The story of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft has been one of ups and downs. At the beginning of the season this was considered one of the most exciting and deepest draft classes since 2003. However, this draft class has been plagued by the injury bug and the draft rankings has shifted dramatically, more so than most drafts in recent history.
How has this affected the draft? With players being injured and unable to play they won't have had the exposure that they would require to become a first round pick. Teams tend to be cautious before drafting someone that has been injured for a lot of the season. Because of this players who might have originally been drafted within the first round are dropping to the second rounds or beyond because scouts haven't seen them playing enough and the teams are generally careful over whether to draft a player who has been injured and missed a significant part of the season.
For example there are a couple of players that spring to mind from this draft class who have dropped significantly from their preseason positions mostly due to injury. Players such as Jarrod Maidens and Martin Frk have both suffered concussion issues this year and have gone from potential first round picks to likely second round picks.
There is a possibility that some very good players could drop because of injury concerns and be a steal in the second or maybe third. However someone like Alex Galchenyuk, who spent most of this season out with injury, is unlikely to fall. Despite missing a lot of the season he is still clearly an incredibly talented player and a proven player. Then again he went from potentially challenged for first overall to probably being picked by the 5th pick.
After the jump, the strengths and the weaknesses of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft...
This draft is, without any doubt, the strongest and deepest for defensemen since the 2008 draft. There are plenty of potentially elite, top 3 or 4 defensemen who will almost certainly be drafted within the first round and into the second. There is a general feeling that potentially up to half of the first round picks will be for defensemen. In 2008 12 defensemen were drafted within the first round, the highest number in the post lock out era.
In 2008, defensemen such as Drew Doughty, Luke Schenn, Tyler Myers, and Erik Karlsson all had their names called in the first round. Some of these defensemen are prominent figures for their teams today. Within 4 years the defensemen of the 2012 draft will likely be making a strong impression, with Ryan Murray, Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci, Olli Maatta, Jacob Trouba, Griffin Reinhart, Mathew Dumba and many more all at the top of the list. The depth of elite defensemen is enough to make any team consider picking up a potential franchise defenseman.
Though not as deep as previous years this year's draft has also got a lot of good centres who could end up being top 6 forwards at the NHL level. Players such as Mikhail Grigorenko, Alex Galchenyuk, Radek Faksa, Brendan Gaunce, Zemgus Girgensons and Filip Forsberg. Generally most of the picks in the first round go towards drafting centres: 9 were picked in 2007, 11 in 2008, 12 in 2009, 13 in 2010, 10 in 2011. If 15 defensemen are drafted within the first round in my opinion at least 9 picks will be for centres.
Though weaker at the top end of the draft there are some goaltending prospects that look interesting further down the draft. Goaltenders such as: Antony Stolarz, Daniel Altshuller, Chris Driedger, Michael Houser, Joonas Korpisalo and Marek Langhamer. These will likely go between the second the fifth rounds. If the Stars were looking for goaltender prospect depth they could find good players in the later rounds.
Unlike in previous years I think it's highly unlikely that we will see a goaltender be taken within the top 15. In reality there are very few goaltenders in this draft who could challenge for a first round selection. Those that could push for picks in the late first round are Malcolm Subban, Andrei Vasilevski and Oscar Dansk.
One of the most striking things about this draft is the lack of wingers that will be drafted within the first round. Beyond Nail Yakupov, Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Collberg and possibly Thomas Wilson I think its highly unlikely there will be any other winger drafted within the top 15 or potentially 20 picks. In the second round however there will be several good wingers available.
The injury bug has hit hard and despite the hope good players might fall its possibly that some players will never reach their potential because of those injuries or because they are injury prone. If a team is picking a player who have been injured during their draft season they need to be very careful and cautious. It's possible that the spate of injuries that has hit this draft class could lead to this draft being far weaker than first thought. However it is too early to see.
Conclusions And The Draft Ahead
This is a good year for any team that wants an offensive puck moving elite defenseman. The first round will be dominated from top to bottom with very good defensive prospects many of which could be potential franchise defensemen. The main story which is likely going to come out of this draft is whether this draft class will match the defensive depth of the 2008 draft class. Though originally it was thought they could challenge the 2003 class for depth overall injuries have made this draft much weaker.
Will this draft be the first time since 2004 that two Russian players are selected with the first and second overall picks? It's possible that, with Yakupov a safe bet for the first overall selection, Mikhail Grigorenko could be drafted second overall. Or will the Columbus Blue Jackets pick Ryan Murray, a defenseman, second overall?
Second round steals or later could be another of this year. With so many injuries to potential first round players there will be some elite players who have gotten unlucky with the injury bug dropping out of the first round into the low second round. Could the Dallas Stars benefit from that? As fans we can only hope so.