Every year I try to get a few mock drafts out there, and this version is my first leading up to the 2012 NHL Draft. The team rankings are based solely on the inverse league standings as of the time of writing, which for me was yesterday morning.
As with any mock draft, there will be some picks that folks think are too high, or too low, or maybe I have a team taking a player that plays a certain position, and the organization's needs are elsewhere. While researching for this mock draft, I took into account draft tendencies of the each team over the past three seasons, organizational needs at the prospect and NHL level, and overall ranking of each prospect.
Please enjoy, and let the comments be civil and constructive!
1) BLUE JACKETS: RW Nail Yakupov, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
The Jackets need an impact player, and given their recent run of draft futility, they need to make sure they get this one right. Yakupov is the best player in the draft, and his offensive ability is sorely needed in Columbus.
2) DUCKS: D Ryan Murray, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Providing they don't make any roster moves involving their three stars up front (Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan) the Ducks biggest need is on defense. Their blueline is mediocre, and they get an NHL-ready defenseman in Murray.
3) HURRICANES: RW Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
The Hurricanes need help throughout the roster, but adding a sniper in Grigorenko to ride shotgun to Staal and Skinner makes their future look brighter.
4) OILERS: D Matt Dumba, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
The Oilers have such an abundance of great young forwards, while their defense needs major work. Dumba is a high-end offensive defenseman, and a Western boy who will instantly improve the Oiler's skill on the back end.
5) ISLANDERS: LW Filip Forsberg, Leksand (Sweden)
John Tavares and Matt Moulson are carrying the load offensively for the Isles, but adding Forsberg to the mix, along with incumbents Nino Niederreiter and Kyle Okposo will give the Isles some real firepower up front.
6) LIGHTNING: D Jacob Trouba, USNTDP
GM Steve Yzerman continues to rebuild his blueline, adding two-way blueliner Jacob Trouba. He would make a great defensive partner for Victor Hedman down the road. The Lightning go defense here due to having drafted high-end forwards Vlad Namestnikov and Brett Connolly with their previous two first rounders, to go along with their offensive stars already on the roster.
7) CANADIENS: C Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Though he has yet to play a game this season due to injury, Galchenyuk's talent is too great to let him slide any further. The Habs can use the offensive punch, and with depth on defense in their prospect system a high-end forward makes sense here.
8 )SABRES: D Cody Ceci, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
The Sabres are in a position to draft the best player available, and they grab the offensive-minded blueliner from Ottawa of the OHL. Ceci and Tyler Myers would be the cornerstones of the Buffalo blueline.
9) FLAMES: D Morgan Rielly, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
The Flames don't have to look far, as they pick up a talented Western kid who can skate like the wind and put up points from the point.
10) JETS: C Brendan Gaunce, Belleville Bulls (OHL)
Gaunce is a two-way power forward who has the ability to ride shotgun to Jets' pick Mark Scheifele, or he could excel on a checking line, playing a defensive role.
11) COYOTES: LW Pontus Aberg, Djurgarden (Sweden)
The slick Swedish winger will look good in a Coyotes uniform, providing a dose of offense to the lineup. He's playing very well against men in Sweden's senior circuit.
12) PENGUINS: C Zemgus Girgensons, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
The Pens are always looking for skilled forwards to play with their stars, and the super-skilled Latvian reminds some of Anze Kopitar, not only because each are from a weak sister in international hockey, but both play a similar style. He'll be attending Vermont so the Pens can be patient with him.
13) CAPITALS: D Derrick Pouliot, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
With their first of two first round picks the Caps grab the fourth WHL defenseman in the draft thus far, getting a solid puck-mover to help get the puck to the Caps skilled forwards.
14) CAPITALS (AVALANCHE): RW Sebastian Collberg, Frolunda (Sweden)
With their second pick of the first round the Caps grab another solid young Swedish forward, joining Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson and Steffen Soberg.
