As is the case with any draft, there have been several players who have gained steam and others who have fallen out of favor during the lead up to the NHL draft. There are tons of reasons for that, including combine performance, interview performance, injury history and a whole host of other things, but nobody knows for sure how certain players will translate.
I am always wary of players that make dramatic moves up or down the board following the end of their junior season. That change in stock is often the result of overanalysis, and it results in high-quality players sliding to teams who shouldn't have had a shot at them in the first place.
That is bound to happen in Friday's draft, just as it does every single year.
Along with a full, first-round mock draft, here is some further analysis of players who will slide on draft day but will reward the team that picks them by developing into productive players.
1. Edmonton Oilers - Nail Yakupov, F, Sarnia
The Oilers have more of a need on defense and in goal, but Yakupov is the consensus top prospect, and Edmonton simply won't be able to pass him up.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets - Alex Galchenyuk, F, Sarnia
Sarnia Sting linemates go one-two in the draft as the Blue Jackets roll the dice and bet that Galchenyuk's knee problems are behind him and won't persist.
3. Montreal Canadiens - Filip Forsberg, F, Leksands
The Canadiens can't afford to blow this pick, so they'll take the safe route and select Forsberg as he figures to be ready in a year and has the size and offensive ability to flourish in the NHL.
4. New York Islanders - Mathew Dumba, D, Red Deer
The Islanders desperately need defensive help and they'll have their pick of the litter, opting to go with Dumba over Ryan Murray due to his immense upside as a puck mover.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs - Mikhail Grigorenko, F, Quebec
Despite the fact that he is 6'3" and 200 lbs and dominated the QMJHL in his first year in North America, forward Mikhail Grigorenko has precipitously fallen out of favor with NHL scouts and general managers.
Talent has nothing to do with it as Grigorenko may be second to none in that regard this year, but there are extenuating circumstances such as his effort level and the threat that he could bolt for the Russian KHL at any time.
Grigorenko had 85 points in 59 games for the Quebec Remparts this season and added another 10 points in 11 playoff contests. Grigorenko has drawn some comparisons to Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin due to his size, skill and nationality, but few seem to be buying in.
Whether it's fair or not, Grigorenko has been saddled with the "typical Russian" label. The thought is that he doesn't give it his all every time he steps on the ice, and it could cause him to fall out of favor quickly.
If things don't go well for Grigorenko in the NHL initially, there is little doubt that a fat contract will be awaiting him in the KHL. With that said, though, it would be a mistake to let a player of his caliber slide too far.
Grigorenko is one of only four or five players who are ready to play in the NHL now, and that is something that the Toronto Maple Leafs need. They absolutely have to get an impact forward to reverse their fortunes, and Grigorenko will be that guy.
6. Anaheim Ducks - Ryan Murray, D, Everett
The Ducks are stacked up front with Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan but desperately need some help on the back end, and Murray is the perfect fit.
7. Minnesota Wild - Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw
Depending upon who you ask, Rielly may very well be the most offensively gifted defenseman in the draft, and that is sure to be intriguing to the Wild.
8. Carolina Hurricanes - Teuvo Teravainen, F, Jokerit
Teravainen's strong play in SM-liiga has elevated his stock in a big way, so the Hurricanes seem likely to bite when it comes to selecting the diminutive, but skilled, Finnish forward.
9. Winnipeg Jets - Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton
Many consider Reinhart to be the last of the truly elite defensemen in a draft that is filled with quality ones, and the Jets will be quick to snap him up if he lasts.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning - Jacob Trouba, D, USA U-18
The Lightning have been working hard to build a strong defense to supplement their offensive talent, and Trouba will be a nice piece to the puzzle in that regard.
11. Washington Capitals (from COL) - Radek Faksa, F, Kitchener
With all of the clutching and grabbing that has crept back into the NHL, size is becoming more and more important. Because of that, a 6'3", 200 lbs center like Radek Faksa should have teams falling over themselves to take him, but his stock has actually dropped a bit for whatever reason.
The Czech star put up 67 points in 62 games in his first North American season with Kitchener of the OHL, so it's really hard to figure why teams are suddenly hesitant.
Faksa has a similar build as Grigorenko, but he isn't like him in any other way. Nobody ever questions Faksa's effort as he seems to go out on every shift, and he is an adept defensive player as well.
He is strong in the face-off circle and is willing to play a two-way game rather than abandoning his defensive responsibilities. Also, Faksa has said that it is his dream to play in North America, so he won't take off for Europe if he falters.
Because of his mix of size, offensive skill and defensive acumen, Faksa figures to be a major steal if he falls outside the top 10. The Washington Capitals will be laying in wait at No. 11 and figure to nab him quickly if he is on the board.
The Caps will be losing Alexander Semin in free agency. While Faksa likely won't make it to the NHL for another year, he may be able to replace his offensive production eventually and will bring a more complete game to the table, to boot.
