With the Los Angeles Kings hoisting their first Stanley Cup and every major hockey tournament around the world finally finished, the attention of the hockey world can now focus on the 2012 NHL Draft.
Scheduled for June 22-23rd in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the 2012 NHL Draft is shaping up to be an interesting one. It will be hard to match 2011, where 23 players and a bounty of picks changed hands over a three day period, but it should still be a weekend fraught with surprise. Several teams are rumored to be shopping their picks, particularly among those picking in the top of the draft. Also, many of the top eligible prospects suffered season-ending injuries, and combined with a narrower talent gap at the top of the class than in years past, it seems likely that many selections in 2012 will defy even expert projections, with players going much earlier or later than expected.
Below is Hockey's Future's 2012 Staff Mock Draft. All selections were made by Hockey's Future's NHL writers with input from the league writers and editorial staff.
Nail Yakupov, LW, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
The Oilers have an organizational imbalance and need to add a couple of NHL defensemen, but that won't be addressed with this year's number one pick. They are better doing that through trade or free agency. In Yakupov they get an elite talent who is a brilliant playmaker and even better goal-scorer. Along with Hall, Eberle, and Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov gives them an embarrassment of riches up front. He is also the best available player at the number one spot.
Other potential picks: Ryan Murray, Alex Galchenyuk, Matthew Dumba, Filip Forsberg, Mikhail Grigorenko.
Ryan Murray, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
With the addition of Jack Johnson prior to last year's deadline and a young group of defensemen like David Savard and John Moore, the Blue Jackets could have their defense set for the next decade with the selection of Murray. By most accounts, Murray is the most NHL-ready defenseman in the draft. He has the experience to back up that claim: he's already worn the Canadian sweater at the World Juniors and the World Championships. Though the Blue Jackets might be more inclined to select a forward, with Yakupov off the board, they'd be best opting for the safer pick in Murray rather than taking Grigorenko or Forsberg.
Other potential picks: Alex Galchenyuk, Matthew Dumba, Filip Forsberg, Mikhail Grigorenko, Morgan Rielly.
Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec Remparts (QJMHL)
The Canadiens need bigger forwards and more scoring but most of all they need to get larger up the middle of the ice. Standing at 6'3 and possessing immense creativity and soft hands, the addition of Grigorenko would address all of those problems. The Russian-born forward had an excellent rookie season but experienced trouble over the playoffs and his work ethic and consistency eventually came into question. However, he struggled through an ankle injury in the WJC and late in the season contracted Mononucleosis. The last player who fell in the draft because he had Mono was Sean Couturier (PHI) and we know how that turned out for Philadelphia.
Other potential picks: Alex Galchenyuk, Matthew Dumba, Filip Forsberg, Jacob Trouba, Morgan Rielly.
Filip Forsberg, W, Leksands IF (Allsvenkan)
Forsberg performed very admirably in his first full season playing against grown men in Sweden, posting 17 points in 43 games. He has ideal size at 6'1 and 185 pounds and if he puts on a bit more muscle he would be a load to handle for opposing defensemen. He sees the ice very well and has a very quick release when he shoots. His skating ability is very impressive and he uses his long legs to his advantage. The best aspect of his game however is his ability to protect the puck down low and elude defenders. He would not only be an excellent complement to a talented center like John Tavares or Ryan Strome, but an effective penalty-killer and shutdown forward.
Other potential picks: Alex Galchenyuk, Matthew Dumba, Griffin Reinhart, Jacob Trouba, Morgan Rielly.
Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarina Sting (OHL)
Galchenyuk remains arguably the top forward talent remaining in the draft at the fifth position. Although his season was marred by an ACL injury, it's hard to pass on the pure talent and overall ability that Galchenyuk brings to the table. With a strong need for high-end talent, Galchenyuk fits the bill perfectly in the Maple Leafs system as he projects as a top-line, dynamic forward.
Other potential picks: Matthew Dumba, Morgan Rielly, Griffin Reinhart, Olli Maatta, Jacob Trouba.
Matthew Dumba, D, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Dumba suits the Ducks from a need standpoint as well as a style perspective. Mobile and productive, he could mesh effectively with the skilled, up-tempo roster in Anaheim. While there are likely a handful of defenseman of which those things could be said in a deep class of rearguards, Dumba also makes the Ducks tougher. He not only uses his speed to create offense, he also finds the puck on defense and has a knack for the big hit. In a breakout season, Dumba has also shown the ability to elevate his game at critical moments. Much like Brian Campbell or P.K. Subban, Dumba projects as a very strong two-way defender who can make timely, dynamic contributions to his club.
Other potential picks: Cody Ceci, Morgan Rielly, Griffin Reinhart, Olli Maatta, Jacob Trouba.