15) STARS: LW Phillip DiGuiseppe, Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)
DiGuiseppe is turning heads for Michigan, and was a surprise invite to Team Canada camp for the World Juniors. Though he didn't make the team, he remains a hard-working forward who just seems like a great fit for the Stars.
16) KINGS: D Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
The Kings are building a strong blueline core through the draft, and Reinhart adds a little bit of everything to the organization. He could potentially go much higher in the draft, so at this pick he's a steal for LA.
17) MAPLE LEAFS: LW Andreas Athanasiou, London Knights (OHL)
A playmaking winger who down the road could be on a scoring line in Toronto. Pair him with a sniper, and he'll rack up the points. He's got great hands, and is lethal and creative in the shootout.
18) DEVILS: D Olli Maatta, London Knights (OHL)
A bit of a steal at this point of the draft, Maata would join last year's first round pick Adam Larsson on a future number one defense pairing for the Devils.
19) WILD: C Radek Faksa, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Given the current makeup of the Wild roster, upgrading the blueline would seem more important, but Faksa is a skilled forward who would look great paired with Mikael Granlund on a future Minnesota scoring line.
20) PANTHERS: D Slater Koekkoek , Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Though he's currently injured, the smooth skating blueliner would be a valuable addition to Florida's system. He was in the midst of a breakout season with the Petes before his injury, and would be a fine compliment to Erik Gudbranson in the near future.
21) PREDATORS: RW Colton Sissons, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
The Preds need players who can put pucks in the net, and Sissons does that in spades. He's more of a Cy Young forward (many more goals than assists) but he is turning heads out West as a high-end sniper.
22) SHARKS: C Stefan Matteau, USNTDP
Matteau is a power forward with an NHL pedigree, as he's the son of former NHLer Stephane Matteau. He considers San Jose home after spending many years there when his father was a member of the Sharks.
23) SENATORS: G Malcolm Subban, Belleville Bulls (OHL)
The top-ranked goaltender in the draft fills a big organizational need: depth at goaltender. Not only does Subban add depth, he is also capable of being the team's future number one.
24) RED WINGS: LW Danil Zharkov, Belleville Bulls (OHL)
Zharkov is a highly skilled winger who has a great shot and is defensively responsible. Yes, a defensively responsible Russian forward. Who does that remind you of? That's right- Pavel Datsyuk. Who better to mentor Zharkov than the Wings Selke-calibre star?
25) FLYERS: RW Martin Frk, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Though he has missed a bulk of the season due to a concussion, Frk is now back in the Halifax lineup and will look to bring his trademark physical play and hard, accurate shot to the lineup. He seems a perfect fit for the Flyers, who possess a former Czech Moosehead in Jakub Voracek already.
26) BLACKHAWKS: D Matt Finn, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Finn is a two-way blueliner that models his game after former Storm defenseman Drew Doughty. He brings poise and the right amount of skill to the lineup. He's of average height, but he's got a strong build, again, similar to Doughty.
27) BLUES: D Brady Skjei, USNTDP
Skjei is a two-way defenseman who has committed to Minnesota for next year. The Blues can be patient with his development and can look forward to him joining the ever-improving group of great young blueliners the Blues are stockpiling.
28) BRUINS: C Tomas Hertl, Slavia Praha (Czech Republic)
The Bruins go off the board just a bit and take the slick Czech center. He is coming off a strong World Junior tournament, and can learn a lot from countryman David Krejci in Boston.
29) CANUCKS: LW Tanner Pearson, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Pearson has been rocketing up draft charts since last summer. He's a high-scoring winger, riding shotgun to Jets prospect Mark Scheifele in Barrie. Pearson was a member of Team Canada at the World Junior tournament and would give the Canucks a solid complimentary scorer.
30) RANGERS: C Mike Winther, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Two things come to mind when watching Winther- he's fast, and he's a scorer. The Rangers would be more than happy to add a speedy forward like Winther to their prospect pool, and he's got the skill to be a top -six forward for the Blueshirts.