"Where bad hockey analysis comes to die" is the slogan. Yet, here, one week and change removed from the culmination of the 2012 season, I find our quaint little corner of internet paradise as desolate as Lions & Tigers & Beers. Sure, we have plenty of excuses to throw around, but I think the main reason as to why we haven't been so committed to this once-exciting project (aside from the lack of actual readership and/or practical gain) is that we've grown tired. There is plenty of NHL journalism to pick apart and banish to the swamplands, but it has all become humdrum and almost expected. We can only insult so many posts related to how often a team wins when their superstars score, or how highlighting a goaltender's win record tells the entire story of a team's success. Anything else -- whether a botched statistic shown via telecast, a ridiculous opinion of an important league-related issue, or anything Don Cherry says about anything, ever -- seems miniscule and not particularly critique-worthy. So, in order to give our slice of pie some more flavor and substance, I'm going to focus on other material for the off-season.
The 2012 NHL Draft takes place this Friday. Unlike recent drafts, the projected talent through the first round or so is fairly well-balanced, which means we could see some high-risers (Brian Lee, anyone?), late-round steals (Rob Schremp, anyone?), and plenty more kids who fans will mistakenly covet as the answer to all of their team's shortcommings. Here is my attempt at a mock draft for the first round, including my reasoning for why each team would want to waste their time on these kids. Let's go!
Gary Bettman: Now... let's get things started!
Consol Energy Center Crowd: Boooooo! Fuck you, Bettman!
Bettman: Fantastic. The first overall pick... in this year's NHL... Entry Draft... belongs... to the Edmonton Oilers!
1. Edmonton Oilers select RW Nail Yakupov, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
The Oilers desperately need help on the backend and in goal, but they won't find it here. Yakupov has been touted as the consensus #1 pick for over a year and it would be foolish for the Oilers to use this pick on anyone else. He was an offensive dynamo in Sarnia (he actually broke Stamkos' rookie goal-scoring record during the '10-'11 season) and performed well within a playmaker role during this year's WJC for Russia. Recent reports state that they won't be shopping their first overall pick, so blue line and goal line help must come from elsewhere. It might be a good time to see what sort of return they could get for Taylor Hall, as Yakupov has the potential to surpass Hall's offensive ability on what should become a prolific offensive unit in Edmonton.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets select D Ryan Murray, Everett (WHL)
With Nash likely to leave town for good in just a couple weeks, it's sensible for Columbus to draft an offensive prospect. Yet, I feel that it is more sensible for them to draft a strong, two-way defender who will become a mogul on their blueline (and who will make up for Jack Johnson's absolutely horrible defensive game).
3. Montreal Canadiens select LW/C Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia (OHL)
Galchenyuk suffered a severe knee injury early last season, allowing him to play only two regular season games before suiting up for the playoffs. To still be ranked this high after missing so much time only speaks for how talented this kid really is. The potential is there for him to become Montreal's number one center of the future. If he doesn't, Habs fans will flip him over and set him on fire. No biggie.
4. New York Islanders select RW/C Filip Forsberg, Leksand (SEL)
While the Islanders are also in great need for a blue-chip defensive prospect, Forsberg is too good to pass up at this point. Not Foppa plays a solid two-way game and is very capable -- albeit, far from flashy -- offensively. He should compliment Tavares very well and could become a fixture on the PK.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs select D Matt Dumba, Red Deer (WHL)
If you aren't aware of this by now, Brian Burke is a big fan of aggressive players who aren't afraid to drive to the net, throw their weight around, and shut down the other team's best players. Dumba should be good for at least two of those criteria. He is a talented offensive defenseman who can give big hits with the best of them. Working alongside Phaneuf should (in theory) help him bring his game to the next level.
6. Anaheim Ducks select D Morgan Reilly, Moose Jaw (WHL)
The Ducks have a few solid offensive prospects looking to crack next season's roster. That, and with top defensive prospect Justin Schultz expected to hit free agency this summer, the Ducks need to shore up their backend. Reilly was injured for the majority of this season, but showed elite skill when he did suit up. He and Fowler could form a potent powerplay duo.
