2012 NHL Mock Draft: Is Nail Yakupov a Lock for the First Overall Pick?
The 2011 NHL draft is behind us, and scouts and general managers are taking breaks after a long year of watching countless talents develop. They have drafted their players, and they now get a rest before rookie camp rolls around and they have to look at them again.
NHL scouts, however, have already started making preparations for the upcoming draft in 2012. While most of these players are 16 and 17 years old, they have started catching the attention of the big leagues and will continue to do so throughout the year.
When the 2012 NHL draft rolls around, many changes will have happened in relation to the draft stocks of every young hopeful. Most of those players will be drafted nowhere near where they are projected right now.
Nevertheless, we are taking a first look at that draft. Here is our opening 2012 NHL Mock Draft:
(Standings predictions are very loosely put together...)
30. Washington Capitals
LW - 6'3 - 201 - Södertälje (Elitserien)
If you had to point out one area where the Washington Capitals and their prospect pool could need help, it's in the power forward role. Emil Lundberg is the prototypical power forward. At 6'3, 200 pounds, he already has NHL size. He loves to score, as evidenced by his tear through the Södertälje and Swedish National Team's junior ranks. He is also a good skater, passer, has great hockey sense, and will stand up for his teammates. Scouts' early impressions are similar to those of Gabriel Landeskog, the second overall pick in '11. The Caps haven't shied away from drafting Swedes, and this would be a great pick-up.
29. Vancouver Canucks
D - 6'3 - 198 - Espoo Blues (SM-Liiga)
Petteri Lindbohm is a big, snarly, defenseman that would fit in great on Vancouver's blue-line. While he has yet to make his full first team debut with Espoo in Finland, the 6'3 17-year-old has been a man among boys in the junior leagues. There is not much happening offensively for Lindbohm, but he projects as a solid first or second pairing defenseman as a shut-down player, ideal as a partner for one of Vancouver's offensive defensemen. He could be mentored by Sami Salo. He is physically ready for the NHL.
28. Detroit Red Wings
D - 6'1 - 185 - Mora IK (Allsvenskan)
With the threat of losing Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart through free agency next summer, it's likely the Wings will draft a defenseman. Who better than Swede Mikael Wikstrand? He is a great two-way defenseman, solid passer, and is willing to play physical. He brings a game similar to 2011 Oilers draft pick Oscar Klefbom. He could also could be compared to Jonathan Ericsson, only smaller and stronger. Potential-wise, he could have been a Top 10 pick in 2011.
27. Pittsburgh Penguins
LW - 6'0 - 181 - AK Bars Kazan (KHL)
Pittsburgh's seemingly endless search for Sidney Crosby's winger ends here. The Penguins could pick up a highly skilled forward who is a sniper through and through. With Vladimir Tkachev receiving passes from Crosby's stick, the Penguins suddenly would look very, very scary again. Tkachev is a Ukrainian-born Russian player who so far has only played in the MHL, the Russian Junior League. Next year, though, he will likely be given the opportunity to play with one of the KHL's top teams and he will probably play an important role on the World Juniors team.
26. Boston Bruins
RW - 6'2 - 192 - USNTDP
NHL legend Ulf Samuelsson's American son is a key player for the US U-18 National Team Development Program. The prototypical power forward can score goals, hit, and crash the net. While he is predicted by many to go a lot higher, he may fall this low because of the fact that this is such a deep draft on defensemen, and teams will want to stack up. Regardless, Samuelsson is a top strong forward and he comes to a team where there are quite a few.
25. Chicago Blackhawks
C - 6'0 - 190 - Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
With Marcus Kruger looking like he may be a candidate to be moved to wing with the Blackhawks, the team had next to no solid top prospect centers before they drafted Mark McNeill. Marcantuoni will come in and be a great complement to McNeill and Toews at the center position for the Hawks. He is a skilled player with outrageous stick-handling abiltity. He is still growing, which is good considering he already has somewhat of an NHL frame. He's not afraid to throw his body around. He's strong on the puck, and projects as a second-liner at the NHL level. Convenient, considering McNeill is likely to be a third-liner.
24. San Jose Sharks
LW - 5'11 - 192 - Vityaz Chekhov (KHL)
The San Jose Sharks need elite depth at the winger position having traded away top prospect Charlie Coyle, and Anton Ivanyuzhenkov will bring just that. The Russian is a big, physically imposing winger who still has room to grow. This past season, playing with the Chekhov junior team, Ivanyuzhenkov put up 10 points in 36 games and showed a willingness to mix it up with 74 PIMs. He can score too, and he played an important role on the Russian U18 National Team. When he eventually comes to the NHL, he projects as a second or third winger who can score and intimidate.
