2012 NHL Draft Review
By Jon Litterine
The 2012 NHL Draft is in the books and below we take a look at all of the first-round selections that were made Friday night in Pittsburgh.
1. Edmonton Oilers: Nail Yakupov (RW, Sarnia - OHL): The Oilers were apparently considering defenseman Ryan Murray as well with the number one pick, but they ultimately couldn't pass on the consensus best player in the draft. Considering Yakupov's skill set, it was the right decision. He has all the attributes to be a high-scoring winger in the NHL. He is considered NHL ready and it would be a surprise if he didn't play in the league next season. Assuming the KHL isn't a concern, Yakupov should fit perfectly in Edmonton with young forwards Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He also should be worthy of a fantasy pick in your draft this coming year.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Murray (D, Everett - WHL): Columbus needs help everywhere, so the pick of Murray makes sense. His upside and offensive ability may be limited as a pro, but he's arguably the safest pick in the entire draft. He played against men at the World Championships last month after his junior season ended and he is a near lock to play in the NHL next season. From a fantasy perspective though, as more of an all-around type there's a real chance he will never carry any fantasy value throughout his entire NHL career.
3. Montreal Canadiens: Alex Galchenyuk (LW, Sarnia - OHL): Montreal was trying to hit a home run with its pick and Galchenyuk has that potential. He missed nearly the entire season with a serious knee injury but he has as much offensive talent as anyone in the draft other than Yakupov. Since he missed so much time this year, he could almost certainly use another season in Sarnia, but with Montreal needing all the offensive help it can get, it wouldn't be a surprise if he started next season in the NHL.
4. New York Islanders: Griffin Reinhart (D, Edmonton - WHL): Mathew Dumba and Morgan Rielly were also options for the Islanders but they opted for Reinhart. The Islanders badly needed a young defenseman more than they needed another forward, so the pick isn't a surprise. He has size and some skills but he isn't very physical. That can be taught but it is something he needs to add to his game. Reinhart is ticketed for at least one more season in the WHL.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs: Morgan Rielly (D, Moose Jaw - WHL): If the Leafs wanted a forward, they would have taken Filip Forsberg, but they decided on Rielly, a pure offensive defenseman. He dealt with a torn ACL this season but he battled all the way back and was able to return for the playoffs. Rielly is most often compared to Duncan Keith. He's a bit undersized but his offensive skills are off the charts. He figures to develop for at least one more season in Moose Jaw.
6. Anaheim Ducks: Hampus Lindholm (D, Rogle - Sweden): Anaheim went a bit off the board to select a defenseman who has been rapidly rising up draft boards in the past few months. Lindholm has great size at 6-3 and 195 pounds and he plays a solid all-around game. There is no doubt that the emergence of Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson of the Senators has put players like Lindholm on the map. Anaheim won't be winning anything in the next couple seasons so the Ducks would be wise to let Lindholm develop in Sweden for a while longer.
7. Minnesota Wild: Mathew Dumba (D, Red Deer - WHL): The Wild had to be thrilled to pick up Dumba at this point in the draft. He was in serious consideration to go as high as number four overall and he brings some much needed skill and intensity to the Minnesota back end. The Wild spent a first-round pick on Jonas Brodin last year, but besides that they have virtually zero noteworthy defensive prospects in their system, so this pick makes plenty of sense. Dumba probably needs one more year in Red Deer, but he has a real shot to play in Minnesota for the 2013-14 season.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins: Derrick Pouliot (D, Portland - WHL): This was the pick the Penguins acquired from Carolina in the Jordan Staal trade. Pouliot plays a similar game to current Pens defenseman Kris Letang. He may not have the pure offensive flair that Letang has in his game, but some people feel Pouliot was the best pure passer of any defenseman in the entire draft. His biggest problem is that he plays on a Portland team loaded with top-flight defensive prospects and he doesn't get as much ice time as he probably should. That being said, Pouliot remains a top prospect.
9. Winnipeg Jets: Jacob Trouba (D, US NTDP): The Jets are a team that seems to lack a true identity and the pick of Trouba will help with that down the road. His coming out party came at the World Juniors this past year when he not only made Team USA but also made an impact. He has limited offensive skills but he projects as a solid shutdown defenseman. He plays a real in-your-face type of game and is a great competitor. Trouba isn't going to put up many points once he turns pro, but he is capable of helping his team in many other ways. Trouba is scheduled to play next season at the University of Michigan.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning: Slater Koekkoek (D, Peterborough - OHL): The Lightning had two first-round picks so they attempted to hit a home run with their first selection. Koekkoek was limited to just 26 games this past season due to a serious shoulder injury, but he possesses as much upside as nearly any defenseman in the entire draft. Due to the injury, most people projected Koekkoek to go later in the first round, but he is a top 10 talent. Assuming his shoulder is healthy, he should pan out just fine for Tampa Bay.
