NHL Draft capsules -- Top 10 impact players


NHL Draft capsules -- Top 10 impact players

June 23, 2011


Ryan OHalloranCSNWashington.com

MINNEAPOLIS The top part of last years NHL Draft produced three instant producers Edmontons Taylor Hall, Bostons Tyler Seguin and Carolinas Jeff Skinner quickly abandoned their junior teams and didnt spend a day in the minors.

Hall took a regular shift with the Oilers before a season-ending ankle injury, Seguin was last seen hoisting the Stanley Cup as a role player and Skinner won the Calder Trophy Wednesday as the leagues top rookie.

NEWS: Sharks' Couture second in Calder Trophy voting

This years draft, which starts with the first round Friday in St. Paul, Minn., lacks the star quality, which also means a jumbled Top 10 and each teams board could look a little different.

Here are capsules on the Top 10 players in the draft:
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Age: 18.
Position: Center.
HeightWeight: 6-0194.
2010-11 team: Red Deer (Western Hockey League).
Statistics: Scored 31 goals and a league-high 75 assists to finish fourth with 106 points.
Comment: The consensus top pick to go to Edmonton and form a 1-2 punch with Hall. The Oilers are obviously doing their homework general manager Steve Tambellini hosted RNH at his home for dinner last week. Nugent-Hopkins has drawn comparisons to two-way Detroit star Pavel Datsyuk.

2. Adam Larsson
Age: 18.
Position: Defense.
HeightWeight: 6-3200.
2010-11 team: Skelleftea (Swedish Elite League).
Statistics: One goal, nine assists in 37 games while playing 25 minutes a night.
Comment: If the Oilers go defense and they have to consider it because they lack organizational depth on the blue line, Larsson could be the choice. Like most Swedish defensemen, he idolizes Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom but some observers says his game is more like Tampa Bays Mattias Ohlund but with more offensive ability. If Nugent-Hopkins goes first, Colorado would be making a mistake if it passed on Larsson.

3. Gabriel Landeskog
Age: 18.
Position: Left wing.
HeightWeight: 6-0207.
2010-11 team: Kitchener (Ontario Hockey League).
Statistics: Limited to 53 games because of an ankle injury but scored team-best 36 goals and had 66 points.
Comment: NBCs Pierre McGuire said Landeskog is ready to play in the NHL and some scouts believe hes a future captain and the safest pick in the draft. He would be a great fit for Florida at No. 3 because the Panthers need immediate contributors. He was headed toward 50 goals until being injured in the World Junior Championships playing for Sweden. Kitchener coach Steve Spott compares Landeskog to former captaincurrent Flyers captain Mike Richards.

4. Jonathan Huberdeau
Age: 18.
Position: Center.
HeightWeight: 6-1170.
2010-11 team: Saint John (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League).
Statistics: Scored 43 goals and a team-record 105 points in the regular season but turned it on in the postseason, totaling 16 goals and 30 points to help the Sea Dogs win the Memorial Cup.
Comment: Just turned 18 on June 4 and arrived in Minnesota later than the other prospects because he was graduating from high school. One scout told The Hockey News that Huberdeaus hands are comparable to Chicagos Patrick Kane. Among the top dozen picks, he rose the most in the ratings from the start of the year to his MVP performance in the Memorial Cup. He probably needs at least another year with Saint John to add some strength.

5. Dougie Hamilton
Age: 18.
Position: Defense.
HeightWeight: 6-4193.
2010-11 team: Niagara (OHL).
Statistics: In his second full year of major junior hockey, had 12 goals and 46 assists in 67 regular season games.
Comment: Its unanimous among the three mock drafts on NHL.com Hamilton will go fifth overall to the Islanders. The imposing blue-liner won most of his battles in the corner but also showed offensive skill by upping his point total from 16 in 2009-10 to 58 points this past season. His defense partner, older brother Freddie, was selected by San Jose in last years fifth round and scouts point to Dougies mobility (despite his frame) as being effective in not getting beat one-on-one.

6. Sean Couturier
Age: 18.
Position: Center
HeightWeight: 6-4195.
2010-11 team: Drummondville (QMJHL).
Statistics: Scored 36 goals and 96 points in 58 games, including a stretch of 20 goals in 21 games after the World Juniors.
Comment: Started slow because of mononucleosis in August, but the big, two-way centerman was a dominant scorer in the QMJHL. Some services said Couturier didnt show much improvement from last season (96 points in each campaign) but his size allows him to protect the puck in high traffic areas and he has some creativity. He impressed at the World Juniors, scoring three points in seven games for Canada. He could be a possibility for Ottawa with the sixth pick.

7. Ryan Strome
Age: 18.
Position: Center.
HeightWeight: 6-0183.
2010-11 team: Niagara (OHL).
Statistics: In 65 games, scored 33 goals among his 106 points.
Comment: Stromes 79-point improvement was the best in the OHL and he finished third in the regular season scoring race. If the Islanders dont go defense, they could go for Strome to provide a one-two punch at center with John Tavares. Strome started the season projected as a second-round pick, but impressed with his competition level to win loose pucks. Like a lot of the picks, needs to add strength to be effective every night in the NHL.