23. New York Rangers
LW - 5'10 - 172 - Barrie Colts (OHL)
The Toronto native still has a lot of growing to do, but for now he will add great top-end depth to a Rangers prospect pool that has seen a lot of graduations recently. A mid-season trade from Windsor to Barrie hurt a sparkling OHL rookie season, but he still showed scouts plenty of things that will put him in consideration to be a high pick in 2012. He is a high-risk, high-reward player that will return to juniors. He has a high skill level and would be a great producer off the third line for the Rangers as a fast skater and sniper.
22. Philadelphia Flyers
D - 6'0 - 190 - USNTDP
All of a sudden, the Flyers have gone from having by far the worst prospect pool in the league to one of the best, having miraculously added Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. Now, they add to it, with top US defenseman Jake McCabe. He's a great two-way player who is extremely solid defensively but who sees the game well offensively. He is committed to the University of Wisconsin for next season but projects as a first or second pairing defenseman.
21. Tampa Bay Lightning
D - 6'1 - 183 - USNTDP
The Tampa Bay Lightning have drafted heavily at the forward position in recent years. Now they go after a top American defenseman. Brady Skjei is a late-94 birthday, meaning he is younger than most of the prospects. It shows in his game, as he is raw and often makes "rookie" mistakes. He has a sky-high potential, however, and that will be his key at the draft. He has good size, but like Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman he still has good hands and his very mobile. He is a great skater and likes to be physical. He could fit in very well with Hedman as an intimidating defensive pairing.
20. Buffalo Sabres
C - 6'1 - 183 - USNTDP
The Buffalo Sabres will come back over the Atlantic from Finland and draft another North American with size in Nik Kerdiles. The California native still has a lot of room to grow and that is what the Sabres are looking for to complement their smaller players like Nathan Gerbe. Kerdiles is also a great leader, having captained his team for several seasons. His leadership qualities have really attracted the scouts. The American will be pencilled in to be Joel Armia's center when he makes the jump to the NHL. For now, though, Kerdiles will go the college route, as he has committed to go to the University of Wisconsin when he graduates in 2012.
19. Nashville Predators
LW - 5'10 - 157 - Jokerit (SM-Liiga)
If you had to find one word to describe the young Finn, it would be dynamic. He's fast, has a good shot, is very smart, elusive and agile. The one attribute that is better than everything else, however, is his passing. Teravainen is probably the best playmaker to come out of Europe since Nicklas Bäckström, and scouts have come flocking in to see him pile up the assists in the Finnish junior leagues. He probably won't be NHL ready until the 2014-2015 season as he badly needs to fill out. He will likely be playing in the top Finnish league next season, and he'll need to put on at least 20 pounds. If he does, and if he has a successful season, he can easily challenge as a top-five pick.
18. New Jersey Devils
G - 6'3 - 190 - Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
Andrei Vasilevski's game speaks one word: Size. His key to success is that he covers up so much of the goal. Then, of course, there's the fact that he is very athletic and light on his feet. The Russian put up great numbers last year with Ufa's junior MHL team, with a 1.77 GAA and .937 SV%, and he shined at the World Juniors playing against better international competition, putting up a sparkling .936 save percentage. Next year, he will make a strong case to be Ufa's starting KHL goaltender, but he has expressed interest to play in the NHL sooner rather than later. The New Jersey Devils are looking for a new goaltender. Look no further.
17. Columbus Blue Jackets
C - 5'10 - 180 - HIFK (SM-Liiga)
Torniainen was born in Sweden, grew up in Sweden, played junior hockey in Sweden, but always wanted to play for Finland, his parents' home. Now, for the upcoming season he has signed with Mikael Granlund's HIFK in the SM-Liiga, and is finally going to play hockey in his native Finland. Torniainen is very versatile. The center description is very loose, as he can essentially play any forward position. That versatility is what makes him a good option for the Blue Jackets, who lacked a first-rounder last year after the Jeff Carter trade. Torniainen could be a future second-line goalscorer for the Jackets.
16. Los Angeles Kings
LW - 5'8 - 170 - Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
There is no denying that Quebec native Simard-Hudon had a great rookie season with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL. With his 60 points in 63 games, Simard-Hudon dominated, posting a rookie season that saw almost twice as many points as the rookie season of 2011 3rd pick Jonathan Huberdeau. He is a goal scorer through-and-through, and it's no secret that a pure goal scorer to play with talented center Anze Kopitar is high on the Kings' wish-list. Simard-Hudon will likely drop in the draft because of his diminutive stature, but the kid's potential and talent is sky-high. He would be a really good pick for the Kings.
