1. Florida Panthers Nail Yakupov RW Sarnia Sting OHL Nail Yakupov is the clear cut #1 overall prospect in 2012. He plays for the Sarnia Sting. The same Sarnia Sting team that Steven Stamkos played for the Sarnia Sting before the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted Stamkos #1 overall in 2008. Yakupov is a franchise player he passes the puck like Stamkos and shoots the puck like Ovechkin. Plus you have to consider the fact that it is much harder to find a premium right winger than it is to find a premium left winger.
I have the Florida Panthers picking here because they lost Vokoun to the Capitals. Their PK unit will drop from 6th out of 30 teams without his goaltending. Florida scored less than 200 goals last year and was the worst team in the NHL on the power play last season.
Erik Gudbranson made the Panthers roster last year, but could not get a deal in place last year which is why he returned to Kingston. Gudbranson signed a deal this year so he should be on the Panthers roster.
Dimitry Kulikov, Jason Garrison, Mike Weaver, and Keaton Ellerby all return to the Panthers this season with the additions of Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanowski. Gudbranson will probably return to Kingston in the OHL this season for another year of development. If Gudbranson impresses Florida he may beat out 2007 first round pick Keaton Ellerby for the final roster spot, but that is not something I would count on. Erik Gudbranson will play with his younger brother Alex this season and will likely take Mike Weaver’s spot on the Panthers in a year from now when his contract is up.
Florida did add some offensive pieces like Sean Bergenheim LW, Tomas Fleischmann C, Marcel Goc C, and Tomas Kopecky RW. This still won’t be enough for the Panthers as they will likely be pick first in 2012 due to a lack of team chemistry at this point.
Yakupov is an immediate impact player who will be on the Panthers roster right away. 2010 first round pick Erik Gudbranson and 2011 first round pick Jonathan Huberdeau will both be ready to play in the NHL by the time Yakupov makes the roster.
Florida’s first line of offense will feature David Booth, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Nail Yakupov. The Panthers line 2 unit should feature Sean Bergenheim, Stephen Weiss, and Tomas Kopecky. Line 3 will feature Rostislav Olesz at left wing, Tomas Fleischmann at center, and Scottie Upshall at right wing. Line 4 for Florida should feature Evgeny Dadonov at left wing, Marcel Goc at center, and Kris Versteeg at right wing. Take that offensive line depth along with a penalty killing unit that was 6th out of 30 teams in the NHL last season and you got a potential playoff contender down the road.
With all that offensive depth plus the defense that the Panthers currently have in place along with Jose Theodore at goalie Florida will have the pieces in place to finally start contending in the Eastern Conference.
Florida will struggle this year with the new free agents trying to learn their plays and the lack of offensive firepower this season, but things will finally start peaking for Florida in 2012. Once the Panthers get Yakupov their first round picks from 2010 and 2011 will join Yakupov giving Florida the depth to make them a dangerous hockey club considering the fact that their late round picks from 2009 and 2010 will also be peaking as premium AHL prospects.
Unless Yakupov gets injured or performs so poorly that he goes from being a potential #1 overall pick to a guy who falls late in the draft like Angelo Esposito I cannot see Yakupov not going #1 overall.
Esposito was the projected #1 overall pick heading into the 2006-2007 NHL Season. Esposito did so poorly that his draft stock fell and the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to land him late in round 1. Then Esposito got dealt to the Thrashers before the Florida Panthers obtained his services by making a trade with the Winnipeg Jets this offsesason. Esposito will likely play in the AHL continuing his development.
Yakupov tallied a mind boggling 101 points in 65 games as a rookie last season for the Sarnia Sting in the OHL. Yakupov may have gone in the top 3 if he were eligible for the 2011 NHL Draft, but he is only eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft because he got selected 2nd overall by the Sting in the 2010 OHL Import Draft.
2. Phoenix Coyotes Jacob Trouba D US Under 18 USHL The Coyotes have no goalie now that Bryzgalov is gone and their PK unit ranked 26th out of 30 teams during the 2010-2011 season.
I know the Coyotes landed Mike Smith the backup for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but I’m not really sold on Smith as a starting goalie. Tampa Bay started him in game 5 and had Tampa Bay started Roloson they may have won game 5 and ended the series in 6 games keeping Boston from hoisting the Stanley Cup. I get the feeling that Mike Smith will struggle with Phoenix.
There are 3 defenders worth taking in the top 5. There is the offensive defender Nick Ebert, the defensive defender Jacob Trouba, and the two way defender Ryan Murray.
