live draft chat on Friday evening. The draft begins at 7 ET from St. Paul, Minn.)

1. C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 6-0/177, Red Deer (WHL): Before the combine a couple weeks ago, there were doubts about Nugent-Hopkins as the best overall player because of his size. That was until he surprised scouts by coming in heavier than expected. "For the past few years, it's been tough to put weight on. I think I'm starting to mature more now. I'm filling out a little more. I put on six pounds this summer. I think I finally started putting some weight on," Nugent-Hopkins told CBSSports.com. He is the true definition of a play-making center, leading the WHL in assists last season with 75 while scoring 31 goals for the Rebels. NHL Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan had this to day: "A couple of people high up -- and not naming names -- said Hopkins has the best vision since No. 99." How about that for pressure? Oh, and he's really fast. Yes, there's a reason why he's everybody's No. 1. Player profile

2. C Jonathan Huberdeau, 6-1/170, Saint John (QMJHL): Has already been drafted once this year -- sixth overall in the KHL draft in May. Needless to say, he's not going to report. That's because Huberdeau is one of the elite prospects available. Understanding Nugent-Hopkins is the top prospect, I have a hunch Huberdeau could be the best player down the line. He's a player that is seen as a center, but could possibly play left wing at the next level. He became the face of Saint John's run to the Memorial Cup, setting new club records in points (105) and assists (62) that went along with 43 goals and a league-high plus-59. When asked by CBSSports.com what he has been focusing on, Huberdeau answered: "Consistency. I want to be more consistent in my game. My skating, my speed, I want to get better at. I have been working on that all season long. I work on everything. Nobody is perfect, so you have to work on all the areas." Player profile

3. LW Gabriel Landeskog, 6-0/207, Kitchener (OHL): It seems pretty clear Landeskog is the top winger available, and he might also be the most NHL-ready player in the draft. His upside might not be as high as some other skaters in the draft, but the ceiling is still great and he figures to be a very good scorer in little time. Playing for the Rangers of the OHL, Landeskog had 36 goals and 30 assists in 53 games. His leadership qualities stand out, too, as he was the youngest to be named captain for Kitchener in 30 years. He draws comparisons to Mike Richards, who also played for Kitchener. "I'm a hard-working two-way player. I think I can play on all situations on the ice. That's who I am," Landeskog told CBSSports.com. Player profile

4. D Adam Larsson, 6-3/200, Skelleftea (Sweden): The near-consensus top defenseman available, and we're not going to disagree. He has great size and moves very well, too. He isn't a guy guy who will give you a lot of scoring, but he does do a good job of moving the puck up top. In 37 games this season, he had just one goal and eight assists, but the team that picks him won't be looking for much offense. Not to say he can't develop more of an offensive game, but right now his strength lies in defense. Player highlights

5. C Sean Couturier, 6-4/197, Drummondville (QMJHL): He has fallen down the boards some since being the preseason favorite as the top prospect. He has faced criticism for his less-than ideal speed and explosiveness. Couturier was still good enough this season to be named the QMJHL's MVP over Huberdeau after a 36-goal, 60-assist campaign. One thing that scouts love in addition to his size is his defensive abilities as he is a true two-way player. He will still be a highly coveted player with a big frame already. Player profile

6. D Dougie Hamilton, 6-4/187, Niagara (OHL): Impressed folks at the combine with his stature, Hamilton is a guy with a ton of potential to help a blue line for a long time. He is very capable of handling the puck and according to his OHL coach Marty Williamson: "When he sees those opportunities to jump into the rush or lead the rush, I believe it's untapped what he can do." His 12 goals and 46 assists in 67 games show he would bring a lot of value to a power-play unit. "I think I'm a complete guy, so I don't really have any weaknesses that stand out. I just want to improve on everything. At this point, I want to get stronger," Hamilton told CBSSports.com. Player profile

7. C Ryan Strome, 6-1/175, Niagara (OHL): Along the line of Nugent-Hopkins and Huberdeau, he is a playmaker, as he displayed by posting 33 goals and 73 assists in 65 games for Niagara, and being named the OHL East's best playmaker by coaches. Strome is also a guy willing to get physical and into the tough spots, showing a nice ability to wield the stick on tip-in opportunities. To further see how well he can handle the hockey stick, just watch this sick goal -- he just might be the best scorer of all the centers available. Player profile

