By Brian Monzo
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The NHL offseason has officially kicked off, and all three local hockey teams have added what they hope are long-term pieces at the 2011 draft.

From all indications, the Devils may have very well nabbed the best player in the draft in 6’3, 200 pound Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson.  I did not think he would get past No. 3 to be on the board for Lou Lamoriello.  The ISS (International Scouting Service) had him ranked second among all skaters (with only Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, drafted 1st overall, ranked ahead of him).

Larsson has played in the Swedish Elite League for three seasons and should be ready, pending a good training camp, to step right into the NHL.  He plays an all-around defensive game, with a nose for the offensive zone as well.  Some people have even referred to him as a young Nicklas Lidstrom. The Devils still may need to scoop up some offensive help during free agency, and Martin Brodeur gets another year older without a solution to “life after Marty,” but the Devils have done an outstanding job with growing their blueline.  Between Larsson and Jon Merrill (drafted in the 2nd round last season) the Devils could be looking at two premier defensemen on their team for the next decade.

On Long Island, offense should not be something the Islanders struggle with for some time.  I believed before the draft (and still do) that they needed to get the best defenseman available come pick No. 5, but they decided to go with Ryan Strome, a gifted playmaking center out of the OHL.  Strome works hard with the puck and assisted on 73 goals last season in 65 games.  The thought process has to imagine Strome centering John Tavares at some point down the line.  If it all pans out, it could be very dynamic.

All was not lost on the blue, as the Isles took defensemen in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds — but my thinking was they needed to be looking for a potential superstar defenseman.  Maybe they think Calvin De Haan is going to turn into one.

The Rangers, as per usual, knew who they were taking before the draft even started.  With the 15th pick in the draft they took center J.T. Miller, who the ISS rated 40th.  Miller, who I had fourth on my who-will-the-Rangers-take chart, is exactly the kind of player the team loves.  He has a solid work ethic, battles along the boards and his best asset is his drive.  He does have offensive upside, scoring 15 goals and adding 35 assists for the U18 USA squad.

With no 2nd or 3rd round picks, the Rangers sent prospect Evgeny Grachev (who was underachieving after earning a ton of hype for scoring 40 goals in his first OHL season) to St. Louis for the 72nd pick.  They then picked Steven Fogarty, a playmaking center.  As most people expected, the Rangers loaded up on offense for much of the draft.

A Handful Of Thoughts From Draft Weekend 2011:

-I was caught off guard by the announcement of the Sharks-Wild trade sending Devin Setoguchi, prospect Charlie Coyle and the Sharks’ first-round pick to Minnesota for defenseman Brent Burns.  Both teams won here.  Sharks solidify their defense with the tough, offensive minded Burns and the Wild added much needed goal scoring with Setoguchi.

-Despite a lot of criticism, I thought it was a great move by Dale Tallon and the Panthers acquiring defenseman Brian Campbell and his massive contract.  Despite his money, Campbell is effective, and could thrive in a smaller market.  The Panthers are a very young team, and Campbell will serve well with that kind of youth around him.

-Very classy move by Minnesota paying tributes to both EJ McGuire and Derek Boogaard.  Boogaard played most of his career with the Wild and was honored before the Rangers made their pick (which was announced by his brother).  McGuire, who passed away in April, was the Director of Central Scouting, as well as a former coach, and always play a huge role with the draft and the players getting picked.  Before the draft started, a video tribute was played and his wife and two daughters stepped on stage with Commissioner Gary Bettman to announce the Oilers were on the clock.

With the draft over, we look towards free agency frenzy, which starts every year on July 1.

Who stays? Who goes where? Where will Brad Richards sign?

All these questions will be answered… and we will preview later this week. For now, sound off below.

Follow me on Twitter: BMonzoNHL660


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