Here is my preliminary list of the top 10 choices for the NHL draft in Minnesota June 24-25:
1. Edmonton Oilers: Center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer, WHL). There shouldn't be any mystery here. The Oilers' biggest need is a young center to play with Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle. Nugent-Hopkins is a franchise center.
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2. Colorado Avalanche: Right wing Gabriel Landeskog (Kitchener, OHL). Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson probably should be the No. 2 pick in the draft. He's a 6-3 defenseman who is better at 18 than Victor Hedman was, but the Avalanche seem to have more good young defense prospects than forward prospects. Landeskog seems like a special player, a forward with passion and a skill set. The only debate is how much he will score. This will be a tough choice for the Avalanche, who also would have to look at left wing Jonathan Huberdeau.
3. Florida Panthers: Huberdeau (Saint John, QMJHL). To build the Panthers, general manager Dale Tallon needs scorers and Huberdeau is one. His stock kept spiking later in the season. The Panthers have two good defensemen in their system in Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson, so they could pass on Larsson.
4. New Jersey Devils: Larsson (Skelleftea, Sweden). This would feel like finding gold sitting on your porch because Larsson could be the team's first franchise defenseman since Scott Niedermayer. Even if teams above can't resist the temptation and choose Larsson, the Devils will end up with one of the best prospects they have had in years.
5. New York Islanders: Defenseman Dougie Hamilton (Niagara, OHL). This 6-4 athlete would be a quality selection for a team that has a good collection of improving, young forwards. Hamilton is big, has skill and will play physical.
By Chris Young, AP
Sean Couturier once was in the running for the top pick but could fall out of the top five.
6. Ottawa Senators: Center Sean Couturier (Drummondville, QMJHL). He is 6-4, and he was once considered a candidate for the No. 1 spot. He has an impressive package of skills that hasn't yet matured.
7. Atlanta Thrashers: Center Ryan Strome (Niagara, OHL). The Thrashers need offensive help and he had 73 assists and 100-plus points this season.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets: Defenseman Ryan Murphy (Kitchener, OHL). He is a highly skilled defenseman who can go coast to coast. He netted 26 goals last season. The only issue is he's 5-11.
9. Boston Bruins (from Toronto): Left wing Mika Zibanejad (Djurgardens, Sweden). The Swedish standout plays like a Bruin, with a willingness to fight through checks to make a play.
10. Minnesota Wild: Center J.T. Miller (U.S. National Team Development Program). Playing a hunch here because he looked strong at the under-18 world championships. He is 6-2, can skate like the wind and is just starting to explore the enormity of his talent. He has the potential to be dominant.