Tag:Jonathan Huberdeau
Posted on: January 26, 2012 11:38 am
Edited on: January 26, 2012 5:08 pm
 

What would all-Quebec team look like for Habs?

By Brian Stubits

Go back a few weeks when Randy Cunneyworth's "hiring" in Montreal was all the rage. Literally, rage. It led to organized protests against the Canadiens organization, not just Cunneyworth (although that was the impetus).

Those who didn't support Cunneyworth's hiring because he doesn't speak French were upset not only with the Cunneyworth promotion, but what they called the entire Anglicization of the Montreal Canadiens, Quebec's only team since the Nordiques became the Avalanche.

The list of complaints went beyond the coach not speaking French, however. Here is what the Canadian Press reported about the protests.

Protesters also complained the music played at the Bell Centre is in English, that announcements are in both languages and that the team has few francophone players.

I laughed when I first saw that. Would the people of Quebec rather have a team of Francophones that stink than a team of Anglophones that wins (of course they have neither right now)?

So that got me to thinking: What would an all French-speaking, Quebec-born team look like? I wanted to take a look and see how good of a team I could put together, keeping salary cap restraints in mind. (Hey folks, it's the All-Star break, just having some fun here.) Consider this my own All-Star fantasy draft.

Let's just get right to it, shall we?

Head coach

Alain Vigneault is the guy. The Quebec City native has actually tried coaching the Canadiens before, making the playoffs only once from 1997-2001. He was fired midseason in the 2000-01 campaign. But he's found success since moving on to Vancouver, winning the Jack Adams once and coming in as a finalist in 2011 (he was also a finalist in 2000 with the Habs). A return trip to Montreal will hopefully go better this time.

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury, Jean-Sebastien Giguere get the nod here. Now this is a position where I have a lot of choices. Fleury I think is a pretty clear starter based partly on his age, but for the second spot there are a lot of veterans: Giguere, Martin Brodeur, Jose Theodore, Martin Biron, Mathieu Garon and Jonathan Bernier. They can stop pucks in Quebec, that's pretty clear.

In terms of salary, Fleury takes up $5 million, Giguere only $1.25. So $6.25 million in goal is a decent price to pay, but not bad.

Robidas has spent time in Montreal already. (Getty Images)

Defensemen

I'm going with (in no particular pairing order) Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Francois Beauchemin, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Stephane Robidas and Marc-Andre Gragnani. Letang leads the scoring punch while Bergeron, Beauchemin and to an extent Vlasic adding some more points. Defensively, Vlasic and Beauchemin highlight a pretty good two-way corps. But if anybody goes down, it gets thin after that.

As a whole, the defensemen don't cost that much. Beauchemin ($3.8 million), Letang ($3.5 million), Robidas ($3.3 million), Vlasic ($3.1 million), Bergeron ($1 million) and Gragnani (550,000) come in at a total of $15.25 million.

Center

Now this is a group of guys I like: Patrice Bergeron, Danny Briere, David Desharnais and Maxime Talbot. You'll notice one pretty big omission here and that's Vincent Lecavalier, but that $10 million per year is too big of a burden, I don't know how the Lightning do it. But I still have two guys who can score, arguably the best defensive center in the game, a young and promising player in Desharnais and a solid worker in Talbot.

Naturally this is costing me some cash here. Briere ($6.5 million) is costly, then add Bergeron ($5 million) before getting a little reprieve with Talbot ($1.75 million) and Desharnais ($850,000). In total, they take up $14.1 million.

Right wing

OK, I take it back about center. This is where my team is really loaded. Check out this lineup of Martin St. Louis, Jason Pominville, P.A. Parenteau and Alex Burrows. That's some serious scoring ability on the wing. I didn't have room for Maxim Lapierre or Pascal Dupuis at this position, but more on them later.

As you'd expect, this is the most expensive per-player corps on the team. St. Louis commands a cool $5.625 million, Pominville takes $5.3 million, Burrows costs $2 million and Parenteau a very reasonable $1.25 million. Total bill: $14.175 million.