Trouba is the best fit for Phoenix because he boosts the PK unit and he played with 2011 first round pick Connor Murphy so there is team chemistry with Trouba and Murphy. Trouba’s stats say he’s a defensive defender, but most NHL scouts believe he is a two way defender with more ability as an offensive defender which makes him an intriguing prospect.
Based on what I’ve read and researched about the 2012 NHL Draft so far Trouba is the best player who could rival Yakupov for that #1 spot at this point. There are a lot of defenseman in the 2012 NHL Draft so its way too early to crown a top defenseman at this point. The only thing that is certain at this point is that Yakupov is the clear cut #1 pick at this point unless he regresses, gets injured, or someone manages to outperform him this season.
3. Minnesota Wild Ryan Murray D Everett Silvertips WHL At age 16 Murray became the youngest team captain in Everett team history. My favorite team is the Dallas Stars. I can’t stand the Wild now because they kept my team from getting in the playoffs this year and they booed my team at the 2011 NHL Draft.
I know the Stars used to be the Minnesota North Stars and before that the North Stars were the Cleveland Barons after the California Golden Seals relocated to Cleveland.
I know the Wild have a deadly line 1 with Setoguchi, Koivu, and Heatley along with some top prospects in their farm system like Granlund, Zucker, Phillips, and Lucia. I even know they have one of the most underrated goalies in Niklas Backstrom. I feel like the Wild lack a defensive player who can be a game changer. I am not sold on Jonas Brodin as an NHL talent. I thought he would be a bust as a first round pick going 23rd and the Wild reached for Brodin at #10. So if your going to tell me I don’t know jack about the Wild because I have them picking 3rd. How come I mentioned a lot of key players on the Wild roster?
Plus pairing Brodin up with a game changer like Ryan Murray could make Minnesota a contender in 2012-2013 if Murray makes the roster along with Brodin making the roster next season because Murray would take a lot of pressure of Brodin.
4. Ottawa Senators Nick Ebert D Windsor Spitfires OHL Ottawa drafted 3 offensive players in round 1 and their stacked with defensive prospects. I feel like Zibanejad will bust in Ottawa. The Senators are stacked with defensive prospects. Still Ebert is the best player available and the 2011 first round draft picks that Ottawa drafted could use a quarterback on the power play in a few years. Why not give the Senators Nick Ebert a player who can play along with the 3 2011 first round picks down the road in Ottawa.
Ottawa is so stacked with defensive prospects that they can wait to develop Ebert by sending him back to Windsor which is what they will likely do.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs Alex Galchenyuk C Sarnia Sting OHL Galchenyuk is an underrated playmaker center. He will go in the top 5 and has the ability to start right away for Toronto. Plus Brian Burke will be fired if Toronto picks in the top 5 with a new GM getting his playmaker for the new regime in Toronto.
6. Calgary Flames Martin Frk RW Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL I feel like the Flames will draft a right winger to replace Iginla in a few years if they pick this high. Canadian NHL teams usually opt for CHL prospects over others. I could see Grigorenko being the pick, but I have Calgary taking Frk at #6 instead because of his Canadian roots.
Plus one of my friends saw Frk in person at a QMJHL game last season and they like Frk better than Grigorenko as a right wing prospect. I still like Grigorenko better, but my friends opinion and Calgary leaning toward a Canadian prospect over a Russian prospect is why I’m thinking Calgary takes Frk over Grigorenko at #6 here.
7. Dallas Stars Mikhail Grigorenko RW CSKA Russia Grigorenko is a two way forward who can play center or right wing. With the Canadian teams picking 4-6 in this mock I believe Grigorenko could possibly fall to #7. Grigorenko should not fall this far, but if the Canadian NHL teams passed on Grigorenko it would not surprise me.
The Dallas Stars getting a heck of steal as Grigorenko is the one player who many fans believe could rival Nail Yakupov for the top pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. I hope that Grigorenko gets to play for Dallas because he looks very promising when watching him on film.
Grigorenko’s ability as a playmaker center, sniper on the wing, and ability as a two way forward makes him one of the more complete prospects in the 2012 NHL Draft.
Grigorenko would be able to step in and fill the hole that Brad Richards left once he jumped ship to the New York Rangers.
8. St. Louis Blues Zemgus Girgensons C Dubuque USHL St. Louis goes with the best available player here at #8 by getting a playmaker center for the back 6.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets Griffin Reinhart D Edmonton Oil Kings WHLColumbus needs a face for their defense and Reinhart could be that face for the Blue Jackets defense down the road.
