Archive for June, 2012

Mock My Mock: 2012 NHL Draft

June 18, 2012 16 comments

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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, poses between Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini, left, and head scout Stu MacGregor last June in St. Paul, Minn. The Oilers own the top selection again on Friday in Pittsburgh after winning the draft lottery.

Mock drafts are never easy, but this year’s NHL Entry Draft is almost impossible to predict, from pick No. 1 through 30 — and beyond.

The 2012 class is wide open, so there could be plenty of surprises, not to mention trade activity that changes the course.

There’s the “Russian factor” at play again, plus several draft eligibles missed significant time with injuries this past season, resulting in more questions than answers.

It’s not a particularly strong or deep year, especially past the top 10, so teams could certainly draft by need or go off the board.

Remember when the New Jersey Devils sent analysts scrambling for information with their selection of Adrian Foster in the first round, 28th overall, in 2001? Or the next year, when the Edmonton Oilers announced Jesse Niinimaki, an almost unheard of Finnish forward, as their pick at 15th overall?

Nobody saw those picks coming and Friday’s first round could produce similar drama.

Speaking of wild-cards, this is a good year for goaltenders, but when and where they will go is hard to say. As is the case with every pick this year, time will tell. . . . Or better yet, I’ll tell you right now and you can mock me later when this mock draft blows up in smoke.

Nail Yakupov

1. Edmonton Oilers — Nail Yakupov (RW, OHL, Sarnia). The consensus top prospect is too much to pass up, even given Edmonton’s abundance of skilled forwards and lack of top-end defence. Yakupov is a proven sniper who outscored Steven Stamkos on the same junior team and is committed to playing in North America for the long haul. He patterns his game after Pavel Bure, but also reminds some scouts of a smaller Ilya Kovalchuk (Yakupov is 5’11” and 185 pounds, Kovalchuk is 6’3″ 230 lbs). I’m confident Yakupov will be the first name called on Friday, although I think there’s a slim chance it might not be called by the Oilers, should they elect to trade down and target defence.

Filip Forsberg

2. Columbus Blue Jackets — Filip Forsberg (C, Sweden, Leksand). Already, this pick could be one of a handful of players, but I think Columbus will play it safe with the well-rounded Swede. The Jackets haven’t had any luck with Russians in the past (see Nikita Filatov and Nikolai Zherdev), and they aren’t hurting for defence on their NHL roster or in their farm system. There’s a good chance former first overall pick, Rick Nash, a power forward, is traded this weekend and Forsberg’s addition could help cushion that blow within the fanbase.

Mikhail Grigorenko

3. Montreal Canadiens — Mikhail Grigorenko (C, QMJHL, Quebec). Marc Bergevin strikes me as the kind of rookie GM who won’t be afraid to roll the dice, and I think the “boom” outweighs the “bust” when it comes to this talented Russian. The Habs are hurting for a game-breaking forward and Grigorenko could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Montreal’s scouts have likely watched him as much as anybody, playing in their own backyard. Being drafted out of Quebec — the capital city’s Remparts no less — might also make him an easier sell to French fans.

Ryan Murray

4. New York Islanders — Ryan Murray (D, WHL, Everett). By all accounts, the Islanders are targeting defence with this pick, it’s just a matter of which blue-liner they prefer. Murray’s availability might come as a shock to GM Garth Snow, with many expecting him to go top two, but a pleasant surprise nevertheless. Murray is the safe (and smart) pick here, although he doesn’t possess as much flash or offensive potential as other defencemen in the draft. Snow likes to go for the home run, so I also wouldn’t be stunned to see a scenario similar to 2007 when Los Angeles took Thomas Hickey over Karl Alzner at fourth overall. In this case, my guess would be Mathew Dumba if not Murray.

Alex Galchenyuk

5. Toronto Maple Leafs — Alex Galchenyuk (C, OHL, Sarnia). I think Brian Burke gets his guy here. Of the top-five picks, Galchenyuk best exemplifies what Burke is looking for in a player — combining skill, character and perhaps even some truculence. This is one of those prospects that saw limited action in his draft year, leaving Yakupov as a solo act for much of the season, but Galchenyuk returned for playoffs and, by most accounts, didn’t hurt his draft stock. And despite his father’s Russian heritage, Galchenyuk is American, another trait Burke tends to target.

