NHL Draft 2012: Final Team-by-Team Needs Heading into NHL Draft
NHL fans, rejoice.
The 2012 NHL Entry Draft is now barely one sleep away.
National Hockey League teams will already be zeroed in on their biggest draft needs and which players will help solve those their needs.
Countless mock drafts have been made, some longer than others, in speculation of the draft.
All the hard work, all the blood, sweat and tears, all the pain...it all boils down to this.
This article assesses each NHL team's biggest need in the 2012 Entry Draft. Finally.
Anaheim Ducks: Defenseman
When 2008 second-rounder Justin Schultz was a member of the organization, the future looked bright on the back-end for the Ducks. Now, with Schultz not signing, it all of a sudden looks relatively bleak.
The Ducks have solid prospects up front, with the likes of Emerson Etem, Max Friberg, Rickard Rakell and Devante Smith-Pelly, as well as in goal, with John Gibson developing.
But the pool is thin on the blue line.
Four of the eight defensemen on the team's active roster are over the age of 30. The Ducks will definitely need to add a defenseman with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Potential 2012 Pick (sixth overall): Mathew Dumba
Boston Bruins: Offensive Defenseman
Out of the Boston Bruins' top six blueliners at the end of last season, just one, Adam McQuaid, was under the age of 28, and only one, Joe Corvo, was a more offensively-minded defenseman.
Indeed, one of the main reasons the Bruins fell in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs was their lack of an elite two-way blueliner.
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.
Potential 2012 Pick (24th overall): Slater Koekkoek
Buffalo Sabres: Big Center
The Buffalo Sabres' weakest squad 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.
There are no specific roster areas the Sabres could target with a view to improve, but, that said, with an average size of 5'10", the team could do with adding significant size to their center corps.
The Sabres have two first-round picks, the second having been acquired from the Nashville Predators for Paul Gaustad.
Potential 2012 Pick (12th overall): Brendan Gaunce
Calgary Flames: Bluechip Prospects
Having missed the playoffs for a third straight season and having just hired a new coach in Bob Hartley, the Calgary Flames could well be heading for a rebuild.
That would likely entail a free-for-all sale of the team's top players in an effort to stockpile draft picks and prospects.
The Flames, who really have just one bluechip prospect in Sven Baertschi, could kickstart their rebuild with this draft. The team needs a high-end prospect to build a team around.
Potential 2012 Pick (14th overall): Olli Maatta
Carolina Hurricanes: Scoring Winger
While it is difficult to pinpoint any individual reason for the Carolina Hurricanes' struggles this season, the fact that the team scored just 213 goals at an average of 2.60 goals per game was undoubtedly a contributing factor.
Over the past three seasons, the Hurricanes' main offensive winger has been Finn Jussi Jokinen, but the 29-year-old's plummeting numbers in that time has proven that the moment is right for the team to grab a new franchise scorer through the draft. The team could look to pick up a premier winger to play alongside star center Eric Staal.
Potential 2012 Pick (eighth overall): Teuvo Teravainen
Chicago Blackhawks: Toughness
The 'Hawks signings of Andrew Brunette, Daniel Carcillo, Jamal Mayers and Sean O'Donnell, as well as their drafting of Phillip Danault and Mark McNeill, made clear their agenda a summer ago: They want to get tougher.
That is likely to continue into this summer and this draft.
There are a number of physically imposing defensemen and forwards available later on in the round, right around where the Blackhawks will be picking. Look for the 'Hawks to pick players who will allow them to continue to make their roster tougher.
Potential 2012 Pick (18th overall): Thomas Wilson
Colorado Avalanche: Complements to the Core
In drafting Gabriel Landeskog with the second-overall pick a season ago and adding him to a group including Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson and Paul Stastny, the Colorado Avalanche completed the core they will build their franchise around.
The Avalanche lost their first-round pick in the Semyon Varlamov deal with the Washington Capitals, and they don't pick until the second round. There, they will look to lay the foundations for the complement to that core.
Potential 2012 Pick (41st overall): Anton Slepyshev
Columbus Blue Jackets: Franchise Winger
The struggling Columbus Blue Jackets have a long to-do list this summer, but one of the tasks that will seemingly be impossible to complete will be convincing superstar winger Rick Nash to come back.
