2012 NHL Entry Draft: Assessing Each NHL Team's Greatest 2012 Draft Need

Jake WareCorrespondent IIIJune 8, 2012

2012 NHL Entry Draft: Assessing Each NHL Team's Greatest 2012 Draft Need

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    With the 2012 NHL Entry Draft now less than two weeks away, National Hockey League teams will already be zeroed in on their biggest draft needs and which players will help solve those their needs.

    Every team needs to improve through the draft. It is how organizations are built. While teams will usually select the best player available, no squad is perfect, and every one has specific areas in which they can improve.

    This article assesses each NHL team's biggest need in the 2012 Entry Draft. Possible draft options are based on how realistic the acquisition of the players is.

Anaheim Ducks: Defensive Defenseman

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    The Anaheim Ducks have done a great job in recent seasons drafting players up front, with youngsters like Emerson Etem, Max Friberg, Peter Holland, William Karlsson, Rikard Rakell, and Devante Smith-Pelly meaning the team is set at forward for the next 10 years.

    With the shrewd drafting of goaltender John Gibson in the second-round last season, the team is set at that position as well.

    That said, the prospect pool lacks blueliners. The threat posed by top defensive prospect Justin Schultz potentially not signing makes the need for a top-class defenseman all the more dire for the Ducks.

    Aside from Sami Vatanen, the team is limited in terms of prospects on the back-end, and with a 6th overall pick on the horizon, look for the team to improve by acquiring a bluechip defensive blueliner in the draft. 


    Possible First-Round Options (Sixth Overall):

    1. Matt Dumba

    2. Ryan Murray

    3. Griffin Reinhart

Boston Bruins: Offensive Defenseman

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    The Boston Bruins could use help just about everywhere in the draft. The team has seen a number of prospects break into the NHL in the last few seasons and, as a result, are shorthanded in several areas, most notably on the back-end.

    Of the Bruins' top-six defensemen last season, only one, Adam McQuaid, was under the age of 28, and only one, Joe Corvo, was an offensively-minded defenseman. The Bruins are desperate to add offensively-skilled blueliners through the draft, and in a deep defensive class, this should be the year they take advantage.


    Possible First-Round Options (24th Overall):

    1. Ville Pokka

    2. Matthew Finn

    3. Slater Koekkoek

Buffalo Sabres: Sizable Center

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    The Buffalo Sabres are in an interesting predicament heading into the draft: Their weakest roster areas, on the defensive side of the game, are where their prospect pool is strongest, and their strongest areas, center and goaltending, are the areas where the prospect pool could use help.

    This does, however, give the team the luxury of picking the best player available at the draft.

    The Sabres could do with improving their long-term center corps, specifically adding size to it (the average size is 5'10"), but could also do with finding and grooming a long-term replacement for 31-year-old netminder Ryan Miller. The Sabres have two first-round picks, the second having been acquired from the Nashville Predators for Paul Gaustad.


    Possible First-Round Options (12th Overall):

    1. Brendan Gaunce

    2. Radek Faksa

    3. Tomas Hertl


    Possible First-Round Options (21st overall):

    1. Andrei Vasilevski

    2. Malcolm Subban

    3. Oscar Dansk

Calgary Flames: Offensive Defensemen

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    The Calgary Flames really have just one bluechip prospect, Sven Baertschi, and could use help everywhere. That said, their need for defensemen is by far the most dire and is likely the area where they will look to improve through the draft.

    Just one of the Flames' top-six defensemen, Chris Butler, is under the age of 28, and among those coming through the system, only TJ Brodie has top-four potential. With the depth of defensemen in the draft, now is the time for the rebuilding Flames to add an elite defensive prospect.


    Possible First-Round Options (14th Overall):

    1. Olli Maatta

    2. Derrick Pouliot

    3. Matthew Finn

Carolina Hurricanes: Goalscoring Winger

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    Over the past several drafts, the Carolina Hurricanes have worked diligently to round out the finer points of their roster and prospect pool. Because of their depth at center and defense, the 'Canes have allowed the opportunity to spoil themselves in 2012 by picking up one of the draft's premier goalscorers.

    In the last three seasons, the Hurricanes' go-to-guy among offensive wingers has been Finn Jussi Jokinen, but the 29-year-old's falling numbers in that time has proven that it is time for the team to grab a new franchise scorer. The team will be looking to pick up a long-sought-after elite winger to play alongside superstar center Eric Staal.


