RotoWire 2012 NHL Draft Preview
By Jon Litterine
The 2012 NHL Draft begins June 22 in Pittsburgh. The Edmonton Oilers hold the first overall selection for the third year in a row in a draft that features a lack of top-flight talent and several prospects that battled severe injuries within the past year. Below are our rankings for the top 30 prospects in the upcoming draft:
1. Nail Yakupov (RW, Sarnia - OHL): Yakupov is easily the top talent available in a draft that is considerably weaker than the previous couple of years. Known as more of a pure goal scorer when he first arrived in America last year, Yakupov has worked on his playmaking skills and now is a complete all-around player in the offensive zone. He played well for Russia at the World Juniors with nine assists in seven games. While not an elite skater, he has above average speed. Injuries limited Yakupov to just 42 OHL games this past season, but he was as productive as ever when healthy. Yakupov is easily the best available player in the draft, but with the Oilers in dire need of a defenseman and not another forward, it's possible he may be playing next season somewhere other than Edmonton.
2. Alex Galchenyuk (LW, Sarnia - OHL): In what was an all too common theme this past season, Galchenyuk suffered a serious knee injury during an exhibition game and was limited to just two regular season games. He did return for the playoffs. In his first season in Sarnia in 2010-11, Galchenyuk posted 31 goals and 83 points in just 68 games. He has good size at 6-1 and 200 pounds and has great hands. Had he been healthy the entire season, he would have likely been a lock to go in the top three picks. Now there's a chance that he won't go in the top five. But with players coming back better than ever from knee injuries these days, there's no reason to think he won't return to his pre-injury form. He has as much talent as anyone in the draft other than Yakupov.
3. Mikhail Grigorenko (C, Quebec - QMJHL): At 6-3 and 200 pounds, Grigorenko already has the size to be an effective NHL player. He had 40 goals and 85 points in his first season in the QMJHL and was effective for Russia in the World Juniors with five points in six games. Grigorenko's defensive play needs some serious work, but that isn't uncommon for players his age. Despite the fact he willingly came over to North America this season, some scouts still feel there is a chance he will bolt back to the KHL at some point. Grigorenko, for his part, has said his goal all along has always been to play in the NHL and that he has no plans to return to Russia. Some scouts don't like Grigorenko's poor work ethic either and when you combine that with the "Russian factor," he may also find himself outside the top five despite his immense talent.
4. Filip Forsberg (RW, Leksand - Sweden): Once thought of as a purely offensive player, Forsberg's play in his own zone has really developed and now he is considered a solid two-way prospect. He also has good size at 6-1, 187. He struggled at the World Juniors with just one point in six games for a Swedish team that won the gold medal, but he took a regular shift for Leksand in the Swedish Elite League as an 18-year-old and was productive with 17 points in 43 games. His overall upside may be limited once he reaches the NHL, but Forsberg is a very safe pick and should find himself selected in the top five.
5. Mathew Dumba (D, Red Deer - WHL): Dumba has a huge shot and is a pure offensive defenseman. He scored 20 goals this past year for Red Deer from the point and will earn some extra bonus points from some teams for being a right-handed shot. His size is only average at 6-0 and 185 pounds, but he actually managed to stay healthy all season unlike many other top prospects, which will only help his value on draft day.
6. Ryan Murray (D, Everett - WHL): The problem that Murray faces is a common one amongst players in this year's draft. There is no reason he shouldn't play 15 years in the NHL, but his overall upside is limited. He figures to max out at about 30 points in the NHL while quietly playing 20 minutes a night. There is nothing wrong with that, but teams picking early in the draft may seek a player who can make a bigger impact in the league. Murray did suit up for Canada at the World Championships at the end of the year and he has a realistic chance of starting next season in the NHL.
7. Morgan Rielly (D, Moose Jaw - WHL): You can add Rielly to the list of this year's walking wounded. He was limited to just 18 games due to a torn ACL. Another pure offensive defenseman, Rielly had 18 points in his 18 games. He is a very good skater and has terrific hockey sense. Rielly took just one minor penalty in the 18 games, which will also endear him to some teams. If Rielly was a couple inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, he could have been projected in the top three. However, he has just average size at 6-0 and 190 pounds.
8. Jacob Trouba (D, US NTDP): Trouba was the one bright spot for Team USA in what was a dreadful World Junior tournament. He began the tournament as the team's seventh defenseman, but poor play and an injury to former Kings first-round pick Derek Forbort led to an increased role for Trouba, and he responded admirably. He projects as a stay-at-home defenseman with good size, but he has just enough offensive ability to get the job done. He is another safe, yet unspectacular pick.
