Top 100-or-higher pick: D John Klingberg, 131st overall, Dallas Stars
It’s a small group in 2010, but Klingberg would probably lead it no matter the size. While part of that has to do with me being pretty high on him personally, it also has to do with Klingberg showing he’s going to be a force on the blue line while not even 24 years old.
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After potting 40 points in 56 games in his rookie season last year and finishing fifth in Calder Trophy voting, Klingberg ramped up his production this season (10 goals, 48 assists). He finished fifth in the league among defensemen in points and fourth in helpers, and he’s also taking on other teams’ toughest competition while eating nearly 23 minutes of ice time per game.
Klingberg fell off a bit in the playoffs this year (4 points in 13 games), but he projects to have a really bright future ahead of him in this league. That’s especially good for Dallas, which has suspect defense and even more suspect goaltending.
Top 100-or-higher pick: C/W Andrew Shaw, 139th overall, Chicago Blackhawks
Since I went with Kruger over Hoffman, I guess I have to do the same with Shaw over Gaudreau and Palat, even though both of the latter two project as better NHLers than Shaw.
Gaudreau has already made an All-Star Game and finished third in Calder Trophy voting two seasons ago while also carrying Calgary to a surprising playoff berth. Palat finished second in Calder Trophy voting three seasons ago and has played for a Stanley Cup. Gaudreau has reached 78 points in a season, and Palat has hit 64.
Shaw has never cracked 40 points in a season, and he wasn’t a top-10 finisher for the Calder Trophy in his rookie season. But he’s found a niche on the Blackhawks and helped them to Cups in 2013 and 2015, much like Kruger. He has 35 points in 67 postseason games, stepping up at just the right time.
So, for now, Shaw wins this race. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gaudreau or even Palat earn this honor for the 2011 class as time goes on.
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