    Possible First-Round Options (Eighth Overall):

    1. Sebastian Collberg

    2. Alex Galchenyuk

    3. Pontus Åberg

Chicago Blackhawks: Right Winger

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    One glance at the Chicago Blackhawks prospect pool tells you where the team needs help. With only Jimmy Hayes, Maxim Shalunov, and Ben Smith in the system, the 'Hawks badly need reinforcements on the right-wing.

    With Marian Hossa approaching the end of his prime, the Blackhawks would love to add a second right-winger to complement Patrick Kane at the top of the order. The team has made an effort to become tougher over the last season (they drafted Mark McNeill and Philipp Danault in the first round last year) and could also look to add further size through the draft.


    Possible First-Round Options (18th Overall):

    1. Thomas Wilson

    2. Pontus Åberg

    3. Martin Frk

Colorado Avalanche: Goalscoring Winger

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    When they picked up the overshadowed Duncan Siemens 11th overall a year ago, the Colorado Avalanche filled a major need on the blueline. Now, with their top goalscorer of the decade, Milan Hejduk, in the twilight of his career, the Avalanche need to find some scoring up front.

    The Colorado Avalanche traded their first-round pick in the draft to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Semyon Varlamov in July, and they will not select until 41st overall. Look for the Avs to add some skill on the wing to complement their gritty franchise player and future captain Gabriel Landeskog on the top line.


    Possible Second-Round Options (41st Overall):

    1. Anton Slepyshev

    2. Scott Kosmachuk

    3. Cristoval Nieves

Columbus Blue Jackets: Franchise Winger

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets, by far the NHL's worst team this season, got unlucky in the draft lottery and, as a result, may have lost out in the Nail Yakupov sweepstakes.

    That's not to say there won't be plenty of high-end options available for them at second overall. With Jack Johnson settling in for his first full season, Ryan Johansen ready to step up and become a star and Rick Nash likely on the way out, there is a good chance the Blue Jackets will look to secure a new franchise winger.

    It is up to them to find who the best available player up front is.


    Possible First-Round Options (Second Overall):

    1. Filip Forsberg

    2. Nail Yakupov

    3. Mikhail Grigorenko

Dallas Stars: Playmaking Center

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    The loss of Brad Richards didn't just cost them the Dallas Stars the 77 points he put up in 2010-11, but it also resulted in a reduction in production from Loui Eriksson (who is undoubtedly one of the league's finest offensive talents when at his best). 

    The Stars scored 211 goals in 82 games last season at an average of just 2.57 goals per game, good for 21st in the league. Long story short, they need to add offense.

    They key to unlocking the Stars' potential is likely ensuring that Eriksson has the best possible supporting cast. The Stars need a new playmaking center.


    Possible First-Round Options (13th Overall):

    1. Teuvo Teravainen

    2. Radek Faksa

    3. Tomas Hertl

Detroit Red Wings: Sizable Forward

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    A major reason for the Wings' lack of success in recent seasons has been the overcommitment to skilled players. In the last game of the playoffs, the team's 12 forwards averaged just over 6'0" and were run over by the physically superior Nashville Predators. The team needs to look at adding size through the draft.

    The Wings traded their first-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Kyle Quincey and prospect Sebastien Piche, and they do not pick until the late second.

    There, they will look to add significant size to their forward corps, looking for players who can complement the likes of 5'11" forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg at the top of the order. 


    Possible Second-Round Options (49th Overall):

    1. Cristoval Nieves

    2. Daniil Zharkov

    3. Nicolas Kerdiles

Edmonton Oilers: Defense

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    But they won't get it.

    The Edmonton Oilers have spent their first pick on forwards in each of the past five drafts, only picking up first-round defensemen twice in that time (Alex Plante, Oscar Klefbom). As a result, they have become a top-heavy team, with stars like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson consistently stealing the headlines.

    Despite giving up the 23rd most goals in the league this season, the Oilers are likely to continue to add to their impressive group of young forwards with superstar prospect Nail Yakupov, who would become their third-straight first-overall pick. 


