The NHL draft is where stars are born. Sometimes they need a couple of years in college or some time in the AHL in order to mature, but for hockey superstars worldwide, the NHL draft is the first step toward superstardom.
The likes of Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Steven Stamkos once found themselves right where these future legends are right now. Somewhere in this draft could be a future Hart Trophy winner.
Here's a complete first-round mock with a special emphasis on the top centers available.
1. Edmonton Oilers: Nail Yakupov, RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
The Oilers have been picking first for three years in a row, which is never a good sign. Hopefully selecting the most NHL-ready prospect on the board will give them another piece of a puzzle that just won't come together.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets: Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec Ramparts (QMJHL)
Grigorenko shouldn't fall out of the top three in this draft. There's very little wrong with his game: He sees the ice very well, partly as a result of his insane NHL IQ, and he figures to be a phenomenal offensive player.
At 6'3" and 200 pounds, he's already the perfect size for an NHL center, and given that he's only 18, he's not done growing yet. There's no doubt he'll be able to score with abandon at the next level, and yet there are doubts because of a poor performance in the QMJHL playoffs this year. He registered three points in seven games and attributed his sluggishness to mono, but there were rumors that it was more about laziness.
Given his upside, though, it's hard to believe the Blue Jackets are going to pass on the best available center solely on the basis of the rumor mill.
3. Montreal Canadiens: Ryan Murray, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
If the Blue Jackets go for the center, that leaves Murray—the best defenseman on the board—for the Canadiens. He's accustomed to playing over 30 minutes per game and is an excellent puck-mover.
4. New York Islanders: Filip Forsberg, C/RW, Leksands IF (Allsvenskan)
Forsberg is one of the better skaters on this board and is incredibly fast, and despite the fact that he's not huge at 6'1", he's strong and tough—and on the plus side, he moves very well.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs: Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
He's traveled all over the world, but no matter where he's been, he's always been one of the top players. He's lived in Germany, Italy, Russia and the US and was the first pick in the OHL Priority Selection in 2010.
Though he still could use a little bit of development in terms of getting physical on the ice, he has all the tools he needs to be a star in the NHL: He's an excellent skater, even at 6'2" and 185 pounds with excellent vision, his stick-handling skills are superb and his shot doesn't miss. Despite a knee injury in the 2011-12 preseason that limited him to the final two games of the regular season plus six playoff games, he proved enough before then to solidify himself as a top-five pick.
Galchenyuk projects to be a first-line center, and the Islanders are too smart to let him fall out of their reach.
6. Anaheim Ducks: Mathew Dumba, D, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Dumba's advantages are twofold: He can always deliver a big hit on the ice but is also surprisingly agile for a big defenseman. He figures to be one of the more NHL-ready blue-liners on the board.
7. Minnesota Wild: Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
And if Dumba goes to the Ducks, the Wild will be perfectly happy with Reinhart, an even bigger defenseman at 6'3" and 200 pounds who's equally mobile.
8. Carolina Hurricanes: Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (Finland)
He's certainly on the small side at 5'10" and 161 pounds, but he's also only 18, so he's not done getting bigger and stronger yet. He has excellent puck skills and, as his size would suggest, is a limber and quick skater.
9. Winnipeg Jets: Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
He's a great puck-handler and can really get things going offensively—when he gets in a groove, he can put up big points. His skills on the other end of the rink aren't bad, either.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jacob Trouba, D, U.S. U-18 Team
The Minnesota native is currently training with the Team USA World Juniors and is a physical, tenacious player. He's verbally committed to Michigan, but he could back out.
11. Washington Capitals (from COL): Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
As the Capitals start looking to get younger and bring in some solid offensive production, Faksa figures to be a player who can be a key component of that transition somewhere down the line.
In terms of projecting to the NHL, there isn't a lot that's going to hold Faksa back from being a first- or second-line center. He's a complete player with good size (6'3", 183 pounds), good speed, good passing skills and a good shot. That's kind of the knock on him, though: He's good in all of those areas, but he's not over-the-top excellent. He'll do all of the little things right to get the job done and help his team win, but he might not be a flashy Hart Trophy winner.
With all of that said, though, you can never sleep on him because he knows how to burn you on offense. He might not be a top-10 pick, but he's a fundamentally-sound, very talented prospect who won't fall out of the Caps' grasp.
