In the 2011-12 season, many disappointments occurred for the seven Canadian franchises in the NHL.
The Montréal Canadiens fell to rock bottom in the Eastern Conference and will be selecting third overall in the 2012 NHL draft.
Steve Tambellini and the Edmonton Oilers will once again be selecting first overall for the third straight NHL draft. The team is already loaded with elite young talents at the forward positions, and they are going to add another core piece to the rebuilding team.
The Winnipeg Jets missed the playoffs in their inaugural season in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Kevin Cheveldayoff will be trying to point the Jets into a direction that gives them a chance at the Stanley Cup playoffs next season.
The Calgary Flames missed the playoffs against this past season, and Jay Feaster is seeing his team become older and slower.
The Ottawa Senators have done a great job rebuilding their team the past two seasons, and Bryan Murray will look at what options are available to him at the No. 15 pick.
The Toronto Maple Leafs remain the only franchise not to make an appearance in the postseason since the NHL lockout in 2004-05. Brian Burke is always active, and he has to be this year.
The Vancouver Canucks are expected to be very busy on the phone when the teams all gather in Pittsburgh. Roberto Luongo has to go, and the question will be where he will end up. Draft choices will likely be in the mix for a deal of this magnitude.
Let's take an in-depth look at what the future holds for the seven Canadian teams.
The Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs since 2006 when Chris Pronger was on the team. That team made a remarkable run in the playoffs all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. They eventually lost the series to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 and saw many core players leave the team for other career paths.
In 2008, the Oilers draft Jordan Eberle in the first round at 22nd overall.
In 2009, the team added Magnus Paajarvi in the first round at 10th overall.
In 2010, the team drafted Taylor Hall first overall.
In 2011, the Oilers drafted Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall.
In 2012, many expect the Oilers to draft Nail Yakupov first overall, or trade the pick for a defenseman and an early first round pick to draft a blue-chip defense prospect.
The timing of the rebuilding phase is slowly running away from the Oilers management group. Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall's entry-level contracts are set to expire after the 2012-13 season, and they will be commanding a big pay raise on their new contracts.
Steve Tambellini has to be diligent trying to improve his team in order to make a run in the NHL playoffs next April. Another first overall pick will be detrimental for the franchise moving forward.
Brendan Gallagher of the Vancouver Giants was a nice pick-up by the Montréal Canadiens back in the 2011 NHL draft; however, this year, they will have a great opportunity to select a cornerstone player who can set the foundation of the franchise for many years to come.
Marc Bergevin and his scouting staff will be busy this month trying to find out more about all the potential candidates who can become the player who helps them win consistently.
There are rumours swirling suggesting that Mikhail Grigorenko is their top choice because the big forward played his junior career in Quebec. However, that may be a very unsophisticated assumption, because the Canadiens have been very broad-based in their draft history. The team has been open to select players out of the WHL, OHL, QMJHL, USDP as well as European leagues. As a result, it is too naive to assume Bergevin will be keying in on a player's junior team address.
My prediction is that the Montréal Canadiens will be choosing between Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels, Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips and Filip Forsberg of Leksands, Sweden.
Don't be surprised if Marc Bergevin tries to make a trade with the Edmonton Oilers to send a defenseman and this third overall pick for the first overall pick.
Rick Dudley and Dave Nonis are Brian Burke's secret weapons in terms of Player development and personnel decisions for draft eligible prospects in the Leafs organization.
The report by TSN states that Dudley is likely joining the Canadiens at some point this summer, but the Leafs have requested Dudley not to leak any draft information to the Canadiens prior to the NHL draft in June.
The Leafs hold the fifth overall pick, and they will be looking to add to their forward group for additional skill, size and explosiveness.
Looking at the draft eligible players in this draft class, Filip Forsberg of Leksands, Sweden, Mikhail Grigorenko of Quebec Remparts, and Alex Galchenyuk of Sarnia Stings are the three most likely candidates on the Leafs shortlist.
