While the Los Angeles Kings, and their millions of fans who just jumped on the bandwagon, celebrate the team’s first Stanley Cup championship, the other 29 teams in the league are gearing up for next season. The top priority of these teams: the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. The draft takes place June 22 and 23 from Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA. With the Edmonton Oilers winning the draft lottery, they will select the first pick for the third straight year, the first time since the Quebec Nordiques of 1989-91. Who will the Oilers take? Who will everyone else select? To find out, continue after the jump.
1. Edmonton Oilers
Nail Yakupov, RW, Sarnia (OHL) [31G - 38A - 69 Pts]
The Oilers continue to rebuild, despite having so many young, dynamic players. While the desire to grab a franchise defenseman is there, this draft is very, very deep defensively. The consensus is that Yakupov is the best offensive player, and you can’t pass that up.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL) [9G - 22A - 31 Pts]
The biggest storyline around the Blue Jackets will be if they finally trade Rick Nash. If they do, that could completely change their draft day plans. Right now, they need a defenseman who can score, something the team really has never had. Murray can be that player, and possibly soon the true face of the franchise.
3. Montreal Canadiens
Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec (QMJHL) [40G - 45A - 85 Pts]
The Canadiens have tried to restock the roster through free agency in the past few years, and the results have been pretty disastrous. They also lack size. Grigorenko (6′ 3″)brings Les Habitantes a big center who can give the team some strength and scoring up the center.
4. New York Islanders
Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL) [12G - 24A - 36 Pts]
While the Islanders continue to struggle on the ice, and off the ice in finding a home, the talent has slowly come together. Adding another strong defenseman to the system might finally put them over the hump. Reinhart is a big, strong kid who can get physical with teams like the Rangers, Flyers, and Devils night in and night out.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
Filip Forsberg, C, Leksand (SWE-2) [8G - 9A - 17 Pts]
While the Maple Leafs continue to try and find their identity under GM Brian Burke, their true problem seems to be in net (Roberto Luongo anyone?). Forsberg gives them another swift, puckmoving forward. The only caveat is that he has already announced that he will return to Sweden next year. Another year away from Toronto will likely be better for his development in the long run anyway.
6. Anaheim Ducks
Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia (OHL) [0G - 0A - 0 Pts]
The American born Galchenyuk (yes, he was born in Milwaukee while his father played for the AHL Admirals) is the draft’s biggest mystery. He missed all but two games of the regular season after injuring his knee in the preseason. He had four points in six playoff games though, and has possibly as much upside as the first pick Yakupov. The Ducks could end up with one of the steals of the draft here, giving them yet another strong, young forward.
7. Minnesota Wild
Matthew Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL) [20G - 37A - 57 Pts]
The Wild have their savior coming this season in Mikael Granlund, and are still looking for a saver on defense. The defensive corps is young and has upside, but very few show the killer instinct of a top 2-4 defenseman. Dumba not only gives them some offensive skill on the back end, but also leadership (he was captain of Team Canada at the U-18 Worlds), something missing on the blue line after the trades Brent Burns and Nick Schultz in the last year.
8. Carolina Hurricanes
Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL) [3G - 15A - 18 Pts]
The Hurricanes found a superstar in this range in Jeff Skinner a couple years ago, and they could get another franchise cornerstone in this draft with Rielly. He has great hands and upside, but is coming off an injury that kept him out of most of the past season. Before and after the injury though, he was about a point per game player on the blue line.
9. Winnipeg Jets
Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa (OHL) [17G - 43A - 60 Pts]
The Jets are still on a high after having a team back this past season. Their first ever pick, Mark Scheifele, showed great promise in his limited appearance last year, and the team nearly won a division title in the first year back. Adding Ceci to the mix gives Winnipeg another high scoring blueliner to have on the ice when Dustin Byfuglien is not.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning
Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener (OHL) [29G - 37A - 66 Pts]
The Lightning were something of a disappointment after the thrilling playoff run of the season prior. While the goaltenting wasn’t as strong, their forwards also started showing a bit of age, save for possibly the best player in the game right now: Steven Stamkos. Faksa gives them another center behind Stamkos, possibly becoming the heir apparent to Vinny Lecavalier.
11. Washington Capitals (from Colorado)
Jacob Trouba, D, USA-18 (USHL) [9G - 22A - 31 Pts]
The Capitals have big questions coming up. A new coach, restricted free agents, and what way the direction of the franchise all need to be answered this summer. Trouba gives them a possible replacement to somebody like Mike Green. He is big and skilled, and still very young. Trouba will attend Michigan this fall.
12. Buffalo Sabres
Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville (OHL) [28G - 40A - 68 Pts]
The Sabres tried spending like the big boys last summer, and it didn’t payoff in the standings. Adding a center like Gaunce gives Buffalo some more young skill up front. Gaunce has some size and skill that would mesh will with the Sabres and coach Lindy Ruff.
13. Dallas Stars
Matt Finn, D, Guelph (OHL) [10G - 38A - 48 Pts]
While the Stars went huge last year on the blue line (6′ 7″ James Oleksiak), Finn gives Dallas a scoring defenseman for the future. Finn led his team in scoring, and gives the team more talent to restock the back end of the system.
14. Calgary Flames
Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL) [11G - 48A - 59 Pts]
The high scoring defenseman should slot in well in Calgary, who still don’t have anyone very strong on the back end for the future. Pouliot might not be the biggest blueliner, but he won’t back down and isn’t afraid to stand up for himself or his teammates.
15. Ottawa Senators
Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (FIN) [11G -7A -18 Pts]
The youngster more than held his own in Finland’s highest league. While he may not come directly to the NHL, he gives the Senators another young player to fill the system, which was somewhat deplete by the call ups of the young talent who helped lead Ottawa to an unexpected strong season.