With Jack Johnson settling in for his first full season and the blue line in decent shape, Ryan Johansen ready to become a star and Rick Nash seemingly on the way out, there is a high chance that the Blue Jackets will try to secure a new franchise winger.
By far the NHL's worst team this season, the Blue Jackets got unlucky in the draft lottery and, as a result, may have lost out in the Nail Yakupov sweepstakes. It is up to them to find who the next best available player up front is.
Potential 2012 Pick (secnd overall): Filip Forsberg
Dallas Stars: Playmaker
A season ago, the Dallas Stars scored just 211 goals in 82 games at a lowly average of 2.57 goals per game, 21st in the league. Simply put, to have any success next season, the Dallas Stars must add offense.
They key to unlocking the Stars' potential is likely ensuring that Eriksson has the best possible group around him. The Stars need a new playmaking forward to help him out.
Potential 2012 Pick (13th overall): Sebastian Collberg
Detroit Red Wings: Big Forward
A big reason for the Detroit Red Wings' lack of postseason success in the last few seasons seasons has been the team's willingness to overcommit to skill players.
In the last game of the 2012 playoffs, the team's 12 forwards averaged just over 6'0". They were, as a result, 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.
Potential 2012 Pick (49th overall): Cristoval 'Boo' Nieves
Edmonton Oilers: Defense
... but, odds are, that they won't get it.
The Edmonton Oilers have spent their first pick of the draft on forwards in each of the past five drafts, and they have only grabbed defensemen in the first round twice in that time (Alex Plante, 2007, Oscar Klefbom, 2011).
As a result, the Oilers have become a forward-heavy team, with stars like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson leading the team.
Despite finishing 23rd in the NHL in the goals-against table this season, Edmonton is all-but-certain to continue to add to the team's outrageous group of talented young forwards with superstar prospect Nail Yakupov, who would become their third-straight first-overall pick.
And with a player like Yakupov available, who can blame them?
Potential 2012 Pick (first overall): Nail Yakupov
Florida Panthers: Bottom-Six Character
There is little doubt that, with the likes of Nick Bjugstad, Rocco Grimaldi, Quinton Howden, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jacob Markström and Alex Petrovic in the system, the Florida Panthers have one of the most skilled, talented and promising prospect pools among their NHL rivals.
The Panthers managed to win their first ever Southeast Division and make it to the playoffs through their skill, but they faltered in the postseason because of the team's lack of complementing character.
Despite the quality of the team's superstars, like Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss, there have been doubts over the character in their group, and that is an area where they might look to improve this summer.
They'll try to add to their group of bottom-six prospects through the draft.
Potential 2012 Pick (23rd overall): Colton Sissons
Los Angeles Kings: Physical Scorer
With the likes of Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Dwight King, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Penner, Mike Richards and Justin Williams, the Los Angeles Kings were the latest team to put a testament to the fact that physical scorers play a major role in ensuring postseason success.
Beyond Conn Smythe-winner Jonathan Quick, you don't have to look too far to notice the formula for the LA Kings' 2011-12 Stanley Cup win: big, strong, physical and unselfish scorers willing to mix it up and go to the corners to score.
For a cup champion, the key to repeating and bringing Lord Stanley back to California is to keep a good thing going. The prospect pool for the Kings is thin in terms of this physical type of forward, and the Kings could well use their 30th-overall pick to replenish their prospect stocks.
Potential 2012 Pick (30th-overall): Martin Frk
Minnesota Wild: Offensive Defenseman
No team scored fewer goals through 82 games this season than the Minnesota Wild and their 177 goals. Clearly, the Wild desperately need to improve their offense, but 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.
Considering the depth of defensemen available in this draft, the opportunity to add to a group that already includes Jonas Brodin, Justin Falk, Steven Kampfer, and Jared Spurgeon and the high position the Wild will be picking at, the team should use the 2012 draft to pick up an offensive defenseman.
Potential 2012 Pick (seventh overall): Morgan Rielly
Montreal Canadiens: Franchise Player
The Montreal Canadiens' third-overall pick in the 2012 draft is the organization's highest pick since the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. Opportunities like these don't come around too often, and it's crucial the Habs take advantage.
With a defensive corps that boasts youthful talents like PK Subban, Yannick Weber and Alexei Yemelin and likely will, in a year or two, include first-rounders Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi, the Montreal Canadiens' blueline is set for a number of years to come.