    Possible First-Round Options (First Overall):

    1. Nail Yakupov

    2. Ryan Murray

    3. Filip Forsberg

Florida Panthers: Bottom-Six Character

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    There is no doubt that, with the likes of Nick Bjugstad, Rocco Grimaldi, Quinton Howden, Jonathan Huberdeau and Alex Petrovic, the Florida Panthers have one of the most skilled prospect pools in the NHL.

    The Panthers made it to the playoffs this season through their skill, but they faltered in the playoffs. Despite the quality aforementioned prospects, there have been doubts over the character in their group, and that is an area where they might look to improve in the draft. They'll try to add to their group of bottom-six prospects.  


    Possible First-Round Options (23rd Overall):

    1. Colton Sissons

    2. Zemgus Girgensons

    3. Stefan Matteau

Los Angeles Kings: Physical Scorer

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    Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Dwight King, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Penner, Mike Richards, Justin Williams.

    Beyond Jonathan Quick, you don't have to look too hard to see the formula for the LA Kings' 2011-12 postseason success: physical, talented, and unselfish scorers who are willing to mix it up to score.

    For a Cup-contending team, the key to repeating is to keep a good thing going. The prospect pool for the Kings is thin in terms of this style of player, and the Kings might look to use their late first-round pick to replenish their stocks. 


    Possible First-Round Options (29/30th Overall):

    1. Martin Frk

    2. Tanner Pearson

    3. Nikolay Prokhorkin

Minnesota Wild: Defense

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    The Minnesota Wild scored just 177 goals this season, the worst number in the league, and desperately need to improve their offense. That said, with Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Johan Larsson and Zack Philipps all ready to jump to the NHL, a lot of help is on the way.

    Instead, with the pure nature of this draft, the Minnesota Wild should use the 2012 draft to build on their young defense corps.

    Having drafted Swede Jonas Brodin a year ago, the Wild have the opportunity to add to a group that already includes Justin Falk, Steven Kampfer, and Jared Spurgeon, to create one of the league's best defensive groups. They could give Brodin a long-term, top defensive-pairing partner with any one of a number of top two-way blueliners in the draft.


    Possible First-Round Options (Seventh Overall):

    1. Morgan Rielly

    2. Jacob Trouba

    3. Olli Maatta

Montreal Canadiens: First-Line Center

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    With a blueline that boasts youngsters PK Subban, Yannick Weber and Alexei Yemelin and will, in a year or two, include first-rounders Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi, the Montreal Canadiens' defense is set for years to come.

    With the Scott Gomez experiment having failed tremendously and Tomas Plekanec on the doorstep of 30, the Habs need to add top-level talent at center ice.

    From a season that failed miserably and ended up with both general manager and head coach being replaced, the Montreal Canadiens have a shock third-overall pick. The riches of centers available in the top five is salivating, and the Habs are going take a player who is going to solidify their first line for the next decade-and-a-half.


    Possible First-Round Options (Third Overall):

    1. Mikhail Grigorenko

    2. Alex Galchenyuk

    3. Radek Faksa

Nashville Predators: Top-Six Forward

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    When Alexander Radulov arrived from Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL in March, he made a tremendous difference, putting up 13 goals in 17 points and helping his Nashville Predators to a 4-1 first-round playoff victory over the Detroit Red Wings. However, Radulov will not return, and the need for a true top-six forward remains for the Preds.

    The Predators sent their first-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres to get Paul Gaustad, and their second-rounder to Montreal for Hal Gill. The trades didn't pay off (at least so far, as the Preds didn't win the Cup), and David Poile will be eager to make a good pick in the third round, where the Predators make their first choice at 66th overall. 


    Possible Third-Round Options (66th Overall):

    1. Joonas Donskoi

    2. Tomas Hyka

    3. Francis Beauvillier

New Jersey Devils: Goaltending

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    Martin Brodeur has been nothing short of excellent in the playoffs, but his midrange regular season performance (.908 save percentage, 2.41 goals against average) has been a testament to the fact that the 40-year-old future Hall of Famer is in the twilight of his career.

    Simply put, with Brodeur likely only having one or two more seasons to go, it's time for the New Jersey Devils to draft his replacement.


    Possible First-Round Options (29th/30th Overall):

    1. Malcolm Subban

    2. Andrei Vasilevski

    3. Oscar Dansk

New York Islanders: Two-Way Defenseman

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    When the New York Islanders drafted Ryan Strome with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, it marked the 11th time of the last 12 that the team had drafted a non-defenseman with a first-round pick.

