The 2012 NHL Entry Draft is officially in the books…who made the right picks? Who made the wrong ones? Find out here:
Buffalo Sabres– They needed to get bigger at forward, and that’s exactly what they did, adding two top-ranked centers with the 12th and 14th overall picks in the draft. Mikhail Grigorenko, whom Buffalo selected with the 12th pick, could have gone as high as 2nd overall. He’s a load at 6’3”, 200 pounds, and he’s got elite offensive upside. Grigorenko could play as soon as next season as a center on either the second or first line for the Sabres. It won’t be surprising at all if Grigorenko centers Buffalo’s top line for a long time. Zemgus Girgensons, the 14th overall pick, is an aggressive, hard-working center who won’t see NHL action for at least a year, but could end up as the Sabres’ second or third line center. If he continues to develop his offensive game, Buffalo may have found two top-six anchors for the next 10-15 years. Size continued to be the theme for the Sabres throughout the rest of the draft, as they didn’t take a player shorter than 6’0”, or one that weighed less than 180 pounds, until the seventh round (5’11” forward Judd Peterson).
Montreal Canadiens– They needed offense, and got it. They added elite center prospect Alex Galchenyuk with the 3rd overall selection, and followed that up with the selection of speedy Swedish winger Sebastian Collberg in the second round. Galchenyuk has the potential to play next season, and could be seeing time as either the third-line center or as a top-six winger. Collberg won’t see the NHL for another year or two, but has the potential to make a huge impact when he does come up. They also snagged Dalton Thrower in the third round, a defenseman projected by many to go in the first round and who finished as Central Scouting’s 26th ranked North American skater.
New York Islanders– New York made the right choice, even if Griffin Reinhardt was a slight reach at 4th overall. New York needed a blueliner, and they got a good one with their top pick. Reinhardt is a big (6’4”, 207), shutdown defender with solid offensive upside (he led his junior club in goals scored by a defenseman this past year). New York followed that up with a sort of throw-spaghetti-at-the-wall strategy, using their remaining six selections all on defensemen. Perhaps not the best idea, but it pretty much ensures that the Islanders will come away from this draft with an improved blueline, and that was their biggest need heading into the draft.
Tampa Bay Lightning-They needed help on the backend, given how many goals they allowed this past season. Defensemen flew off the board before Tampa’s first pick at #10, but they still got a first-round talent in Slater Koekkoek, and they used their next selection on goaltender Andrei Vasilevski, a Russian prospect who was considered to be the best prospect at his position in this year’s draft. It’s possible neither sees the NHL for another year or so, but these were two huge moves that considerably brighten Tampa’s future.
Washington Capitals– Filip Forsberg had no business slipping all the way to the 11th overall selection. He’ll play one more year in Sweden, but when he joins the Capitals in 2013-14, they may have found the second-line center they so desperately need behind Nicklas Backstrom. They also added Thomas Wilson, a hard-checking winger, with the 16th overall pick. Like Forsberg, Wilson won’t see the NHL next year, or even the year after that, but he’s got potential to be a second-line finisher, much like Dustin Penner or Brendan Morrow.
Winnipeg Jets- Three picks in the first 70 slots, and somehow managed to choose three players ranked in the top 40 out of all North American skaters. They took top defensive prospect Jacob Trouba, the ninth-ranked North American with the ninth overall pick, then grabbed 39th-ranked Lukas Sutter (the latest in a long line of Sutters to enter the NHL) with the 39th overall pick, and finally somehow plucked Scott Komaschuk, the 24th ranked North American skater, with the 70th pick. With a fair amount of relatively high-end talent added at a variety of positions, Winnipeg definitely came away with one of the strongest classes this year.
Colorado Avalanche– They didn’t have a first-round pick, thanks to the trade that brought in goaltender Semyon Varlamov, so their first selection came after 40 other players had already been selected. Colorado used the 41st overall selection on Mitchell Heard, a Canadian center who was not even listed in Central Scouting’s final prospect rankings. The Avalanche’s next selection came in similar fashion; they used their 3rd round choice, 72nd overall, on a player who was the 123rd ranked North American skater, Troy Bourke. Maybe the Avalanche know something no one else does.
Edmonton Oilers– Nail Yakupov has the potential to be great, but Edmonton had to come away from this draft with a better defensive corps, and they didn’t bother drafting one until the fourth round. Teams do not win by offense alone. Edmonton’s got a great top-six forward lineup now, but a weak blueline that will likely leave them drafting in the top five again next year.
Minnesota Wild– They needed offensive help. Badly. At the 7th overall selection, Mikhail Grigorenko, Filip Forsberg and Teuvo Teravainen, all forwards with great offensive skill and upside, were available. Instead, the Wild opted for a defenseman, Mathew Dumba. Dumba’s a good defensive prospect, but he’s just not what Minnesota needed, especially after they took D Jonas Brodin in the first round last year, and finished the 2011-12 season with an offense that ranked dead last in the NHL. They snagged Raphael Bussieres, the 129th ranked North American forward, with the 42nd overall choice. It didn’t get much better after that either, leaving Minnesota with a prospect pool that’s not much better than it was last year. The Wild better hope to prospects Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund are ready to come up to the NHL and produce at an elite level next year.
Toronto Maple Leafs– They needed a top-line center, and could have taken Mikhail Grigorenko, Filip Forsberg, or even Radek Faksa. Instead, they reached for Morgan Rielly, an offensive-minded defenseman coming off a bad ACL injury. Their second round pick was a good player as well (Matthew Finn), but again, not the centerman they needed.