Left wing

Here we have an Achilles' heel. The lineup we could toss out is Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Alex Tanguay, David Perron and Guillaume Latendresse, but that's an awfully risky group of players. Each of Bouchard, Perron and Latendresse have dealt with concussions while Tanguay has been suffering with a neck strain. So to add a little stability, I'm going to convert Dupuis to the left side and leave out Bouchard -- more expensive than Latendresse.

The good news is this group doesn't cost a whole lot. Tanguay ($3.5 million), Latendresse ($2.5 million), Perron ($2.15 million) and Dupuis ($1.5 million) run up a bill of $9.65 million.

Scratches

Since he didn't make the list at right wing, Lapierre is going to serve as our daily scratch. But really he's likely going to be playing a lot at left wing with the injury potential. What he also gives is a physical presence. He's at least not averse to dropping the gloves, having five fights this season for Vancouver. Maybe we could try and talk Georges Laraque to coming back and serving the enforcer role, but undoubtedly sitting in press row most nights.

Lapierre comes in at an even $1 million.

Overall

The total salary for this team checks in at $60.425 million, giving our GM (we'll just keep Pierre Gauthier) a little room to maneuver or sign maybe another defenseman that would likely sit in the press box most nights.

Moreover, the top prospect in the system would have to be Jonathan Huberdeau, the player who went third overall to Florida in the last NHL Draft. He's likely to be in the NHL next season and right now projects to be a center but he can also play on the wing, so he could help out with the weaker left side.

In the end, it's actually a much better team than I thought it could be. It might be a little lacking in the physical department, but the team has a lot of ingredients: It has some big-time scorers (seriously, a top two lines of Tanguay-Bergeron-St. Louis and Perron-Briere-Pominville isn't bad at all), it has some agitators (I'm looking at you, Burrows and Lapierre), is good defensively and I think it's solid in net.

And don't forget, everybody speaks French!

More from Eye on Hockey

Yes there were protesters in Montreal
Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire
Owner: Bilingual coach is important

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

Posted on: October 5, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: October 5, 2011 10:01 am
 

Daily Skate: Leafs' Franson not pleased with role

By Brian Stubits

FRANSON FRUSTRATION: The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Cody Franson in a trade with the Predators presumably because they thought he could play on their blue line. So did he. Well as they break camp in Toronto, Franson is still on the roster, but is the seventh defenseman. "Right now I'm not too thrilled with it," Franson said. This will be worth watching. (Globe and Mail)

DEBUT DELAY? Martin Havlat is ready to begin his tenure as a member of the San Jose Sharks, but it might have to wait just a little longer. The former Wild forward acquired this summer in a trade flew to Cleveland to meet with a shoulder surgeon hoping to gain clearance for Saturday's first game. Havlat had his shoulder operated on in the offseason after getting hurt in the World Championships. (Working the Corners)

LESSON LEARNED: In September, Milan Lucic made his way into some negative publicity when he was involved in a slight confrontation with his girlfriendand pulled the "Do you know who I am?" card. The young Bruins scorer says the whole incident taught him a major lesson. As far as the "DYKWIA?" card? He says it wasn't to get special treatment, but to ask the police to think of why he, with so much to lose, would do anything to jeopardize it. (CSN New England)

CHARITABLE RIVALS: When the Capitals and Penguins get together in Pittsburgh on Oct. 13, they will be wearing commemorative patches on their jerseys for the KHL's Lokomotiv team. After the game, they will autograph then auction off the jerseys and donate all the proceeds to the families of the players killed in the plane crash. (CBSSports.com)

STILL NO. 1: TSN put out their list of the Top 50 players in the NHL for this season, so who is No. 1? It's still Sidney Crosby, even if there's no guarantee as to when he'll return from post-concussion symptoms. No surprise that he comes in just ahead of Alexander Ovechkin. (TSN)

LUCKY LINEMATE: The winner of the Marian Gaborik-Brad Richards linemate sweepstakes with the Rangers is ... Brandon Dubinsky. He'll start the Rangers' game on Friday manning the left wing spot on the top line and coach John Tortorella will "see where it goes" from there. (@thenyrangers)