15. Minnesota Wild
D - 6'2 - 185 - Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Trades and good drafting have allowed the Minnesota Wild to build up one of the league's best prospect pools. They add to it with a big, scary defenseman who will be the perfect complement to Jonas Brodin in a few years time. Koekkoek is a very clever defenseman. He moves extremely well and his defensive instincts are top-notch. He knows when to step up and he has a good outlet pass. He projects as a no guts, no glory defenseman at the NHL level.
14. Phoenix Coyotes
G - 6'0 - 165 - Belleville Bulls (OHL)
You would think that Malcolm Subban might have a hard time when he comes to the NHL, following in the footsteps of big brother PK. It might just go the other way. Malcolm is an elite prospect and the best goaltender available in this draft. Last season, he came up big as a 17-year-old OHL rookie playing for a struggling Bulls team, putting up an impressive 3.06 GAA and .900 SV%, and often keeping his team in games. The Coyotes drafted Mark Visentin 27th overall in 2010, and he has developed well, but why not add ultra-talented Subban to that equation. The Washington Capitals have done it five times since drafting Semyon Varlamov, and their goaltending situation looks pretty good right now.
13. Florida Panthers
D - 6'1 - 187 - Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
The Florida Panthers have been spoiled with high picks recently, and that has led them to having the league's best prospect pool. There is depth at every position. How do you add to that? You draft the best player available, and at 13th overall that player is Sault Ste Marie defenseman Gianluca Curcuruto. The Ontario native is primarily a two-way defenseman, who moves the puck well with his stick and can get out of the the zone effectively. He can be physical, and can contribute offensively. He needs to improve on his skating to be effective in the NHL. He joins a crowded Panthers blue-line, and he projects as a solid second line d-man behind Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov.
12. Anaheim Ducks
D - 6'0 - 190 - Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Morgan Reilly is a very similar player to Cam Fowler. Offensively gifted, the Vancouver native produced heavily from the Warriors team's blueline, putting up 28 points in 65 games while playing the whole season as a 17-year-old. What makes this player attractive to the Ducks is that he is a great puck-moving defenseman that can create a dangerous but rare defensive one-two punch at the NHL level. at the same pick number that brought in Fowler, Rielly could also play alongside the American in the future.
11. Montreal Canadiens
RW - 6'0 - 203 - Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
If there's one thing the Montreal Canadiens need to add to their roster, its top-six toughness. Martin Frk would bring just that. He is hard-nosed, goes to the net, scores, and is willing to take a hit to make a play. Last season, he scored 22 goals as a rookie for the Mooseheads to go along with 28 assists, giving scouts glimpses of his sky-high potential. He is also one of the few players on this list to have played at the World Juniors, where he put up six points in his six games. If he somehow miraculously drops to eleventh overall, the Canadiens will pick up an absolute steal.
10. Winnipeg Jets
LW - 6'1 - 176 - Leksands (Allsvenskan)
Having drafted Mark Scheifele to take care of the much needed second or third line center duties, the Winnipeg Jets are now on a mission to find star Alex Burmistrov a winger. 16-year-old Filip Forsberg is an intriguing prospect. One of the youngest in our top thirty, Forsberg is a goal-scorer through and through. He worked his way up through Leksand's junior ranks this past season, eventually solidifying his spot in the Swedish second division team. He also played an important role in the Swedish U-18 team, and will play a similar role for the full World Juniors team this upcoming season. Burmistrov's stats have shown he is primarily a playmaker. Together with Forsberg, the Jets could have a very, very scary top line.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
C - 6'2 - 194 - Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
The Maple Leafs' search for a top-line center ends with the drafting of Latvian Girgensons. Playing in the USHL last season, the big forward put up an impressive 49 points in 51 games, playing away from home as a 16-year-old. If you had to think of one word to describe the pivot, it would be powerful. Girgensons is your prototypical power forward: big, strong, good in the corners, big hitter, and a goal-scorer. He is committed to the University of Vermont the season after he gets drafted, so he is still a few years away from being NHL ready. But when he comes to the NHL he can expect to challenge Nazem Kadri for top-line duties.
8. Ottawa Senators
D - 6'1 - 183 - JYP (SM-Liiga)
The Ottawa Senators drafted three forwards, including Mika Zibanejad, in the first round last year. Now, they need defensemen. That all starts with another 16-year-old, Olli Maatta. The Finn has good size, but is not overly aggressive. He will hit if it means he can get the puck. He is a good two-way guy, but he is a lot better defensively. He is a patient player with excellent hockey sense and could also be the perfect future partner for Erik Karlsson. He played at the World Juniors with the Finnish team, and he was arguably the team's best defenseman. He was drafted 1st overall by the London Knights in the CHL import draft, but it remains to be seen if he'll make the jump.
