June 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Radek Faksa poses for a photo after being selected as the number thirteen overall draft pick to the Dallas Stars in the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Before I run through my rankings, I'd like to point out that I believe all 30 NHL General Managers made a significant mistake in not drafting Anton Slepyshev [my explanation and calculations are here] and because they all made the same mistake, I'm not going to subtract from everyone's grades.
I also believe the draft should be about getting the best player available early and then prospects who have the brightest possible future, regardless of current shortcomings, later in the draft, AKA the boom-or-bust prospects. The long adhered-to practice of drafting goons and grinders, grit without offense and sandpaper without goals is a foolish one, mostly because the money and time spent developing these players is extremely costly considering those types of players are available for free (i.e. assets) and at a low cost (salary cap cost) every summer in free agency.
I've based the rankings below on those principles.
Anaheim Ducks - Everyone except Craig Button thinks Hampus Lindholm was a reach at #6, but then Bob Murray redeemed himself with Nicolas Kerdiles in the second round and re-drafted Frederik Andersen in the third. The goaltender had a marvelous season in Sweden, but it's Murray's selections of Kevin Roy and Brian Cooper really intrigue me. Both are under-sized, though Cooper more so, but both have a wealth of skills.
His final selection of the towering Jaycob Magna was quite good - the Ducks will have three years to see if the defender with excellent bloodlines pans out.
Ducks final draft grade: B
Boston Bruins - Malcolm Subban is a good goaltender, but drafting him in the first round seems a bit aggressive. They had just one pick between #24 and #131 and used it on Matthew Grzelcyk, a local product, but an under-sized defender with offense.
The rest of the draft was spent on low offense, high penalty minute players, the type of players available in the undrafted waters. It's a draft strategy that doesn't make much sense.
Bruins final draft grade: F
Buffalo Sabres - The Sabres watched Mikhail Grigorenko fall to them, but weren't satisfied. They shipped off #21 and #42 to Calgary and snagged Zemgus Girgensons [listen to Girgensons talk about his future and his thinking about defensive zone play here]. Defensemen Jake McCabe went 20-30 spots too early, Justin Kea is Buffalo's Mitch Moroz , but they redeemed themselves with centre Logan Nelson, a very fast skater who stood out on an awful Victoria team.
Darcy Regier also snagged Brady Austin from Belleville. Austin is a 6'4 230lb defender with a mean streak. He's a project, a mountain of a project.
Sabres final draft grade: A
Calgary Flames - What an odd draft for Jay Feaster. He dealt away #14 in exchange for #21 and #42. Then Feaster went way off of the board at #21 - grabbing Mark Jankowski. Jankowski was 61st in the Consensus, and only Craig Button had him as a first round talent. But Feaster quickly turned things around on day two. He picked Patrick Sieloff, the US National Team defender with the other pick in the Jankowski deal and grabbed defenders Brett Kulak and Ryan Culkin as well. All three defenders are described as having copious amounts of hockey sense.
He added Coda Gordon very late. Gordon has plenty of offense, but his skating is described as anything from "mediocre" to "terrible". He's a great longshot pick late. Feaster wrecked the value of his first round pick, but did well late. Unfortunately, later round picks rarely make an impact in the NHL.
Flames final draft grade: D
Carolina Hurricanes - Carolina used their first-round pick in the Jordan Staal trade, but jumped on NCAA product Phillip Di Giuseppe at #38. Di Giuseppe is a player that begs for microstats - is he a product of great, then terrible percentages? Or did he catch a heater early on?
They pulled a Calgary-like jump off of the board to get Brock McGinn with #47, terrible value with some good players still available. The Canes rebounded with a really nice fourth round. The final three picks sagged again and the Canes were left with a very bumpy draft.
Hurricanes final draft grade: D
Chicago Blackhawks - Sometimes good fortune is as important as good scouting and the Blackhawks were hit with a huge amount of good fortune over the weekend. Last season the Blackhawks caught a falling Brandon Saad in the second round. This season, they catch a falling Teuvo Teräväinen. Teräväinen should've been a top ten pick and the Hawks lucked out in getting him at #18. Then they grabbed Dillon Fournier, a defensemen with a wonderful offensive game, with #48. Chris Calnan, a USHS product with a ton of physical skills and potential was selected at #79.
Garret Ross, a third-year eligible winger at #139 was curious at best but Stan Bowman rebounded with Travis Brown at #149. Brown lacks strength, especially in his own end, but can move the puck well and skates well.
Blackhawks final draft grade: A
Colorado Avalanche - Colorado's first round pick was made by Washington as part of the Semyon Varlamov trade so they had to wait until #41 to make a pick. Inexplicably, the Avs took overager Mitch Heard, who produced a point per game in the OHL, but he was in his third year of eligibility in the draft. It was such a surprise that Heard wasn't even in Pittsburgh for the draft.
The Avs came back in the third with Troy Bourke, described as a "gritty" and "gutty" winger from Prince George. They did manage to scoop up Michael Clarke from Windsor at #132 about 30 spots after he was due. The Avs took another overager in the seventh round to cap a bizarre run.
