There's something going on in Sweden that's pumping out the defensemen. After the 2009 draft saw four Swedish defensemen (seven players overall) go in the first round, this year figures to have a few options as well. It starts with Adam Larsson.
Larsson is considered the best skater coming out of Europe this year. Some even think there's an outside shot he could go No. 1 to Edmonton. Unlikely as that is, Larsson will find a home in the first few picks.
It won't end there, though. Also on the board are Jonas Brodin and Oscar Klefbom, who will be sought by teams looking to beef up the blue line.
There's got to be something in the water.
1. Adam Larsson, 6'3/200, Skelleftea (Sweden): The near-consensus top defenseman available, and we're not going to disagree. He's got great size and moves very well, too. He isn't a guy that will give you a lot of scoring, but he does do a good job of moving the puck up top. In 37 games this season, he had just one goal and eight assists, but the team that picks him won't be looking for much offense. Not to say he can't develop more of an offensive game, but right now his strength is defense.
2. Dougie Hamilton, 6'4/187, Niagara (OHL): Impressing folks at the combine with his stature, Hamilton is a guy with a ton of potential to help a blue line for a long time. He is very capable of handling the puck and, according to his OHL coach Marty Williamson: "When he sees those opportunities to jump into the rush or lead the rush, I believe it's untapped what he can do." His 12 goals and 46 assists in 67 games show he would bring a lot of value to a power-play unit.
3. Ryan Murphy, 5'10/166, Kitchener (OHL): There are people worried about his small stature, but he's a guy who can play. He's probably the best offensive defenseman available, as evidenced by his 26 goals and 53 assists in 63 games for the OHL's Rangers. He is very good with the puck but perhaps has the ability to be too creative as he has to watch the turnovers. Regardless, he would fit nicely at the point with the man up. Skates very well too, always a plus to have on the blue line. Player profile
4. Nathan Beaulieu, 6'2/174, St. John (QMJHL): Beaulieu is enjoying a rise as the draft draws near thanks largely to the Sea Dogs winning the Memorial Cup and because his plus-44 on the year. In the 21 postseason games, he had 16 points (4/12) after a 12/33 regular season. He is a defenseman that thinks offense, so he does have some improving to do on the defensive end. According to his QMJHL coach Gerard Gallant: "He's gotten better, bigger and stronger, he’s playing a lot better defensively." Player profile
5. Jamieson Oleksiak, 6'7/244, Northeastern: Incomparable in size in this draft, he is a very fast-rising player. Playing at Northeastern University, he is much more of a stay-at-home guy, scoring just three goals and adding nine assists in 34 games. He did have a team-high plus-13. His measurables are incredibly intriguing, and some team could take a shot on him maybe a little earlier than might be expected.
6. Jonas Brodin, 6'1/169, Farjestad (Sweden): Brodin is a guy who still has some growing to do as his size isn't the most desirable for a defenseman; he's a touch on the thin side. He is an intelligent player who has a handle on getting the puck up the ice and out of the defensive zone. He is not a potent offensive weapon, crediting just four assists in 42 games this season, but he did move his way up to the third-best European skater on the Central Scouting rankings. That's a testament to his raw defensive ability.
7. Oscar Klefbom, 6'4/200 Farjestad (Sweden): Klefbom is a guy who jumped onto the scene with his performance at the U-18s for Sweden after which he was lauded by the team's coaches. He has terrific size and could be a steal for whoever picks him. He is seen much more favorably by International Scouting Services, which has him as the 10th-best skater overall. Certainly has tremendous upside.
8. Duncan Siemens, 6'2/192, Saskatoon (WHL): It's hard not to notice a guy that puts up a plus-40 in a season. That's exactly what Siemens did last season in 72 games. He is a guy that's tough and physical and thinks defense first. As NHL Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan puts it: "He can carry the puck, he's a tough kid -- he can fight. He's tough to play against. He can work both ends." Player profile
9. Joseph Morrow, 6'0/197, Portland (WHL): Morrow isn't the biggest defenseman available, but that's no reason to dismiss him. "He might be one of the most overlooked defensemen in the draft this year because everyone is so busy watching the top forwards in Portland," NHL Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald said. "He's a very smart player. He recognizes when to jump into the play and almost does it effortlessly." He also provides a little offense from the back with nine goals (six on the power play) and 40 assists in 60 games for Portland. Player profile
10. Connor Murphy, 6'3/185, USA U-18 (USHL): The son of former NHL defenseman and current Florida Panthers assistant Gord Murphy, Connor battled back from injuries that saw him sit for the majority of the season, leading to a late recovery in his stock. He captained the United States at the Under-18 World Championships and had a nice tourney with three goals and an assist to go with a plus-seven rating, punctuated by the gold-medal-winning overtime goal. "Even after his return from those injuries, he was as good a player as I've seen, all-around," Central Scouting's Jack Barzee said.
-- Brian Stubits