7. St Louis Blues
D - 6'4 - 205 - Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Griffin Reinhart is big—very big— and still growing. With their top two picks in the past two drafts the Blues have drafted forwards. They also traded away 6'4 defenseman Erik Johnson. It is no secret that they need some big defensemen. Reinhart projects to be a shut-down guy at the NHL level. He likes to play with offensively skilled players, someone like, say, Kevin Shattenkirk, and will always stay back when that player attacks. He needs to use his size more and become more physical, but he is a good leader and would be a great pick-up for the Blues.
6. Dallas Stars
D - 6'0 - 185 - Everett Silvertips (WHL)
The reason the Stars are so low is because they have lost their star player but have failed to replace him. That is likely to cost them this season. Having drafted Jamie Oleksiak, the Stars do not really need a defenseman, but drafting Murray is one of those "you can't pass up on a player this good with this pick" type of situations. Ryan Murray could easily have been a top-ten pick at the 2010 draft, but he was born just after the cut-off date. He is more offensive than Oleksiak, having added 46 points from the blue-line in 70 games this season. Murray needs to put on a few pounds if he wants to be the 6'7 giant's future partner. He brings a big skill set offensively, so the two could grow to produce a very effective defensive pairing.
5. Calgary Flames
e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'
C - 6'1 - 181 - Sarnia Sting (OHL)
The Calgary Flames went out and drafted scorer Sven Baertschi in the 2011 draft. They now need to find him a center.
Alex Galchenyuk is a fast forward with size and strength. He has a good shot but the details of his game, like passing, need work. He put up 31 goals and 83 points in 68 games for the Sting, and with a player even higher on this list there his numbers will only rise.
His parents are Russian, but Galchenyuk is born and trained in the U.S. and has decided that he wants to play for them internationally. They will be might happy to have him.
So will Sven Baertschi.
4. Washington Capitals (from COL)
D - 6'1 - 183 - USNTDP
It's safe to say the US National Team Development Program's blue-line will take a significant hit following the draft. Jacob Trouba is the best of seven prospects, all with an opportunity to be drafted in the top round.
The Capitals are pretty deep at the defender position in their prospect pool, but behind Dmitry Orlov they lack elite players. With their highest pick since a certain 100-point Swedish center, the Capitals will go after "shark-like" Jacob Trouba.
He is fast, offensively productive, defensively solid, and very, very smart on the ice. With a good, deep defensive corps, the Capitals can afford to leave Trouba in juniors or in college, whichever route he decides to go. He still has room to grow as a player and a person, and if he can add some weight to his frame, he can become a scary good player. He could leave the Caps' brass with the prospect of him being Mike Green's new defensive partner when Roman Hamrlik retires.
The timing could be perfect.
3. Edmonton Oilers
D - 6'1 - 195 - Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
The Edmonton Oilers have to understand they won't win the Stanley Cup this year, it is a long-term project. Having two first-round picks in a row will do great things for you, but you have to surround those stars with good, not-flashy players.
That started with Oscar Klefbom. Now, they move on to Nick Ebert at 3rd overall.
Ebert is probably the most physical defenseman on this list. The thing that makes him so intriguing, however, is the fact that his game is so complete. He is good offensively and defensively, poised, patient, and mature. He projects to be a no-nonsense, get-the-job-done defenseman for the Oilers.
He will be a good pick-up.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
RW - 6'3 - 191 - CSKA Moscow (KHL)
Grigorenko is a playmaker.
Though he has that big size and skill that has made players like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk so successful at the NHL level, he is undoubtedly the best passer in the draft class. He's big and strong, and is very versatile.
He has expressed interest in coming to the NHL, and was picked up at second overall by the Quebec Remparts in the 2011 CHL Import Draft. Should he report to them, his stock will likely rise even further.
A tempting pick for the Hurricanes, considering the partnership he could form with Eric Staal. Yes, the Hurricanes are on the rise.
1. New York Islanders
RW - 5'10 - 170 - Sarnia Sting (OHL)
The 2012 Draft becomes almost like a repeat of the 2004 one, with Russians occupying the top two spots. A Russian import with an incredibly high skill level, Yakupov already looks to be the runaway candidate for the number one overall selection.
The 2011 CHL Rookie of the Year scored 49 goals and 101 points in 65 games in his first OHL season. For a comparison, look to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, who also played for the Sarnia Sting in his rookie OHL season. He tallied 92 points in 63 games for them, nine less than the Russian in two less games.
The Islanders have Nino Niederreiter who can play right wing, but he is likely to move to the left to accommodate superstar Yakupov. This guy will belong to the Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby elite in the NHL.
They cannot pass on him.
Follow Jacob Ware on Twitter at @jacobware95