8. D Ryan Murphy, 5-10/166, Kitchener (OHL): There are people worried about his small stature, but he's a guy who can play. He's probably the best offensive defenseman available, as evidenced by his 26 goals and 53 assists in 63 games for the Rangers. He is very good with the puck, but perhaps has the ability to be too creative as he has to watch the turnovers. Regardless, he would fit nicely at the point with the man up. Skates very well too, always a plus to have on the blue line. Player profile

9. LW Sven Baertschi, 5-10/181, Portland (WHL): Put up great numbers as a rookie in the WHL, leading the league's freshmen with 85 points -- 34 goals and 51 assists -- while demonstrating great vision on the ice. He's the kind of guy teams love because of his work ethic. Per Portland coach Mike Johnston: "Quick, skilled, very fast type of player. ... I don't think anyone can stay on the ice as long as he does. We have to tell him to get off the ice 45 minutes after practice ends. He stays out there forever to work on his game. He works on inside-outside moves, quick shots and little foot movement."

10. D Nathan Beaulieu, 6-2/174, St. John (QMJHL): Beaulieu is enjoying a rise as the draft draws near thanks largely to the Sea Dogs winning the Memorial Cup with his plus-44 on the year. In 21 postseason games, he had 16 points (4G, 12A) after a 12-33-35 regular season. He is a defenseman that thinks offense, so he does have some improving to do on the defensive end. According to his QMJHL coach Gerard Gallant: "He's gotten better, bigger and stronger, he's playing a lot better defensively." Player profile

-- Brian Stubits

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl on Twitter or @BrianStubitsNHL

Posted on: June 20, 2011 5:15 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 12:14 am

Oilers open to offers for No. 1 pick; Avs set

You might remember last year when the Oilers had the top pick in the draft that the debate was Taylor or Tyler? Before the Oilers ultimately settled on Taylor Hall, there was talk they wanted to get the second pick from the Bruins and not have to make the decision, just grab them both.

Well, this time it seems Oilers GM Steve Tambellini would be willing to trade out of the top spot.

"I've had a few calls of people kicking the tires of how they can help me make the Oilers a better team," Tambellini told reporters. "For me to move the No. 1 pick would have to be something exceptional. This is a huge building block again."

OK, so it doesn't seem as if he's actively looking to move down, but that he's more than willing to listen. If the Oilers stay where they are, they are expected to select center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at No. 1. But there are four or five guys that are in the conversation for the top pick. So perhaps Tambellini would feel more than comfortable taking one of the guys next in line if he gets a good deal in return.

After Edmonton is Colorado at No. 2, and Adrian Dater of the Denver Post says the Avs know exactly what they're doing with the pick already.

Again, with the assumption that Nugent-Hopkins will be off the board, Colorado will have its choice on either top defenseman Adam Larsson or on a host of forwards, including Jonathan Huberdeau, Gabriel Landeskog and Sean Couturier. Huberdeau seems to be the likely choice, according to Dater.

The NHL Draft is Friday in St. Paul, Minn. and this week we will be rolling out our top players at each position as well as team needs leading up to draft night when we will have a live chat to discuss the goings-on in Minnesota.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: June 20, 2011 12:17 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 5:05 pm

NHL Draft positional rankings: Defensemen

There's something going on in Sweden that's pumping out the defensemen. After the 2009 draft saw four Swedish defensemen (seven players overall) go in the first round, this year figures to have a few options as well. It starts with Adam Larsson.

Larsson is considered the best skater coming out of Europe this year. Some even think there's an outside shot he could go No. 1 to Edmonton. Unlikely as that is, Larsson will find a home in the first few picks.

It won't end there, though. Also on the board are Jonas Brodin and Oscar Klefbom, who will be sought by teams looking to beef up the blue line.

There's got to be something in the water.

