I know that creative writing and music has been dominating the blog lately but with the Draft being such a special occasion for the Oilers I decided to post my Mock draft board for 2012. I’ll talk about the top 10 in some detail and list numbers 11-32 afterwards.
The NHL Entry Draft is in Pittsburgh tomorrow night (5:30 Edmonton time, 4:30 Vancouver time) and the Oilers are scheduled to pick Number 1 in the draft for the third consecutive year, a stretch of awfulness only seen once before in the history of professional hockey and amateur scouting. From 1989 to 1991 the Quebec Nordiques acquired three straight first overall picks. The Nords took Mats Sundin (’89), Owen Nolan (’90), and Eric Lindros (’91) with their picks, three quality NHLers who amassed thousands of games, goals, and points respectively. Interestingly though, none of the three would be on the 1996 Stanley Cup wining Colorado Avalanche team (who the Nordiques became in the summer of 1995) but a number of important players, most notably Peter Forsberg, were acquired via trading the No. 1 picks prior to that ’96 run.
Tomorrow the Oilers will complete their own trifecta by adding another talented piece to go alongside Taylor Hall (2010) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011), and the stable of other 1st round selections on the roster: Magnus Paajarvi (2009), Jordan Eberle and Colton Teubert (2008), Sam Gagner (2007), Ladi Smid (2006), Devan Dubnyk (2004), Ryan Whitney and Ben Eager (2002), Ales Hemsky (2001), and Ryan Smyth (1994). That’s a lot of talent. I’m not sure how many of these guys will be on the roster when the team contends for the Cup in 4-6 years, but there’s no doubt the team is building into something powerful.
The 2012 Draft, in my opinion:
*A note: I am going to include the NHL equivalency numbers next to each pick. This is an expected goal-assist-point total projection for the player at the NHL level. All the numbers are taken from Lowetide’s site. I include this because the NHLE is nearly always right.
1. Edmonton Oilers – Nail Yakupov RW – Sarnia Sting (NHLE: 18-22-40)
I am not entirely sure what the Oilers are going to do with the pick. I maintain that had the Oilers not won the draft lottery they would have been more than content to select the top-rated defenseman with the No. 2 overall pick and called it a day. However, winning the lottery has complicated the matter because the top rated player is a forward, and he is the consensus best player available. If the Oilers, solely in terms of asset management, want to get full value for their pick and still acquire what they need, it would hold that a trade for an NHL ready defensemen while maintaing a high drafting selection to acquire a talented young forward would be sensible. Thus, I can see the Oilers doing 1 of 4 things:
1. Keep the pick and draft Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov. This would be the sensible thing to do.
2. Trade the pick to Toronto or Montreal for an NHL ready defenseman and either team’s 1st round pick, then select the best player available at number 3 or 5. This would be the savvy thing to do.
3. Trade the pick to Carolina or Tampa Bay for an NHL ready defenseman, a bottom 6 forward, and either team’s first round pick, then selct the best player available at number 8 or 10. This would be the creative thing to do.
4. Keep the pick and draft Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray. This would be the risky thing to do.
Personally, I think the Oilers should do option number 2. It’s the best way to get full value out of your pick. But, I wanted them to take Tyler Seguin in 2010 and Gabriel Landeskog in 2011, so, likely, they’ll listen to their scouts, and do the sensible thing: take Nail Yakupov. Or, as Lowetide likes to say, “Trust your board.”
A note on Nail. Yakupov is a top-6 scoring talent and gives the Oilers an exceptional cluster of offensive talent moving forward. It’s the kind-of depth that franchises dream about. Drafting Yakupov gives the Oilers 4 lines that look like this:
Hall – Hopkins – Eberle
Smyth – Gagner – Hemsky
Paajarvi – Horcoff – Yakupov
Hartikainen/Eager – Belanger – Jones
In the words of Wu-Tang Clan: “that ain’t nothing to fuck with!”
2. Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Murray D – Everett Silvertips (NHL: 5-12-17)
Part of the problem with the Oilers trying to wriggle their way into a more attractive draft slot is their keeness for the defender Murray and the Blue Jackets’ raging heart-on for him. Meaning, if they want him they have to take him at No. 1 because if they trade down – even to Number 3 – he’ll probably be gone. Murray, the captain of the Silvertips, played for Canada at the World Juniors (one of only 2 draft elligibles to make the team), and for Canada at the World Hockey Championship (the only non-pro to get an invite). His style of play has been likened to Scott Niedermeyer, which is to say that he is the best skater in the draft and he thinks the game beyond his years. He projects to be a top 4 defensemen in the league for sometime and is a safe pick. Some scouts are scared away by his size – thinking that he may not ever be big enough to shut guys down like the towering Zedeno Chara can – but he should more than make up for his lack of braun with agility and savviness. Murray is NHL-ready and would round out a Columbus defense corps nicely:
Jack Johnson – Fedor Tyutin
James Wisnewski – Marc Methot
Nikita Nikitin – Ryan Murray
extras: John Moore, Radek Martinek, Brett Lebda
Now, Columbus just needs 4 top 6 forwards and a goalie to become competitive. Ha.