7. Minnesota Wild selects D Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton (WHL)
Reinhart has continued to climb the draft rankings, so Minnesota would do well to snag him. Capable offensively and uses his size effectively, although he's not particularly aggressive. He was one of the best two-way defensemen in the Dub this season and should develop into a first pair defender in the NHL. Another very safe pick.
8. Carolina Hurricanes select D Jacob Trouba, U.S. NTDP
Having added some exciting offensive performers through the previous two drafts, the Hurricanes should consider Trouba, a defensive defenseman who's capable of contributing offensively. He is an excellent counterbalance to last year's first round pick Ryan Murphy, who continued to put up fantastic offensive numbers with Kitchener last season.
9. Winnipeg Jets select C Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec (QMJHL)
Winnipeg is looking for size in this draft, and Grigorenko has an NHL-ready frame. He dominated the competition in the Q this season, but had a less than impressive showing during the postseason. Recently ranked in the top three, his postseason results caused his ranking to drop considerably (although recent reports state Grigorenko was dealing with mono during that time, perhaps affecting his output). The Jets would be fortunate to see him fall into their hands.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning selects D Cody Ceci, Ottawa (OHL)
Tampa's blueline situation is abysmal. Sorry, I meant downright embarrassing. Ceci is a talented offensive defenseman, someone the Lightning have been searching for since the Dan Boyle trade. Unlike most offensive D prospects, he already has the size (6'2'', 207). Now he just needs some time to round out his defensive game.
11. Washington Capitals select C Radek Faksa, Kitchener (OHL)
With the pick received from Colorado in last year's Varlamov trade, the Capitals take a big kid with a well-developed game all around. Labeled as a power forward, he will provide a great balance of grit, offensive capability, and defensive responsibility. He was runner up for rookie of the year in the OHL this season (16-year-old Aaron Ekblad took the award... he might become a big deal one day), and would benefit greatly from another season in Kitchener.
12. Buffalo Sabres select D Derrick Pouliot, Portland (WHL)
Portland has developed some intriguing prospects over the past few seasons, which should make this a safe pick for the Sabres. The hope is that this Pouliot doesn't underwhelm like the Pouliots drafted before him. He will bring some needed offense to the blueline and is a suitable replacement for Marc-Andre Gragnani, who was part of the Hodgson trade last season.
13. Dallas Stars select D Hampus Lindholm, Rogle Jr. (SWE)
The Stars have been one of the most mediocre teams over the past few seasons. This leaves them within the awful area of being too good to draft impact prospects, yet too lousy to make the playoffs. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway, dammit), they could use some good fortune. Another prospect who has risen through the rankings of late, Lindholm plays a complete two-way game and will complement last year's first round pick, 6'7" defensive defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. Now they just need to make the roster (along with Scott Glennie and Jack Campbell).
14. Calgary Flames select D Olli Maatta, London (OHL)
While Dallas actually has the mediocre draft picks to go with their mediocre output, Calgary can't even hold on to their own picks. They need a few (dozen) great prospects in their system, and Maatta would certainly fit that bill. Another two-way defenseman who is very close to being NHL ready.
15. Ottawa Senators select LW Teuvo Teravainen, Jokerit (FIN)
The Senators would be best to take a defenseman with this pick, but Teravainen is too talented to pass up. He was rookie of the year in the SM-Liiga this season, but would likely need another season in Finland in order to round out his game and drink some Muscle Milk.
16. Washington Capitals select D Slater Koekkoek, Peterborough (OHL)
Oh, back so soon? Koekkoek (pronounced Kook-Kook... how awesome is that?) is an aggressive two-way defenseman who will be a nice addition on the Washington blueline within a couple of years.
Bettman: We have a trade to announce! San Jose... trades pick number... seventeen... for a roster player... who won't meet expectations!
17. San Jose Sharks select D Matt Finn, Guelph (OHL)
This is reliant on San Jose actually keeping a first round draft pick for once, but Finn would become at least the second best defensive prospect in their system. Reminds me a lot of Matt Carle, who San Jose has likely missed since getting rid of him.
18. Chicago Blackhawks select C Zemgus Girgensons, Dubuque (USHL)
For as much star power as you'll find on the Blackhawks roster, there is a huge absence of capable depth players. Girgensons is a tough customer who doesn't shy away from physical play and works well in the corners. He is a safe bet to become at least a third line center in the near future.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning selects G Andrei Vasilevski, Ufa Tolpar (RUS Jr.)