NOT A SAAD STORY: The Blackhawks are loaded with talent. It's why many see them as a Stanley Cup contender this season. So that gives you an idea how much second-round pick Brandon Saad impressed as he not only has earned a spot on the roster, but is slated to start on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. Not too bad for a player whose draft stock slipped. (CSN Chicago)

COUTURIER A CATCH: Saad isn't the only player who slipped in the draft that is looking like more than a player on an extended tryout. Sean Couturier was once seen as maybe the best prospect in the draft but fell to No. 8 where the Flyers were waiting with open arms. GM Paul Holmgren is willing to give up a season of control of his contract if Couturier continues to make an impact. (Philadelphia Sports Daily)

HUBYMANIA ENDS: Not all the top draft picks are going to get that extended look. The Panthers elected to send No. 3 overall draft choice Jonathan Huberdeau back to his junior team on Tuesday despite the forward leading the Cats in scoring this preseason. Interesting that a team so desparate to win and attract fans is willing to let their top prospect develop. (NHL.com)

BOUDREAU MIC'D AGAIN: This time it's clear of profanity ... because it's bleeped out. Bruce Boudrea, the Capitals coach who drew plenty of attention for his actions (and words) in HBO's 24/7 last season, was mic'd up for the Capitals' first preseason game held in Baltimore and let's just say he didn't like getting shut out.

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

Posted on: September 20, 2011 9:52 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:08 pm
 

Daily Skate: Second Stars suitor; Sid's bodyguard

By Brian Stubits

INTEREST IN BIG D: The Stars sale is actually moving along, with the team agreeing last week to sell the team to Vancouver businessman Tom Gagliardi. Now, enter former Texas Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg and we might actually have a bidding war for the debt-ridden franchise on our hands. (Biz Journal)

SID'S BODYGUARD: There is a new enforcer in Pittsburgh, and he knows exactly what he is supposed to do. Steve MacIntyre, one of the game's most feared, says "My job is to make sure [Sidney Crosby's] transition back to hockey goes smoothly." (Pittsburgh Tribune- Review)

BROTHERLY LOVE: Rangers defenseman Marc Staal is struggling with post-concussion symptoms and is sitting out the first three preseason games for precautionary reasons. He seems to be OK, but that isn't helping the man who caused the concussion, his own brother Eric Staal with the Hurricanes, to feel better. (News Observer)

PLAYING THE GOAT: Todd Bertuzzi has a new role this season with the Red Wings, dropping down to the more defensive-minded third line. There he joins Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, resulting in one of the better line names: the Two Kids and a Goat line. For Bertuzzi, it's a whole new world. (Detroit Free Press)

SOPHOMORE STEP UP: In the playoffs, the Bruins had to turn to rookie Tyler Seguin in the playoffs after Nathan Horton's injury sidelined him. The former No. 2 pick responded immediately but then went quiet. After an offseason of heavy work, the B's might be ready to count on Seguin more. (Boston Herald)

SUPER HUBER: The Florida Panthers' No. 3 pick in this summer's draft isn't likely to make the team as a rookie. But he's doing all he can to make the roster instead of going back to the junior level, scoring a goal and an assist in the Panthers' doubleheader game against the Predators on Monday. (Sun- Sentinel)

READY FOR MORE: Shea Weber took the role of captain last season and the Predators went further than they ever have before in the postseason. Now, armed with a huge new contract for this season, he's excited about Year 2 wearing the C having learned a lot already. (Hockey Night in Nashville)

HOCKEY CRAZE: Throw this under less-than surprising tid-bits: sports fans in Toronto chose the Maple Leafs' first preseason game over one of the Blue Jays' final home games of the season. More than 18,000 showed up to see the Leafs while just over 11,000 were on hand to see the Jays. (The Canadian Press)

CAPS GM DEFENDS SEMIN: Washington Capitals general manager took his chance to defend forward Alexander Semin after he took heat this summer from former teammate Matt Bradley, saying Semin is just a quiet kid and Bradley regrets having said it. You can watch the whole interview on NHL Live! below.