    Drafting fourth, the team is sure to address a major need: a high-end, two-way defenseman. With players like Michael Grabner, Nino Niederreiter, Kyle Okposo, Strome, and John Tavares, among others, developing, the Islanders have their forward line set for the next decade.

    To return to their former days of glory, the Isles need to round out the defense corps, and they can do it with a top-five pick in a deep defensive draft. 


    Possible First-Round Options (Fourth Overall):

    1. Ryan Murray

    2. Jacob Trouba

    3. Morgan Rielly

New York Rangers: Bluechip Prospect

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    This was the year the Eastern Conference-winning New York Rangers were expected to go all the way and win the Stanley Cup.

    They didn't.

    At this point, the Rangers have a well-rounded team and an even better-rounded prospect pool. There are no glaring holes in the team, but they could, as always, improve all over. The Rangers will draft the best player available at 28th overall.  


    Possible First-Round Options (28th Overall):

    1. Mike Winther

    2. Martin Frk

    3. Zemgus Girgensons

Ottawa Senators: Defensive Defenseman

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    With the likes of Stefan Noesen, Matt Puempel, Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad, the Ottawa Senators are set to have a very strong offensive unit for years to come. But with the recent graduation of Jared Cowen, the Senators, who had three first-rounders last season, lack bluechip defensive prospects and could look to quality on the backline this draft.

    One of the Sens' priorities in the coming years will be to ensure that superstar offensive defenseman Erik Karlsson is put in the best possible scenario for success. For that to happen, Ottawa needs to have top-flight defensive blueliners. 


    Possible First-Round Options (15th Overall):

    1. Cody Ceci

    2. Hampus Lindholm

    3. Matthew Finn

Philadelphia Flyers: Top-Four Defenseman

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    Aside from Erik Gustafsson and Oliver Lauridsen, the Philadelphia Flyers have no realistic defensive prospects, and with four of the team's top-six defensemen being over the age of 35, coupled with Chris Pronger's concussion problems, the team needs an injection of youth on the back-end.

    Through the draft, the Flyers will look to add legitimate top-four defensemen who can revolutionize the team and help Ilya Bryzgalov out. 


    Possible First-Round Options (20th Overall):

    1. Derrick Pouliot

    2. Ville Pokka

    3. Hampus Lindholm

Phoenix Coyotes: Goalscoring Winger

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    In 2011-12, the Phoenix Coyotes survived and thrived on goalscoring wingers. Indeed, 98, or 48 percent, of the team's 216 goals this season came off the sticks of Shane Doan, Lauri Korpikoski, Radim Vrbata or Ray Whitney.

    That said, those four players average almost 33 years of age, and it's time for the team to think about replenishing the stocks. Two of the four are free agents this summer, and if the team wants to continue scoring prolifically, the Coyotes need to add another goalscoring winger or two to the roster as soon as possible.


    Possible First-Round Options (27th Overall):

    1. Tanner Pearson

    2. Pontus Åberg

    3. Martin Frik

Pittsburgh Penguins: Center

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    From 2004 to 2006, the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted centers in the top five three years in a row. As a result, for the past several seasons, the Pens have found tremendous success through their center depth.

    However, two of the three, Sidney Crosby (first overall, 2005) and Jordan Staal (second overall, 2006), will be free agents in a season's time, while the third, Evgeni Malkin (second overall, 2004), will be unrestricted the following summer.

    The harsh truth for Penguins fans is that they are likely to lose of one of their star middlemen. The Penguins could use the 2012 draft to plan ahead, picking up a player who might help them drastically, given the threat of a free agency blow a year from now. 


    Possible First-Round Options (22th Overall):

    1. Zemgus Girgensons

    2. Stefan Matteau

    3. Thomas Wilson

San Jose Sharks: Bluechip Prospect

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    In the past four drafts, the San Jose Sharks have made just one first-round selection, and that player, Charlie Coyle, was traded. The Sharks have managed to keep their prospect pool ticking over through NCAA free-agent signings, but they need to make a big splash in this year's draft.

    At 17th overall, the Sharks will take the best player available. They need a prospect with a high ceiling who can replace the team's stars (Dan Boyle is 35, Patrick Marleau is 32, Joe Thornton is 32) when they bow out.