12. Buffalo Sabres - Zemgus Girgensons, F, Dubuque
The Sabres will look to replenish some size at forward to their system after trading Zack Kassian for Cody Hodgson; Girgensons makes a lot of sense as he is a big, two-way center.
13. Dallas Stars - Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa
Dallas is caught in the middle and can't really make a bad pick at this spot, but the best would likely be Ceci, as he is one of the more dynamic offensive defensemen in the draft.
14. Calgary Flames - Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle
The Flames have really drafted terribly over the past several years, so they'll go with a polished player in Lindholm, as he has already excelled in Sweden's highest league.
15. Ottawa Senators - Sebastian Collberg, F, Frolunda HC
Ottawa has had a lot of success when it comes to drafting Swedes, and since the Senators need to add some offensive talent up front, the quick and creative Collberg would be a nice addition.
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16. Washington Capitals - Matt Finn, D, Guelph
The Caps got bigger and more skilled up front by selecting Faksa with their first pick, and Matt Finn will give them another puck-transporting option from the defensive corps.
17. San Jose Sharks - Olli Maatta, D, London
Maatta helped his stock tremendously with his record-breaking offensive output in the OHL playoffs, so the Sharks should select him and groom him as an eventual replacement for Dan Boyle.
18. Chicago Blackhawks - Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland
The Blackhawks have a glut of forwards in their system currently, making Pouliot a smart selection; he can combine with Nick Leddy and Dylan Olsen to form an exciting, young defensive corps.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning (from DET) - Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville
Tampa Bay doesn't have to take a goalie after trading for Anders Lindback, but Subban is the best at his position in the draft; he will be a great developmental guy for the future.
20. Philadelphia Flyers - Ludvig Bystrom, D, Modo
The Flyers have more talented, young forwards than perhaps any team in the league. With Chris Pronger's future uncertain, they would be well-served to take a defenseman such as Bystrom.
21. Buffalo Sabres (from NAS) - Brendan Gaunce, F, Belleville
A couple of months ago, most draft experts considered Belleville center Brendan Gaunce to be a top-10 pick or a top-15 pick, at the very least. He has dropped as of late, though, and many expect him to go in the latter stages of the first round.
Gaunce may not be an offensive dynamo like some of the other forwards in this year's draft, but he improved by leaps and bounds in the OHL this past season, as he racked up 68 points in 68 games.
Gaunce has great size for a pivot at 6'2" and 200 lbs, and he does a little bit of everything on the ice. Gaunce is a power forward who isn't afraid to go to the high-traffic areas in order to score.
But he also has good hands that allow him to set up teammates. Additionally, Gaunce is strong in the face-off circle, aware in his own zone and more than willing to put his body on the line to block a shot or plaster an opponent to the boards.
I'm not sure if Gaunce can score more than 20 or 25 goals in the NHL, but he is going to play an honest game every night and contribute across the board. The Buffalo Sabres went with a big center in Zemgus Girgensons at No. 12, but they might as well take another like Gaunce.
One of the Sabres' biggest problems is a lack of size at forward, but the combination of Girgensons and Gaunce could be ready to make some noise in a year or two.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins - Tom Wilson, F, Plymouth
Defense is probably more of a need for the Penguins, but they do like to put big forwards around Sidney Crosby, so Wilson makes sense, as he is physical and has some touch around the net.
23. Florida Panthers - Stefan Matteau, F, USNTDP
The Panthers' transformation was nothing short of impressive this season, and taking a big forward like Matteau to complement the less skilled guys would be another good step forward.
24. Boston Bruins - Brady Skjei, D, USA U-18
Boston has several aging defensemen and nothing much coming up through the pipeline, so they would be wise to go with the smooth-skating Skjei here.
25. St. Louis Blues - Pontus Aberg, F, Djurgardens
The Blues are already stacked with solid, two-way forwards, but head coach Ken Hitchcock would love if they could land another such as Aberg.
26. Vancouver Canucks - Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough
Vancouver lacks secondary scoring, but they won't get much help in that area at this point—meaning a good all-around defenseman like Koekkoek would make the most sense here.
27. Phoenix Coyotes - Tomas Hertl, F, Slavia
Hertl is another big center that should be able to translate well to the NHL, and he can learn a lot from fellow Czechs like Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal when he joins the Coyotes down the line.
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28. New York Rangers - Scott Laughton, F, Oshawa
The Rangers are in the advantageous spot of being able to do whatever they want with this pick, and I expect them to take Laughton, thanks to his immense offensive upside.
29. New Jersey Devils - Nicolas Kerdiles, F, USA U-18
New Jersey had better start building up its talent pool at forward with Zach Parise likely to depart, and Kerdiles is certainly a solid guy to start with.
30. Los Angeles Kings - Mark Jankowski, F, Stanstead
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Jankowski; he has dominated the Canadian collegiate scene, and the Kings can afford to gamble on him after winning the Stanley Cup.
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