Columbus was leaning towards an offensive defender in 2011 before they traded their draft pick to the Flyers and their GM indicated that upgrading defense is the next step the Blue Jackets want to take. The Canucks goalie coach that developed Roberto Luongo is in Columbus now working with Steve Mason an injury prone goalie so if Mason gets injured Columbus may develop an unknown goalie that no one has heard of.
10. Winnipeg Jets Eric Locke LW Barrie Colts OHL Winnipeg has strong ties to the Barrie Colts since they drafted Mark Scheifele and Atlanta drafted Burmistrov and Bryan Little out of Barrie. Winnipeg reaches for Eric Locke as a sniper for the back 6 at #10 overall.
11. New Jersey Devils Olli Maata D JYP Jyvaskyla SM Liiga Maata would make an excellent complimentary defenseman for Adam Larsson. Plus I love the idea of the Devils bringing an old school international Scandinavian defense with a Swedish and Finland defender joining forces to the NHL. Larsson and Maata could be a deadly defensive tandem in New Jersey for the next decade.
With Larsson and Maata playing on the first line it would be nearly impossible to pass the puck or shoot the puck when the Devils first line is on the ice. The only way to get around this defense is if you had a center with a playmaker mentality who can be a sniper like Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos.
12. Philadelphia Flyers Alex Gudbranson D Kingston Frontenacs OHL I cannot believe I’m the only one that has Alex Gudbranson the little brother of Erik Gudbranson in round 1 of their 2012 NHL Mock Draft. Kingston’s coach stated that he likes Alex Gudbranson’s ability as a two way defender better than his older brother Erik who went 3rd overall to Florida in 2010. Mike Pouncey wasn’t as good as Maurkice, but he went higher than him in the NFL Draft. The same thing could very easily happen with Alex Gudbranson if he has a breakout year for Kingston this season. I could see Alex creeping up draft boards and becoming a top 5 pick just like Ryan Strome did this season.
I know this is a very strong draft at defense so its kind of foolish to say Gudbranson will climb all the way up to be a top 5 pick at this point. I’m not doubting Alex Gudbranson because his coach likes him better than Erik who went 3rd overall and Erik will do everything to help his younger brother get in the NHL.
Coaches give scouts information that most Mock Draft experts are unaware of. I may be foolish to go out on a limb here with the Gudbranson pick, but I get a strong feeling that Alex Gudbranson will surge up NHL Draft Boards as the draft process gets closer the same way Jonathan Huberdeau did.
13. Montreal Canadians Malcolm Subban G Belleville Bulls OHL Montreal has a proven goalie in Carey Price, but Subban could go as high as Jack Campbell went in terms of draft value so the Canadians may take the best available player here since offense was the bigger need. Montreal took the best player available in Nathan Beaulieu over need by adding offensive depth to the team because Beaulieu’s value was so good. A lot of Canadians fans want Malcolm Subban and his brother Jordan Subban.
14. Anaheim Ducks Nicolas Kerdiles C US Under 18 USHL Kerdiles would make a great 3rd line center for depth in Anaheim plus he is the best player available at this point.
15. Edmonton Oilers Morgan Reilly D Moose Jaw Warriors WHL Morgan Reilly could be another defender that the Oilers use to develop a deadly PK Unit. The Oilers have an array of defensive prospects in their system and since the Oilers were 29th out of 30 teams in penalty killing they may as well add one more defensive prospect until the defensive numbers for penalty killing improve.
Ryan Nugent Hopkins signed an entry level contract and looks promising in the Oilers offseason camp so far. Plus #1 overall picks usually play in the NHL right away as rookies. I think Ryan Nugent Hopkins plays as a rookie and helps turn the Edmonton Oilers around.
Even if Nugent Hopkins gets sent back to Red Deer he will be up by the 2012-2013 season and Edmonton will be a playoff team by next season.
16. New York Islanders Slater Koekoek D Peterborough Petes OHL Koekoek could be a prospect that the Islanders target. The Islanders need defense and there was talk that the New York Islanders would go with Dougie Hamilton at #5 last year.
New York would have a line 1 defense for the future with Scott Mayfield and Slater Koekoek.
17. New York Rangers Cody Ceci D Ottawa 67′s OHL The New York Rangers need an offensive defender. At one point Cody Ceci was the projected #1 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft on EA Sports NHL 11.
Ceci has fallen off the map a bit because he did not live up to expectations of being a top 5 pick last season, but Ceci could still be a first round pick in 2012.