With the Scott Gomez experiment continuously failing and soon-to-be 30-year-old Tomas Plekanec on the decline, the Habs must add top-level talent up front.
The Habs are going take a player who is going to solidify their first line for the next decade-and-a-half.
Potential 2012 Pick (third overall): Alex Galchenyuk
Nashville Predators: Top-Six Forward
When Alexander Radulov arrived from the KHL's Salavat Yulaev Ufa in March, he had a major impact on the team and, temporarily, served to solve the team's goals crisis.
However, Radulov will not return, and the seemingly perennial 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, so they won't be picking on Friday, but they did acquire two second-rounders from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Anders Lindbäck. 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 good picks in the second round.
The Predators' first selection will be at 37th overall.
Potential 2012 Pick (37th overall): Daniil Zharkov
New Jersey Devils: Goaltending
As much as any NHL fan hates to admit it, there really is no way to sugarcoat it.
For the first time since the 1993-94 season, the New Jersey Devils need a new goaltender.
Martin Brodeur was nothing short of sensational in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the runner-up-Devils (.917 save percentage, 2.12 goals against average), but his relatively average 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.
Potential 2012 Pick (29th overall): Malcolm Subban
New York Islanders: Two-Way Defenseman
When the New York Islanders drafted Ryan Strome with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, it marked the 11th time in the last 12 years that the team had drafted a non-defenseman with a first-round pick.
Drafting fourth, the team must correct a major hole: a high-end, two-way defenseman. With offensive stars 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.
However, there are few puck-moving defensemen coming through the system, and that must change for the Isles.
Much like the Edmonton Oilers, the New York Islanders could be just one or two pieces away from making a legitimate postseason run. One of those pieces could be a two-way defenseman.
Potential 2012 Pick (fourth overall): Ryan Murray
New York Rangers: Bluechip Prospect
Heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Eastern Conference-winning New York Rangers were expected to go a long way.
They did, but they couldn't complete their run.
Fortunately, the Rangers have a relatively young core and good talents coming through the system. Right now, the Blueshirts have a well-rounded team and an even better-rounded prospect pool. There are no glaring holes in the team. The Rangers will draft the best player available at 28th overall.
Potential 2012 Pick (28th overall): Mike Winther
Ottawa Senators: Defensive Defenseman
With Stefan Noesen, Matt Puempel, Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad, the Ottawa Senators are likely to have a very strong offensive unit for the next decade, and with Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner, goaltending will be solid too.
But with the recent graduation from the prospect pool on the part of Jared Cowen, the Senators, who had three first-round selections a year ago, lack premier defensive defensemen prospects. They could look to quality on the back-line this draft.
Potential 2012 Pick (15th overall): Cody Ceci
Philadelphia Flyers: Top-Four Defenseman
The hole in the future of the Philadelphia Flyers' plans is a lot clearer than that in almost any other NHL team: Aside from Erik Gustafsson and Oliver Lauridsen, the Philadelphia Flyers have no realistic defensive prospects.
Four of the team's top-six defensemen are over the lofty age of 35, and 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.
Potential 2012 Pick (20th overall): Derrick Pouliot
Phoenix Coyotes: Goalscoring Wingers
The Phoenix Coyotes seem to have the same holes every year, and 2011-12 was no different. The Phoenix Coyotes can't score.
This season, the 'Yotes survived on goalscoring wingers. Ninety-eight of the team's 216 goals this season, or 48 percent, came off the sticks of Shane Doan, Lauri Korpikoski, Radim Vrbata or Ray Whitney, the four of whom average 33 years of age.
It is time for the team to correct the need once and for all. Two of those four are unrestricted free agents this summer, and if the team wants to improve its scoring without the veteran stars, the Coyotes need to add another goalscoring winger or two to the roster as soon as possible.
Potential 2012 Pick (27th overall): Tanner Pearson
Pittsburgh Penguins: Center
The Pittsburgh Penguins' draft needs depend on anticipating blows to the lineup a season or two from now.
For the past several seasons, the Pens have had tremendous success through their center depth. From 2004 to 2006, the Penguins drafted pivots in the top two three years in a row, and, as a result, have been able to dominate down the middle of the ice.
