As players selected at the 2011 NHL Draft reach their tenth anniversary in the NHL, this provides a perfect opportunity to look back on the top-10 selections of the draft. So, have they lived up to their franchise-defining billings, or have these players failed to meet the hype of their draft position?
Note: The 2011 Entry Draft was hosted on June 24-25th at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
#1: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton Oilers
With the first-overall selection at the 2011 NHL Draft, the Edmonton Oilers selected WHL standout Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Heading into the draft, he took over the top spot with a 106-point season for the Red Deer Rebels, making him a can’t-miss prospect.
It didn’t take long for Nugent-Hopkins to have an impact with the Oilers, as he played 62 games in the 2011-12 season. During his rookie campaign, he posted 18 goals and 52 points while earning a Calder Trophy nomination.
After his impressive debut, Nugent-Hopkins maintained a consistent standard of play for the Oilers. While he has not been a bad forward by any means, he also never developed into that dominating offensive presence Edmonton hoped for. In nine seasons, he’s failed to break 30 goals or 70 points, but he has also posted at least 40 points six times.
Has he lived up to his top-billing at the draft? Unfortunately, no. But was he a bust either? Also no. After signing an eight-year, $41 million contract extension in 2021, Nugent-Hopkins will remain a steady presence in the Oilers’ lineup for years to come, providing secondary scoring behind superstar teammates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
#2: Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado Avalanche
Heading into the draft, many scouts felt that Gabriel Landeskog was the most NHL-ready prospect available. He was the perfect package, with top-five offensive skill, a constant drive to win, and that intangible leadership that could make him the future captain of any team that drafted him.
With so many positives to draw from, the Colorado Avalanche saw Landeskog as a surefire hit, taking him with the second-overall selection. While there was a lot of top-end talent on the board, Colorado knew that they could have something special with the Swedish forward.
Special is exactly what Landeskog has been for the Avalanche. In 2011-12, he posted 22 goals and 52 points, en route to winning the Calder Memorial Trophy. Following that, he was named team captain before the 2012-13 season, becoming the youngest captain in NHL history at the time.
Since a somewhat poor showing during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Landeskog has been one of the most consistent players for the Avalanche. He has scored at least 20 goals six times while breaking 50 points scored five times in his career.
While he may be overshadowed by his teammate Nathan MacKinnon in the national spotlight, one can’t deny that Denver got everything they wanted with Landeskog. This eventually led the Avalanche to sign their captain to an eight-year, $7 million per year contract in 2021, locking him down as a face of the franchise for what will be the majority of his career.
#3: Jonathan Huberdeau – Florida Panthers
Even before the start of the 2010-11 season, Jonathan Huberdeau was considered a top prospect in the draft. After he helped lead the Saint John Sea Dogs to the Memorial Cup and was named the tournament’s MVP, however, he skyrocketed up draft boards across the NHL. By the time it was all said and done, many considered him one of the best prospects in 2011.
Seeing the potential for a top-line forward that could be a franchise face to build around, the Florida Panthers drafted Huberdeau with the third-overall selection.
While it took an extra season to make his NHL debut, Huberdeau has done nothing but impress. In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, he posted 14 goals and 31 points, while winning the Calder Memorial Trophy. Huberdeau struggled in his sophomore season before returning to form with five 50-point campaigns in six seasons. In particular, 2018-19 was a career year, when he scored 30 goals and posted 92 points.
Despite being one of the Panther’s top players, his best years may still be in front of him. With an affordable contract that will keep him in Florida until at least 2022-23, there’s still plenty of time for Huberdeau to pad his record statistics with the franchise.
Sometimes, a player’s NHL legacy will be defined by a situation that is outside of their control. That’s the case for Adam Larsson.
As the fourth-overall selection made by the New Jersey Devils, Larsson entered the NHL as an 18-year-old and immediately took on big minutes on New Jersey’s blue line. By all accounts, the Swedish defenseman appeared to be growing into his game, as he earned more than 22 minutes of ice time per game by his fifth season in the league.