3. Montreal Canadiens – Filip Forsberg LW – Leksands, Swedish Elite League (NHLE: 3-3-6)
Over the course of the last 6 to 8 months or so, we’ve seen a culture shift in the Montreal Canadiens franchise. They are going back to their roots and doing things based on need, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing it can just be severly limiting. For example, only hiring Francophone coaches means you may not be hiring the best coach available, trading for predominately Francophone players means you may not be acquiring the best players available, and drafting “big players” because you need them means you may not be drafting the best player available. In the number 3 slot the Canadiens should be drafting the player with the most up-side; but, instead, they are going to select the biggest player available and that would be the 6’2, 200 lbs winger from Sweden. Scouts believe that Forsberg, who struggled to score in the second tier of the Swedish Elite League this year, may never have the offensive flare that is worthy of a top-5 “lottery” pick, that shouldn’t scare the Canadiens away who see a big-boy who can fly. I don’t think Forsberg plays in the NHL next season.
4. New York Islanders – Alex Galchenyuk C – Sarnia Sting (NHLE: 11-19-30)
Whoever gets Galchenyuk is getting a heck of a player. Most seem to think that if he hadn’t lost his entire season to a knee injury (which he showed is fully healed at the Draft combine) he would be neck-and-neck with Yakupov for best player available. Even after missing the season, some think that Oilers could take him at number 1, or some creative GM could find a way to acqurie both he and Yakupove in some crazy draft pick juggling scheme like the one Brian Burke pulled off in 1999 to get the Sedin twins. The Islanders would be remiss if they let him slide passed them at no. 4. He could very well be the best player to come away from the draft 5 years down the road. He is a strong, quick, smart, two-way forward – he’s the kind of player you win Stanley Cups with (see: Richards, Mike Or Toews, Johnathan). He will need to return to junior for another year due to his injury though.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs – Griffin Reinhart D – Edmonton Oil Kings (NHLE: 5-10-15)
With the exception of Teuvo Teravainen, no other player has done more to improve his stock in the last 4 months of the season. The tall, shut down defender, with the booming shot (and son of former NHLer Paul Reinhart – gotta love those bloodlines) made himself noticeable down the stretch and into the playoffs in what is a rather deep defensive draft class. He is best suited for a top 4 defensive role with heavy minutes on the penalty kill and power play, and will be a stabilizing force at even strength. Scouts were worried that he wasn’t strong enough for his lanky 6’7 frame, but in the WHL playoffs for the Oil Kings he asserted himself physically, and scouts were pleased. He has improved so much that the Oilers are thinking about taking him at number 1, or trading down to 3, 4, or 5, to get him. I don’t see him getting passed No. 5, especially if that GM is Brian Burke, a man who loves his players to have a little sandpaper. Reinhart will go back to a stacked Oil Kings team next year, but will be a force on the Maple Leaf blueline by 2015.
6. Anaheim Ducks – Teuvo Teravainen LW – Jokerit, Finnish Elite League (NHLE: 12-8-20)
Lowetide talks about the late moving European players at his blog all the time. He says that, it’s not these guys develop into solid draft picks by the end of the season, it’s that North American souting agencies don’t know abou them until reports are filed much later in the season. “They have always been talented enough,” Lowetide says, “they just haven’t been seen enough yet.” Teravainen, who has been described as a complete player with quality intangibles like heart, hustle, and sportsmanship, came from the middle rounds in September to the lottery (on some draft boards) by April. I think the Ducks will take him because at No. 6 he will be the best player available and they have a penchant for Finnish wingers who play complete games (i.e. Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, etc.). I don’t think Teravainen will play in the NHL next year but a year or two in the AHL would go along way in developing this player properly.
7. Minnesota Wild – Matt Dumba D – Red Deer Rebels (NHLE: 7-13-20)
At this point in the draft there are about 6 quality defenseman to choose from. The differences between all of them are subtle, and a professional scout would be able to tell you more than I ever could. I have arranged them in order of most talented, with the ones with the most potential listed near the top. Matt Dumba is the most talented with the most potential out of the six. He is also the one picked by players he played against to become the best d-man from the draft. He is cut in the Dion Phaneuf mold – i.e. strong, fast, big shot, heavy hitter, loads of swagger. He is a bit of a project as there is still a whack of chaos to his defensive game, but if brought along properly he could become a rock-steady defender with game-changing talents. A bit of a wild-card but the obvious pick giving the talent on the board at his point in the draft.
