"The Edmonton Oilers are so proud to select, from the Red Deer Rebels, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins."
With that, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini kicked off the first round of selections at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Draft opened with a touching tribute to E.J. McGuire, the late director of NHL Central Scouting. McGuire's wife and two daughters joined NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on stage to officially open the draft and announce that Edmonton was up with the first pick.
Bettman also gave a welcome back to the new Winnipeg franchise. The Winnipeg team drew the largest roar from the crowd when they officially announced that the Jets moniker would be returning to the city prior to making their inaugural draft pick with the seventh selection.
No one was surprised to hear Nugent-Hopkins' name called with the top pick as he had been the top-rated prospect on nearly every major scouting report heading into the night.
"I had a rough idea but I really didn't know what was going to happen," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I'm just relieved."
The highly-skilled centre had 31 goals and 106 points with the Red Deer Rebels last season. His 75 assists led the WHL and he also netted four goals and 11 points in nine playoff games.
Nugent-Hopkins is the first prospect from the WHL to be selected first overall since defenceman Chris Phillips of the Prince Albert Raiders went to Ottawa in 1996. He was also the first of 16 Canadians and 21 players from the CHL selected on the night.
This was the second straight year that Edmonton held the first pick. Taylor Hall, whom Edmonton chose last year, was on stage with Oilers' management to help pick Nugent-Hopkins and welcome him to the NHL. And Nugent-Hopkins is looking forward to joining Hall and the rest of the Oilers' core of young players.
"Definitely it's going to be great," he said. "I'm going to be able to relate to all the young guys in the system already.
"So just joining a group like that is very exciting for me. I just can't wait to get started."
The Oilers also had the 19th pick which they used to address a need on defence by selecting Oscar Klefbom from Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League.
Landeskog gives the Avalanche a prospect considered to be one of the most NHL-ready in the draft. The Kitchener captain notched 36 goals, 66 points, a plus-27 rating and 61 penalty minutes last season.
The Avalanche also held the 11th pick which they used on Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades.
The Florida Panthers picked up a gifted scorer in Huberdeau with the third pick. The Memorial Cup MVP led the Sea Dogs with 43 goals, 62 assists, 105 points and a plus-59 rating last season.
"I couldn't ask for anything more this season," Huberdeau said. "I did everything on the ice I had to do and we won everything, so it was great.
"Now it was up to a team to decide and I'm glad Florida took me."
Sweden's Adam Larsson was the first defenceman off the board, selected fourth overall by the New Jersey Devils. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder moves the puck well and represented his country at the last two World Junior Championships, finishing as the team's highest scoring defender at this year's tournament with one goal and four points.
There were 19 forwards and 11 defencemen taken in the first round while no goalies were selected for the first time since 2009.
The New York Islanders rounded out the top five by selecting Ryan Strome from the Niagara IceDogs. Strome is a gifted playmaker and stickhandler with a knack for scoring highlight-reel goals.
The Ottawa Senators had three first round picks with the sixth, 21st and 24th selections. They used the sixth pick on Mika Zibanejad, a big strong centre who still has room to fill out, from Djurgarden in Sweden.
"Obviously when a team brings you to Ottawa they're interested," Zibanejad said, referring to his recent on-ice workout for the Senators. "I had a feeling, but there were some good players battling for that spot and to go that early is an amazing feeling.
"I'll do everything I can to work hard and make the team."
Zibanejad, the top-rated European forward coming into the Draft, scored 21 points in 26 games in the Swedish Elite League last season.
The Senators used the 21st pick, which they acquired as part of the Mike Fisher deal with Nashville, on right winger Stefan Noesen from the Plymouth Whalers. Noesen had 77 points in the OHL last season.
Ottawa traded two second-round picks to get the 24th choice from Detroit and chose Peterborough left-winger Matt Puempel. Puempel had 34 goals and 69 points in the OHL last season.
Thousands of fans watching the draft from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg erupted when 'Jets' was officially unveiled as the name for the city's new franchise prior to selecting Barrie Colts centre Mark Scheifele with the seventh pick.
Scheifele scored 75 points including 22 goals in 66 games for the Colts last season. He is a talented player but was a bit of a surprise at number seven. He had been projected to be taken anywhere in the 12-15 range.
In an odd bit of symmetry, the last time a Winnipeg team had a first round pick was in 1995 and it was also the seventh overall selection. Shane Doan was the pick.
The Philadelphia Flyers selected Sean Couturier from Drummondville with the eighth pick. The Flyers acquired the pick from Columbus in the Jeff Carter trade on Thursday, and chose the QMJHL's MVP from last season.
The Stanley Cup Champion Bruins then chose defenceman Dougie Hamilton from the Niagara IceDogs. The Minnesota Wild rounded out the top 10 by selecting defenceman Jonas Brodin from Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League.