12. Buffalo Sabres: Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
Ceci is agile and fast despite his size, and he's known as an offensive playmaker that needs to shore up his skills on the blue line.
13. Dallas Stars: Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque (USHL)
The Latvia native is a terrific skater and isn't afraid of contact, though he could stand to get a little bit faster. He's committed to UVM next season.
14. Calgary Flames: Olli Maatta, D, London Knights (OHL)
Not only is he strong and a good skater—he's an incredibly smart player as well. He sees the ice very well and reacts quickly, which combines to make him a threatening offensive defenseman.
15. Ottawa Senators: Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle (Sweden)
He's currently ranked fourth among all European skaters in Central Scouting's projections and played in 20 games for Sweden's second-league team this year, which definitely helped him push himself into the first round.
16. Washington Capitals: Sebastian Collberg, RW, Frolunda HC (Sweden)
Who wil be the most successful in the NHL?
He's somewhat small at 5'11" and 174 pounds, but he's still very quick and knows how to put the puck in the net right on par with some of the top-rated wingers in this draft.
17. San Jose Sharks: Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
The Ontario native is an excellent passer and a smooth skater, and he has the physical tenacity to become an excellent NHL defenseman.
18. Chicago Blackhawks: Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville Bulls (OHL)
There aren't a lot of negatives at all to Gaunce's game: He's a good leader, a fast skater, he sees the ice well and he already has an excellent shot. The Hawks won't let him fall farther than this.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning (from DET): Tom Wilson, RW, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
At 6'4" and 195 pounds, Wilson has excellent size and a lot of strength. He can deliver a big hit and is especially proficient on defense. Here is someone who could easily be the Lightning's future enforcer.
20. Philadelphia Flyers: Matt Finn, D, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Finn can score when he needs to, but he truly excels on special teams. He can score on the man advantage and even shorthanded almost as easily as he can in an even-strength situation.
21. Buffalo Sabres (from NSH): Tomas Hertl, C/LW, Slavia (Czech Republic)
Like Lindholm, Hertl has pushed himself into the first round with his play of late, when he established himself as a prime component of the Czech Republic's offense during the World Junior Hockey Championships.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins: Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
He's yet another big, strong defenseman who is also a fast and agile skater, but he needs to get bigger (right now, he's at 192 pounds) and his shot needs to improve before he can become a force in the NHL.
23. Florida Panthers: Brady Skjei, D, USA U-18 Team
The Minnesota native has been heralded by some as one of the best skaters on this year's board and had 22 points in 56 games with the USA Hockey national development team last season.
24. Boston Bruins: Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
During his third season with Saskatoon in 2011-12, the former second-round selection in the WHL Bantam Draft led all defensemen in scoring with 18 goals and 36 assists in 66 games.
25. St. Louis Blues: Henrik Samuelsson, C/RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (OHL)
He has superstar lineage—his dad is 16-year NHL journeyman Ulf, while his brother was drafted in 2009—but he may be the first in his family to go in the first round. He decided to play forward instead of defenseman, like his famous family members, because he likes scoring too much.
26. Vancouver Canucks: Colton Sissons, C/RW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
As this year's top-rated WHL prospect, he's a very complete player who will give the Canucks some size (6'0", 193 pound) and terrific leadership. He has definite captain potential.
27. Phoenix Coyotes: Pontus Agberg, LW, Djurgardens (Sweden)
He's a good scorer with excellent puck-handling skills, and he has some serious playmaking potential. Plus, his off-the-ice reputation is a strong point as well.
28. New York Rangers: Stefan Matteau, LW, USNTDP (USHL)
The Chicago native is a physical, aggressive winger who is expected to be an even bigger star than his dad. He could be another Milan Lucic down the line.
29. New Jersey Devils: Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville (OHL)
The first and only goalie taken in this year's first round could become an aging Martin Brodeur's replacement in the far-off future. PK's younger brother is a bit small at 6'1" and 178 pounds, but it actually helps him because he's incredibly quick and gets into position fast and easily.
30. Los Angeles Kings (optional to CBJ): Lukas Sutter, C, Saskatoon
He's another player who comes into this draft with NHL in his blood: Dad Rich played, as did five of his uncles, one of whom happens to be the head coach of the Stanley Cup champions.