Jacob Trouba, D, USNDTP (USHL)
Trouba is arguably the not only the best player left at the draft board but also one of the best rounded defensemen available in the 2012 NHL Draft. Though not the flashiest blueliner available, Trouba brings to the Wild something they have seemingly lacked since their inception: a top-pairing defenseman who can play on both special teams as well as shutdown opposing forwards. He also possesses a hard, accurate point shot, owns good size, and plays with tons of poise.
Other potential picks: Cody Ceci, Morgan Rielly, Griffin Reinhart, Olli Maatta, Teuvo Teravainen.
Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Though the Hurricanes don't make a habit of using their number one pick on defensemen, Reinhart brings something Carolina lacks on the blue line: size. While current Hurricanes properties Justin Faulk and Danny Biega have NHL-level strength and Brian Dumoulin has the height and wingspan, Reinhart combines both along with solid two-way play. This is assuming the Hurricanes do not try to package their pick in order to bring in a high-end NHL forward.
Other potential picks: Radek Faksa, Teuvo Teravainen, Cody Ceci, Sebastian Collberg, Morgan Rielly.
Teuvo Teravainen, F, Jokerit Helsinki (SM-Liiga)
Teravainen has elite creativity and is a dangerous player on the man advantage. He can do things with the puck on his stick that no other Jet prospect can and could mesh nicely with their large stable of young forwards. Though slender, Teravainen is a shifty forward and after another year or two with Jokerit, could be an impact player in the NHL.
Other potential picks: Olli Maatta, Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci, Derrick Pouliot, Brendan Gaunce.
Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
GM Steve Yzerman was spotted in attendance at Moose Jaw games after Rielly returned from injury so the organization is at the very least intrigued by the defensive prospect. Rielly gives the Lightning what they lack on the blue line. He owns Duncan Keith-type upside and if he was not injured this season, might have been the top-rated defenseman eligible for the draft. He possesses elite skating ability as well as the composure and passing skills to run the offense from the blue line.
Other potential picks: Cody Ceci, Olli Matta, Radek Faksa, Derrick Pouliot, Brendan Gaunce.
Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville Bulls (OHL)
Though there are still plenty of good defensive prospects left, the Caps already have capable young defensemen at the NHL level and can still pick one up with the 16th overall pick. With the inevitable departure of aging Knuble what the Caps really need is a two-way power forward that can play a supporting role in the top-six. A unique center that possesses size, skill, and a power game, Gaunce can provide that and much more.
Other potential picks: Cody Ceci, Radek Faksa, Derrick Pouliot, Olli Maatta, Zemgus Girgensons.
12. Buffalo Sabres
Radek Faksa, C/W, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Having drawn comparisons to former Kitchener Ranger Gabriel Landeskog (COL), Faksa brings a blend of physicality, size, and skill to the Sabres' forward ranks. An OHL rookie in 2011-12, Faksa already possesses an NHL frame at 6'3, 202 pounds and should only get bigger and stronger as he matures. He builds his game around his size and strength and combined with his skating and hockey sense would be a great complement to the Sabres current group of forwards.
Other potential picks: Zemgus Girgensons, Cody Ceci, Derrick Pouliot, Sebastian Collberg, Olli Maatta.
13. Dallas Stars
Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
With Gaunce and Faksa gone the Dallas Stars select Zemgus Girgensons. The Latvian forward brings a blend of skill, toughness, and smart two-way play to the Stars organization. He is also considered in some circles to be future captain material. Most importantly however, he addresses the Stars' long-term need at center.
Other potential picks: Cody Ceci, Olli Maatta, Tomas Hertl, Nicolas Kerdiles, Stefan Matteau.
14. Calgary Flames
Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa 67s (OHL)
With needs at every position, the Flames opt for the best available player, who this point in the draft is defenseman Cody Ceci. Projected by many to go in the top 10, Ceci would immediately jump to the top of the Flames defensive depth chart. A big body with a big shot from the point, Ceci remains a bit of a wild horse defensively, and will need to develop that part of his game further before meeting his full potential. With his size, skill, and poise, he projects at the very least as a top-four offensive defenseman.
Other potential picks: Derrick Pouliot, Sebastian Collberg, Olli Maatta, Tomas Hertl, Stefan Motteau.
15. Ottawa Senators
Olli Maatta, D, London Knights (OHL)
The Sens could use a jolt to their defensive pipeline and Maatta possesses the skating and puck-skills to do just that. Playing on a blue line that is stacked with NHL draft picks, Maatta was often the best defenseman on his team at both ends of the ice, particularly during the Knights OHL playoff run.
Other potential picks: Matt Finn, Slater Koekkek, Dalton Thrower, Pontus Aberg, Sebastian Collberg.