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

Posted on: August 8, 2011 10:32 am
Edited on: August 8, 2011 11:53 am
 

Daily Skate: Top showings at junior tryouts

By Brian Stubits

HAPPY CAMPERS: In preparation for the hockey World Juniors at the end of this year, Team Canada held some scrimmages this weekend Alberta and a few prospects came away with very impressive weekends. Leading the way is Ottawa Senators prospect Mark Stone, who had two goals and three assists in the final game of the weekend, giving him a total of four goals in the camp, the highest total. Florida Panthers top pick in this past draft, Jonathan Huberdeau, also excelled with two goals in the final game, giving him three for the camp. As always, Team Canada will have quite a stock of players to pick from for its final roster that is set to open the Worlds on Dec. 26 in Edmonton. TSN had a wrapup of the scrimmages.

AMERICAN UPDATE: While the camp continues in Canada for the World Juniors roster, the same is going on in the good ol' U.S. of A. America's roster for the Juniors needs to be set, too, and so the 44 players in camp just finished a pair of intrasquad games before taking on Sweden and Finland for a few friendlies. The top performances in the scrimmages go to Kenny Agostino (drafted in 2010 by the Penguins), who tallied a goal and three assists. Austin Watson (2010 selection of the Predators) checked in with two goals and an assist. Rangers top pick in this year's draft J.T. Miller was among those who racked up two points on two goals.

RETURN TO GLORY? You might remember that the St. Louis Blues signed former Sharks star Jonathan Cheechoo to a two-way contract earlier this offseason, hoping he could find the magic that helped lead him to a 56-goal season with San Jose. Cheechoo talked with Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News about what he's been up to, the continued support he receives in the Bay Area and how he (and the Blues) are hoping a new workout regimen will help him regain his old speed and, hopefully, old game.

DISCOVERING THE PACIFIC: For a fun -- and informative! -- link, check out this submission by flyersgoalscoredby.com on the defunct Pacific Hockey League. Did you know that more than 20 years after he became the first African American to play in the NHL, Willie O'Ree played for the San Diego Hawks at 42? And how about the names Tucson Rustlers, San Francisco Shamrocks and Phoenix Roadrunners? Small-time hockey is awesome. This coming from a guy who grew up watching a league with teams named the Sabercats, Gila Monsters, Rage and Fog.

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



Posted on: July 29, 2011 12:58 pm
 

Rebuilding of the Panthers through Weiss' eyes

By Brian Stubits

They sound like the buzzwords of a political campaign.

Change.

Hope.

New direction.

The blue print.

These have nothing to do with dysfunctional Florida politics. They are the words and phrases mentioned in the state about its moribound hockey team, the Florida Panthers.

There is nobody who knows about the team's optimisim and defeat better than the current longest-tenured Panther, Stephen Weiss. He has been there through it all, never leaving the organization after it made him its top selection in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. After seeing unparralleled misery -- 10 straight years of missing the playoffs -- he says the vibe is starting to match the rhetoric.

"Personally I do [have a new-found excitement] just because I feel like I don't really know anybody any more," Weiss said. "So I'm kind of getting those butterflies as if I'm going to a new team, new scenario, new coaches again. That's always exciting."

Excitement that the Panthers are going the right direction? Imagine that. Buzz is what general manager Dale Tallon brought with him. It has been a long time coming in South Florida.

The Cats made the most noise on the first day of free agency. Florida went out and payed -- most say overpayed -- to completely overhaul their roster from just a few months before. The Panthers traded for veteran defenseman Brian Campbell and winger Kris Versteeg, then signed Ed Jovanovski, Scottie Upshall, Tomas Fleischmann, Marcel Goc, Sean Bergenheim, Jose Theodore and Tomas Kopecky. Ever since, people have criticized Tallon for overspending, but the Panthers had a cap floor to reach, so they had little choice but to spend money.