16. Washington Capitals
Colton Sissons, D, Kelowna (WHL) [26G - 15A - 41 Pts]
The Capitals second pick in the first round could go many ways, but with this draft being so deep defensively, Washington can grab a second potential stud here. Sissons has size and a strong shot, which can help take the scoring pressure off of Ovechkin and company.
17. San Jose Sharks
Olli Maata, D, London (OHL) [5G - 27A - 32 Pts]
The young Finn Maata made the move from the Finnish leagues to the OHL last year, and it turned out pretty well. Maata led rookie defensman in scoring last year, and has the size to play in the rugged Western Conference.
18. Chicago Blackhawks
Thomas Wilson, RW, Plymouth (OHL) [9G - 18A - 27 Pts]
The Blackhawks get a smart, strong, and aggressive forward in Wilson, who also isn’t afraid to throw down. Despite missing some games due to injury last year, he still racked up quite a few points, and a lot of penalty minutes. Wilson brings some grit and protection to the Blackhawks forward nucleus.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning (from Detroit)
Brady Skjei, D, USA-18 (USHL) [4G - 18A - 22 Pts]
After the Lightning wrangled a first pick from the Red Wings in the essentially three team deadline deal, they can grab a strong defenseman for the future. Skjei is big and mobile, and will likely be the first player taken from Minnesota in this draft. While Skjei might be a couple years off, he will give Tampa a strong piece for their future.
20. Philadelphia Flyers
Stefan Matteau, C, USA-18 (USHL) [15G - 17A - 32 Pts]
Matteau, the son of former Stanley Cup winner Stephane Matteau, will play in the QMJHL next year, but gives the Flyers another young playmaker. He has size and hands to do damage offensively, not to mention physically. Shows the same spark that drove his father to a long career.
21. Buffalo Sabres (from Nashville)
Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque (USHL) [24G - 31A - 55 Pts]
A native of Latvia who has only been in North America for a few years, Girgensons will attend Vermont in the fall. He led Dubuque in scoring, and has seen his numbers increasing in each successive year of acclimation to the North American game.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins
Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon (WHL) [18G - 36A - 54 Pts]
The Penguins showed how good they are when healthy, with or without Sidney Crosby in the lineup. However, when Crosby was in the lineup, they looked much stronger, until the playoffs. The backline seem to disappear, and adding a player like Thrower could be something that Pittsburgh definitely needs. Thrower, who nearly tripled his scoring from the year previous to last, gives the Penguins a breakout specialist to get the puck up to the big guns.
23. Florida Panthers
Mike Winther, C, Prince Albert (WHL) [32G -24A - 56 Pts]
The Panthers’ moves last offseason miraculously paid off, and led to a division title. While those players are all back, they’re also another year older. Winther could give the Panthers something that they never really had in their entire existence: a homegrown goal scorer.
24. Boston Bruins
Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville (OHL) [2.5GA, .923SV, 3SO]
Up until a couple weeks ago, no one would have seen the Bruins taking a goalie. But the year off/retirement of Tim Thomas could change Boston’s plans. Even if Thomas never returns, Subban gives the Bruins a bona fide netminder, who lit up the prospect camp recently in Toronto.
25. St. Louis Blues
Phillip Di Giuseppe, LW, University of Michigan [11G -15A - 26 Pts]
The Blues were the biggest surprise of last season after installing Ken Hitchcock behind the bench. Di Giuseppe had a very good freshman year for the Wolverines, and can give the Blues another scoring weapon, developed in house, for the future.
26. Vancouver Canucks
Martin Frk, RW, Halifax (QMJHL) [16G - 13A - 29 Pts]
While the Canucks biggest offseason question will be what to do with the logjam in net, they also don’t want to do too much to disrupt the team that seems to still have a window for a championship. Frk won’t be a contributor right away, but has offensive skill to help in the future. Despite playing in only 34 games due to a shoulder injury, Frk still managed almost a point per game.
27. Phoenix Coyotes
Tanner Pearson, LW, Barrie (OHL) [37G - 54A - 91 Pts]
Pearson has been a late bloomer in terms of other talent in this draft, but he might end up being the best goal scorer of them all. The Coyotes, who perennially seem to desire more offense, could get a steal this late in the draft. Cheap, young, and offensively gifted is just what the situation in Phoenix needs.
28. New York Rangers
Sebastian Collberg, RW, Frolunda (SWE) [0G - 0A - 0 Pts]
While Collberg didn’t register a point in 41 games with the elite team, he averaged almost a point per game against players more his age, as well as a shootout winner at the World Juniors. The Rangers continue to look for more scoring, so Collberg could be a big part of the future, or this pick might end up with Columbus in the Rick Nash Sweepstakes.
29. New Jersey Devils
Cristoval Nieves, C, Kent School (USA) [7G - 32A - 39 Pts]
While the Devils must forfeit a first round pick in the next three years because of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract fiasco, they will not exercise the punishment this year. Which is odd since it’s very low, and they have no second round pick next year. Instead the Devils use it on a local product (Nieves went to high school in Connecticut), and as a possible replacement of Zach Parise in future years.
30. Los Angeles Kings
Thomas Hertl, C, Slavia (CZE) [12G - 13A - 25 Pts]
The Kings are the kings of the NHL right now after winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. While everyone celebrates, the front office must get right back to work. The selection of Hertl gives the team a big, strong kid who showed he can already play with men in the Czech Republic.
Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms. He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long. Look for new articles throughout the week. He can be followed on Twitter at @bryanvickroy. If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at email@example.com.