The season of the draft will conclude this weekend, when the 2011 NHL Draft gets underway on Friday night. Of the four major sports, the National Hockey League's annual draft might be the most intriguing. Like the MLB draft, which took place earlier this month, NHL teams boast deep minor league systems, meaning we will not see guys that are drafted this weekend in an NHL sweater for at least a couple of years.
But typically throughout the first round, and sometimes later, we see players taken that will make an impact in their rookie season. Examples this year featured Anaheim's Cam Fowler, Carolina's Jeff Skinner, and Boston's Tyler Seguin.
Of course, there are guys that will need a couple years of seasoning in the minors to develop, but come into the NHL stronger players than they would have otherwise. That's a group that includes Chicago netminder Corey Crawford, and what is looking like the case with Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker.
The Coyotes and their fans will see plenty of both kinds of draftees once the draft festivities get underway primetime Friday, but at this point, who the Coyotes will be taking is unclear.
So far, there are two possible scenarios that Phoenix general manager Don Maloney has noted as options for the Coyotes. There might be more, but these are the two he has actually given himself.
One option, but not necessarily the number one strategy, is trading the pick. While the Coyotes aren't actively shopping the 20th overall pick, Maloney has stated that Phoenix would be open to swapping it for NHL-level talent.
If the Coyotes choose to hang onto that pick and go with a youngster, it is highly likely that they will choose a center.
Phoenix doesn't have amazing depth in the middle. They spent most of the season rolling with a foursome of Martin Hanzal, Kyle Turris, Eric Belanger, and Vernon Fiddler. Both Fiddler and Belanger are unrestricted free agents, with Belanger the more likely of the two to return, and Turris, who still needs time to develop as a forward, is a restricted free agent, though it's difficult to see any team trying to break the Coyotes by signing him to an offer sheet.
If Phoenix does decide to upgrade in the middle, they'll have a wealth of options. But of course, that all depends on what happens in front of them. There are quite a few teams in front of them which could be looking for help in the middle as well.
Once the Coyotes do finally get on the clock, there are a couple guys that could be options for them, provided they are still available.
One of those options of Boone Jenner. The recently turned 18-year-old played the season in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League), where he notched 66 points in 63 games, including 25 goals. But where Jenner is really going to be an asset to whoever drafts him is in the faceoff circle. He's been noted as a top notch guy at the dot, which is something any team can use more of.
But while that's my prediction for a pick, if the Chicago Blackhawks don't select him first, our guys over at Five For Howling went in a different direction. They still went center, but had the Coyotes going with London Knights (also OHL) forward, Vladimir Namestnikov.