2012 NHL Draft: An Early Look at the Top 20 Candidates for Next Year's Draft

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2011

2012 NHL Draft: An Early Look at the Top 20 Candidates for Next Year's Draft

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    The 2012 NHL draft is already being coined the "Fail for Nail." Nail Yakupov is the odds-on favorite to be the first overall pick, and he is considered by most scouts to be a truly elite prospect.

    After Yakupov there is a noticeable drop off in the forward class, but the defensive prospects eligible for selection this year are as strong as any class in recent memory.

    This is my preliminary big board for the 2012 NHL draft. Check back throughout the year for more coverage heading into the draft.

20. Malcolm Subban, Goalie, Belleville Bulls

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    Malcolm Subban is the only goaltender to crack the top 20 and is easily the best in this draft class. The Rexdale, Ontario native has posted an outstanding 1.92 goals against average to go with a .939 save percentage and a pair of shutouts in his first 17 games this season.

19. Slater Koekkoek, Defenseman, Peterborough Petes

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    The most impressive aspect of Slater Koekkoek’s game is his ability to consistently play sound defense despite logging tons of minutes. That’s the sort of thing a scout loves to see. He is as smart as he is poised in his own end. There is a ton to like about this kid as a prospect.

18. Pontus Aberg, Winger, Djurgarden (SWE)

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    Pontus Aberg has the skating ability to be a top 10 selection in the 2012 NHL draft. However, concerns about his consistency and defensive abilities have caused him to drop a bit.

17. Cody Ceci, Defenseman, Ottawa 67’s

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    Cody Ceci’s draft stock is soaring after the talented rearguard's quick start to the 2011-2012 season. He has 30 points in 28 games so far. Ceci will not participate in the tourney, though he made it to the last round of cuts.

16. Sebastian Collberg, Winger, Frolunda (SWE)

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    Sebastian Collberg thrives on speed. The Swedish winger has an excellent shot that he is not afraid to let go from all over the ice. If he had a more well-rounded game, he might crack the top 10 of this list.

15. Martin Frk, Winger, Halifax Mooseheads

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    Martin Frk has created a ton of buzz since coming over from the Czech Republic. After 50 points a year ago, Frk missed the early portion of the season with a concussion. He’ll have to make up for lost time to climb back up the rankings.

14. Olli Maata, Defenseman, London Knights

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    The first overall pick in the 2011 CHL import draft, Olli Maatta has come over from Finland and done a fine job with the London Knights. He is well polished in his own end and produces well on offense thanks to his passing ability.

13. Jordan Schmaltz, Defenseman, Sioux City Musketeers

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    Jordan Schmaltz is used to playing the spotlight after committing to the University of Wisconsin at the ripe age of 14. A natural on the power play, Schmaltz has since de-committed after a coaching change and will play for North Dakota next season. 

12. Brendan Gaunce, Center, Belleville Bulls

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    Brendan Gaunce is rising up draft boards quickly with 33 points in his first 30 games in the OHL this season. His compete level is always high and he plays a sound two-way game.

11. Alex Galchenyuk, Center, Sarnia Sting

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    A knee injury has derailed Alex Galchenyuk’s season, but his talent and offensive awareness is undeniable, and he will be a high pick in the 2012 NHL draft. Here’s hoping his rehab goes well.

10. Morgan Rielly, Defenseman, Moose Jaw Warriors

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    Morgan Rielly is the ideal power-play quarterback. He handles the puck as well as any defenseman in this class and has tons of vision on the rush. He already has 18 points in 17 games for Moose Jaw this season.

9. Zemgus Girgensons, Center, Dubuque Fighting Saints

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    Committed to the University of Vermont for 2012, Zemgus Girgensons displays great instincts in the offensive zone. He continues to light up the USHL, and he could be in line to be selected in the top 10 of the 2012 NHL draft.

8. Griffin Reinhart, Defenseman, Edmonton Oil Kings

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    Griffin Reinhart has all of the tools, but this season he has to put it all together to take his game to the next level. At 6'4", Reinhart has plenty of size to go with his offensive skill. Reinhart is off to a decent start this season with 12 points in 21 games for Edmonton.

7. Matt Dumba, Defenseman, Red Deer Rebels

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    Matt Dumba is an exciting player to watch. He’s a big risk taker, and he loves to throw his weight around on defense. His shot from the point is a laser, and he is an excellent skater. Dumba is also a great leader.

6. Jacob Trouba, Defenseman, USNTDP (USHL)

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    The top prospect from the USNTDP in 2012 is defenseman Jacob Trouba. He has the poise, positioning and defensive awareness that is rare to see from a 17-year-old. Trouba is a strong passer, but he doesn’t have the offensive game that some of the other D-men in this class possess.

5. Filip Forsberg, Winger, Leksand (SWE)

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    Filip Forsberg creates tons of chances offensively and has great skills to finish plays. He’s one of the few European-born players that is spending his season in his home country, which could play to his advantage if he has a strong season.

4. Nick Ebert, Defenseman, Windsor Spitfires

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    Nick Ebert is a raw, two-way defenseman with all of the physical tools scouts look for. He plays a physical brand of hockey and is aggressive with the puck on the rush. Ebert is looking to improve his decision-making with the puck in his own end heading into the 2012 NHL draft.

3. Ryan Murray, Defenseman, Everett Silvertips

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    Ryan Murray hasn’t had the greatest start to his draft-eligible season. Slowed by an ankle sprain and a weak supporting cast, Murray has only seven points and is a minus-five so far this season. He’ll have to get healthy and step up his game to be the first defenseman taken in the 2012 NHL draft.

2. Mikhail Grigorenko, Center, Quebec Ramparts

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    In any other draft, Mihail Grigorenko might be the first overall pick. Unfortunately for the Russian star, his fellow countryman, Nail Yakupov, will likely have that honor. That’s no slight on Grigorenko, though. He already has 50 points in 32 games this season in the QMJHL. At 6'2", Grigorenko has the size to match his incredible offensive ability. Scouts are looking for more consistency this season, and so far, so good.

1. Nail Yakupov, Winger, Sarnia Sting

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    Nail Yakupov is the runaway favorite to be selected first overall in the 2012 NHL entry draft. The Russian-born winger has been terrorizing the OHL since entering the league last season. He scored 101 points as a rookie for the Sarnia Sting and has average two points per game thus far this season. Yakupov is a special player with insane offensive skills. Speed, vision and shooting are among his many outstanding attributes.