After Siemens went to the Avalanche, offensive defenceman Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers was taken by the Carolina Hurricanes.
The next Canadian team to step up to the podium was Calgary at number 13. The Flames selected Sven Bartschi, a left-winger from the Portland Winterhawks. The Swiss-born Bartschi scored 34 goals and 85 points for the Winterhawks last season and impressed scouts with his work ethic.
Dallas was next and chose 6-foot-7 defenceman Jamie Oleksiak out of Northeastern University with the 14th pick.
In one of the night's more touching moments, the New York Rangers paid tribute to Derek Boogaard, who passed away in May, before making the 15th pick. Boogaard's brother Aaron made the pick for the Rangers in honour of Derek. The Rangers chose left-winger J.T. Miller from the US National Development Program.
The Buffalo Sabres chose Finnish right-winger Joel Armia at 16.
The Montreal Canadiens made their first pick at number 17, selecting Saint John defenceman Nathan Beaulieu. Beaulieu notched 12 goals and 45 points to go along with a plus-44 rating in 65 games for the Memorial Cup Champion Sea Dogs. He is a well-rounded defenceman who can provide offence from the blueline.
The Toronto Maple leafs traded up to the 22nd pick, acquiring Anaheim's selection in exchange for one of Toronto's two first round picks (30th) and a second round pick (39th). The Leafs opted for size and strength with the pick, selecting 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-winger Tyler Biggs out of the US NTDP.
The Leafs stayed close to home with their second pick of the first round, choosing defenceman Stuart Percy of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 25th overall. Percy had 33 points for the Majors last season and a strong showing at the Memorial Cup.
Smooth skating defenceman Joe Morrow from the Portland Winterhawks went to the Pittsburgh Penguins at 23. The Blackhawks chose Phillip Danault from Victoriaville at 26 and Tampa Bay picked the first Russian of the draft in Vladislav Namestnikov from the London Knights at 27.
The Minnesota Wild made centre Zack Phillips the third member of the Sea Dogs drafted in the first round with the 28th selection.
The Vancouver Canucks were the last Canadian team to pick with the 29th selection. They chose Oshawa Generals left-wing Nicklas Jensen. Being picked at 29th seemed oddly fitting for Jensen as he had 29 goals and 29 assists for the Generals last season.
The Anaheim Ducks capped the first round by selecting Swedish forward Rickard Rakell from the Plymouth Whalers. The Ducks traded down to the final pick in the deal with Toronto.
First Round Draft Selections:
1. Edmonton Oilers – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer WHL)
2. Colorado Avalanche – Gabriel Landeskog (Kitchener OHL)
3. Florida Panthers – Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John QMJHL)
4. New Jersey Devils – Adam Larsson (Skelleftea Sweden)
5. New York Islanders – Ryan Strome (Niagara OHL)
6. Ottawa Senators – Mika Zibanejad (Djurgarden Sweden)
7. Winnipeg Jets – Mark Scheifele (Barrie OHL)
8. Philadelphia Flyers – Sean Couturier (Drummondville QMJHL)
9. Boston Bruins – Dougie Hamilton (Niagara OHL)
10. Minnesota Wild – Jonas Brodin (Farjestad Sweden)
11. Colorado Avalanche – Duncan Siemens (Saskatoon WHL)
12. Carolina Hurricanes – Ryan Murphy (Kitchener OHL)
13. Calgary Flames – Sven Bartschi (Portland WHL)
14. Dallas Stars – Jamie Oleksiak (Northeastern NCAA)
15. New York Rangers – J.T. Miller (US NDTP)
16. Buffalo Sabres – Joel Armia (Porin Assat Finland)
17. Montreal Canadiens – Nathan Beaulieu (Saint John QMJHL)
18. Chicago Blackhawks – Mark McNeill (Prince Albert WHL)
19. Edmonton Oilers – Oscar Klefbom (Farjestad Sweden)
20. Phoenix Coyotes – Connor Murphy (US NTDP)
21. Ottawa Senators – Stefan Noesen (Plymouth OHL)
22. Toronto Maple Leafs – Tyler Biggs (US NTDP)
23. Pittsburgh Penguins – Joe Morrow (Portland WHL)
24. Ottawa Senators – Matt Puempel (Peterborough OHL)
25. Toronto Maple Leafs – Stuart Percy (Mississauga OHL)
26. Chicago Blackhaws – Phillip Danault (Victoriaville QMJHL)
27. Tampa Bay Lightning – Vladislav Namestnikov (London OHL)
28. Minnesota Wild – Zack Phillips (Saint John QMJHL)
29. Vancouver Canucks – Nicklas Jensen (Oshawa OHL)
30. Anaheim Ducks – Rickard Rakell (Plymouth OHL)