18. San Jose Sharks Henrik Samuelsson RW US Under 18 USHL Some people have Henrik Samuelsson going higher in their 2012 NHL Mock Drafts than teammate Nicolas Kerdiles.
19. Washington Capitals from Colorado Avalanche Andrei Vasilevski G Salavat Yulaev Ufa KHL Washington needs a goalie to succeed Tomas Vokoun. Michael Neuvirth is not a long term answer.
20. Carolina Hurricanes Matthew Dumba D Red Deer Rebels WHL Matthew Dumba is one of the top defenseman left in this draft. Some people believe Dumba is a top 10 talent with top 8 potential so Dumba provides amazing value with the 20th overall pick. The reason Dumba’s draft value is so great here is because Dumba is undersized as a defender. Ryan Nugent Hopkins played for Red Deer and he was undersized at center. Dumba is the same way as a defender which is why I have Matthew Dumba slipping to #20 overall in a deep defensive draft class.
21. Detroit Red Wings Filip Forsberg LW Leksands Allsvenskan Forsberg was the sniper shooter that Victor Rask passed the puck to last year. Usually playmakers make snipers. I think Forsberg made his playmaker Rask look better as a sniper. Forsberg has top 10 talent and the potential of a top 8 pick. The bottom line is Filip Forsberg is a very underrated prospect who will gel in nicely with the Detroit Red Wings.
22. Buffalo Sabres Emil Lundberg G Sodertalje SK Elitserien The Sabres have Ryan Miller, but the 2012 NHL Draft is stacked at goalie. Buffalo should add another goalie in this draft and Lundberg is the best player available.
23. Chicago Blackhawks Derrick Pouliot D Portland Winterhawks WHL Pouliot is an underrated talent who made Joe Morrow look better than he actually is.
24. Tampa Bay Lightning Teuvo Teravainen LW Jokerit Helsinki SM Liiga Tampa Bay should add a left winger for depth now that Sean Bergenheim is on the Florida Panthers.
25. Boston Bruins Brendan Gaunce C Belleville Bulls OHL Brendan Gaunce provides so much immense value at pick #25. Gaunce could go as high as #11 overall. Seguin, Khokhlachev, and Gaunce could be a deadly 1 2 3 punch for Boston at center giving the Bruins the offensive firepower to compete for the next 2 decades.
26. Nashville Predators Petteri Lindbohm D Blues Espoo SM Liiga Lindbohm has the defensive ability to develop into one of the top international defenseman. Nashville is one of the best teams when it comes to scouting players internationally.
27. Pittsburgh Penguins Charles Simard Hudon LW Chicoutimi Sagueneens QMJHL Charles Simard Hudon could be a sniper that the Penguins could use to boost their power play.
28. Vancouver Canucks Kalle Torniainen RW Djurgardens Elitserien Kalle Tornianen could be another best available player that Vancouver uses for depth at right wing down the road.
29. Washington Capitals Michael Mathenson D Lac St. Louis Lions AAA Michael Mathenson has top 8 potential. He hasn’t committed to college hockey or the QMJHL yet so I have him going as a late first round pick. Washington has nothing to lose by taking a flyer on Michael Mathenson.
30. Los Angeles Kings Matia Marcantuoni C Kitchener Rangers OHL Marcantuoni is a underrated playmaker center. Marcantuoni would give the Kings another center prospect to develop now that Brayden Schenn is gone.
31. Florida Panthers Colin Olsen G US Under 18 USHL Florida needs a goalie because Jose Theodore is a major downgrade from Tomas Vokoun.
32. Phoenix Coyotes Brady Hjelle G Cedar Rapids USHL Phoenix will need to draft a goalie to develop for the future because I am not sold on Mike Smith as a long term starter.
33. San Jose Sharks from Minnesota Wild Matthew Campagna C Sudbury Wolves OHL The Sharks could use some depth at center with an aging Joe Thornton. San Jose would have the luxury of developing Campagna. Campagna can develop with Sudbury for a bit before going to Worchester to play for the Worchester Sharks in the OHL.
34. Ottawa Senators Scott Laughton C Oshawa Generals OHL Ottawa has the luxury of taking the best available player to groom for the future with their deep depth of hockey prospects.
35. Toronto Maple Leafs Jarrod Maidens C Owen Sound Attack OHL Toronto has the luxury of taking the best available prospect. At this point that player would be Jarrod Maidens.
36. Calgary Flames Gianluca Curcuruto D Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL Calgary could use some depth on defense and Curcuruto would be a quality NHL prospect for the Flames to add.
