The Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders have it made. They’re set; they’re primed to take one of the much talked about top-5 prospects available in this year’s draft. From there, the consensus opinion across the hockey world is that there is a pool of a solid 40 prospects who make up the final 25 spots of the first-round.
While some will certainly be selected ahead of others, there’s still the possibility of a projected late first-rounder to go just after the top-10 have been called. With that in mind, let’s look at what exactly NHL teams are getting themselves into tomorrow.
Ryan Murphy (D) – Kitchener Rangers
Back in November 2010, Ryan Kennedy of the Hockey News wrote about how Don Cherry predicted Murphy, a diminutive Aurora, Ontario kid, would be the first picked at the 2011 draft. While the 5’11”, 176-pounder had a superb season, 79 points in 63 games on the blue-line), his draft stock drifted out of virtually every top-five list across the board. Knocked by critics because he’s sometimes more concerned with being slick with the puck, Murphy has been labeled by many as a one-dimensional player. It’s tough to argue his plus-22 rating, which was good for fourth on the Rangers and much better than a teammate’s minus-17. Murphy will always play with an offensive edge — it’s just the way he is — but what needs to do is fine-tune his own-end play in order to silence the nay-sayers.
Expect Murphy to go 7-12
Duncan Siemens (D) – Saskatoon Blades
Siemens is one of the toughest players expected to leave St. Paul, Minnesota with first-round bragging rights. His 121 penalty minutes in 72 games in the grit-filled WHL are but a small sampling of the ferocity he offers potential suitors. The 17-year-old from Edmonton, Alberta has drawn consistent comparisons to Scott Stevens, with an asterisk attached due to Stevens’ legendary status as one of the most punishing rearguards to ever play the game. Regardless, Siemens has been a definitive force for the Blades in their attempt to make it to their first Memorial Cup tournament. In a personal evaluation of himself for Buzzing the Net’s Draft Tracker, Siemens noted that he is hoping to work on namely his comfort with the puck on his stick and readability in the offensive end.
Expect Siemens to go 12-17
Jamie Oleksiak (D) – Northeastern University
When Zdeno Chara is consistently mentioned in the same sentence as you by scouts and pundits, you know you’ve got overbearing size, and the unexpected talent to go with it. Known for his long reach at 6’7” and physicality thanks to a 244-pound frame, Oleksiak has the chance to develop into an excellent shut-down defender in the NHL one day. After dazzling onlookers at the Combine, he has set himself up quite nicely heading into tomorrow’s draft. The Toronto, Ontario native is also disciplined on the ice, collecting only 57 penalty minutes in 38 games in 2010-11 for Northeastern University of Hockey-East. Sitting in the box for just 1.5 minutes a game is an admirable task for a guy of Oleksiak’s size.
Expect Oleksiak to go 17-22
Oscar Klefbom (D) –Farjestads BK
Hailing from Karlstad, Sweden, Klefbom offers a breadth of attributes, including a solid stride that allows him to be effective while joining the rush. In 23 games in the Swedish Elite League, the large-bodied rearguard tallied a mere two points. However, the 1993-born prospect’s play in both ends has time to develop. For now, the word “solid puck-moving defenceman” has been frequently used to describe the blueliner – a label that will surely help his chances on draft day. Due to his size at 6’4″, 200 pounds, Klefbom has been occasionally compared to fellow prospect Jamie Oleksiak. Klefbom has a leg up on Oleksiak in the leadership department as he captained Sweden’s 2011 U-18 team to a silver in Germany at the World Championships. In that very same tournament, he was named one of his country’s three best players.
Expect Klefbom to go 22-27
Scott Mayfield (D) – Youngstown Phantoms
Another bulky d-man primed to crack the top-30 tomorrow is Mayfield. While playing in the USHL this past season, the St. Louis, Missouri native cleared opponents from the front of his net with all 6’4″, 200 pounds of him. Ryan Clark, reporter for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, describes him as a stay-at-home defenceman who sees the ice well. In the fall, he’ll be taking his talents to Denver University, where his father attended college. There, he’ll have the opportunity to ramp up the Pioneers’ already decent defence corps. With the Phantoms in 2010-11, Mayfield put up 16 points in 52 contests. Those numbers will likely rise next season with a heightened stage at the NCAA level.
Expect Mayfield to go 25-30