11. Washington Capitals: Filip Forsberg (RW, Leksand - Sweden): By adding Forsberg at pick number 11, the Caps got the first steal of Round 1. Most people had him projected going in the top five, and the Hockey News had him ranked second overall. Once thought of as a purely offensive forward, Forsberg added a defensive element to his game this season and he now projects as a solid two-way player. He will probably spend one more season with Leksand in the Swedish Elite League before coming over to join the Capitals.
12. Buffalo Sabres: Mikhail Grigorenko (C, Quebec - QMJHL): The Sabres are the beneficiaries of a poor playoff by Grigorenko this past season. It was later revealed that he was suffering from mononucleosis, but his stock still dropped amongst many NHL teams. There was also concern amongst some teams that Grigorenko eventually wants to return to Russia, a claim he vehemently denies. Grigorenko is an offensive wizard who already has an NHL-ready body. He should be a real productive player for the Sabres as long as they can keep him in North America.
13. Dallas Stars: Radek Faksa (C, Kitchener - OHL): On the day the Stars traded Mike Ribeiro to Washington, they spent their first-round pick on an offensive-minded forward with great size. Faksa was runner up for Rookie of the Year in the OHL this past season and he is a great skater for such a big kid. He also acquitted himself nicely at the World Juniors by scoring a couple of goals. Because he is so physically developed, he may be ready for professional hockey after just one more year in Kitchener.
14. Buffalo Sabres: Zemgus Girgensons (C, Dubuque - USHL): While the Sabres spent their first pick on an offensive forward in Grigorenko, they spent their second first-round selection on a player who projects as more of a shutdown center in the NHL. Girgensons has fantastic size at 6-1 and 200 pounds and while his offensive upside may ultimately be limited, he could turn into the prototypical third line shutdown center that can chip in 10-15 goals a season. He'll likely head to the University of Vermont for next season.
15. Ottawa Senators: Cody Ceci (D, Ottawa - OHL): It hasn't happened often, but the Sens spent their first-round pick on a player who grew up just outside Ottawa and plays his junior hockey for the 67's. Ceci isn't a pure offensive defenseman, but he still managed 17 goals and 60 points in 64 games this past season. He is a very good skater for a guy who is 6-2 and 210 pounds and as long as his defensive game continues to develop, Ottawa picked up a real good player at this point in the draft.
16. Washington Capitals: Tom Wilson (RW, Plymouth - OHL): Washington is a team that is loaded with a lot of skill guys and not a ton of grit and the Caps fixed that with the selection of Wilson. He has elite size at 6-4 and 205 pounds, he loves to hit, and he loves to drop the gloves. Scouts aren't convinced Wilson will be a big-time scorer at the NHL level, but he should prove to be the perfect physical complement to skill players such as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and the previously drafted Filip Forsberg.
17. San Jose Sharks: Tomas Hertl (C, Slavia - Czech Republic):The Sharks' prospect pool may very well be the worst in the entire NHL and they need help all over the place. Hertl is a good start. He didn't play in the top league in the world, but he played against men and he had a very productive season. Hertl was also a standout at the World Juniors with five points in six games. He is looking at a minimum of two and possibly three more seasons before he comes to North America.
18. Chicago Blackhawks: Teuvo Teravainen (LW, Jokerit - Finland): It has been reported that several teams had Teravainen in their top five, so Chicago did a fantastic job to pick him up at number 18 overall. He plays a similar style to current Blackhawk Patrick Kane. Teravainen is undersized but has loads of skill. Talent-wise, he is close to being able to play in the NHL right now. But Teravainen is listed at just 160 pounds and he needs to add quite a bit of weight before he can be seriously considered an option for Chicago.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning: Andrei Vasilevski (G, Ufa Tolpar - Russia): The Lightning have three legitimate young goaltenders in Anders Lindback, Dustin Tokarski and Riku Helenius, but none of them has the long-term potential that Vasilevski does. The young Russian has excelled on the international level and he is one of the top Russian goaltending prospects to come onto the scene in several years. Lindback should be a serviceable starter for the next three to five years, which will allow Vasilevski to develop. He is looking at two more years at a minimum in his native Russia. Having two first-round picks allowed Tampa Bay to take a shot on Vasilevski here.