You mean Roloson isn't the answer? Shit. Well, this kid has huge potential (he was absolutely lights out until the very end of the WJC) and will give Tampa another (hopefully better) option in case Dustin Tokarski doesn't pan out.
20. Philadelphia Flyers select C Brendan Gaunce, Belleville (OHL)
Another team in need of some significant prospects, Gaunce is the best player available at this point. While he may not have the potential to become an elite first line player, he has the size, skill, and work ethic to develop into a capable top-six player.
21. Buffalo Sabres select RW Henrik Samuelsson, Edmonton (WHL)
Yes, he's Ulf's son. Sorry, but nobody cares. Anyway, he shot up the rankings after a fantastic postseason and would bring much-needed grit (and support for those pipsqueaks, Ennis and Gerbe) to the wing.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins select D Brady Skjei, U.S. NTDP
This kid is -- you guessed it -- a reliable two-way defender who can skate well and play physically. Based on their postseason results, Pittsburgh's blueline is set for seasons to come, so expect Skjei to crack the roster some point after DiPietro's contract expires.
23. Florida Panthers select C Tomas Hertl, Slavia Praha (CZE)
Czech players are pretty cool, and Hertl is a very entertaining player from what I've seen. He was rookie of the year in the Extraliga this season and performed very well in the WJC this winter. Florida can afford to take their time to make sure he develops properly.
24. Boston Bruins select G Malcom Subban, Belleville (OHL)
Baby Subban is extremely athletic and does well within breakaway situations (I believe he stopped all 12 shootout attempts he faced this season... since that has to matter, apparently). He brings depth to perhaps the only lacking area within Boston's system.
25. St. Louis Blues select RW Sebastien Collberg, Frolunda (SWE)
Collberg possesses a dangerous wrist shot and his skating ability makes him irritating for defenders to handle. He is another wildcard and could be a steal at this point of the first round.
26. Vancouver Canucks select LW Pontus Åberg, Djurgarden (SWE)
Åberg sees the ice very well and can make smart plays at both ends. He has an accurate shot and controls the puck well down low. Do you think he would fit in well with any other Swedes in Vancouver? Nah...
27. Phoenix Coyotes select RW Tom Wilson, Plymouth (OHL)
As Shane Doan gets closer to retirement, Phoenix finds a great replacement in Wilson. He's a big kid who plays a gritty game and isn't afraid to drive to the net for opportunities.
28. New York Rangers select C Stefan Matteau, U.S. NTDP
Blah, blah, blah, related to Stephan Matteau, yada, yada, yada. Plays an aggressive game and can take the body as much as he can dish it out. He will be a better Brandon Dubinsky than Brandon Dubinsky could ever be. Speaking of which, how has he not been traded to Columbus yet? More on that later (or not).
29. New Jersey Devils select G Oscar Dansk, Brynas (SWE)
Has a similar style to Henrik Lundqvist, although one shouldn't expect him to reach that level. Plays a very calm and focused game and has great technical skills. He'll be ready to go when Brodeur starts to consider retirement or relegating to backup duty (2017 or so).
30. Los Angeles Kings select RW Martin Frk, Halifax (QMJHL)
Frk is all offense, all the time. He possesses a lethal shot and fantastic speed down the wing. Ranked within the top ten at the beginning of the season, injuries (and subsequent trouble returning to form) have caused that rank to drop significantly. There is a good chance he could slide until late in the second round, but LA would be wise to grab him now.
200. Detroit Red Wings select D Nicklas Lidström, Detroit (NHL)
"PLEASE COME BACK, NICK! PLEASE! WHO DO YOU THINK WILL REPLACE YOU!? KINDL'S A BUST! BRENDAN SMITH SUCKS! IAN WHITE'S MUSTACHE CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH! KRONWALL CAN'T KRONWALL EVERYONE AND STUART'S A TRAITOR WHO WOULD RATHER BE WITH HIS FAMILY THAN WIN STANLEY CUPS! WAAAHHHHH!" Ah... music to my ears.