9. Griffin Reinhart (D, Edmonton - WHL): For a defenseman with elite size (6-4, 205 pounds), Reinhart's lack of a physical game hurts him. He is a very smart, two-way defenseman, but a player of his size should be more of a physical threat. He had a very solid season for an Edmonton team that won the WHL championship and played in the Memorial Cup. Reinhart figures to bulk up to closer to 225 pounds before he makes an impact in the NHL.
10. Cody Ceci (D, Ottawa - OHL): You don't come across many 18-year-old, right-handed shooting defensemen that are 6-2, 205 pounds and average nearly a point a game in the OHL. Those factors give Ceci a chance to be drafted in the top 10. His defensive game needs some work, but the fact he took just eight minor penalties in 64 games shows that Ceci is also smart player.
11. Sebastian Collberg (RW, Frolunda - Sweden): Collberg played 41 games for Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League this past season and he didn't record a point. That isn't a typo - not a single point all year! Yet a large part of that was due to limited ice time. But he was an impact player for Sweden at the World Juniors with four goals and seven points in six games and he actually projects as a purely offensive player once he arrives in North America. The fact that Collberg is undersized at 5-11 and 175 pounds doesn't project to be much of a problem with the way the NHL game is called today.
12. Radek Faksa (C, Kitchener - OHL): Faksa is the complete offensive package. He has good size and skill, and he can really skate. Scouts also love the fact that Faksa was willing to come over from his native Czech Republic and play this past season in Kitchener. His stock has been steadily on the rise in the second half of the year and the only concern about his game was a late-season concussion that he suffered.
13. Olli Maatta (D, London - OHL): Maatta was put in a tough position in his first season in North America. Playing for the best team in the OHL in London, he was expected to be a top-flight, point-producing defenseman, but his offensive skills are somewhat limited at this point and he finished with just five goals in 58 games. The size is there at 6-2 and 200 pounds, but how much upside there is to his overall game is a real question mark. He also really struggled at the Memorial Cup on the national stage after London won the OHL title.
14. Teuvo Teravainen (LW, Jokerit - Finland): Teravainen is one of the most talented offensive players available in the draft, but his slight frame is a serious concern. His 5-11 height is enough to get by, but at the moment he is listed at just 160 pounds. If he can get up to 185 pounds then he should be fine, but anything less than that and he will be manhandled by NHL defensemen. However Teravainen figures to be taken in the middle of round one because of his fantastic offensive upside.
15. Zemgus Girgensons (C, Dubuque - USHL): You don't come across many Latvian born players in the USHL, but Girgensons is the exception. His offensive game is still evolving, but he has great size and is very good in his own zone. How much offense he will be able to produce in the NHL is a concern, but at the very worst, a team in the middle of the first round figures to get a solid third line center. If his offensive game develops, a team could end up with a power forward capable of contributing 20 goals a year as well. We should get a better idea of his offensive ability next year when he heads to the University of Vermont.
16. Pontus Aberg (LW, Djurgarden - Sweden): Aberg ran into the same problem that many young players in the Swedish Elite League face, where they just don't get enough ice time for people to get a good read on their abilities. Aberg actually finished with 15 points in 47 games for Djurgarden, which is very impressive for an 18-year-old. Scouts were looking forward to seeing Aberg against elite international competition at the World Juniors, but he missed the tournament with an injury. Aberg is slightly undersized at 5-11, but he has a wide base at 195 pounds and he projects as an offensive forward in the NHL.
17. Brendan Gaunce (C, Belleville - OHL): At 6-2 and 215 pounds, Gaunce already has the size that attracts NHL scouts. He averaged exactly a point per game in 68 games with Belleville this past season and projects as an effective power forward at the NHL level. Gaunce was consistent all season long for a Belleville team that struggled at times. On draft night, he should hear his named called in the middle of the first round.
18. Derrick Pouliot (D, Portland - WHL): Pouliot's 59 points in 72 games for Portland this past season were great, but they could have been even better if he didn't have former Penguins first-round pick Joe Morrow and former Calgary second-round pick Tyler Wotherspoon in front of him on the depth chart. It isn't going to get any better next year when Seth Jones, perhaps the number one overall pick in the 2013 draft, arrives in Portland. The upside is certainly there, even if Pouliot is a bit undersized at 5-11.
19. Brady Skjei (D, US NTDP): When you take the best skating defenseman in the entire draft, you can always make the case that it isn't a bad pick, and that's exactly what Skjei is. Even more impressive is the fact that Skjei is 6-3 and 205 pounds. His offensive game isn't full developed yet, but that should improve in the coming years. He will be in high demand on draft night considering the demand for mobile defensemen in today's NHL.
20. Matt Finn (D, Guelph - OHL): Finn is the typical all-around defenseman who does nothing great, but everything well. He has average size, is a solid skater, can throw the big hit now and then and plays the power play. He is another safe selection in a draft that seems to have a ton of them. He's unlikely to ever make an All-Star team, but there's also no reason he shouldn't play a decade in the NHL.
