PITTSBURGH — There could be some fireworks concerning the overall first pick before the 2012 NHL Entry Draft kicks off on Friday at Consol Energy Center.
Some pundits believe that Edmonton might be in the market to trade down in the first round in hopes of getting a quality defenseman, having been able to nab two top forwards in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall with the first pick the past two seasons.
The projected top pick this year is Nail Yakupov, a talented right wing. Thus, the Oilers could attempt to not only get a blueliner with a later pick but also could receive a more veteran player if a team is willing to make a deal for the No. 1 pick.
“There’s always so much talk on draft day of trading, but I feel this year there will be some significant movement,” Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini told NHL.com. “I do feel that.
“For us to move the No. 1 pick, it would have to be quite a significant proposal. The idea is to project on who will be the best player for your team. Most teams have different opinions on what’s best for them. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll decide which player is the best player for the Edmonton Oilers.”
Without a trade on the books yet, I’ll assume the Oilers will hold pat with the No. 1 pick as I take my best crack at predicting the draft’s first round.
1. Edmonton Oilers
As I said above, they’re not really in the market for another top forward but if they stick with the first pick, expect them not to let Yakupov pass them by.
Selection: Nail Yakupov, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
It seems like a done deal that star Rick Nash is on his way out the door, having asked for a trade. The Blue Jackets may be that team that deals with Edmonton for the top pick to take Yakupov. If that’s not the case, though, still expect them to aim for a talented forward.
Selection: Filip Forsberg, RW, Leksands (Sweden)
3. Montreal Canadiens
Montreal is another team looking for a star forward up front. Not sure if in the 3-spot it’ll find a player that can jump in immediately, but that’s likely the goal for the Habs.
Selection: Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
4. New York Islanders
The Islanders have made a living of taking talented forwards in recent years (John Tavares comes to mind immediately), so I’d bet on the Isles grabbing up the top defenseman.
Selection: Matt Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL)
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto has no problem scoring goals, but allowing them is a different story. I’d look for the Leafs to grab a solid defensive defenseman.
Selection: Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL)
6. Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim’s aging forwards (Teemu Selanne, Jason Blake, Saku Koivu) mean this club could use some help building a pipeline up front.
Selection: Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia (OHL)
7. Minnesota Wild
Minnesota’s offense last season was one of the worst of all time. These guys need help putting the puck in the net, though ready-to-play talent might not be available at No. 7. Could they be the team to trade up to No. 1?
Selection: Radek Faksa, C, Kitchner (OHL)
8. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes’ most immediate needs are on the blue line, but it’s difficult to tell if there is a single defenseman that will be left at No. 8 that can have any immediate impact. Still, it seems like the Canes have to look for a talented blueliner to develop.
Selection: Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
9. Winnipeg Jets
Many of Winnipeg’s young prospects are developing well, but the Jets still lack an impact center. That’s the strongest possibility for their first rounder.
Selection: Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville (OHL)
10. Tampa Bay Lightning
Defense and goaltending plagued the Lightning last season and, with a plethora of good defensemen that should be available in the middle of the first round, that may be the best option.
Selection: Jacob Trouba, D, USNTDP (USHL)/Michigan recruit
11. Washington Capitals (from COL):
The Caps have a solid pipeline of players at all positions and, with two first-round picks they likely will take the most talented player available at No. 11.
Selection: Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL)
12. Buffalo Sabres
Similar to Washington, Buffalo has a pretty solid pipeline. It struggled at times to score this year, but I don’t know if that will impact how it drafts given its middle-pack pick.
Selection: Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (Finland)
13. Dallas Stars
The Stars have aimed for big players in recent years. (Remember Northeastern standout Jamie Oleksiak, who stands 6-foot-7?) That may be the main focus once again.
Selection: Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle (Sweden)
14. Calgary Flames
The Flames have a lot of needs but bolstering the blue line seems important.
Selection: Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL)
15. Ottawa Senators
Ottawa had one of the league’s best turnarounds last season but still could use some tough players on the defensive blue line.
Selection: Matthew Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)
16. Washington Capitals
The second pick for the Caps could lead to another collegian hitting the stage.
Selection: Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque (USHL)/Vermont recruit
17. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks system has some solid defensemen but not a ton of prolific scoring.
Selection: Tomas Hertl, C, Slavia (Czech Republic)
18. Chicago Blackhawks
While there is plenty of talent on the Blackhawks team, Chicago’s pipeline lacks much depth in goal and at forward.
Selection: Sebastian Collberg, RW, Frolunda (Sweden)
19. Tampa Bay Lightning (from DET)
The second pick for Tampa might result in the first goalie taken as it looks to solidify the pipeline with Dwayne Roloson’s retirement imminent.
Selection: Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa Tolpar (Russia)
20. Philadelphia Flyers
Philly has been very good at drafting forwards but not so much with defensemen. Will it take a chance on a blueliner?
Selection: Ludvig Bystrom, D, Modo (Sweden)
21. Buffalo Sabres (from NSH)
The second pick for the Sabres likely will result in grabbing a defenseman (especially if they take a forward first).
Selection: Olli Maatta, D, London (OHL)
22. Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh is one of the most solid teams right now but it lacks that talented winger. Not sure if it can solve that with the draft but I’ll take my chances.
Selection: Pontus Aberg, LW, Djurgarden (Sweden)
23. Florida Panthers
The Panthers have a solid pipeline and are looking for talent to step in immediately, but they won’t grab that this low in the first round.
Selection: Thomas Wilson, RW, Plymouth (OHL)
24. Boston Bruins
With the sudden news that goaltender Tim Thomas won’t play next season, the Bruins may need a solid goaltender to develop. Not sure there will be one available that is worth spending a first-round pick. Thus, they’ll likely try to bolster their pipeline of forwards.
Selection: Stefan Matteau, LW, USNTDP (USHL)
25. St. Louis Blues
The Blues could need some help on the blue line if the free agent market hits them hard this year and next.
Selection: Brady Skjei, D, USNTDP (USHL)/Minnesota recruit
26. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are solid all around and thus can simply take the best player available.
Selection: Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterboro (OHL)
27. Phoenix Coyotes
With a solid defensive corps and one of the game’s best goaltenders in Mike Smith, the Coyotes can be expected to try to grab a talented forward.
Selection: Andreas Athanasiou, C, London (OHL)
28. New York Rangers
With Henrik Lundqvist a long-term goalie and plenty of depth on the blue line, the Rangers likely will look for a forward that they can develop. They have been college-friendly in the past, which could help boost the college numbers in the first round.
Selection: Phil Di Giuseppe, LW, Michigan
29. New Jersey Devils
With Zach Parise having one foot out the door, it would be good for the Devils to grab a forward they can develop.
Selection: Mike Winther, C, Prince Albert (WHL)
30. Los Angeles Kings (optional to CBJ)
I’m going to pick this assuming that Columbus doesn’t opt for this pick. LA would probably look to a defenseman knowing it has some older blueliners on the team. It could be a good chance for BC recruit Mike Matheson to sneak into the first round.
Selection: Mike Matheson, D, Dubuque (USHL)/Boston College recruit