We’re less than 24 hours away from the 2012 NHL Draft and a host of potential young stars are going to be finding out very soon where they might have a future. Without any further ado, let’s take a look at the first round in the official Rant Sports 2012 NHL Mock Draft.
1. Edmonton Oilers - Nail Yakupov, W, Sarnia (OHL) - Assuming the Oilers hold onto this pick, it has to be Yakupov. Their biggest need is on the blue line, but can you really pass up what Yakupov could have to offer as a future superstar?
2. Columbus Blue Jackets - Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia (OHL) - Again, it’s not guaranteed that Columbus is going to hold onto this pick, but if they do, Galchenyuk could be the pick. One of the best playmaking centers in the draft, Galchenyuk had 83 points in 2010-11 with Sarnia, before missing all but two games with a knee injury this season.
3. Montreal Canadiens – Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec (QMJHL) – Despite the best defenseman potentially still on the board at no. 3, the Habs need to build up front and it starts with a playmaking center like Grigorenko.
4. New York Islanders – Ryan Murray, D, Everette (WHL) - A dream scenario for the Islanders would be getting the captain of the Everette Silvertips, Ryan Murray. He’s a piece you build your blue line around and could end up being the best pick of the draft.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs – Filip Forsberg, C/W, Leksands IF (Allsvenskan) – With two centers already off the board, the Leafs go with Forsberg. He’s a big, versatile forward who probably needs another year of seasoning, but could be a center piece that Toronto desperately needs.
6. Anaheim Ducks – Morgan Reilly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL) – Solid puck moving defenseman missed time with an ACL injury, but still managed to produce 18 points in 18 games.
7. Minnesota Wild - Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL) – Kind of a wild card as he’s projected to go all over the top 15, but he goes no. 7 overall to Minnesota. Standing 6’4″, Reinhart is an absolute monster on the blue line and should be a very solid defenseman overall.
8. Carolina Hurricanes – Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener (OHL) – The Hurricanes need some help up front and Faksa is a very skilled center with good size. He’s the best center prospect on the board at this point.
9. Winnipeg Jets – Jacob Truba, D, USA-18 (USHL) – Some had Truba going in the top five, so Winnipeg would likely be thrilled if he were to fall this far. At 6’2′, Truba has good size and should be a very good offensive defenseman, while not backing away from the physical game.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning – Mathew Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL) – All signs point to the Bolts going with defense for their first of two first rounders and Dumba is the best on the board. He loves the physical game and has a big shot. Could end up being a steal at no. 10 overall.
11. Washington Capitals (from Colorado) - Olli Maata, D, London (OHL) – Like their division rival Tampa Bay, the Caps boast a pair of first round picks and go with D for their first of two picks within the top 16. Maata is a steady defenseman, with decent size and a good shot.
12. Buffalo Sabres – Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville (OHL) – Another team with two picks in the first round, some have Gaunce going a bit higher, and some have him going lower. In Gaunce, the Sabres get a center with good size and offensive skill, who isn’t easily scared off.
13. Dallas Stars – Tuevo Tairavenen, W, Jokerit (SM-Liiga) – Tairavenen is a guy who might need a little extra time to develop, but has an elite skill set and is a tremendous value at this point in the draft. The only concern about him is his size, standing at just 5’11″.
14. Calgary Flames – Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL) – There are concerns about Pouliot’s size, but you may not find a defenseman in the draft that is more skilled with the puck and better at moving it than Pouliot.
15. Ottawa Senators – Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa (OHL) – The local kid, Ottawa would be thrilled to land Ceci at this spot. He’s not particularly at an “elite” level with anything, but he’s a big kid on the blue line and is very intelligent. He does everything well.
16. Washington Capitals – Sebastian Collberg, W, Frolunda (SEL) – After going with defense at no. 11 overall, the Caps go with Collberg with their second pick of the first round.
17. San Jose Sharks – Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle BK (SEL) – The Sharks could end up going defense with their first pick in the draft and Lindholm is good value here. He has solid offensive skill and his size helps him to be a steady presence on the blue line.
18. Chicago Blackhawks – Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque (USHL) – Some have Girgensons going much earlier, while some have Girgensons projected to go later. For the Blackhawks, Girgensons falling to 18 would be a great scenario. He’s skilled, he’s gritty, and he projects as a top six center.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning (from Detroit) – Malcom Subban, G, Belleville (OHL) – I could see the Bolts going with another defenseman here, but the potential of Subban may be too good to pass up, if Chicago doesn’t take him one pick sooner. This is an organization that needs to build up their goaltending depth, possibly more than any other team in the league.
20. Philadelphia Flyers - Matt Finn, D, Guelph (OHL) - If he doesn’t go prior to this to Chicago or Tampa, I could see the Flyers snatching him up with this pick. Finn is an intelligent player on the blue line and capable of adding some points on the offensive end.
21. Buffalo Sabres (from Nashville) - Tom Wilson, W, Plymouth (OHL ) – At 6’4″, Wilson is a big guy on the wing and plays well on both ends of the ice. His trademark is his physical game, both on the boards and open ice.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins – Brady Skjei, D, USA U-18 (USHL) – Skjei has good size on the blue line and is among the better skaters in the draft. If the playoffs told us anything, it’s that Pittsburgh needs to upgrade their D.
23. Florida Panthers - Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough (OHL) - The Panthers need to add more talent defense and Koekkoek probably has the highest upside of anyone left on the board at this point. His shoulder injury could be a concern, but he does a lot of things well on the blue line.
24. Boston Bruins – Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon (WHL) – Thrower is noted more for his physical game on the blue line, but he’s been improving on the offensive side of things as well. Bruins could use an upgrade in their system on D.
25. St. Louis Blues – Tomas Hertl, C, Slavia (Czech Republic) – The Blues are likely to go center or defense with their first overall pick, and Hertl could end up being the guy. He’s a solid playmaker in the middle and would fit in nicely with this Blues team.
26. Vancouver Canucks – Stefan Matteau, C/W, USA U-18 (USHL) - Vancouver could be looking to upgrade in the middle here and Matteau might be the best available. He has a nice mix of grittiness and offensive skill and, if he’s on the board at 26, could end up being a steal.
27. Phoenix Coyotes - Tanner Pearson, W, Barrie (OHL) – The Coyotes have plenty of depth on the system on the defensive end so they look offense at 27. Pearson has tremendous offensive skill, with 91 points in 60 games last season.
28. New York Rangers – Scott Laughton, C, Oshawa (OHL) – If Laughton doesn’t go one pick sooner to the Coyotes, he could end up a fit with the Blueshirts. He still has some developing to do, but projects as a very solid two-way center.
29. New Jersey Devils - Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa 2 (Russia) – With Martin Brodeur‘s career nearing its end, you have to think the Devils would be looking to set their sites on the future of the crease. Some have Vasilevski ranked above Subban as the no. 1 goaltender in the draft.
30. Los Angeles Kings – Martin Frk, W, Halifax (QMJHL) – Frk’s great speed and accurate shot make him a steal at this point in the draft for the defending Stanley Cup champions.