21. Tomas Hertl (C, Slavia - Czech Republic): From a personal perspective, Hertl is one of my favorite players in the entire draft. He may not have been playing in the top league in the world, but he was playing against men all season and was productive with 12 goals and 25 points in 38 games. He also stood out on the national stage at the World Juniors with five points in six games. The size is there too, at 6-2 and 200 pounds. More of a playmaker than a finisher, Hertl has a chance to develop into one of the better offensive players in the entire draft.
22. Hampus Lindholm (D, Rogle - Sweden): Unlike a few other Swedish players who are expected to be taken in the first round, Lindholm got a ton of ice time for a Rogle team that was battling for a spot in the Swedish Elite League for next season. While not a pure offensive defenseman, Lindholm has shown the ability to jump up into the rush and chip in offensively. He has great size at 6-3 and 195 pounds, but his physical game is almost non-existent. If he can harness that aspect of his game, he has a chance to turn into a real good all-around defenseman. His stock has been steadily on the rise all season long and now he is likely to find himself taken in Round 1.
23. Slater Koekkoek (D, Peterborough - OHL): Playing for a bad Peterborough team and getting a ton of minutes, Koekkoek was having a big season before a shoulder injury wrecked his draft year. He ended up being limited to 26 games. Based on upside alone, Koekkoek is one of the top three defensemen in the entire draft. That being said, his injury will likely force some teams to pass on him. He has no real weaknesses in his game, and assuming he can fully recover from the injury some team is going to get a very good player somewhere in the 20's.
24. Ludvig Bystrom (D, Modo - Sweden): Bystrom was playing so well for Modo's junior team that he got recalled to the big club and played well in his 20-game audition. A defenseman with average size, Bystrom's defensive play is remarkably solid for such a young player. His offensive game is still a work in progress but scouts believe he has enough talent to eventually chip in some points as well. His hockey sense has been brought into question at times due to some poor turnovers, but that will likely get sorted out as his game further develops.
25. Dalton Thrower (D, Saskatoon - WHL): Thrower is undersized for a defenseman at 5-11, but he willingly will drop the gloves to protect his teammates. He also runs the power play and put up 18 goals and 54 points in 66 games this season. He got a ton of ice time for Saskatoon while playing with Colorado's 2011 first-round pick, Duncan Siemens, and that figures to continue next year. Thrower may find himself dropping to the early portion of the second round, but some team could possibly get a steal if they can get him that late.
26. Tanner Pearson (LW, Barrie - OHL): Pearson's story is very well known around draft circles. He was eligible to be picked in both the 2010 and 2011 drafts and went unselected. After scoring just 15 goals and 42 points for Barrie last season, his numbers jumped to 37 goals and 91 points in 60 games this year. He also shocked everyone by making Team Canada at the World Juniors and played well there with six points in six games. An offensive machine who is responsible enough in his own zone, Pearson has a real chance to go late in Round 1 and at the very worst, very early in Round 2.
27. Tom Wilson (RW, Plymouth - OHL): Wilson's game isn't much of a secret. He has great size at 6-4 and 205 pounds, throws big hits all over the ice, will drop the gloves at the drop of a hat, and has the ability to contribute offensively. He has all the makings of a real solid power forward at the NHL level. The only real question amongst scouts is his overall upside. With the style of game he plays, some scouts feel he won't be able to contribute more than 10 goals a season as a pro and some teams are looking for more if they are going to invest their first-round pick on a player.
28. Andrei Vasilevski (G, Ufa Tolpar - Russia): Vasilevski may not be a future franchise goaltender, but everyone is pretty much in agreement that he has all the tools to be a solid starting goalie in the NHL. He starred for Russia at the World Juniors, keeping his team in more than one game single-handedly. At 6-3 and over 200 pounds, he has the size in net that NHL teams are looking for these days. He isn't a lock to be the first goalie selected, but he has more upside than any other goalie available in the draft.
29. Stefan Matteau (LW, US NTDP): The son of former NHL forward Stephane Matteau struggled at times this past year due to the fact he plays a rugged, physical game and games that feature the US NTDP are typically called very tightly. He should have more success when he moves to the QMJHL next season and has some more freedom to play his type of game. He picked up 93 penalty minutes in just 18 games this past season and spending so much time in the penalty box makes it difficult to get yourself noticed in your draft season.
30. Henrik Samuelsson (C, Edmonton - WHL): The son of former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson started the year with Modo of the Swedish Elite League, but when he realized he wasn't getting enough ice time to be an effective player, he left the team and joined the Oil Kings for the final stretch of the WHL season. Samuelsson was good, but not great, for Edmonton with 23 points in 28 games. He has good size and offensive instincts, but his skating really needs some work. He's far better off developing in North America than Sweden, and that could earn him a few extra bonus points from teams on draft night.