8. Mika Zibanejad
Age: 18.
Position: Center.
HeightWeight: 6-2191.
2010-11 team: Djurgarden (Swedish Elite League).
Statistics: Five goals and four assists in 26 games. Also scored 21 points in 27 games for a lower-level Swedish team.
Comment: Zibanejad doesnt possess the flashing offensive numbers of the other top prospects, partly because he was a young player on a strong team. Hes been playing against men in the SEL since he was 16 years old, aiding his physical development. He has drawn comparisons to Washingtons Nicklas Backstrom and Nashvilles Mike Fisher and scouts are impressed with his ability in the face-off circle.

9. Ryan Murphy
Age: 18.
Position: Defense.
HeightWeight: 5-11176.
2010-11 team: Kitchener (OHL).
Statistics: Totaled 26 goals and 79 points in 63 games.
Comment: The most talented offensive defenseman in the draft he set a Canadian record with 13 points at the Under-18 World Championships. He reminds former NHL general manager Craig Button of Sergei Zubov, who could end-to-end several times a game to either score himself or set up a teammate. Murphy was named Best Skater in the OHLs Western Conference and he upped his production by 40 points last year for the Rangers. Needs to add weight to survive in the NHL.

10. Sven Bartschi
Age: 18.
Position: Left wing.
HeightWeight: 5-11175.
2010-11 team: Portland (WHL).
Statistics: Scored 34 goals and totaled 85 points in 66 games and had two points in six games playing for Switzerland in the World Juniors.
Comment: Like other European prospects, decided to come to North America to get acclimated to the game and lifestyle and improve his draft stock. Its worked he thrived in his only year with the Winterhawks. The Swiss may be onto something. Bartschi followed countryman Nino Niederreiter to Portland and should also be drafted in the first round.

Contact Ryan OHalloran at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com

Giants lineup: Nunez scratched, Williamson in left field

Giants lineup: Nunez scratched, Williamson in left field

Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for today's series finale in Chicago:

Giants (20-28)
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Mac Williamson (R) LF
8. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P (1-5, 4.57 ERA)

Cubs (24-21)
1. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
2. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Ian Happ (S) CF
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Miguel Montero (L) C
8. Javier Baez (R) SS
9. Eddie Butler (R) P (1-0, 2.00 ERA)

Cooper: 'I can go nowhere but up,' wants improved play down the stretch


Cooper: 'I can go nowhere but up,' wants improved play down the stretch

The Raiders searched in vain for dynamic receiving production before Amari Cooper came along. Thousand-yard seasons proved elusive even in the golden age of passing stats, with a full decade’s drought after Randy Moss posted a four-digit total in 2005.

Cooper’s made that old hat.

The 2015 first-round pick has two 1,000-yard campaigns in as many seasons. Ditto for Pro Bowl honors. Those feats have become increasingly common, Cooper’s already in rarified air.

Cooper’s career is off to a solid start, but the No. 4 overall pick two years ago believes he can be much better. That especially true later in the season, where production has waned in his first two seasons.

He has nine 100-yard performances in two seasons, with just two coming after week 8. He noticeably struggled with injury at the end of 2015, but wouldn’t make excuses for a production drop last season.

Cooper wants to finish as strong as he starts, and has full confidence that will happen this season.

“Of course it’s been on my mind, but it’s a good thing to me because I feel like I can go nowhere but up,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “I know that I can have a lot more production than I’ve had in the past two seasons, so we’ll just see.”

Cooper has sought counsel from other NFL greats – Calvin Johnson has been in Alamenda this week, offering sage advice – and Raiders coaches have identified ways where he can be even more dynamic working with quarterback Derek Carr.

“Certainly there are things that we think we can do to help,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Also, for him, I think he has a much greater understanding. I thought last year was a step forward. I know he wants to continue to push. It’s great when you have a young, talented player that’s really eager to be special, wants to make a mark in this league. The way he’s working at it right now is outstanding. That’s all we want of our guys.

Cooper is a versatile presence, able to do most everything well. His route running was luaded out of college, though he can be a good deep-ball receiver and can create big plays after the catch. Cooper knows his hands much be more consistent, but the Raiders want to exract more from his natural talents.

“There are a lot of different facets to him,” Del Rio said. “Where his speed is really one of his greatest strengths, obviously, his route running ability was pretty doggone polished when he got here, but even that can continue to improve and the timing with Derek. We think he’ll continue to ascend.”

That’s the goal heading into his third NFL season now armed with greater knowledge of how he’s being covered and muscle memory of what went wrong at times later in the year.

Cooper believes detail work will help him this fall and winter, and that starts in earnest during the offseason program.

“It’s easy to forget the small things like high-pointing the ball, looking the ball all the way through and not trying to run before you actually catch the ball,” Cooper said. “Overall, I’m just working hard in the offseason so that you can come back and you can be dominant.

“I want to be the best Amari Cooper that I could possibly be. I want to be better than every other year that I’ve played football, so that’s how I am looking at this year.”