1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL) – 6’0 – 164lbs – Shoots L – April 12, 1993

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a combination of everything that makes his peers in this draft class great. Playing the same way night in and night out, Nugent-Hopkins is a deadly combination of both shooting ability and playmaking ability. While he might not have second level burners for top speed, his skating is sound and he’s extremely elusive with the puck. Made huge strides in the defensive department this year and displayed a consistent and intense work ethic on a nightly basis. His game will continue to evolve as he undoubtedly gets bigger, but size isn’t a total issue for him as he’s crafty in the boards and not afraid to mix it up in all zones. Nugent-Hopkins is key to any line-up because he’s a scoring threat individually but his passing and vision assist in making his teammates twice as deadly.

2010/11 WHL Statistics: 69GP – 31G – 75A – 106PTS – 51PIM – +29

2. Jonathan Huberdeau – C – St. John (QMJHL) – 6’1 – 170lbs – Shoots L – June 4, 1993

Huberdeau might be the craftiest offensive player in this draft class. In terms of pure dangle ability, he’s done things this year that I haven’t seen many others capable of. That said, he’s not a one-dimensional forward; his vision and awareness make him deadly in dishing the puck, he’s invested in the defensive zone, and he doesn’t back down from a challenge. He played on a line with Tomas Jurco and Zack Phillips, and you’ll see both of them later in this ranking. Skating isn’t an issue with Huberdeau, but what he lacks in top end speed and NHL acceleration he makes up for with great balance and toughness on the puck. Overall, Huberdeau does have a bit of risk associated with his translation to the NHL, but the reward is too high to ignore for this Memorial Cup champion. Huberdeau’s hands alone are enough to warrant a selection at number 2 overall.

2010/11 QMJHL Statistics: 67GP – 43G – 62A – 105PTS – 88PIM – +59

3. Adam Larsson – D – Skelleftea (SWE) – 6’3 – 210lbs – Shoots R – Nov. 12, 1992

Larsson is only the third defenseman to play in Elitserien at the age of 16. While the production wasn’t up from last year, the meat and bones of Larsson’s game remain. A comparable peer to Victor Hedman, Larsson’s game is all about skating and size. He’s positionally sound in his own zone, and very thoughtful and patient when distributing the puck up ice. His shot might not be his calling card, but it’s not bush league either. Some people did begin to question his drive a bit this year, but all the tools are there and Larsson is ready for an NHL team to come along and give him a chance. Larsson is a great package of all the things that make defensemen world-renown.

2010/11 SEL Statistics: 37GP – 1G – 8A – 9PTS – 41PIM – +12

4. Sean Couturier – C – Drummondville (QMJHL) – 6’4 – 197lbs – Shoots L – Dec. 7, 1992.

Couturier started the year at the top of most draft rankings and slid slightly as his season progressed. That being said, there is still a ton of upside here in so many different capacities that Couturier is deserving of our number four spot. A workhorse on both ends of the ice, Couturier showed a lot of poise throughout this year and especially in the World Junior Championships, where he was the youngest member of Team Canada’s squad and the only draft eligible player on that roster. There simply isn’t a better two-way forward in this draft class, Couturier is active in the defensive zone, great on draws, and has a keen knack for being able to break up plays on the back-end. Much has been made of his defensive abilities, but there is a huge offensive upside that exists here and I’m not sure that it gets recognized on a regular basis. Couturier has a great shot, he’s active in front of the net, and has excellent vision and hands. His size is already a major strength and he continues to innovate his game to incorporate his frame with added physicality. Couturier needs to fix some skating issues, notably top end speed and cutting ability, but his game is so well rounded that he will pay a huge dividend at both ends of the ice for whatever team ends up landing this youngster.

2010/11 QMJHL Statistics: 58GP – 36G – 60A – 96PTS – 36PIM – +55

5. Gabriel Landeskog – LW – Kitchener (OHL) – 6’0 – 201lbs – Shoots L – Nov. 23, 1992

Gabriel Landeskog is your prototypical power-forward. This native of Sweden put on a physical show in his second year of North American hockey. Landeskog likens himself to Peter Forsberg, and the on-ice product really isn’t that much of a stretch. Landeskog is a solid skater, physical at all levels of the ice, and isn’t afraid to drive to the net with regularity. This youngster was the captain of Kitchener this year, and played each game with an immense amount of intensity. An ankle injury shortened his season, but we’ve seen enough of his game over the course of the last two years to get a good idea of where he stands overall.