That said, two of the three, Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal, will be free agents in a season's time, while the third, Hart Trophy-winner Evgeni Malkin, will be unrestricted the following summer.
As they are likely to cost at least $5-to-$6 million each, it is doubtful that the Pens will be able to hold on to all three of them. The Penguins could use the 2012 draft to plan ahead, picking up a player who might help them drastically in the future.
Potential 2012 Pick (22nd-overall): Zemgus Girgensons
San Jose Sharks: Bluechip Prospects
In the past four NHL Entry Drafts, the San Jose Sharks have made only one first-round selection, and that player, Charlie Coyle (28th overall, 2010), would go on to be traded.
The Sharks have managed to keep their prospect pool fresh through the clever use of NCAA free-agent signings, but it is time for general manager Doug Wilson to make a big splash in the draft.
At 17th overall, the San Jose Sharks will take the best player available: a prospect with a high ceiling who can replace the team's stars (Dan Boyle (35), Patrick Marleau (32), Joe Thornton (32) when they eventually bow out.
Potential 2012 Pick (17th overall): Pontus Åberg
St. Louis Blues: Bluechip Prospect
The St. Louis Blues were able to find success this season because of an exceptionally well-rounded roster exceptionally managed by an exceptional coach in Jack Adams-winner Ken Hitchcock.
There have been no clear issues with the team, and, as a result of the lack of any exploitable holes, they have grown to become an exceptionally hard team to beat.
That said, with top prospects Ty Rattie, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko all likely to make the jump to the major leagues next season, the Blues' prospect pool looks bleak. The group, while having decent quality in all areas, lacks top-end, bluechip talent. The Blues, much like the Sharks, will take the best available player at 25th overall.
Potential 2012 Pick (25th overall): Matthew Finn
Tampa Bay Lightning: Two-Way Defenseman
Steve Yzerman has been overseeing a clear move on his team's part to become younger.
With the midseason acquisitions of Keith Aulie, Brian Lee and 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.
With all that said, the Lightning do still have five defensemen on the roster over the age of 30 and need to continue the movement through the draft.
The Bolts could really use a two-way defenseman to help Victor Hedman, who has single-handedly carried the defensive line. There are options at 10th overall.
Potential 2012 Pick (10th overall): Griffin Reinhart
Toronto Maple Leafs: Top-Six Forward
When the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted then-London Knights center Nazem Kadri with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Brian Burke and his management expected that the youngster would become the team's new franchise forward.
Three years later, Kadri has struggled to break into the NHL.
Despite the high number of defenseman available in this draft, the top 10 does offer an embarrassment of riches in the forward positions. The Toronto Maple Leafs need to take advantage to secure the services of their future franchise forward.
Potential 2012 Pick (fifth overall): Mikhail Grigorenko
Vancouver Canucks: Defenseman
Nicklas Jensen, Zack Kassian, Eddie Läck, Jordan Schroeder. Almost all of the Vancouver Canucks' top prospects are non-defensemen. The Canucks need to draft some blueliners.
With four of the 'Nucks' active-roster defensemen over the age of 30, the team must find a way to make its blueline younger. 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.
Potential 2012 Pick (26th overall): Ville Pokka
Washington Capitals: Top-Six Center
For the fifth straight postseason, the nation's capital's Washington Capitals failed to advance beyond the second round in the playoffs.
To put it simply, the Caps needs a second-line center. Marcus Johansson, while a very solid two-way forward who can be effective in all three zones, is let down by his faceoff struggles and is better on the wing, while Brooks Laich helps the team most when anchoring the third line.
Adding a center who can do everything and excel in all aspects on the two-way game is imperative for the Capitals.
The Caps' first pick, at 11th overall, was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche for Semyon Varlamov.
Potential 2012 Pick (11th-overall): Radek Faksa
Winnipeg Jets: Bluechip Prospect
It is early days in Winnipeg. General manager Kevin Chevelyadoff is trying to build a successful franchise, and to do that, he needs to be drafting the best available players.
As evidence for the team's struggles, consider this: The Jets managed to concede 246 goals last season, 26th worst in the league, yet only scored 225 goals, good for 14th in the league.
The Jets really need help all over the ice. Bringing in the best available prospect, a bluechip prospect, is pivotal.
Potential 2012 Pick (ninth overall): Jacob Trouba