20. Philadelphia Flyers: Scott Laughton (C, Oshawa - OHL): Philadelphia likely wanted Tom Wilson at this spot, but the Caps put an end to that real quickly. Laughton put up decent numbers (53 points in 64 games) with Oshawa this season, but he projects strictly as a shutdown center at the NHL level. He's good on faceoffs and has excelled in the role for Team Canada at the international level. He is the type of player who can find his way to the NHL rather quickly due to how responsible he is in his own zone.
21. Calgary Flames: Mark Jankowski (C, Stanstead High - Canada): Leave it to a team with a veteran roster that needs to win now to pick the biggest project in the entire first round. Jankowski put up ridiculous numbers this past season but he was facing weaker competition than any other player selected in Round 1. All the tools are there, but he remains a total unknown and a huge project. He is due to go to Providence College in the fall, but there are concerns that he may need a season in the USHL before he is even ready for the college game. Calgary is looking at a minimum of four years before it gets a return on investment.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins: Olli Maatta (D, London - OHL): Maatta figures to thrive in Pittsburgh because with Kris Letang and the previously drafted Derrick Pouliot on the roster, he won't be required to be a big point producer. He was a bit out of his element in London and he struggled at times trying to run the team's power play. He projects as a solid two-way defenseman with good size. As long as Maatta isn't asked to do too much, he should have a long and productive NHL career.
23. Florida Panthers: Mike Matheson (D, Dubuque - USHL): Matheson had a strong start to his season before his game really fell off a cliff. Most, especially defensemen, typically don't put up big numbers in the USHL, so his stats don't really tell the story. He made Team Canada at the under-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament, but he served as the team's seventh defenseman and got very little ice time. His physical game also needs a ton of work. He will have to get his act together if he plans to get serious ice time at Boston College in the fall.
24. Boston Bruins: Malcolm Subban (G, Belleville - OHL): Tuukka Rask is still young but behind him, the Bruins had no noteworthy goaltending prospects in their system. Subban's calling card is his off-the-charts athleticism. He struggles with consistency at times, but that should improve as he gets more experience. As long as he doesn't fall flat on his face, Subban should make Team Canada for next year's World Juniors tournament.
25. St. Louis Blues: Jordan Schmaltz (D, Green Bay - USHL): Schmaltz can really control a game from the blue line because of his poise with the puck. He's slanted a bit more toward the offensive side of the game over the defensive, but he has real good size and he has the ability to be a dominant force in his own zone. As long as he continues to develop, the Blues should have a future NHL regular on their hands here.
26. Vancouver Canucks: Brendan Gaunce (C, Belleville - OHL): At 6-2 and 215 pounds, Gaunce has the body almost all NHL teams are searching for. He uses his size to his advantage and has above average puck skills as well. His defensive play still needs quite a bit of work, but a team like the Canucks are drafting him with the hope that he can develop into a dominate top-six forward one day.
27. Phoenix Coyotes: Henrik Samuelsson (C, Edmonton - WHL): Samuelsson has the smarts and offensive ability to be an effective player, but there are concerns that if his skating doesn't improve he won't be able to take a shift as an NHL regular. He bounced from Modo of the Swedish Elite League to Edmonton of the WHL this past season. The size is there as well, so as long as his can improve his skating a bit, he should be just fine.
28. New York Rangers: Brady Skjei (D, US NTDP): The Rangers didn't really need another defenseman, which signifies that they are prepared to lose either Michael Del Zotto and/or Tim Erixon in a deal to acquire a first line winger. Skjei is the best skating defenseman in the entire draft, so even though they didn't need a defenseman, they got a good one. He plays a game similar to current Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. He has elite size and is an effortless skater.
29. New Jersey Devils: Stefan Matteau (LW, US NTDP): Matteau took a lot of dumb penalties this season and that won't fly in a organization like New Jersey. Games involving the US NTDP are typically called very tightly, so he should have a bit more freedom when he heads to the QMJHL for next season. He has all the tools to be an effective power forward at the NHL level as long as he can cut down on the penalties.
30. Los Angeles Kings: Tanner Pearson (LW, Barrie - OHL): When you win the Stanley Cup, you can afford to take a risk on a guy that was eligible to be drafted the previous two seasons and wasn't even selected. Pearson is an offensive machine that has developed into one of the top scorers in the OHL. His defensive play is average and has been getting better. He gives the Kings another potential top-six forward in their very deep system.