Matt Finn, D, Guelph Storm (OHL)
After Dmitri Orlov, the Capitals are paper-thin in terms of defense prospects, and with the success of past first-round picks used on a defenseman (John Carlson and Karl Alzner), the Capitals would be wise to select one of the fastest risers in the draft since midseason, Matt Finn. A reliable two-way defenseman who can contribute offensively, he would fit nicely along the Capitals blue line in the next couple of years. At this point in the draft, it's perhaps the safest pick for the Capitals.
Other potential picks: Stefan Matteau, Sebastian Collberg, Hampus Lindholm, Derrick Pouliot, Pontus Aberg.
17. San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl, C, HC Slavia Praha (Czech)
The big, well balanced centerman put up 25 points in 38 games for Slavia of the Czech league while playing against men. The talented playmaker was one of the best players for the Czech team at the WJCs and one of their offensive catalysts. He has good puck possession skills and protects it well with his big frame. While the centerman doesn't have game breaking speed he does have excellent balance, can forecheck really well, and isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas to score goals. The late-bloomer has soft hands and good puck skills. Hertl project as a top-six forward but will need to improve defensively.
Other potential picks: Dalton Thrower, Sebastian Collberg, Tanner Pearson, Stefan Matteau, Tom Wilson.
Sebastian Collberg, W, Vastra Frolunda HC (SEL)
With depth throughout the system, Chicago has no issue pouncing on the best player available. The team has drafted heavily from Sweden in recent drafts, mostly in the middle and late rounds of the draft, but the Hawks are fortunate to have one of the most skilled offensive forwards fall to this point in the draft. Collberg not only helps shore up the right wing position but also adds a pure goal-scorer to the system.
Other potential picks: Pontus Aberg, Hampus Lindholm, Derrick Pouliot, Slater Koekkek, Brady Skjei.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning (from Detroit Red Wings)
Pontus Aberg, W, Djurgardens IF Stockholm (SEL)
The late-1993 born winger has a full season playing in one of the best leagues in the world under his belt and was equal to or more productive offensively in 2011-12 than previous Swedish draft picks Forsberg and Collberg. Having selected a defender with his first pick, general manager Steve Yzerman needs to address the issue of finding fast, skilled forwards who can complement Steven Stamkos, especially with Martin St. Louis well into the twilight of his career. Aberg's offensive skills may not be elite but his game is refined and he is more NHL ready than most.
Other potential picks: Derrick Pouliot, Andrei Vasilevski, Slater Koekkoek, Henrik Samuelsson, Thomas Wilson.
Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Koekkoek provides a lot of qualities the Flyers organization covets, particularly his ability to move the puck, competitive style, and ability to log lots of minutes. Though his season was abbreviated because of a shoulder injury, Koekkoek had an overall solid draft combine and should be fully recovered for the start of the 2012-13 season. He could also provide a long-term answer for Flyer veteran puck-mover Kimmo Timonen, who is in the twilight of his career.
Other potential picks: Derrick Pouliot, Hampus Lindholm, Thomas Wilson, Brady Skjei, Malcom Subban.
21. Buffalo Sabres (from Nashville Predators)
Tom Wilson, RW, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
The Sabres would likely scoop up Wilson if he is there, though Derrick Pouliot would be tempting. Zack Kassian's departure at the deadline left a hole for a power forward and Thomas Wilson fits the bill. Buffalo could really go in any direction here, they could do what they did with Mark Pysyk in 2010 and draft the best player available or they could take a developmental goaltender, which they don't have right now.
Other Possibilities: Derrick Pouliot, Brady Skjei, Stefan Matteau, Hampus Lindholm, Malcolm Subban.
Brady Skjei, D, USNDTP (USHL)
One of the top skating defensemen in the draft, Skjei brings a combination of size, puck-distribution, and mobility the Penguins covet in their defensive prospects. Though he is not an overly physical player, Skjei uses his 6'3 200 pound effectively and has improved that aspect of his game as the 2011-12 season progressed. Next year Skjei will join the University of Minnesota, where he can develop slowly in one of the top programs for developing NHL defensemen.
Other potential picks: Henrik Samuelsson, Stefan Matteau, Dalton Thrower, Derrick Pouliot, Tanner Pearson.
23. Florida Panthers
Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Pouliot is small, but that is not an issue on a fairly beefy Panthers blue line. He's not a great defender at this point in his career either but that is an issue which can worked around and developed. What Pouliot can do is skate, move the puck, run a powerplay, and provide some firepower from the back end. He could also develop into a nice complementary player to Erik Gudbransen or Alex Petrovic. The fact Pouliot is arguably the best player available also allows the Panthers to maybe not reach for a scoring winger or goaltending prospect who may not warrant being drafted so high.