It's hard to argue, however, that after the first few days of July, Florida isn't a better team than it was before. If nothing else, the Panthers grabbed attention across the NHL.

"Around the league I hope it has given us a little bit more respect, that we're starting to turn the corner and starting to put some things together," Weiss said.

Even while the Panthers were trending in South Florida, on one of the biggest days in franchise history, Weiss wasn't keeping close tabs. He was instead vacationing at his uncle's cottage an hour north of Toronto, cell phone off. Later that night, he turned his phone on and saw the stream of text messages from friends, letting him know what Tallon had been up to.

"I'm certainly super excited to get that many guys and that many quality guys, it's unbelievable," Weiss said. "It's going to help us a lot. Totally changed our team around and made us younger and faster and more skilled. It's something that has needed to be done for a while and it's pretty neat that Dale's been able to do it. I can't wait to get to camp.

"That's just the start of it. Now, you have to back it up and put it on the ice. That's up to the guys and I'm sure we're all excited to do that."

Weiss has seen his fair share of new teammates and coaches in his camp days. That will once again be the situation this year as the team breaks in new coach Kevin Dineen to go along with the new faces. Dineen's task in his first NHL job will be to mold the players together and quickly find some cohesion. It is one which harkens back to the team's days at the old Miami Arena, also their most successful period in franchise history. That's when they had to start from scratch, literally building the franchise from nothing. With such turnover, it feels like they are doing the same again.

Bringing in so many new players in one offseason will present a challenge. But how big? Some say huge. It's one of the criticisms that has been levied against Tallon's spending spree. And it is not as if he is bringing a bunch of fresh faces into an established old guard. As far as Panthers holdovers go, the only veterans to speak of are Weiss and David Booth. Nobody else has been with the team for more than three seasons.

Sure, guys like Jovanovski have been in Florida before as the Panthers made him the first overall pick in 1994, but not with this cast of characters.

So will it be an issue? Weiss' inclination is no.

"There's always -- especially now with the way things are run -- there's a lot of turnover on teams year-to-year and that can be an issue with every single team, chemistry and things like that can be an issue with new guys," Weiss said. "I guess more so for us because we have so many, but at this level I don't think that's as big of a deal."

It better not be if this is going to be the group of guys to end the NHL's standard for futility.

Let's not forget that Tallon's blue print includes building the team through the draft. The Panthers did not have the richest farm system in hockey despite their years of picking in the lottery, but that has changed under Tallon's watch. Soon Florida will be looking to bring aboard recent draft picks Jacob Markstrom, Erik Gudbranson, Quinton Howden and Jonathan Huberdeau, among others. That's the new guard, the future of Panthers hockey.

And that's something Stephen Weiss can relate to. He, too, was once the future of the Panthers. Now he's the present, trying to get things turned around. Still.

"I never really envisioned thinking it would take this long to get things turned around here, but it is what it is," Weiss said. "It's really kind of bugging me deep down we haven't been able to put it together and get it done. Seeing the success [former teammates Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell and Dennis Seidenberg] had in Boston just kind of fuels you even more to get it done."

The closest the Panthers have come to competing for the Stanley Cup in the past 10 years was 2008-09, when they finished tied with the Montreal Canadiens in points and wins for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Florida, however, went 1-2-1 in the season series and lost out on the second tiebreaker, left tantalizingly close, but yet so far.

Having never appeared in an NHL playoff game, Weiss does not know the feeling of reaching the postseason, but he is aware of what it would mean to him after so many years of watching from home.

"It would mean the world to me, really," Weiss said. "I wanted to honor the contract that I signed there and I want to make it happen there.

"I have some pretty high expectations for this team this year. I think deep down this could be our year."

Finally, Weiss and the Panthers are seeing a light at the end the darkest tunnel in team history.

Photo: US Presswire

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl 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 22, 2011 12:32 pm
 

NHL Draft positional rankings: Centers

If your favorite team is in the market for a good young center (and who isn't?) then this year is for you. The cream of the NHL Draft crop can be spotted in dotted spots.