Griffin Reinhart

6. Anaheim Ducks — Griffin Reinhart (D, WHL, Edmonton). This might not be the most popular pick, but I believe it to be the best pick for the Ducks. They already have plenty of puck-movers and offensive types, building around Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen, with Lubomir Visnosky also still in the fold. What Anaheim lacks is a bigger body with a defence-first mentality that can lean on opposing forwards and clear the crease. Fans might not be too crazy about this pick, especially considering Mark Mitera, a defender also fitting that mold, busted after being a first-round pick in 2006. But Reinhart is better all around, showed more offensive upside in leading Edmonton to a WHL championship and has bloodlines working in his favour — his dad, Paul, played over 700 NHL games as a reliable, two-way defenceman. Scouts say Griffin’s a chip off the old block.

Jacob Trouba

7. Minnesota Wild — Jacob Trouba (D, USA U-18). Another “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” type defenceman, Trouba is essentially an American-born Reinhart. And, to be specific, he’s Minnesota-born, so that should sit well with Wild fans. He’s big, physical and strong defensively, but also a good skater with decent puckhandling and passing skills. He’s not Drew Doughty, but he might be Rob Scuderi, and those complimentary players help win championships. Trouba could be a nice long-term fit alongside last year’s first-rounder, Jonas Brodin.

Teuvo Teravainen

8. Carolina Hurricanes — Teuvo Teravainen (LW, Finland, Jokerit Jr.). The fastest-rising prospect now seems a lock to go top 10, much like Mika Zibanejad last year. Teravainen’s stock has never been higher and most scouts agree his skill-set translates to a top-six NHL forward. Carolina has had success with Finnish players (Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu, Joni Pitkanen), so I see a good fit there for Teravainen.

Mathew Dumba

9. Winnipeg Jets — Mathew Dumba (D, WHL, Red Deer). Despite already being strong on the blue-line with Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom, the Jets go with the best player available and land a potential steal in Dumba. He’s explosive and entertaining to watch, much like Evander Kane but as a defenceman. If Dumba was a couple inches taller, he’s likely a top five pick as his skill-set warrants.

Morgan Rielly

10. Tampa Bay Lightning — Morgan Rielly (D, WHL, Moose Jaw). This year’s best pure offensive defenceman is coming off a season derailed by knee surgery, but the Lightning have two picks in the top 20 and a need for more point production from the back end. Victor Hedman is developing as more of a shutdown guy, Marc-Andre Bergeron is a riverboat gambler that often gets burned and Mark Barberio is still a maybe at best. Rielly is worth the risk here, with the reward being the perfect set-up man for Steven Stamkos.

Radek Faksa

11. Washington Capitals (from Colorado) — Radek Faksa (C, OHL, Kitchener). The Capitals are also in a position to take the best player available, and that is a big, powerful centre in this case. Potentially a nice future complement to Nicklas Backstrom, forming a formidable 1-2 punch down the middle. And Faksa’s coming from a Kitchener Rangers’ pipeline that has also produced Jeff Skinner and Gabriel Landeskog.

Malcolm Subban

12. Buffalo Sabres — Malcolm Subban (G, OHL, Belleville). The Sabres are set in goal for the immediate future, with Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth, but the cupboard is pretty bare beyond that tandem. Subban is an exceptionally gifted athlete that could force his way into the picture sooner than later. The younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban, he could even sneak into the top 10 like Carey Price did in 2005, perhaps to Winnipeg.

Cody Ceci

13. Dallas Stars — Cody Ceci (D, OHL, Ottawa). The Stars would be thrilled to pick Ceci at this spot, both for need and best player available. His upside is huge, likely greater than that of Reinhart or Trouba, so this could be a pipedream for Dallas depending on the teams ahead of them. Ceci boasts a nice combination of size and skill, pretty much everything scouts want in a defenceman, but unfortunately for him, this is the year of the defenceman at the NHL draft. Either way, expect Dallas to go defence with this pick as the Stars have a shortage in their system and there’s no shortage of options left on the board.