37. Dallas Stars Jordan Schmaltz D Sioux City USHL Dallas drafts a defenseman for depth that the Stars can develop for the future.
38. St. Louis Blues Pontus Aberg LW Djurgardens Elitserien Aberg is the best player available and another potential sniper who the Blues could use down the road for depth.
39. Columbus Blue Jackets Sebastian Colberg RW Frolunda Elitserien Columbus adds more depth at right wing into their prospect pool with Sebastian Colberg joining Seth Ambroz. Rick Nash will be the Blue Jackets line 1 right winger with some right wing prospects hoping to come up to the NHL soon.
40. Winnipeg Jets Ryan Olsen C Saskatoon Blades WHL Olsen only had 7 goals, 7 assists, and 14 points last season. He was on a Blades team that led the WHL in total points meaning that the Blades were the best WHL team during the regular season. Now that Brayden Schenn will likely play for the Flyers next season Ryan Olsen will likely step up in Schenn’s place.
41. New Jersey Devils Aleksi Orenius D Ilves SM Liiga New Jersey gets another international defenseman. Orenius can anchor the play on the 2nd line down the road.
42. Philadelphia Flyers Mikael Vickstand D Mora Allsvenskan If Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick decided to create a fake ID when entering Sweden it would say Mikael Vickstand on it. Vickstand is a good player who works hard. I’m not trying to hurt Vickstand’s feelings, but his name sounds very similar to Vick’s.
Vickstand is an aggressive two way defender who excels at skating and plays with a very tenacious game on the ice.
Maybe the Philadelphia front office decides to double dip at defense taking Vickstand in round 2.
43. Montreal Canadians Chandler Stephenson LW Regina Pats WHL Montreal gets an offensive player in round 2 to groom for the future.
44. Anaheim Ducks Gustav Rydahl C Frolunda Elitserien The Ducks get a center for depth in round 2.
45. Edmonton Oilers Dominic Poulin D Chicoutimi Sagueneens QMJHL Edmonton double dips at defense taking the best Canadian Hockey Player available.
46. New York Islanders Jake McCabe D US Under 18 USHL The Islanders double dip at defense adding another defensive prospect.
47. New York Rangers Barrett Kalib D US Under 18 USHL The Rangers add another prospect at defense.
48. Carolina Hurricanes from San Jose Sharks Matt Grzelcyk D US Under 18 USHL Carolina adds more depth at defense with another defensive prospect.
49. Colorado Avalanche Ryan Grimshaw D US Under 18 USHL Colorado adds a defensive prospect that they can groom for the future in round 2.
50. Carolina Hurricanes Damon Severson D Kelowna Rockets WHL Carolina now has 4 defensive prospects if you add Ryan Murphy along with their 3 2012 draft prospects. Carolina is now a team with the luxury of taking the best player available.
51. Detroit Red Wings Gennadi Sabinin D Chekhov KHL Detroit takes the best player available in roudn 2 with this pick. Sabinin provides great value near the end of the 2nd round.
52. Buffalo Sabres Anton Ivanyuzhenkov LW Checkov KHL The Sabres take a player who provides amazing value near the end of the 2nd round.
53. Chicago Blackhawks Vladimir Tkachev LW Kazan KHL The Blackhawks take the best available player in round 2 and add another offensive prospect to their roster.
54. Tampa Bay Lightning Matthew Bergland LW Providence Bergland sounds like a player that was born to be on teh Lightning.
55. Toronto Maple Leafs from Boston Bruins Dalton Thrower D Saskatoon Blades WHL Toronto adds a defensive player for depth. Dalton Thrower is a good prospect who should get drafted in the first two rounds.
56. Nashville Predators Nikolai Prokhorkin LW CSKA Moscow KHL Prokhorkin plays at left wing opposite of Grigorenko who plays right wing.
57. Pittsburgh Penguins Luca Ciampini LW Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL The Penguins add another left wing player for depth.
58. Vancouver Canucks Andrew Ryan LW Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL Vancouver gets a left wing prospect for the future in case they want Niklas Jensen to play right wing.
59. Washington Capitals Daniel Rzavsky LW Nitra Slovak Typical Capitals pick taking an international player.
60. Edmonton Oilers from Los Angeles Kings Dalton Sward C Vancouver Giants WHL Edmonton gets a center who they can develop in the WHL before sending him to Oklahoma City in the AHL.
59. Washington Capitals
60. Edmonton Oilers from Los Angeles Kings