The Sensational Six in this year’s 2011 NHL Draft are dominating headlines ahead of tomorrow’s main event. There is no 1-2 horse race, as there seems to be no clear consensus number one according to the media or the scouts or even the teams themselves. Considering the deep gaps left to fill on the this year’s first 6 teams, it’s no wonder, as each of them will have to pick strategically.
Although Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the much-lauded star forward of this cohort, it appears that Edmonton may have their sights set on a strong defenseman in Adam Larsson. With Eberle and Hall on their side, it may not be necessary for Edmonton to front load with yet another power forward in Nugent-Hopkins; plus, there is the size factor as well, with Larsson providing some pretty good presence in the back. Nugent-Hopkins may go second to the Colorado Avalanche and Gabriel Landeskog will probably wind up in the Florida sunshine.
This is where it gets interesting if you’re a Sens fan. With New Jersey and the New York Islanders picking ahead of Ottawa at numbers 4 and 5, most of us will be holding our breath to find out which of the prime forwards down the list will fall to us. The good news is that there is a nice list of solid contributors, and after Ottawa’s disastrously offense poor season, it can only be up from here. It’s a pretty tight race between Sean Couturier, Jonathon Huberdeau and Ryan Strome, all forwards who play a dynamic game and can generate much needed offense.
Sean Couturier was the only draft eligible player on Team Canada at the WJC this year and despite a heartbreaking loss to the Russians, he has shown that he can perform on a big stage. His honours and awards in the QMJHL are impressive and he would be a welcome addition to the roster. Jonathon Huberdeau literally stormed up the rankings with a late season break out performance, and he has earned his spot in the sensational six, even though he came late to the party.
But it looks like Ottawa will be dressing Ryan Strome in this year’s draft. On a previous post, we got what could be considered insider information regarding Bryan Murray’s preference for Strome, thanks to a fellow sports fan with a family connection. Indeed, it would appear obvious to most that Strome is the top choice for the Senators and his Youtube highlights have made him something of a star already. He’s definitely dynamic, high energy and a good skater who keeps his feet moving. He’s not afraid to charge the net and sneak in goals off of goaltenders who are overcommitted. It would be nice to see more of that in Ottawa, as Ottawa tends to be the type of team that loves beautiful passes and foregoes aggressive goals. But Strome’s charging style, rushing in and squeezing the goaltender, splitting the defense and popping the puck in top corner is just the kind of exciting hockey fans want to see. And haven’t seen in awhile.
Another interesting pick would be Mika Zibanejad. I’m not saying that because we have the same first name, although that is kind of cool. The scouting report on this Swede with an Iranian father and Finnish mother is pretty promising. He’s described as big, hard-working and able to score from just about anywhere. That kind of work ethic and skill will get him far in the NHL and could light a fire under his future team, whoever it may be.
Now that I’ve effectively abandoned hope that Ottawa is scheming for a trade to poach Landeskog out of the top ranks and groom him as Alfie’s successor in the style of Lemieux-Crosby, I have to say that a future with Strome, Huberdeau or Couturier doesn’t look too bad. Ottawa’s slow and steady approach to rebuilding this team has to be strategic and not look for immediate glory, such as a prime Captain-in-training like Landeskog might project. There are also other considerations that the team will be weighing, such as the drafts already waiting in the wings, and filling in the roster gaps with free agents before July 1st. In the meantime, all the scheming, dreaming and line match ups will have to keep us sports fans entertained this summer.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.