However, in the 2016 offseason, his career projection drastically changed. On June 29, 2016, he was traded to the Oilers in a blockbuster deal that sent 2010’s first-overall pick Taylor Hall back to the Devils. This deal was lampooned at the time as a miss for Edmonton, as they gave up one of the best trade chips in the league for a top-four defenseman.
Rob Soria of THW said it best:
With all due respect to Larsson, a No. 3 defenceman with little to no offensive upside to his game is simply not worth one of a handful of wingers in the game today who can drive offence on his own.
Interestingly, history has been a bit kinder to this deal. While Hall had a few exceptional seasons with the Devils, he also struggled with consistency due to injury as the team fell in and out of playoff contention, which eventually led to another trade. Larsson, on the other hand, held down more than 20 minutes each night in Edmonton for five seasons.
A twist to this story occurred during the 2021 offseason, however, when Larsson was selected and signed by the Seattle Kraken to a 4 year, $16 million contract. With this new deal in hand, he will become a face of the newest NHL franchise, as the Swede looks to lock down their blue line throughout their inaugural season.
#5: Ryan Strome – New York Islanders
With the fifth-overall selection, the New York Islanders selected forward Ryan Strome, a player with great potential who raised his draft stock by scoring 106 points for the Niagra IceDogs during the 2010-11 season. While it took until late 2013 to make his Islanders debut, he looked like a true NHL talent in 2014-15 when he posted 50 points.
After that strong start, however, Strome’s play flatlined. He struggled through the next two seasons, posting only 28 and 30 points. As a result, rumors started to swirl that the Islanders wanted to trade him. Eventually, they struck a deal with the Oilers, returning Jordan Eberle in a one-for-one deal.
Similar to the Larsson trade, this move was immediately considered a mistake for the Oilers. Strome never found a role in Edmonton, spending less than two seasons with the club before he was sent to the New York Rangers in another one-for-one deal for Ryan Spooner.
However, Strome found his game with the Rangers, posting three straight solid seasons. So, while he may not live up to the billing of a top-five pick, he at least found his niche in the league eventually with a team in New York.
Eberle was also a good addition for the Islanders, giving the franchise a consistent 20-goal scorer until he was also claimed by the Kraken. The only loser in this ordeal was Edmonton, who parted ways with Spooner just 25 games after they traded for him.
#6: Mika Zibanejad – Ottawa Senators
When it came time for the Ottawa Senators to make their first pick at the 2011 Draft, they selected Swedish forward Mika Zibanejad. Despite posting only modest scoring totals with his home hockey club in Sweden, Djurgardens IF, his poise and strong play against older competition made him a prime prospect.
In Ottawa, his production and NHL skill grew each and every year. By his fourth season, he broke 20 goals scored, and in year five he posted 50 points, all indications of a bright future with the Senators.
In the 2016 offseason, however, Ottawa traded Zibanejad and a second-round draft pick were traded to the Rangers for Derick Brassard, and a seventh-rounder.
Since joining New York, Zibanejad has blossomed into a star. In 2018-19, he broke 30 goals for the first time in his career, and before the NHL paused the 2019-20 season, he was having a career year, posting 41 goals and 75 points.
In all, Zibanejad’s future is bright with the Rangers, as he will likely be their top-line center for years to come. He lived up to the billing of a sixth-overall pick and more, even if it wasn’t with the franchise that drafted him.
#7: Mark Scheifele – Winnipeg Jets
For the Winnipeg Jets, the 2011 Draft holds a special place in their recent history. While it was known that the Atlanta Thrashers would relocate to Winnipeg, it was officially announced at the draft that the franchise would again be called the Jets.
With this announcement, the Jets entered the draft with the seventh-overall pick and the need for a young player to become a face of the franchise. Hoping to fill this void, they selected the big-bodied and offensively gifted Mark Scheifele.
Scheifele was sent back to juniors to grow his game until the start of the 2013-14 season, and he really didn’t come into his own until 2014-15. That season, he scored 49 points while showing glimpses of the player that he could become.
With one productive year under his belt, Scheifele started stringing together successful season after successful season. In both 2016-17 and 2018-19, he broke the 30-goal plateau, and he was on his way to his third 30-goal, 80-point season in 2019-20 before the pause.
