The 2012 NHL Draft may have been more about depth than star power, however there were still plenty of opportunities for clubs to address their needs. The top ten saw eight defensemen taken with a total of thirteen chosen in the first round. There were a pair of highly touted goalies taken in the first round with a number of potential starters going in each of the subsequent rounds. Up front, there was talent to go around but forwards in general seemed to slip a bit from their projected standing.
Below is a compilation of the Hockey’s Future staff picks as far as the winners, losers, steals and questionable picks of this year’s draft. The winners and losers by team were selected based upon total talent added by way of the draft, as well as addressing positional needs within the organization and showing balance round by round. The losers were selected for failure to:
1. maximize their draft position
2. round out their organizational depth
3. show consistency over the seven rounds of the draft.
Individual players were considered steals or questionable picks based upon a variety of factors including but not limited to ISS ranking, CSS ranking, projections by our staff, firsthand observation and the quality of players who remained on the board when they were selected.
The Sabres saw Mikhail Grigorenko fall to them at No. 12 overall, despite his No. 4 final ranking on the ISS board. They followed up by trading up to make the 14th pick, Zemgus Girgensons, regarded by many as a center with loads of toughness and leadership ability. On Day Two, the Sabres went for size and also experience. Five out of their six Day Two picks were born in 1993. They had a shrewd, aggressive draft that saw them round out an organization that had showed promise but not quite produced results. As they develop a nice mix of speedy, skilled players and big, gritty complements to them, the Sabres should be a force going forward.
In need of a star up front, the Habs snagged one early in Alex Galchenyuk. Where they separated themselves from other teams with high selections was on Day Two. They picked up Sebastian Collberg, a growing forward with a quick release, and Dalton Thrower, a sound two-way defenseman who saw a big leap in his offensive numbers in the WHL. Both players were projected widely as potential first-rounders. They then grabbed a natural finisher in Tim Bozon in Round 3. They bolstered their depth up front considerably, adding six forwards in the draft. The Canadiens did perhaps the finest job of maximizing their draft position, not only on Day One but in all seven rounds of the draft.
On the flipside, the Penguins loaded up on defense, creating arguably the strongest organizational depth in the NHL on the blue line. They traded for Carolina’s No. 8 overall selection to grab Derrick Pouliot. Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said the Hurricanes did not have Pouliot ranked eighth but that “he was close” on their board. They may have reached slightly at No. 8 but got an excellent value at No. 25 with another fine defensive prospect, Finnish import Olli Maatta. They also acquired Brian Dumoulin via trade before diversifying their picks by position on Day Two.
The Flames traded down from No. 14 with several promising prospects on the board, only to make a bit of an off-the-board pick at No. 21.They selected Mark Jankowski, a high-school standout with a strong hockey bloodline but limited attention as a first rounder. He did make a leap from 74th to 43rd overall in CSS’s final rankings but finished 55th on the ISS list. If Jankowski turns into the Joe Nieuwendyk-esque player the Flames expect, they still may not have had a superlative draft. On Day Two, the Flames selected three defensive defenseman and a pair of unremarkable forwards to add to an organization starving for offense. They also selected Jon Gillies, who may bolster their organizational depth in net as No. 1 netminder Miikka Kiprusoff ages.
With a roster more competitive than the typical team selecting sixth overall and respectable organizational depth, the Ducks were in a position to cash in big in this draft. An early look at their selections,however, suggested that they failed to do so. Their first selection, Hampus Lindholm, was identified as a climbing commodity by several organizations but at No. 6 there were players with better resumes to date and higher ceilings to boot. They took a series of players with relatively distant ETAs, although some of them have intriguing potential. Contrasted to a club like Montreal, who picked in the same range throughout the draft, the Ducks seem to have fallen considerably short in terms of adding assets. Even one of their better picks,1989-born Frederik Andersen, seems like a long shot to actually sign given his prominence in the SEL.
The Jackets got their man at No. 2 in Ryan Murray, bolstering a defense corps that could be considered the strength of their team. They dealt for goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky but then turned around and sunk their second and third picks into goaltenders. In need of both depth and talent up front, the Jackets did not select a potential scoring winger until the sixth round when they selected Swedish winger Daniel Zaar. The Blue Jackets also made little progress on fulfilling its captain Rick Nash’s request for a trade. The move still seems like an eventuality and it would further dilute a watery pool of forwards.
Filip Forsberg had no major knocks against him. He had a high level of maturity and hockey sense, a relatively clear injury history, defensive responsibility, solid strength and an ETA as soon as any of his peers. So how did he slip to No. 11 overall? Washington scooped him up with the pick, which they acquired from Colorado in the Semyon Varlamov deal. In Forsberg they get a heady, two-way player who has explosive play-making potential as well. Many believed he was a top-five pick who had already shown high-end potential.
Another steal is Radek Faksa, the Czech forward with a solid skill set and even more solid physique, who was nabbed by the Dallas Stars. Faksa can play all three spots, modeling his game a bit after Eric Staal with a deep admiration for Pavel Datsyuk and Jaromir Jagr. Indeed Faksa could develop into a powerful forward that also offers offensive creativity. He is a strong battler along the boards as well as in front of the net with loads of strength and fairly nimble hands. The Stars may have found a significant piece of their future and a player who can step onto their roster in the near, if not immediate, future.
There were a handful of high-value selections but to find another clear-cut bargain it took until Mr. Nobody, No. 211 overall, Nick Ebert became a member of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. Ebert was on the radar before last season as a potential first or second rounder, but fell like a rock. His second half saw him court a point-per-game pace and he boasts one of the hardest shots from the blue line in the entire OHL. While consistency and character were two words commonly uttered in opposition to Ebert’s selection, his talent level made him well worth the flyer with the very last pick in the draft.
Pittsburgh’s Olli Maatta, Buffalo’s Grigorenko, Montreal’s Collberg, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevski and Nashville’s Zach Stepan were among a host of players also thought to be strong values by our staff.
Lindholm heads the list. With rearguards like Matthew Dumba, Jacob Trouba, Olli Maata, Cody Ceci and Slater Koekkek on the board, the Ducks reached for Lindholm to address their thinning defense. Having dealt Lubomir Visnovsky moments earlier and resigning themselves to having lost Justin Schultz, defense seemed logical but the pick itself appeared suspect. Forwards like Forsberg and Grigorenko were also still on the board, two players with considerably higher star potential than Lindholm despite a very sold second half of last season from the Swede. Some lauded his early ETA, but he has at least one more year on his SEL deal and seems as or less likely than many of the aforementioned players to arrive in the NHL soon.
Jankowski was at least the biggest surprise of the first round and deserves mention here as such. The lanky high-schooler is still growing into his body but may fill out very nicely. He is a strong passer that put up big numbers at a low level. Still, the Flames may have been able to acquire him with a lower pick . They could certainly have added a more reliable prospect at No. 21, let alone the fourteenth position from which they traded down for marginal return.
Scott Laughton, Philadelphia’s first round selection, seemed like another reach. A tough player that could play a role for the Flyers down the line, Laughton simply did not have the upside of players like Maatta, goalie Malcolm Subban (BOS), or even some second-rounders such as wingers Collberg and Pontus Aberg (NSH). The Flyers have typically pursued higher-end talent in the first round but appear to have settled for a reliable role player in this instance.