The last few years, the NHL Draft had talented NHL-ready players that were guaranteed NHL roster spots after the first two picks. That may not be the case with the 2012 NHL Draft.
At this point, there is only one player who seems like a stone cold lock to make an NHL roster in 2012. That player is Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov. Yakupov is expected to be the top selection in tomorrow’s NHL draft in Pittsburgh.
There are other players in the 2012 NHL Draft, but these players may need more seasoning in the Canadian Junior Hockey Leagues, Sweden, or college until they are ready to make the proper transition to the NHL.
This is not like the 2011 NHL Draft where you got four NHL ready players in Ryan Nugent- Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Larsson, and Sean Couturier. Add those 4 players up with 10 other draft picks in the top 14 that can compete for NHL roster spots.
Even if Yakupov is the top pick, he will likely start out on the Oilers’ second line. The Oilers top line of forwards is set with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle. The three forwards have outstanding chemistry, and all three forwards recorded over 50 points last season as Eberle led the Oilers with 76 points in 78 games. Hall and Nugent-Hopkins both missed significant time due to injuries and both players are only beginning to blossom after being selected #1 overall in 2010 and 2011. Nugent-Hopkins is 19 years old and Hall turns 21 in November. Imagine what both players could do if they managed to stay healthy for 82 games in 2012-2013?
The Oilers may be ready to take the next step toward becoming Stanley Cup contenders, but can you say that about the rest of the NHL? It’s critical for front offices to make sure the players they take in this year’s NHL Draft help their team take that next step toward establishing a winning product in the NHL.