Hampus Lindholm

14. Calgary Flames — Hampus Lindholm (D, Sweden, Rogle Jr.). Another riser, scouts also seem to think Lindholm could be the complete package. Sweden has produced a plethora of talented blue-liners in recent years — from Erik Karlsson and David Rundblad to Jonas Brodin and Oscar Klefbom — and Lindholm is a continuation of that trend. Calgary had a great draft last year, highlighted by stealing Sven Bartschi in the middle of the first round, and this pick could continue that trend, too.

Sebastian Collberg

15. Ottawa Senators — Sebastian Collberg (RW, Sweden, Frolunda Jr.). The Senators are still awaiting word on whether their Swedish captain Daniel Alfredsson, a top-line right-winger, will retire. In the meantime, they have an opportunity to bring a potential clone into the fold in Collberg, who would join an already strong contingent of young Swedes including defenceman Erik Karlsson and fellow forwards Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg.

Olli Maatta

16. Washington Capitals — Olli Maatta (D, OHL, London). Back on the board, the Capitals continue to go with the best player available, this time a Finnish defenceman who made a successful transition to North America and improved as the season went on. The first overall pick in last year’s CHL Import Draft, Maatta is well-rounded and has been described by some as a poor man’s Victor Hedman.

Zemgus Girgensons

17. San Jose Sharks — Zemgus Girgensons (C, USHL, Dubuque). The Sharks are pleased to select the versatile Latvian, who possesses great offensive instincts but is no slouch on the defensive side and also brings leadership intangibles.

Andrei Vasilevski

18. Chicago Blackhawks — Andrei Vasilevski (G, Russia, Ufa). The Blackhawks can go best player available or target a need here, and end up with Vasilevski regardless of their approach. A standout for Russia at the world juniors, Vasilevski could be the legitimate starter that Chicago has been longing for. Corey Crawford no longer seems the answer, nor is Ray Emery or any of their current prospects.

Derrick Pouliot

19. Tampa Bay Lightning (from Detroit) — Derrick Pouliot (D, WHL, Portland). The Lightning enter draft day with a need to upgrade their blue-line, preferably with offensive defencemen, so landing both Rielly and Pouliot would definitely be mission accomplished. Pouliot is a former first overall WHL Bantam Draft pick that developed alongside Joe Morrow (Pittsburgh) on Portland’s powerhouse. Pouliot is a great skater with above average puck skills.

Brendan Gaunce

20. Philadelphia Flyers — Brendan Gaunce (C, OHL, Belleville). The Flyers have always been infatuated with power forwards and Gaunce might be the best of the bunch in this 2012 draft class. He can score, hit and create space for his linemates, much like Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds and James van Riemsdyk already do in Philadelphia. Other hard-nosed players that the Flyers might be eyeing include forward Thomas Wilson or defenceman Slater Koekkoek. Expect more sandpaper entering Philadelphia’s system when this pick is announced.

Tomas Hertl

21. Buffalo Sabres (from Nashville) — Tomas Hertl (C, Czech Rep., Slavia). The Sabres tend to take a different approach, valuing skill above all else and Hertl is likely the most skilled forward still on the board with their second pick of the first round. Similar in some regards to Buffalo’s first-rounder from last year, Joel Armia, Hertl also has decent size and a nose for the net.

Slater Koekkoek

22. Pittsburgh Penguins — Slater Koekkoek (D, OHL, Peterborough). Another player hurt by injury this season, Koekkoek had an impressive showing at the scouting combine and could be back on the rise. The Penguins could use a second-coming of Brooks Orpik, who is among the players Koekkoek is often compared to.

Mark Jankowski

23. Florida Panthers — Mark Jankowski (C, Quebec, Stanstead College). Speaking of risers, Jankowski’s stock has been skyrocketing despite playing high school prep hockey against inferior opposition. He’s a playmaker first and foremost and, at 6-foot-2 with room to grow, some see shades of Joe Thornton in his game. Last year, Mark Scheifele went well ahead of schedule at seventh overall to Winnipeg and don’t be surprised if Jankowski does the same by sneaking into the first round as the 43rd-ranked North American skater.