2010/11 OHL Statistics: 53GP – 36G – 30A – 66PTS – 61PIM – +27

6. Mika Zibanejad – C – Djurgarden (SEL) – 6’2 – 191lbs – Shoots R – April 18, 1993

Mika Zibanejad skyrocketed into the top 10 after he was promoted from Djurgarden’s junior team this December. Of Finnish and Iranian decent, Zibanejad is another power-forward who proved himself on a large stage this season. Zibanejad has the typical hands and finesse of a skilled Swedish forward with the attitude and skating of a true power-forward. He plays the game in a physical fashion in each zone, drives the puck to the net, and plays the game with confidence in each zone. Overall, Zibanejad is a great combination of skill and power. Note the below statistics only reference his time with the Djurgarden parent club, he did register 21 points in 27 games with the junior club.

2010/11 SEL Statistics: 26GP -5G – 4A – 9PTS – 2PIM – +1

7. Dougie Hamilton – D – Niagara (OHL) – 6’4 – 187lbs – Shoots R – June 17, 1993

What separates Dougie Hamilton from his top-tier defensive peers is an element of physicality. Hamilton really uses his size and reach to his advantage in the defensive zone. Like his counterparts, Hamilton will join the rush and and get involved offensively, noted in the huge offensive increase he saw from his first season in the OHL. Noted for taking extremely good care of his body, Hamilton seems to have no limit in the amount of time he can log during a game. His skating is extremely good for his size, and he will take what the opposing forwards give him in terms of lugging the puck up-ice. He does have a tendency to get over-aggressive on the blueline and get beat, but that is a fixable issue. Overall, Hamilton is a top-tier defenseman with both size, skating, offensive ability, and physicality.

2010/11 OHL Statistics: 67GP – 12G – 46A – 58PTS – 77PIM – +35

8. Ryan Murphy – D – Kitchener (OHL) – 5’10 – 166lbs – Shoots R – March 13, 1993

Every draft class has that special defenseman that has a keen offensive sense and 2011 belongs to Ryan Murphy in that regard. Murphy is a special offensive talent on the blueline that takes multiple chances, commands the rush, and creates havoc on the power-play. An extremely exciting skater, Murphy has excellent vision, soft hands, and a plethora of shooting tools at his disposal. Murphy’s skating can be described as explosive and it helps his recovery should he get caught up ice. The downside to Murphy is lack of size and an ever-improving physical game that is probably a bit behind the bar. However, any team that is looking for a fluid, offensive defenseman need look no farther than Ryan Murphy.

2010/11 OHL Statistics: 63GP – 26G – 53A – 79PTS – 36PIM – +22

9. Ryan Strome – C – Niagara (OHL) – 6’0 – 175lbs – Shoots R – July 11, 1993

Ryan Strome might be the best natural shooter on this list. Strome has a hard, accurate, and patient wrist shot with a violent slapshot to accompany it. Strome is a great skater and also has extremely sharp hands with the ability to dangle through traffic and get to open areas on the ice. Strome has a great heads-up style of skating and that also applies to his shooting as well. He seems to put his entire body into his shot, and can also get to the front of the net to battle for loose pucks in the crease. The knock on Strome right now is that he can have a one-track mind on offense, a bit of stubborness with the puck, and needs to improve his size to compliment the way he plays the game. In terms of pure sniping abilities, however, Strome might be the most deadly in this class.

2010/11 OHL Statistics: 65GP – 33G – 73A – 106PTS – 82PIM – +28

10. Nathan Beaulieu – D – St. John (QMJHL) – 6’2 – 174lbs – Shoots L – Dec. 5, 1992

Nathan Beaulieu has shown himself to be a jack of all trades, master of none type defenseman. He’s an extremely good skater, patient with the puck, and extremely smart in his own end. Beaulieu set the precendent for +/- in St. John this year and worked alongside Simon Despres to have a historical season with St. John. Difficult to rattle, Beaulieu exhibits the smarts and attitude of a great NHL-calibre defenseman. He may not jump out at you in terms of his on-ice product, but his overall game is so well rounded that it’s difficult to place him outside of the top 10.

2010/11 QMJHL Statistics: 65GP – 12G – 33A – 45PTS – 52PIM – +44

Stay tuned next week for part 2!