Although the focus is on making the center ice bigger and stronger under Randy Carlyle, a couple defensemen may also interest the Leafs this draft. Mathew Dumba, the hard-hitting D-man from Red Deer, or Ryan Murray of Everett could also factor into consideration if they manage to fall to No. 5.
Mark Scheifele became an immediate fan favourite on the Winnipeg Jets when Kevin Cheveldayoff made the announcement that the Barrie Colts center was being drafted by the hockey franchise.
In 2012, the team looks ahead at what is available to them at No. 9, and they will see a very solid crop of defensemen who are sitting there, waiting to be selected.
The most likely candidates at No. 9 are:
D Morgan Rielly of Moose Jaw (WHL)
D Griffin Reinhart of Edmonton (WHL)
D Cody Ceci of Ottawa (OHL)
Also, if the Jets have their sights on adding to their forward group, then Tom Wilson of Plymouth (OHL), Radek Faksa (Kitchener) and Brendan Gaunce (Belleville) are the three likely candidates available to them.
Jets fans will be happy with anybody, but it would be really nice if they went with Prairie's kid Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors in the first round. He is a solid defenseman with oozing hockey sense and creativity on the blue line. Rielly could be a very good two-way defenseman who leads the Jets on both ends of the ice down the road.
Sven Baertschi was a welcome addition for the Calgary Flames in the 2011 NHL draft. Baertschi dominated in the WHL juniors scoring 94 points (33-61-94) in only 47 games he played with the Portland Winterhawks. He also made brief appearance on the Calgary Flames on an injury emergency call-up.
The Calgary Flames do not have a very deep prospect pool in the organization, and they will definitely keep this draft pick in hopes to replenish some of the youth within the AHL farm team.
General manager Jay Feaster has the 14th overall pick, and the likely candidates include:
Tom Wilson (Plymouth) - NHL comparable: Milan Lucic, with more scoring touch.
Sebastien Collberg (Frolunda)
Colton Sissons (Kelowna)
Bryan Murray has a long history of rebuilding a dysfunctional hockey club into a Stanley Cup contender in the NHL. During his time as a Anaheim Mighty Ducks GM, Murray drafted Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and signed Dustin Penner to form a group that eventually won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
This time, Murray is the GM of the Ottawa Senators, and he is able to collect Kyle Turris, Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen, Mika Zibanejad, Jakob Silfverberg, Robin Lehner, Ben Bishop, Mark Stone and Nikita Filatov to Canada's capitol city.
To the surprise of many people, the Ottawa Senators made the NHL playoffs this year on a year they should have been on a rebuild, and they pushed the first seeded New York Rangers to the seventh and deciding game in the first round series.
In the 2012 NHL draft, Ottawa has the opportunity to add to their youth stock once again, and Bryan Murray will be ready.
The three likely candidates available for the Senators are:
D Derrick Pouliot (Portland)
D Matthew Finn (Guelph)
C Stefan Matteau (USA U-18)
Roberto Luongo was the center of attention in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft hosted in Vancouver. Dave Nonis made a big splash by sending Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld to Florida for Roberto Luongo, Lukas Krajicek and a sixth round pick.
Once again, Luongo will headline the 2012 NHL draft, because the draft table is the best opportunity for the Vancouver Canucks. Also, it would be easier to sell GM Mike Gillis the idea of giving away his All-Star netminder with incentives such as prospects and draft picks added to possible roster players in proposed trades.
If a trade does take place, expect it to come from the Tampa Bay Lightning at 19th overall, their second first round pick at the draft after dealing Kyle Quincey to the Detroit Red Wings. The other first round pick is 10th overall for Tampa.
The Toronto Maple Leafs may also have to dangle their fifth overall pick if they wish to land the No. 1 goalie from Vancouver. Perhaps the Leafs are willing to make the deal if Vancouver can add a pick in the late first round or second round to give the Leafs a chance at drafting a player later on.
At 26th overall, expect Mike Gillis and his staff to select D Slater Koekkoek of Peterborough Petes or LW Tanner Pearson of Barrie Colts.