Other potential picks: Malcom Subban, Stefan Matteau, Andrei Vasilevski, Nicolas Kerdiles, Oscar Dansk.
24. Boston Bruins
Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle (Allsvenskan)
Lindholm is a late riser and a little raw, but he was a two-way force playing against men by the end of the year. He's got tremendous size, he's a high-end skater, he can move the puck, and join the rush. He lapped the field at the Combine's VO2 test. In terms of NHL comparables, he models his game after Oliver Ekman-Larsson (PHX), although OEL was more developed offensively at the same age. Linholm is also in a great position to continue developing, with Rogle qualifying for the Elite League and Kenny Jonsson coming back as their defensive coach. The Bruins haven't gone the European route much under Peter Chiarelli but Lindholm would have simply too much potential to pass on.
Other potential picks: Malcom Subban, Stefan Matteau, Nicolas Kerdiles, Tanner Pearson, Dalton Thrower.
25. St. Louis Blues
Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
After coming away with forward-heavy draft classes at the previous two drafts, St. Louis could take advantage of a deep class of defensemen to bolster their depth on the blue line. Although he may not possess ideal size, the 5'11 and 189 pound Dalton Thrower plays a fearless game and is not shy about mixing it up against anyone. His vision and hockey sense also make him a threat to score offensively. A mainstay on Saskatoon's top defensive pairing as well as both special teams units, Thrower's ability to contribute at both ends of the ice is unmatched by any other defenseman in the Blues system.
Other potential picks: Nicolas Kerdiles, Ludvig Bystrom, Stefan Matteau, Tanner Pearson, Henrik Samuelsson.
Tanner Pearson, LW, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Pearson is a well-rounded and mature player who should be able to advance relatively quickly in a Vancouver system that is thin on forwards. He provides a nice mix of grit and skill and while he may not possess a high ceiling compared to other prospects, he should emerge as a solid two-way third liner, with the potential to perhaps fill in on the second line.
Other potential picks: Colton Sissons, Scott Laughton, Henrik Samuelsson, Nicolas Kerdiles, Stefan Matteau.
27. Phoenix Coyotes
Stefan Matteau, C, USNDTP (USHL)
By simply being able to play center, Matteau gives the Coyotes something they haven't been keen on drafting in recent years. A two-way center with impressive size and strength, Matteau is a gritty player with a developing skill-set. Although not blessed with great foot speed, he possesses a strong skating stride and is very effective as a forechecker and a finisher around the net. With some aging players among the team's current forwards, Matteau could give the Coyotes a dependable option down the middle in the near future.
Other potential picks: Scott Laughton, Colton Sissons, Nicolas Kerdiles, Phil Di Giuseppe, Henrik Samuelsson.
28. New York Rangers
Andrey Vasilevski, G, Tolpar Ufa (MHL)
Vasilevski is a young netminder who will take four or five years to develop into an NHL capable goaltender, roughly the time Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist will be approaching the twilight of his career. One of the standouts from the 2012 U20 WJCS, Vasilevski combines good size and athleticism to play a fundamentally solid game. He also brings a battlers mentality to the rink and is typically not rattled after allowing a bad goal.
Other potential picks: Henrik Samuelsson, Colton Sissons, Oscar Dansk, Malcom Subban, Phil Di Giuseppe.
Tim Bozon, LW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
The Devils don't frequently draft WHLers this high, but Bozon is arguably the best pure-goal scorer available at this point. His high-end speed, puck skills and lethal finishing ability are too hard to pass up. His 36 goals led all WHL rookies. Bozon is responsible defensively, pressures hard on the forecheck, and displays a little bit of grit not typically found in many Swiss-trained players.
Other potential picks: Scott Laughton, Colton Sissons, Nicolas Kerdiles, Phil Di Giuseppe, Martin Frk.
Scott Laughton, C, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
The Kings have found themselves with suddenly solidified depth on the wings and respectable defensive prospect depth behind one of the best defense corps in the NHL. Where they are perhaps a bit thin is up the middle, with a bit of uncertainty going forward outside of their top two centers on the big club. Laughton gives them the sort of prospect they have coveted and tended to select in recent years. He is hard-working, physical, versatile, and uncomfortable to play against. Laughton is also a guy who might be on the verge of a breakout after a disappointing rookie campaign and a slow start to his second year in the OHL. While he doesn't project as a copious scorer at the top level, his junior numbers may spike before he finishes his career in Oshawa. Tough, selfless, and heady, Laughton fits the Kings' mold as well as their needs.
Other potential Picks: Malcom Subban, Nicolas Kerdiles, Phil Di Giuseppe, Ludvig Bystrom, Martin Frk.