With the 2012 NHL Entry Draft looming, the GMs and scouting staffs for all 30 franchises are in scramble mode.
The draft is always a crapshoot, but a little homework can go a long way towards improving one's chances of success. Each team certainly has their work cut out for them in Pittsburgh this weekend.
Here is how I think it will all play out.
Not necessarily my cup of tea but he is too good for the Oilers' brass to pass up. I suppose you cannot go wrong by picking the consensus No. 1 player and, in Nail's case, one who will provide instant offense.
The Jackets struggle to produce offensively even with Rick Nash in the lineup. Now that he is probably leaving, scoring depth becomes an even bigger issue. Mikhail Grigorenko should give Columbus a boost with his offensive skills. He should also give the team something they have never really had: a first-line center.
The Habs have plenty of depth but no upper-tier talent. They need a No. 1 center and Galchenyuk will give them one.
The Isles have drafted a bevy of forward prospects, but now is the time to bolster their defense. Murray is steady and plays well positionally. He is a two-way defenseman who does so many things right. That's a good thing, because many of the Islanders' blueliners can't seem to do anything right.
Brian Burke loves drafting kids with size and, at 6'4'', Reinhart's got plenty. He needs to add a little more snarl to his game, but Reinhart should be a good defenseman in this league for years to come. Think of it as Luke Schenn, take-2.
The Ducks' forward corps is relatively small and not particularly deep. Forsberg gives them size, skill and depth. There is no guarantee he will be available by the time Anaheim goes on the clock but, should he be, they would be wise to grab him.
Trouba would look great on that Wild defense in a few years, and not just because he is from Minnesota. He may not have as much exposure or hype as the various OHLers in this draft pool, but I think he is right up there with Ryan Murray in terms of all-around ability and potential.
The Hurricanes have done a solid job drafting young talent over the last few years and Morgan Reilly would be a real nice compliment to Justin Faulk and Jamie McBain on that Carolina blue line.
There is a ton of hype surrounding this kid, but unless Dumba fills out that frame, do not expect him to be the same big hitter he was in the OHL. There is no denying his offensive skills or his shot, and I think he would fit in nicely with Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom in Winnipeg.
The Bolts simply cannot afford to pass on the top-rated goaltender in this draft. Sure, Subban is a few years off and will not make an immediate impact, but aside from Dustin Tokarski, there are no surefire goaltending prospects in the system. Stevie Y can get his future puck-stopper at this point in the draft.
Not that Washington has offensive woes, but adding another offensive defenseman like Cody Ceci couldn't hurt, either. Ceci's very similar to Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers and the Caps could certainly benefit from someone like that down the road.
Much like the Joel Armia pick last year, I say the Sabres go for the Finish scoring machine again in 2012. Teravainen's got the offensive talent and Buffalo could sure use more of that.
GM Joe Nieuwendyk loves drafting guys with size, and Radek Faksa of the Kitchener Rangers has plenty of it to go along with an impressive skill set. His coach sees a bunch of similarities between him and last year's second overall pick, Gabriel Landeskog. That comparison might be a bit too hefty, but we do know that Faksa's got plenty of talent.
If Sven Baertschi is Jarome Iginla's long-term successor as Calgary's next sniper, then Collberg would be an excellent compliment to the Swiss sharpshooter. The hockey sense and intelligence this kid possesses could make him one of the steals of the first round.
The Senators already have an offensive juggernaut on the blue line in the form of Erik Karlsson. Maata would give them a guy that's smart at both ends of the ice, much like current Senator Jared Cowen. I think a 1-2-3 punch of Karlsson, Cowen and Maata would be a formidable foundation for this up-and-coming Ottawa squad.
