Ryan Nugent-Hopkins speaks with reporters on Thursday, the day before… (Jim Mone / Associated Press )
Center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Western Hockey League's Red Deer Rebels is expected to be chosen first overall by Edmonton on Friday in the NHL draft, the prime talent in a group not considered likely to produce many superstars.
Left wing Gabriel Landeskog of Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League is projected to go second to Colorado, with center Jonathan Huberdeau of Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League projected to go third to Florida. But Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson, ranked the top European skater by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau, could crack the top three at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Versus will televise Friday's first round starting at 4 p.m. PDT. Rounds two through seven will be conducted Saturday.
The Kings traded their first-round pick, 19th overall, to Edmonton in the Dustin Penner deal. Unless they acquire a pick in a trade, their first selection will be 49th. The Ducks will select 22nd.
Michael Futa, the Kings' co-director of amateur scouting, said his staff was prepared to move up or down but had focused on likely second-round choices.
"The guys we've targeted we're confident that they're NHL prospects and we're hoping they will grow and develop," he said. "We're excited."
Martin Madden, the Ducks' director of amateur scouting, said he would take the best player available rather than satisfying a specific need that might change before the prospect becomes an NHL-caliber player. He also said that while the first round gets most of the attention, the later rounds are equally crucial.
"You can tell who's going to go in the first round. There's fewer mistakes in the first round than ever," he said. "You need to do well in rounds two through seven and find players in there to add depth to your organization. Those are the kids you need to find."
The Kings will face St. Louis in their Staples Center opener Oct. 18 and the Ducks will face San Jose on Oct. 14 in their Honda Center opener, according to the 2011-12 schedule released Thursday.
The Kings will start the season Oct. 7 at Stockholm against the New York Rangers and Oct. 8 against the Buffalo Sabres in Berlin, then play at New Jersey and Philadelphia. The Ducks open Oct. 7 in Helsinki against Buffalo and Oct. 8 against the Rangers at Stockholm.
• KINGS, DUCKS SCHEDULES, C6
Salary cap rises
The NHL and NHL Players' Assn. announced the salary cap next season will be $64.3 million, slightly above estimates and above last season's $59.4 million. The floor will be $48.3 million and the adjusted midpoint will be $56.3 million.