Edmonton Oilers retain hold on first pick in the NHL Draft

By Ken McKenna

Photo: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (9) could be the prize at the top of the 2011 NHL Draft order (courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

Center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins appears to have made his move to become the top selection in the 2011 NHL Draft.  But if Nugent-Hopkins is indeed the prize – and this is not a sure thing – who will be the team that calls his name on Draft Day?

The NHL held their Draft Lottery tonight to decide the identity of the team that will be drafting first overall.  As it turned out, it will be a repeat performance of last year as the Edmonton Oilers won the right to choose first.

The Oilers finished the season with the worst record in the NHL, so the club heaved a sigh of relief when the New Jersey Devils moved up into the top five from the eighth position, sealing the Oilers place at the top of the order.

Following the Oilers in the top five are the Colorado Avalanche, their second appearance among the top picks in the last three years; the Florida Panthers, who held this same pick in last year’s draft; the New Jersey Devils, the team with the good fortune to move up in the order in this lottery; and the New York Islanders, another team picking in the same position as last season and their fourth consecutive appearance in the draft’s top five.

The loser in this year’s lottery is the Ottawa Senators, who fell out of the top five as a result of the Devils’ good fortune.  The Senators will now be making their selection in the sixth position.

Speculation runs high as to the identity of the top player in this draft, with Nugent-Hopkins looking more and more like the player who’ll have his name called first.  But by virtue of their last place finish, it is clear that the Oilers could use help in more than just one area.  A high-quality defenseman would certainly fill the bill for the that club, so a selection of highly-regarded Swedish defender Adam Larsson with the first pick isn’t completely out of the question.

Other players that could have their names called among the top five picks include Kitchener Rangers forward Gabriel Landeskog; St. John Sea Dogs center Jonathan Huberdeau; Drummondville Voltigeurs center Sean Couturier; and Niagara Ice Dogs defenseman Doug Hamilton.  Indeed, even at this late point in the season, there is still plenty of room for movement up or down in the rankings.

The order for the 2011 NHL Draft so far is the following:

4.New Jersey
5.New York Islanders
9.Boston (from Toronto)
11.Colorado (conditional from St. Louis)

The 2011 NHL Draft will take place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 24th and 25th.