Having already selected an offensive defenseman in Cody Ceci, the Caps (who, by the way, have eleven picks in this year's draft) will then take Lindholm, who's positionally sound and makes smart defensive plays. Washington needs to improve their transition game and the way they play without the puck. Down the road, Lindholm can help them in that department
At some point, the Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau era will end in San Jose. There aren't any real skilled forwards coming through the pipeline, which is why the Sharks would be wise to draft Hertl. He's a magician with the puck and has a nose for the net. Solid addition.
The 'Hawks have suffered from a lack of depth over the last couple of seasons and Kyle Beach, who was supposed to provide that, didn't quite pan out. Gaunce is as tough as he is smart and does have some scoring touch as well. He'd be a good fit for Chicago.
Not only does Tampa need help between the pipes, their defense is a mess too. Brady Sjkei is likely the best skater among the defensemen in this draft. He's also got strong instincts and makes key plays at key times. He'll need time to develop, but the team that's willing to be patient with him will benefit tremendously.
The Flyers struggled defensively down the road and, for the time being, there aren't any stud blueliners in the wings. What he lacks in radiance he more than makes up for with reliability. He's still very raw and could very possibly become even more effective than he's currently projected to be. Philly would have much to gain from drafting Finn at No. 20.
Girgensons projects anywhere between second-line center and two-way depth forward. He's not a must-pick for the Sabres at No. 21 but he'd be a smart one. This Latvian kid has plenty of upside.
Standing at 6'2" and weighing in at just over 180 pounds, Koekoek needs to fill out his frame before he can be effective at the next level. But with most of Pittsburgh's defensive prospects having joined the big club, the tank needs a refill. This kid could really help them out in a few years and I think if he's still available at this point in the draft, they need to move in and take him.
The Panthers are headed in the right direction, but if they want to sustain that success, they're going to need a consistent influx of depth, grit and heart. Thomas Wilson of the Plymouth Whalers fits that bill perfectly.
He's not necessarily going to score a ton of goals, but he's a prototypical power forward who does a lot of important things on the ice. You need those players to win and the Cats sure could use as many as they can get their hands on.
MSG's Stan Fischler has already suggested that Pouliot might be the most unheralded defenseman in the draft. The Portland Winterhawk notched 59 points this season and, according to some, could've put up even more if he were paired with a better defensive partner. There's always the chance he's taken before No. 24 but if he's not, I don't see how the Bruins pass on him.
The son of former NHLer Stephane Matteau (Matteau, Matteau), Stefan plays with a lot of heart and has some scoring touch too.
Aberg doesn't have much size (5'11"), but he does possess high-end offensive skills. I think he fits that Alex Burrows/ Mason Raymond mold that Vancouver's implemented into their lineup.
Athanasiou was expected to be a top-tier talent heading into the draft, but a disappointing campaign caused him to sputter further and further down the rankings. At this point, he's a borderline first or second-round pick.
I think the Coyotes can afford to take a chance on him at No. 27 and might turn out to be a steal if he can prove that 2012 was merely a fluke. Phoenix doesn't really have any highly-skilled forwards and that's why I think they roll the dice on this one.
The Rangers have shown a knack for taking forwards with a solid combo of size and skill (Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, etc). Nicolas Kerdiles is this year’s version of J.T. Miller and even though he’s raw, that’s nothing a little NCAA experience can’t fix. Kerdiles could be one of the steals of the first round and if he is, the Blueshirts will benefit tremendously.
The Devils would be wise to find a long-term successor to Martin Brodeur. It’s unlikely Malcolm Subban will be around by the time the Devils are on the clock, but Russian goaltender Andrei Vasilevski is an excellent option too.
Kid really impressed at the World Juniors and he’s got a ton of talent. He’s arguably just as good (if not better than) as Subban, but just isn’t getting as much media attention.
When a team wins the Stanley Cup, it's tough to pinpoint any real weaknesses. Truth is, there aren't many in L.A. Having said that, having a tough customer like Dalton Thrower on defense in a few seasons might not be the worst idea. I think by adding Thrower, the Kings will become much stronger in the long run.