The 2012 NHL draft is a mere three days away, slated for Friday, and the buzz is beginning to pick up throughout the league.
Nail Yakupov of Sarnia figures to be the top pick in the draft (unless Edmonton trades down), but where will the rest of the class land?
This year's class has a deep crop of defensemen, beginning with Ryan Murray of Everett. Here's my latest 2012 NHL draft, complete with defenders who will undoubtedly shine in the pros (in italics).
1. Edmonton Oilers: Nail Yakupov, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
The most talented offensive player in the draft, Nail Yakupov is the choice here if the Oilers don't trade down for a franchise defenseman like Ryan Murray.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL)
Ryan Murray has the potential to step in right away and help the Blue Jackets, who are currently skating on thin ice. He has the potential to be the face of the franchise, a true workhorse who has the ability to swing home goals.
3. Montreal Canadiens: Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
The Canadiens need to start building through the draft instead of relying on free agents. Mikhail Grigorenko brings size, strength and scoring ability.
4. New York Islanders: Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Before getting injured this past season, Morgan Rielly was a dynamic point scorer. He has the ability to boost New York's transition game and power play.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs: Filip Forsberg, C, Leksands (SEL)
The Maple Leafs need an electric scorer who plays like a veteran. Filip Forsberg would give them that presence up front.
6. Anaheim Ducks: Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia (OHL)
The Ducks could go with a defender like Matthew Dumba here, but Alex Galchenyuk has a wealth of potential. He's still a bit of a mystery, but when you are being mentioned in the sentence as Yakupov, there's obviously something there. He has the size and skills to be a dynamic player in the NHL.
7. Minnesota Wild: Matthew Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL)
The Wild's defense certainly has some upside, but Matthew Dumba is hard to pass up, given his leadership, tenacity and ability to contribute on the offensive side of the puck.
8. Carolina Hurricanes: Jacob Trouba, D, USA-18 (USHL)
Big, skilled, disciplined and a leader at a young age. Sounds like someone who would mesh well for Kirk Muller.
9. Winnipeg Jets: Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL)
The Jets have plenty of tough defenders, but Griffin Reinhart is the kind of lanky player who could add some finesse to the mix. He would complement the unit nicely.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning: Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle (SEL)
Hampus Lindholm has soared up draft boards, showing the creativity and skating skills to be a dynamic two-way defender. Pairing him up with Victor Hedman could give the Lightning a one-two punch for years to come.
11. Washington Capitals (via CO): Zemgus Girgenson, C, Dubuque (USHL)
The Capitals need to replace Alexander Semin, and Zemgus Girgenson has great size and competitiveness, and his scoring numbers have climbed the past few years while acclimating to the North American game.
12. Buffalo Sabres: Codi Ceci, D, Ottawa (OHL)
The Sabres need some help on the back end beyond Tyler Myers, and Ceci has the size, stamina and puck-pushing ability to be an instant help.
13. Dallas Stars: Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener (OHL)
A very disciplined center with good size and a nice frame, Radek Faksa has the potential to replace Brad Richards to some extent.
14. Calgary Flames: Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (FEL)
It's very possible that Teuvo Teravainen goes earlier than this, but it would be hard to pass him up here. The Flames need to add depth and star power to a wealth of positions, and Teravainen would be the best available here with his skills and scoring potential.
15. Ottawa Senators: Olli Maatta, D, London (OHL)
Needing some help on defense, the Senators would be thrilled to see Olli Maata to drop to them. A slick, composed defender with good size, Maata also can contribute on the offensive side of the puck, projecting him as a potential leader down the road.
16. Washington Capitals: Sebastian Collberg, RW, Flolunda (SEL)
After nabbing Girgenson, the Capitals would do well to add a scorer like Sebastian Collberg. He's likely not a top-10 pick given his lack of size, but his offensive skills make up for it and he's a very gritty player.
17. San Jose Sharks: Matt Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)
The Sharks could go a variety of ways here, but Matt Finn is an explosive, smart player who can play the defensive zone and push the transition game.
18. Chicago Blackhawks: Pontus Aberg, LW, Durgarden (SEL)
Surrounded by the likes of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews, Pontus Aberg has the skills and smarts to excel under their guidance, adding more of a spark offensively.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning (via DET): Tom Wilson, RW, Plymouth (OHL)
After going defense with Lindholm at No. 10 overall, the Lightning have some options on the wing here. Tom Wilson would be a nice pick; he has a lot of potential and his aggressiveness and demeanor projects him to be fearless on the ice.
20. Philadelphia Flyers: Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough (OHL)
Slater Koekkoek is the best available defender here. A skilled player with good size, he can push the power play and has a great shot. The Flyers will certainly be happy if Koekkoek lands here.
21. Buffalo Sabres: Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville (OHL)
After going defense early on, the Sabres will be happy to grab Brendan Gaunce, who exhibits the leadership, scoring ability, size and vision to be a solid player in the NHL.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins: Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL)
After taking the defensive-minded Joe Morrow last year, the Penguins could stand to add a defender with more offensive ability in Derrick Pouliot. Pouliot has excellent skating ability, and the vision and quarterbacking to push the power play.
23. Florida Panthers: Brady Skjei, D, USA U-18
Another promising two-way player, Brady Skjei's skating ability and eye-opening potential makes him a good pick here for the Panthers.
24. Boston Bruins: Colton Sissions, C, Kelowna (WHL)
Colton Sissions is one of those heady, determined players who will do whatever it takes to win. He's raw in terms of scoring ability, but his big shot, speed and passing projects him to be a solid player down the line with some work.
25. St. Louis Blues: Scott Laughton, C, Oshawa (OHL)
Scott Laughton is a gritty, tough player who excels on the open ice and, despite not much goal production this season, has the potential to be a steal here with added strength.
26. Vancouver Canucks: Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
An aggressive, gritty, fearless competitor, Dalton Thrower leaves nothing on the ice, and his developing offensive game could see him surprise in the NHL. Given he's from Vancouver, there's a good chance the Canucks put their faith in him.
27. Phoenix Coyotes: Adam Pelech, D, Erie (OHL)
A reliable, sturdy player who plays disciplined hockey, Adam Pelech makes sense for coach Dave Tippett, and he won't have any issues making his presence known in front of the net.
Will Oscar Dansk be the first goalie drafted?
28. New York Rangers: Oscar Dansk, G, Brynas (SEL)
Henrik Lundqvist still has some years left in him, but the Rangers need to starting thinking about a replacement down the line. Oscar Dansk, the top goalie in Sweden, has the complete package, and appears to be just realizing his potential. He could be a good one for years to come.
29. New Jersey Devils: Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville (OHL)
Malcolm Subban needs help with his technique, and he's still a bit raw, but he has eye-opening athletic ability and reflexes at the net. With some development, he could be a good one down the line. He certainly has the competitiveness to find a home in the NHL.
30. Los Angeles Kings: Ludvig Bystrom, D, Modo Hockey (SEL)
The Kings will most likely go with the best player available here, and I like Ludvig Bystrom. The talented Swede has impressive vision and thinks fast, delivering the puck quickly. He still needs some work on his skating and he's a bit raw, but he already appears to make up for it with great closing ability.