1. Adam Larsson, 6'3/200, Skelleftea (Sweden): The near-consensus top defenseman available, and we're not going to disagree. He's got great size and moves very well, too. He isn't a guy that will give you a lot of scoring, but he does do a good job of moving the puck up top. In 37 games this season, he had just one goal and eight assists, but the team that picks him won't be looking for much offense. Not to say he can't develop more of an offensive game, but right now his strength is defense.

2. Dougie Hamilton, 6'4/187, Niagara (OHL): Impressing folks at the combine with his stature, Hamilton is a guy with a ton of potential to help a blue line for a long time. He is very capable of handling the puck and, according to his OHL coach Marty Williamson: "When he sees those opportunities to jump into the rush or lead the rush, I believe it's untapped what he can do." His 12 goals and 46 assists in 67 games show he would bring a lot of value to a power-play unit.

3. Ryan Murphy, 5'10/166, Kitchener (OHL): There are people worried about his small stature, but he's a guy who can play. He's probably the best offensive defenseman available, as evidenced by his 26 goals and 53 assists in 63 games for the OHL's Rangers. He is very good with the puck but perhaps has the ability to be too creative as he has to watch the turnovers. Regardless, he would fit nicely at the point with the man up. Skates very well too, always a plus to have on the blue line. Player profile

4. Nathan Beaulieu, 6'2/174, St. John (QMJHL): Beaulieu is enjoying a rise as the draft draws near thanks largely to the Sea Dogs winning the Memorial Cup and because his plus-44 on the year. In the 21 postseason games, he had 16 points (4/12) after a 12/33 regular season. He is a defenseman that thinks offense, so he does have some improving to do on the defensive end. According to his QMJHL coach Gerard Gallant: "He's gotten better, bigger and stronger, he’s playing a lot better defensively." Player profile

5. Jamieson Oleksiak, 6'7/244, Northeastern: Incomparable in size in this draft, he is a very fast-rising player. Playing at Northeastern University, he is much more of a stay-at-home guy, scoring just three goals and adding nine assists in 34 games. He did have a team-high plus-13. His measurables are incredibly intriguing, and some team could take a shot on him maybe a little earlier than might be expected.

6. Jonas Brodin, 6'1/169, Farjestad (Sweden): Brodin is a guy who still has some growing to do as his size isn't the most desirable for a defenseman; he's a touch on the thin side. He is an intelligent player who has a handle on getting the puck up the ice and out of the defensive zone. He is not a potent offensive weapon, crediting just four assists in 42 games this season, but he did move his way up to the third-best European skater on the Central Scouting rankings. That's a testament to his raw defensive ability.

7. Oscar Klefbom, 6'4/200 Farjestad (Sweden): Klefbom is a guy who jumped onto the scene with his performance at the U-18s for Sweden after which he was lauded by the team's coaches. He has terrific size and could be a steal for whoever picks him. He is seen much more favorably by International Scouting Services, which has him as the 10th-best skater overall. Certainly has tremendous upside.

8. Duncan Siemens, 6'2/192, Saskatoon (WHL): It's hard not to notice a guy that puts up a plus-40 in a season. That's exactly what Siemens did last season in 72 games. He is a guy that's tough and physical and thinks defense first. As NHL Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan puts it: "He can carry the puck, he's a tough kid -- he can fight. He's tough to play against. He can work both ends." Player profile

9. Joseph Morrow, 6'0/197, Portland (WHL): Morrow isn't the biggest defenseman available, but that's no reason to dismiss him. "He might be one of the most overlooked defensemen in the draft this year because everyone is so busy watching the top forwards in Portland," NHL Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald said. "He's a very smart player. He recognizes when to jump into the play and almost does it effortlessly." He also provides a little offense from the back with nine goals (six on the power play) and 40 assists in 60 games for Portland. Player profile

10. Connor Murphy, 6'3/185, USA U-18 (USHL): The son of former NHL defenseman and current Florida Panthers assistant Gord Murphy, Connor battled back from injuries that saw him sit for the majority of the season, leading to a late recovery in his stock. He captained the United States at the Under-18 World Championships and had a nice tourney with three goals and an assist to go with a plus-seven rating, punctuated by the gold-medal-winning overtime goal. "Even after his return from those injuries, he was as good a player as I've seen, all-around," Central Scouting's Jack Barzee said.

-- Brian Stubits

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com