Everybody has pretty much settled on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being the best player in the draft, but it took a long time to come to that conclusion because there are more than a couple of guys who were in that conversation, two of the others also being centers.

Point is, if you aren't picking first (and unless you are Edmonton -- or possibly Florida as, trade rumors speculate -- you aren't) don't worry, there is plenty of talent to be had up the middle.

1. 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 13 pounds heavier than expected. 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.

2. Jonathan Huberdeau, 6'1/170, Saint John (QMJHL): Has already been drafted once this year, being selected 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. 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. Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau says "He definitely has NHL hands and playmaking ability." Sounds about right.

3. Sean Couturier, 6'4/197, Drummondville (QMJHL): He has fallen down the boards some since being the preseason favorite as the top prospect, facing 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

4. Ryan Strome, 6'1/175, Niagara (OHL): Along the line of Nugent-Hopkins and Huberdeau, he is a playmaker, posting 33 goals and 73 assists in 65 games for Niagara, 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

5. Mika Zibanejad, 6'2/190, Djurgarden (Sweden): Already possessing the size many teams look for in a center, Zibanejad is a physical force who is hard to knock off the puck and is a big-time hitter (see!). His production in the Swedish Elite League wasn't much (five goals, four assists in 26 games) -- but that's good for a teenager in that league. He popped onto many radars with his five goals and four assists in just six games at the World U-17s. He's the type of player about whom you will hear such superlatives as "high-motor guy" and "plays the right way." Player highlights

6. Mark McNeill, 6'2/201, Prince Albert (WHL): McNeill is not the most physically gifted center available, but he is one of the centers who plays tough at both ends of the ice. He saw a massive jump in his numbers from last season to this, when he scored 32 goals with 49 assists in 70 games, up from 24 points the season before. But that can easily be chalked up to maturing more as a player. One intriguing aspect is that he's a right-handed center, something a lot of teams could use. Player highlights

7. Zack Phillips, 6'1/178, Saint John (QMJHL): Yet another Sea Dog to make it on one of the prospect lists, is it any wonder Saint John won the Memorial Cup? A linemate of Huberdeau, Phillips has enough skills to have distinguished himself on a stacked team. According to coach Gerard Gallant: "Zack has great vision and is strong on the puck. He's a solid center and has come a long way in a short time. He kind of reminds me of an Adam Oates-type of player." Not bad. Stats wise, he had 38 goals and 57 assists in 67 regular-season games. Player highlights

8. Vladislav Namestnikov, 6'0/166, London (OHL): The Russian native led the way for the Knights with 30 goals this season, his first in the OHL. He projects at a center but could end up playing on the outside. At this point, he doesn't quite have the size you'd look for out of a centerman. According to Central Scouting's Jack Edwards: "Vlad plays a high-energy, two-way game he's very aggressive on the forecheck and backcheck and has the ability to beat defenders outside and cut back to the net. He has an excellent wrist shot that he can release with accuracy on the rush." Player profile

9. Boone Jenner, 6'1/204, Oshawa (OHL): Jenner is one of those players that doesn't really do anything great but does everything well. He does the stuff that earns him the labels like gritty -- forechecking and backchecking well, blocking shots, going into heavy traffic, etc. Leading a line featuring two other draft prospects, he scored 25 goals and had 41 assists in 63 games. He might not be a top-line center in the NHL, but that doesn't mean he won't be a reliable and good player for a long time. Player highlights

10. Shane Prince, 5'10/174, Ottawa (OHL): Hailing from Upstate New York, Prince hardly passes the sniff test with his smaller stature. But what he lacks there he makes up for in his speed as he flies on the ice. He clearly has good vision and knows what to do with the puck, racking up 63 assists and 25 goals in 59 games this season. “I've been doubted my whole life, from day one. I was either too small -- I was a bit of a late-bloomer -- and I've seemed to prove those people wrong my whole life," Prince says. Not exactly Rudy, but he's got a bit of American bulldog in him (just watch the highlights, fights and all). Player highlights

-- 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

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