8. Carolina Hurricanes – Mikhail Grigorenko C – Quebec Ramparts (NHLE: 16-17-33)
The rumors surrounding the Hurricanes trading this pick are louder than any other pick in the draft at this point. The most popular piece of gossip has the Penguins trading Jordan Staal to Carolina for the pick. I think number 8 is a good spot to move to if you’re any team in the league. I mentioned earlier how if the Oilers could move themselves to 8 and acquiring contributing NHL players than it would be creative, not to mention intelligent. If Carolina holds on to the pick I think they pick best forward available. With the exception of last year, the Canes always pick the best forward available and they usually pick well. Grigorenko has been described as enigmatic (a euphemism for inconsistent), lazy, talented, a sniper, and con man (many think he forged his Russian birth certificate to a ’94 birthday from a ’92 because he waited too long to leave Russia for Canadian Jr.). Whatever you want to call him, there is no doubt that his stock as sliding. Some experts have him going 20th, and this was the No. 1 ranked player going into the season by International Scouting. Whoever takes him should get a talented player who can score at the big-league level.
9. Winnipeg Jets – Morgan Rielly D – Moose Jaw Warriors (NHLE: 4-21-25)
Winnipeg is sitting pretty this year. They will get to pick from whoever the first 8 don’t. This can often lead to getting a sleeper or somebody super-talented who just wouldn’t trim those sideburns (hat tip to The Simpsons for that one, and Lowetide for always saying it in a hockey-sense). This year, it’s likely a player with major talent but limited exposure will fall to number 9. I think that player is Rielly, who missed a bunch of time with a knee injury this year. When healthy though, Rielly could turn out to be the most dynamic offensive defenseman in the draft. Some think he is the 2nd best D-man behind Ryan Murray. If the Oilers trade down to No. 5 and Reinhart is gone, Rielly would be an excellent second choice. Winnipeg Jets fans will be very please with this guy running the point on their powerplay for the next 8 years.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning – Jacob Trouba D – United States National Development Team(NHLE: 4-14-18)
He has been described as a “poor man’s Ryan Murray,” which should be good enough for the top 10 this year. He has a ton of poise for a young defender and can skate with any forward at the junior level. Above that, Trouba has been described as a good-natured boy with strong character and steadfastness. It seems logical that he should wind up in a bible-belt state.
11. Washington Capitals (from Colorado for Semyon Varlamov): Olli Maata D – London Knights
12. Buffalo Sabres: Radek Faksa C/LW – Kitchener Rangers
13. Dallas Stars: Cody Ceci D – Ottawa 67s
14. Calgary Flames: Slater Koekkok D – Peterborough Petes
15. Ottawa Senators: Hamphus Lindholm D – Rogle, Swedish Elite League
16. Washington Capitals: Zemgus Girgensons C – Iowa, United Stats Hockey League
17. San Jose Sharks: Thomas Wilson C – Plymouth Whalers
18. Chicago Blackhawks: Brendan Gaunce C – Belleville Bulls
19. Tampa Bay Lightning (from Detroit for Kyle Quincey): Tomas Hertl LW – Slavia, Czech Junior League
20. Philadelphia Flyers: Matt Fin D – Guelph Storm
21. Buffalo Sabres (from Nashville for Paul Gaustad): Stefan Matteau C – United States National Development Team
22. Pittsburgh Penguins: Brady Skeji D – United States National Development Team
23. Florida Panthers: Scott Laughton C – United States National Development Team
24. Boston Bruins: Andrei Vasilevski G – Russia Junior League
25. St. Louis Blues: Malcolm Subban G – Belleville Bulls
26. Vancouver Canucks: Colton Sissons RW – Kelowna Rockets
27. Phoenix Coyotes: Sebastian Collberg RW – Vestra, Swedish Elite League
28. New York Rangers: Mike Matheson D – Iowa, United States Hockey League
29. New Jersey Devils: Philip Di Giuseppe LW – Michigan, NCAA
30. Los Angeles Kings: Tanner Pearsen LW – Barrie Colts
31. Columbus Blue Jackets: Martin Frk RW – Halifax Mooseheads
32. Edmonton Oilers: Ville Pokka D – Karpat, Finnish Elite League
This may seem like two bit analysis but if the Oilers take a forward with the first pick then they’ll take a defenseman with their number 31 pick. The popular player is Dalton Thrower, a bruiser of a defender from the WHL, but I think they’ll dip into the European stock and take Ville Pokka. A bit of a project defender with good skating abilities and a solid all around game. He’s the type of defender the Oilers have been taking for years, long on upside, short on return. And, the European scouts get rewarded for their hardwork – it has to happen at some point in the draft.
So. That’s it. Likely I’ll be 100% wrong on all of this and you can laugh at me in the comments section.