    Possible First-Round Options (17th Overall):

    1. Tomas Hertl

    2. Zemgus Girgensons

    3. Thomas Wilson

St. Louis Blues: Bluechip Prospect

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    The St. Louis Blues were able to find success this season because of an exceptionally well-rounded roster. There have been no glaring issues with the team, and, as a result of the lack of exploitable holes, they became a hard team to beat.

    With Ty Rattie, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko all likely to graduate to the NHL next season, the Blues' prospect pool looks bleak. The group, while having quality in all areas, lacks top-end talent. The Blues, much like the Sharks, will take the best available player at 25th overall. 


    Possible First-Round Options (25th Overall):

    1. Matthew Finn

    2. Ville Pokka

    3. Brady Skjei

Tampa Bay Lightning: Two-Way Defenseman

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    With the midseason acquisitions of Keith Aulie, Brian Lee, Brendan Mikkelson, as well as the off-shipping of Pavel Kubina, the Tampa Bay Lightning successfully managed to overhaul their blueline and become a younger unit during the season.

    That said, the Bolts still have five defensemen on the roster over the age of 30 and need to continue to become younger.

    The Bolts could really use a two-way defenseman to help Victor Hedman, who has single-handedly carried the defensive line, out. There are options at 10th overall.

    The Lightning also hold the 19th overall pick in the draft, having acquired the choice from the Detroit Red Wings for Kyle Quincey. There, they could look to add some offense to lay the foundations for life after soon-to-be 37-year-old Martin St Louis.


    Possible First-Round Options (10th Overall):

    1. Griffin Reinhart

    2. Jacob Trouba

    3. Derrick Pouliot


    Possible First-Round Options (19th Overall):

    1. Pontus Åberg

    2. Tanner Pearson

    3. Martin Frk

Toronto Maple Leafs: Top-Six Forward

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    When the Toronto Maple Leafs picked up London Knights center Nazem Kadri with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, it was hoped that he would become the team's new franchise forward.

    Three years later, Kadri has struggled to break into the NHL. While he is still a bright prospect, the team might look to find a new franchise forward in this year's draft. 

    The Leafs have already expressed interest in Sarnia Sting forward Alex Galchenyuk.


    Possible First-Round Options (5th Overall):

    1. Alex Galchenyuk

    2. Mikhail Grigorenko

    3. Radek Faksa

Vancouver Canucks: Defenseman

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    There is no easy way to describe the Vancouver Canucks' prospect predicament. Simply put, all of the Canucks' top skating prospects are forwards.

    The solution? Draft a defenseman.

    With four of the 'Nucks' active roster blueliners being over the age of 30, the team must find younger defensemen. Alain Vigneault's troops had the fourth best defense in the league this season, and, to keep the good thing going, the Canucks need to look to the draft. 


    Possible First-Round Options (26th Overall):

    1. Brady Skjei

    2. Slater Koekkoek

    3. Ludvig Byström

Washington Capitals: Top-Six Center

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    For the fifth straight season, the Washington Capitals failed to advance beyond the second round in the playoffs.

    The team needs a second-line center. Marcus Johansson is a solid two-way forward who can be effective in all three zones, but his faceoff struggles leave him being better on the wing, and Brooks Laich helps the team most when anchoring the third-line.

    Adding a center who can generate offense, excel in the circle and be a fix on the special teams is imperative for the Capitals.  

    The Caps could also do with adding a defensive defenseman to complement the team's abundance of offensive blueliners. They have a second first-rounder, at 16th overall, acquired from the Colorado Avalanche for Semyon Varlamov.


    Possible First-Round Options (11th Overall):

    1. Radek Faksa

    2. Teuvo Teravainen

    3. Tomas Hertl


    Possible First-Round Options (16th overall):

    1. Hampus Lindholm

    2. Derrick Pouliot

    3. Ville Pokka

Winnipeg Jets: Defensive Defenseman

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    In Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfulgien and Toby Enström, the Winnipeg Jets have arguably three of the best two-way defensemen in the league. Nonetheless, the team managed to concede 246 goals last season, good for 26th in the league.

    The Jets, who really need help all over, must improve their blueline. At ninth overall, there are a number of high-end defensive defenseman available. The Jets will swoop.


    Possible First-Round Options (Ninth Overall):

    1. Jacob Trouba

    2. Griffin Reinhart

    3. Cody Ceci