Brady Skjei

24. Boston Bruins — Brady Skjei (D, USA U-18). The Bruins might be enticed by Skjei’s raw package as a 6-foot-3 smooth-skating blue-liner. He has the tools, although some question the toolbox, meaning he might not think the game as good as his peers in this defence-heavy draft. Patience will be key to his development, but Boston can afford to wait.

Matthew Finn

25. St. Louis Blues — Matthew Finn (D, OHL, Guelph). In a normal draft year, Finn could challenge for top-10 status, but he’s another victim of the numbers’ game in the sense there are so many talented defencemen ahead of him this year. The Blues would still be getting a potential top-pairing defender this late in the first round, and a guy who showed well at the 2012 CHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna.

Pontus Aberg

26. Vancouver Canucks — Pontus Aberg (LW, Sweden, Djurgarden). The Canucks like their Swedish forwards, and why wouldn’t they, with the Sedin twins being their key of success. Aberg will likely never have that kind of impact and may be more comparable to former second-rounder Anton Rodin, but those complimentary players are still key pieces to the puzzle. Aberg is already playing against men in Sweden and producing, with eight goals in his draft year, so there’s positive signs.

Stefan Matteau

27. Phoenix Coyotes — Stefan Matteau (C, USA U-18). The son of, you guessed it, Stephane Matteau, formerly of the New Jersey Devils, is another apple that hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Projecting as a gritty role player, Stefan is very much a “like father, like son” example. He’s not afraid to get his nose dirty and work for every point, a fitting addition to a blue-collar Coyotes club. I could also see Henrik Samuelsson (WHL, Edmonton) or Scott Laughton (OHL, Oshawa) going to Phoenix if not Matteau.

Thomas Wilson

28. New York Rangers — Thomas Wilson (RW, OHL, Plymouth). The Rangers would rush to the podium to pick Wilson, having always coveted size and power forwards. Wilson might be long gone by this point, however, depending whether other teams see him as the next Milan Lucic — he’s 6-foot-4 and likes to fight — or the next Hugh Jessiman, a 6-foot-6 beast-turned-bust that the Rangers took 12th overall in 2003. Glen Sather still ended up with another monster from the 2003 draft, 6-foot-7 Brian Boyle who went 26th overall to Los Angeles, and I don’t think the Rangers’ boss would hesitate in going back to the well for this behemoth.

Oscar Dansk

29. New Jersey Devils — Oscar Dansk (G, Sweden, Brynas Jr.). The Devils had the option to forfeit this pick, or a future first-rounder, as punishment for circumventing the salary cap with Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract. They chose to keep it, somewhat surprisingly, which leads me to believe they have a player, or rather position, in mind. It’s no secret Martin Brodeur is nearing retirement and New Jersey will need a new netminder sooner than later. The Devils have Scott Wedgewood, who played for Canada at this year’s world juniors, and Keith Kinkaid in their system, but neither are considered elite. New Jersey is probably hoping for Subban or Vasilevski, but Dansk also has that potential and would be a nice consolation prize. Much better than the consolation prize the Devils received as runner-up in the Stanley Cup final.

Colton Sissons

Lukas Sutter

30. Los Angeles Kings — Colton Sissons (C, WHL, Kelowna)/Lukas Sutter (C, WHL, Saskatoon). The Kings were crowned champions and thus are left to pick last, something they will gladly do. I’m cheating here as I see the Kings being torn between two similar players and ending up with one of them. Maybe uncle Darryl will have a say in the matter and bring nephew Lukas Sutter into the fold. He’s ranked 39th among North American skaters, but Sutter was recently named to Canada’s roster for this summer’s Canada-Russia Challenge, a four-game tuneup for the world juniors. Sissons, ranked 14th and the top-rated WHL forward, was left off that team and is perhaps slipping out of the first round. Sissons and Sutter will likely be depth players at the NHL level, something along the lines of Jarret Stoll, who had a big hand in the Kings winning this year’s Cup but is now slated to be a free agent on July 1.

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