Given everything they were facing, Winnipeg hit a home run when they drafted Scheifele. This was a pick that could have turned into a mulligan for the returning Jets, but they got exactly what they needed to build a successful and stable future for the franchise.
#8: Sean Couturier – Philadelphia Flyers
Before the Philadelphia Flyers selected Sean Couturier eighth overall, they first needed to acquire the pick. They did so by sending 30-goal scorer Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets in return for Jakub Voracek, the eighth-overall selection, and a third-round pick.
With this haul, the Flyers selected one of the best offensive candidates in the draft. Couturier was coming off of two straight 96-point seasons in the QMJHL and looked ready to make an impact in the NHL. He earned a spot in the Flyers’ lineup out of training camp and played in 77 regular-season games along with 11 playoff starts throughout his rookie season. While his point totals were underwhelming at first, he was a consistent defensive presence for the first six years of his career.
In 2017-18, things started to click offensively. Couturier posted back-to-back 30-plus-goal, 76-point seasons and was nominated for the Selke Award. The 2019-20 season was more of the same, and he went on to win the Selke award for the first time in his career.
In all, Couturier has developed into one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL, and he is the type of player franchises hope for when they make a top-ten draft selection. The fact that the Flyers got him and Voracek for Carter makes that trade a steal.
#9: Dougie Hamilton – Boston Bruins
For the Boston Bruins, the trade that sent Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs was a gift that kept on giving. The Bruins acquired a 2010 and 2011 first-round pick from Toronto, and both became a top-ten selection.
With the ninth-overall selection, the Bruins took the second defenseman of the draft, Dougie Hamilton. In his first three seasons in Boston, Hamilton showed top-pairing potential, and he started taking on more than 20 minutes of ice time each night while scoring 40 points by the 2014-15 season.
However, due to the Bruins’ cap-crunch heading into the 2015 offseason and Hamilton needing a raise as a restricted free agent, he was dealt to the Calgary Flames for a first and two second-round picks at the 2015 Draft. Seeing his potential to become an NHL star, Calgary quickly locked him down with a six-year, $34.5 million extension.
However, despite showing promise and offensive upside, Hamilton didn’t become that dominant player the Flames were expecting. Just three seasons after acquiring him, Calgary pulled a blockbuster five-player trade with the Carolina Hurricanes to send him, Micheal Ferland, and prospect Adam Fox to Carolina for Noah Hanafin and Elias Lindholm.
With his third franchise in just a handful of seasons, Hamilton started to reach his full potential. In the 2019 playoffs, he helped lead the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Final, and in 2019-20, he was having a career year before a serious injury sidelined him.
Related: The NHL’s Top 5 Defenses
It may have taken a while for him to get there, but Hamilton developed into that top-pair, monster defenseman that everyone knew he could become. After showcasing how high his ceiling was, the Devils signed Hamilton to a seven-year, $63 million deal, making him a marquee defenseman in the NHL.
#10: Jonas Brodin – Minnesota Wild
When the Minnesota Wild drafted Jonas Brodin with the tenth-overall selection, they did so thinking that they had found a special defensive-first defenseman who could anchor their blue line for years to come.
When he made his NHL debut during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Brodin instantly impressed with his calm, steady play while taking on more than 23 minutes of ice time each night. This led to a fourth-place finish in Calder voting, despite only scoring 11 points.
Since that impressive rookie season, Brodin has been what every franchise hopes for in a defense-first starter. Sure, his scoring totals are never going to be the best, but he brings a needed presence to the Wild, eating 20-plus minutes of ice time each night.
Needless to say, this pick has been a big win for Minnesota. Not only has he played great for the franchise, but he signed a seven-year, $42 million extension during the 2020 offseason that will keep him as part of the Wild’s core for the long term.
The 2011 Draft Brought Stars to the NHL
What is most impressive about the top ten picks from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is just how successful they are. Not only is every player still in the league, but many have become franchise faces.
Sure, some of them didn’t reach their full potential with the franchises that drafted them, but they all found some level of success after being traded. Given how difficult that can be, it’s an impressive feat for all of these picks.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.