In 2010-11 we saw six players from the 2010 Entry Draft play in the NHL, with five of them skating in 65 contests or more. Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Nino Niederreiter, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Burmistrov, and Cam Fowler combined for 380 games, but it looks as if we’ll get fewer contests out of the 2011 class. Although there were plenty of promising players taken, the draft was thin on NHL-ready talent. Although first overall picks are usually a good bet to make their club immediately after being drafted, even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins isn’t a safe bet to stay in the NHL. That being said, the 2011 class is expected to get some representation during the 2011-12 NHL season. With that in mind, we’ll highlight the five players from the June draft who have the best shot of playing in the NHL in 2011-12. However, we should remind you that teams will sometimes carry a rookie into the season on a nine-game trial basis before deciding whether or not to keep them for the remainder of the campaign. That’s because the first year of the rookie’s entry-level contract won’t be burned if he plays in nine or fewer regular season contests in the NHL. Given that, we’ll also specify if we expect the player to spend a full season with the team, or just stick around for the trial period. 5) Sean Couturier-C-Philadelphia Flyers Couturier went into 2010-11 as one of the top two prospects of the 2011 draft class, but his stock fell slightly, which allowed the Flyers to grab him with the eighth overall pick. His skating could use some work, but he’s a complete player with plenty of offensive upside. With Mike Richards and Jeff Carter gone, the Flyers have some vacancies up the middle. The conventional wisdom is that Brayden Schenn will make the team, which will make it difficult for Couturier to do the same, but nothing is set in stone. He’s got an uphill battle ahead of him, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he had a strong pre-season and got a nine-game trial. From there, he would have to be particularly impressive to stay with the team, and our money is on him being returned to the QMJHL, either towards the end of the pre-season or after playing in nine or fewer regular season NHL contests. 4) Ryan Strome-C-New York Islanders Strome is a superb stickhandler and a strong skater. He had 33 goals and 106 points in 65 games with the OHL Niagara IceDogs in 2010-11 before being taken by the Islanders with the fifth overall pick. On top of that, he has a great working relationship with John Tavares, with whom he spent the summer training. All indications point to Strome being a great fit with the Islanders, but it probably won’t all come together this year. If this was two years ago, Strome would probably be a safe bet to make the squad, but the Islanders have gotten far deeper offensively. We wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up taking the same path as Nino Niederreiter, with him making the team out of training camp, but ultimately being returned to his junior squad after just nine games. On the bright side, Niederreiter has a great chance of making and staying with the Islanders this season and we wouldn’t be surprised if we end up saying the same thing about Strome in 2012-13. 3) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-C-Edmonton Oilers The fact that he’s third on this list says more about the general lack of NHL-ready players in the 2011 class than it does about Nugent-Hopkins’ chances. To be clear, Nugent-Hopkins is probably the most talented player of the 2011 bunch and the Oilers were right to take him. He’s a superb playmaker with a great shot and a willingness to throw his body around. I’m not arguing that he’ll be a disappointment, I’m simply saying that the odds of him spending the year with the Oilers are less than stellar. One strike against him is the fact that he weighed in at only 160 or so pounds last season. To his credit, he has bulked up over the summer and is about 15 pounds heavier, but it might take him some time to adjust to his new weight. Beyond that, he could still benefit from playing at the junior level and he might struggle to get playing time at the NHL level. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Oilers decide to keep him on for a nine-game trial, but unless he can prove he’s ready to play on one of the team’s top two lines – which is unlikely at this stage – he’ll probably spend the rest of the season in the WHL. 2) Adam Larsson-D-New Jersey Devils The jump between third and second in these rankings is huge. Unlike the first three prospects mentioned, there’s a good chance that Larsson will not only play in the Devils’ season opener, but their final game as well. When Larsson slipped to the fourth pick, it was a gift for New Jersey, which was hungry for an offensive defenseman. The Devils’ top defenseman last season got 23 points and even as a rookie, Larsson could accumulate more points while serving as the team’s power-play quarterback. A bad training camp or a rough start to the season could spoil Larsson’s rookie campaign, but the odds are stacked in his favor. 1) Gabriel Landeskog-RW-Colorado Avalanche No one from the 2011 NHL draft class has as good a chance of making their squad as Gabriel Landeskog. Why? Well, part of it’s because the second overall pick is a great all-around talent. He’s offensively gifted, tough, a leader, and arguably the most NHL-ready forward taken in June. It also helps that he’s already impressed Avalanche coach Joe Sacco, who described him as physically and mentally beyond his years, before going on to specify that he “looks like he’s 23, 24 years old.” If you need another reason to believe that Landeskog will make and stay with the Avalanche in 2011-12, let it be that they need him for cap purposes. The Avalanche will have a very hard time reaching the cap floor without Landeskog’s $3.575 million annual hit. Honorable mention: Jonathan Huberdeau-C-Florida – Although he didn’t make the list, I feel the need to also highlight Huberdeau. He was taken third overall and led the Saint John Sea Dogs to win the Memorial Cup. He’s the type of player who can contribute in every major fantasy category, including PIMs. The Panthers will be careful not to rush him and there’s a good chance he’ll be sent back to the juniors. However, out of all the players omitted from my list, Huberdeau seems the most likely to defy expectations. If you want to find out who tops our early list for this season’s Calder Trophy race and why, as well as compressive predictions for over 600 players, please check out the 2011-12 Rotoworld Draft Guide. 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