ST. PAUL, Minn. -- There's no consensus about the quality and depth of this draft. Some will tell you that it was a weak draft, and I think there's a case for it. But does it really stand up?
First, look at the top of the draft. Forget about the Alex Ovechkin (2004) and Sidney Crosby (2005) classes. And let's set aside the Steven Stamkos (2008) draft, as well. Those three are on a tier above this year's top prospects. But aside from that elite trio, would Ryan Nugent-Hopkins beat out Patrick Kane in 2007 or John Tavares in 2009? Quite possibly. How does Adam Larsson compare to Erik Johnson (No. 1) in 2006? Pretty favorably. Larsson is far more pro-ready and skilled coming out of the Swedish Elite League than Johnson was out of the United States Development Team. A lot of scouts will tell you that Larsson is way out in front of Victor Hedman (No. 2, 2009). I think that Gabriel Landeskog at No. 2 and Matt Duchene (No. 3, 2009) are pretty comparable, though at different positions. We'll get a good idea about that because they'll be sharing the same sheet of ice this winter.
Now, what if we're measuring depth? How does the 2011 class compare when you get down to picks Nos. 30-40? This year, my top five in that range were Tomas Jurco, Boone Jenner, John Gibson, Ty Rattie and Rocco Grimaldi. I had all of them, outside of Grimaldi, in the first round of my mock draft. Let's compare them with the 2006 class because we have a pretty clear idea of the then-prospects' career destinations. The first 10 picks of the 2006 second round were: Tomas Kana, Carl Sneep, Igor Makorov, Michal Neuvirth, Francois Bouchard, Jamie McGinn, Yuri Alexandrov, Bryce Swan, Andreas Nodl and Ondrej Fiala. The results? Neuvirth is a talent (though sometimes an exasperating one). McGinn is a contributor on a winning team. Nodl is in the bottom third of Philly's roster. That's all. Comparing with this class, there's every reason to think that Gibson can match and surpass Neuvirth. Jurco has a skill set that's unmatched by any in that 2006 group. None of those from 2006 is as interesting a package as Grimaldi, whose U.S. team pedigree is pretty impressive.
Yeah, I know it's only one year to use as a comparison -- Alvin Chang could probably do more with this, I'm sure. But there is rarely wild variation in the strength of draft classes. While there are occasionally great classes -- see: 2003 -- those are a once-in-a-decade occurrences.
Now for a final look at some of the most intriguing picks and moments of this year's draft: