At long last, the 2012 NHL entry draft is upon us.
Thirty teams, 27 of which enter the draft holding at least one first-round pick, will have a choice that could redefine their franchise for decades. If they make the right decision, it could be a one-way ticket to Stanley Cup contention. But with a costly error, suddenly a year's worth of opportunity has fallen down the drain.
Will the Oilers' No. 1 pick be consensus choice Nail Yakupov or upward-trending Ryan Murray?
Will the Blue Jackets finally find that star player who can turn their team around?
Will Brian Burke and the Maple Leafs make another big splash?
Will the Capitals, Lightning and Sabres each make the most of their additional first-round selection?
Live as the draft goes along, we'll be offering up grades for each and every NHL team—active or not—as every pick and trade hits the airwaves. We'll be continually updating this media-prepped slideshow every few picks as more and more teams make their mark in Round 1.
How will your team fare? Stay tuned as the report cards roll in.
The Ducks dumped a significant $5.6 million cap hit off of their bank account by dealing Visnovsky to the Islanders, but the team will struggle to replace the experienced and unheralded blueliner with a mere second-round choice (acquired in the trade) and sixth pick Hampus Lindholm.
Lindholm didn't stand out too much with Rogle of the Finnish Junior League, and while the rearguard has decent potential, the Ducks made an enormous reach on the player TSN ranked 16th.
With Tim Thomas's career clearly on the decline and a tidal wave of movement rocking the Bruins' goaltending depth, drafting No. 1-ranked North American goalie Malcolm Subban was perfect for Boston in so many ways.
Malcolm Subban, the brother of rival Montreal 'D'-man P.K. Subban, had a stellar 2.50 GAA and .923 save percentage in 39 games with OHL Belleville. He'll be a stalwart wherever he lands in the Bruins' system, and has solid upside to be the next Pekka Rinne or Henrik Lundqvist, his personal idol.
We love the Sabres' Mikhail Grigorenko pick; despite the risk with this Russian-born forward, his 40 goals and 85 points last season with Quebec of the QMJHL are just too tantalizing to pass up. He could be a first-line forward within a three- or four-year span.
And while Buffalo's trade to acquire the pick just two choices later—No. 14 overall—was a smart deal, too, Zemgus Girgensons was an odd decision. The forward put up very respectable numbers with Dubuque of the USHL, but it's hard to see him having the upside of several others that were left on the draft board.
After a fairly ill-advised pick-for-pick trade with the Sabres, the Flames choose perhaps the most shocking selection of the first round with their 21st pick.
As TSN reporters backed up moments later, Mark Jankowski isn't just a long-range NHL prospect—he won't even show up in the AHL for at least three or four more seasons. The 18-year-old forward's statistics (53 goals, 94 points this past season) are misleading, as well—he was playing for Stanstead, a junior college.
The odds of Jankowski making it to NHL stardom are about as close to zero as a first-round pick's chances could get.
What were the Flames thinking? We're not sure.
Quietly, Teuvo Teravainen may have just become the steal of the draft.
The Blackhawks certainly won't contest that title, at least.
Teravainen didn't stand out much in 40 games this past season in Finnish professional league SM-liiga, scoring only 11 goals and 18 points, but no wonder—he was up against players 10 or even 20 years older!
Conversely, against competitors of roughly the same age, Teravainen has proven to be a brilliant shooter, passer and playmaker in the offensive zone.
In 2011-2012, the sneaky 5'11", 165 lb. forward scored 20 points in 11 games with Jokerit's U20 team, 18 points in nine games with Finland's Under-18 squad during the International Junior Championship, and eight points in six games with Finland's team in the Under-18 World Championships.
The 17-year-old could challenge for a top-line spot as early as two years from now.
Jordan Staal is a three-time 20-goal scorer and four-time 40-point scorer.
He's an excellent locker room personality, defensively-reliable forward and chemistry generator.
But he's not worth Brandon Sutter, Brian Domoulin and Derrick Pouliot.
The brotherly combination of Jordan and Eric Staal will certainly be frightening in Carolina, but it's yet to be seen whether the 'Canes will really gain an overall benefit with their best defensive center and two A-grade prospects now out of the system.
No first round activity.
GM Scott Howson is apparently confident in Steve Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky can form a formidable goaltending tandem in Columbus, but we’re not quite sold.
The Jackets dearly overpaid for Bobrovsky–who posted a weak .899 save percentage last season with Philadelphia – by giving up three draft picks, and did so even with established starter Roberto Luongo still on the market.
In tonight’s first round, however, the Jackets went with the expected – and correct – choice in Ryan Murray. The Canadian defenseman has a good balance between defensive strength and blue-line playmaking.
The Stars land former Capitals' prospect Cody Eakin.
The Stars are clearly looking towards the future.
Young center Cody Eakin, who had eight points in 30 games last season, was a third-round pick in 2009 and has impressive upside. The Capitals' second round pick could also produce a solid youngster for Dallas, and big center Radek Faksa will fit right in with the Stars.
Losing Mike Ribeiro will hurt, though. The 32-year-old had been in Dallas—much of as it one of the franchise's cornerstones—for six years.
No first round activity.
There was some doubt in the closing hours, but, in the end, the Oilers stick with consensus No. 1 Nail Yakupov.
The winger’s scoring skill is undeniable and his hands are unrivaled in the rest of the draft class. While Edmonton might more defensively-needy, we can’t blame them for going with the clear-cut top player.
Yakupov could very well become the NHL’s next Steven Stamkos.
Michael Matheson might've been a bit of a stretch for 22nd overall, but that question is equalized by the Panthers' desperation for physical, defensive defensemen.
Matheson can fight, hit, block shots and even score from time to time (11 goals in 53 games with USHL Dubuque last season), and while his emergence in the NHL is certainly a long way down the road, Matheson impresses us. A very respectable choice for Dave Tallon and the Panthers.
The best hidden treasure of the first round's second half remained hidden until the defending Cup champions came up to podium, finding themselves with a 30th pick who could've easily been a justified top-15 choice.
Their choice, Tanner Pearson, lit the lamp a whopping 37 times with OHL Barrie this past season, and racked up an equally-impressive 54 assists, too, in the course of only 60 games played. The winger has the moves of Rick Nash, the poise of Jamie Benn and the learning curve of Jeff Skinner—and those are conservative comparisons.
Less than two weeks after lifting the Stanley Cup, the Kings have added another shining jewel to a 2012 year that's shaping like the franchise's best in history.
Steal of the draft? Without a doubt.
Offensive defenseman Mathew Dumba isn't exactly a headline-grabber, but Dumba is a good solution to both the Wild's shortage of prospect blueliners and also, in the long run, their offensive struggles, as well.
Dumba, who models himself after Drew Doughty, had a whopping 57 points in 69 games with WHL Red Deer. His upside could reach into the realm of Norris winner Erik Karlsson.
Alex Galchenyuk has tremendous skill and potential—the natural scorer had 83 points in 63 games in '10-'11—but the player has perhaps the shallowest resume of any top-five pick in history.
Due to a knee injury, Galchenyuk appeared in a mere two games with OHL Sarnia this past season, tallying zero points. Galchenyuk could emerge as an All-Star first line forward in Montreal, but he could also become the biggest third-pick bust since Alexandre Daigle.
The risk in this choice is tremendous.
Full Grades: N/A
No first round activity.
The Devils' pick up arguably the draft's best checking forward in Stefan Matteau, son of former NHL star Stephane Matteau, in the first round's second-to-last pick.
Matteau had 166 PIM, in addition to 32 points, in 46 games with the USHL U-18 squad, and at 6'2", 210 lbs., packs a crushing hip-check that leaves opponents cowering in fear.
In other words, Matteau is just the kind of player the Devils' long for. Smart pick here, especially given their rather limited options.
Visnovsky is headed to the Isles.
The Islanders new focus? Defense.
Fourth overall pick Griffin Reinhart may have been projected to fall later in the round, but reaching down to grab him was a brilliant pick. Reinhart could emerge as the next Erik Johnson or Christian Ehrhoff.
Lubomir Visnovsky may be 35 already, but the aging rearguard is one of the most underrated power-play quarterbacks in the NHL. The 5’10” blueliner scored a whopping 18 goals in 2010-2011, and has 47 man-advantage goals over 771 career games.
Visnovsky will give a large boost to the Isles’ powerplay strength and defensive depth, and the team can easily handle his $5.6 million cap hit.
The Rangers, continuing a recent trend of conservative picks in the first round's late stages, choose 6'3" rearguard Brady Skjei with the 28th pick.
The current USHL player and Minnesota native doesn't have a very American-sounding name, but has the beginnings of the next Brian Rafalski—if everything goes right. Skjei had 22 points and 32 PIM in 56 games with the USHL U-18 team this past season.
The Rangers have no reason not be satisfied with this decision.
Not only is it a fantastic PR move for the Senators to grab local boy Cody Ceci, but the 6'2", 207 lb. is also an absolutely stellar defenseman.
Ceci, who was ranked sixth among North American Skaters by the ISS, has already developed with the OHL Ottawa 67's for three seasons now, and is farther along his NHL-preparation curve than most other blueliners taken so far. Ceci would be a fearsome partner with Senator Erik Karlsson on Ottawa's powerplay unit.
Gritty center Scott Laughton was going to be one of our favorite sleeper picks this weekend.
Until the Flyers picked him in the draft's top 20 overall.
Laughton, projected by many to fall in the early or mid-second round, had 53 points and 101 PIM in 64 games with OHL Oshawa last year—solid numbers for the physical, two-way forward.
But are they good enough to warrant a first-round pick? Not even close.
The Coyotes nab a relatively off-the-charts youngster in Henrik Samuelsson. Samuelsson was all the way down at No. 75 on the ISS rankings for North American skaters, yet went in the 27th pick to the Coyotes.
Neither Samuelsson's attributes nor his statistics will drop any jaws. The Pittsburgh native has good size—6'2", 211 lbs.—but was overlookable to say the least in Swedish junior hockey. Samuelsson's only '11-'12 success came with WHL Edmonton, where he scored 23 points and 42 PIM in 28 games.
He could prove us wrong, but the first round seems a shocking place for Samuelsson to be drafted.
The Penguins' acquisition of Brandon Sutter, Brian Domoulin and the pick that became Derrick Pouliot in exchange for Jordan Staal is one of the biggest Draft Day deals in modern history.
It's also one of the most lopsided.
Sutter, 23, is blossoming as one of the league's best two-way centers at a very young age, and prospect defenseman Domoulin, 20, is a promising rearguard entering the first-year of his entry level contract. Derrick Pouliot, while a bit of a reach, also has a well-rounded skill set, and will be complimented by 22nd pick Olli Maata, who fell over 10 spots to the Pens' position.
However, neither Domoulin nor Pouliot can overshadow Sutter's relevance in Pittsburgh's activity. The elite defensive center and breakaway specialist had 52 goals and 101 points in the last three seasons with Carolina. He'll prove to be a tremendous asset in Pittsburgh next year.
Not only did the Sharks decide not to trade their 17th overall pick, their choice—center Tomas Hertl of the Czech Republic—is one of the strangest of the draft.
Hertl has neither played for an elite junior-league team nor racked up big points with any squad, and while Hertl aspires for a career like his idol, Evgeni Malkin, it's probably not going to happen. This is a poor choice by the Sharks, especially with Teuvo Teravainen still on the board at the time.
The fastest-rising stock of the draft, defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, was snatched at 25th overall by the Blues.
Schmaltz is a fantastic offensive defenseman in the range of Dennis Wideman or Jason Garrison, having tallied 44 points in 53 games in '10-'11 and 41 points in 55 games in '11-'12. The USHL-developed rearguard doesn't exactly fill a gaping hole for the Blues, but is a reliable choice for a franchise that prides itself on defense.
The Lightning continue the run on prospects with injury concerns at the No. 10 picking, choosing defenseman Slater Koekkoek.
Koekkoek hasn't played a game in any league since November, but the 18-year-old was having a very impressive season before he went down after just 26 games. Koekkoek isn't a great physical presence—nor will he solve the Bolts' defensive defensemen holes—but he could prove to be a better version of slow-developing Victor Hedman.
Nine picks later, Bolts' GM Steve Yzerman continues to compile the best class of young goalies in Russian product Andrei Vasilevski. The 6'3" netminder compiled save percentages of .937 and .931 the past two years in junior hockey.
Morgan Rielly missed nearly as much time in '11-'12 as now-Canadien Alex Galchenyuk, but Reilly has more of a track record and a very strong resume on almost all fronts.
Rielly will be a welcome addition to the Leafs' defense, which could use an influx of grit and physicality. The WHL product can function on the blue line, but is most at home when defending his own goal.
Brendan Gaunce, the No. 13 North American Skater in the ISS's final rankings, slipped a few spots down the board and the Vancouver Canucks were happy to snatch him up.
The well-built 6'2", 215 lb. center scored at a perfect point-per-game with OHL Belleville last season, tallying 28 goals and 68 points in, you guessed it, 68 appearances.
In the short term, Gaunce could easily replace now-traded Cody Hodgson in the Canucks' depth chart, and eventually grow into a Ryan Kesler- or Jordan Staal-like player.
The Capitals cast of forwards just got a lot more well-rounded.
Filip Forsberg, who slipped to 11th after projected by most to fall in the draft's top five, is the biggest steal of the draft to this point; his hands are arguably the best of any player picked. Expect a plethora of 30- or 40-goal seasons from Forsberg once he finds his way into the NHL.
16th pick Tom Wilson falls on the far other end of the spectrum, but will be another powerful NHL forward a few years down the road. Wilson packs a big frame, a knockout punch and even an underrated offensive presence.
And meanwhile, 32-year-old forward Mike Ribeiro, who has scored at least 18 goals for six straight seasons, will be a nice addition to the Capitals' top-6 forwards. Ribeiro is a three-time 50-assist player who will add a dose of much-needed playmaking and chemistry to a disjointed Washington offense.
The Jets make a big improvement over their questionable 2011 pick, Mark Scheifele, in Jacob Trouba.
Trouba had 31 points and 65 PIM in 50 games in the USHL, and will be a solid defenseman in the NHL. His upside isn't colossal, but this is a smart and reliable choice for Winnipeg.