Avalanche final draft grade: F
Columbus Blue Jackets - Nail Yakupov to the Oilers allowed Scott Howson to avoid drafting a Russian when we he took Ryan Murray at #2. Then things went awry. Howson took a goaltender at #31, Oscar Dansk, and another at #62, Joonas Korpisalo. Oof. Howson traded for a goalie, then drafted two goalies by the third round. Steve Mason must've done a number to the collective psyche of the front office in Columbus. They were able to snag Daniel Zaar, an small winger with some nice results in the U18 and junior leagues in Sweden.
They may have picked up a late steal in Gianluca Curcuruto - an OHL defensemen with the tools for the game and offensive ability, but lacking in "drive".
Blue Jackets final draft grade: D
Dallas Stars - Dallas had another excellent draft. Joe Nieuwendyk had to be downright giddy when he knew he was guaranteed one of Filip Forsberg, Mikhail Grigorenko or Radek Faksa. He got Faksa, a kid that everyone should root for even though he's with the Stars, who should someday soon make a great second option to Jamie Benn. Dallas fans loved the pick.
I detailed why I liked the rest of their draft here.
Stars final draft grade: A
Detroit Red Wings - The Red Wings did what the Red Wings always do - they found value throughout, mindful of offensive ability with each pick. Martin Frk is a possession guy with a heavy shot and was a top 10 talent at one time. He fought injuries this season, and could make every other team look silly with a healthy 2012-13. Andreas Athanasiou has been described as having a "ten cent head" on top of one of the best bodies in the class. Athanasiou was a healthy scratch at times in London last season, but has all of the tools to be a good offensive player if he can figure this hockey thing out.
In an out-of-character pick, the Wings grabbed the enormous defender Mike McKee, he of 237 penalty minutes in the USHL last year but followed that up with the extremely mobile for his size James De Hass, an NCAA-bound defender with a nice offensive game.
Red Wings final draft grade: B
Edmonton Oilers - I wrote an in-depth review here, but it comes down to this: the Oilers targeted specific players rather than take the best player available, and it showed. Steve Tambellini called it drafting for "organizational need", a concept diametrically opposed to drafting the best player available.
The Oilers could've walked away from Pittsburgh with Yakupov, Collberg/Finn/Aberg, Khaira, Zharkov, Slepyshev, Gusev, Gordon. They didn't.
Oilers final draft grade: C
Florida Panthers - Dale Tallon grabbed Michael Matheson at #23, and he's got to be very happy with the big and strong, yet fast and agile blueliner. Florida didn't have a second round pick, but Tallon grabbed Steve Hodges of that awful Victoria team at #84. Hodges is small, but can score. With some talent around him he may have a shot at the NHL.
Florida made one of the most interesting picks [biggest reach?] of the draft at #114 - Alexander Delnov a forward from Moskva in Russia. Delnov was the cause of the amusing timeout called by Tallon in the middle of the fourth round because he wasn't even listed in the NHL registry. Delnov scored just 11 goals and 11 assists in 47 games in the Russian junior league, but blew the Panthers scouting staff away at the U18 World Championships. The Panthers went for light-scoring Francis Beauvillier with pick #174.
Panthers final draft grade: C
Los Angeles Kings - The Kings grabbed overager Tanner Pearson at the bottom of the first round, then had to wait until #121 to pick again. Unafraid of the KHL factor, they jumped on Nikolay Prokhorkin, a sleeper that may pay dividends for the Kings. The big centre was ranked in the 50s by two services, so if the Kings can get him to come to North America, they've essentially got a second-round talent here - it's a great aim high and hope pick.
They also grabbed overager Tomas Hyka, AKA Holmgren's faux pas Part n (Lombardi had to do that on purpose, right?) and Nick Ebert, who engineered the worst slide in draft history. If Ebert's talent level is first-round stuff and it's a matter of overcoming off-ice or personal issues, it's a great pick.
Kings final draft grade: A
Minnesota Wild - Matthew Dumba is a dynamic, fearless and reckless player and Wild fans will love him. Though the Wild could've opted for Grigorenko or Forsberg, the Wild have a couple of high-end forward prospects in Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker, they have only Jonas Brodin in the pipeline on defense and not much at the NHL level. The Wild grabbed Raphaël Bussières at #46 and though Bussières was ranked 20-30 slots lower, He had a strong playoff series and raised his profile in a couple of scout's eyes, and scouts love small sample sizes. At #68 the Wild went off of the board again, this time for Shattuck defenseman John Draeger, mobile and agile player with tons of work to do in his own end.
Adam Gilmour, another USHS product was selected at #98 - Gilmour is an extremely fast forward, but coasts away from the puck and isn't consistent. The Wild did land a couple of boom/bust players in the 5th and 6th rounds in Swedish defenseman Daniel Gunnarson and Christoph Bertschy.
Wild final draft grade: C
Montreal Canadiens - The Canadiens left press row saying "nice pick" nearly every time the words "Montreal go ahead" were uttered over the PA. Alex Galchenyuk was close to a coin flip with Filip Forsberg and the Canadiens don't have any centre help coming soon, so they went with the man who will be a cornerstone for the franchise.
The Oilers went off of the board with Mitch Moroz in the second and left Sebastian Collberg for the Canadiens at #33. The scoring winger slid 15 spots. The Canadiens grabbed another slider, Saskatoon defenseman Dalton Thrower, at #51, and grabbed a second WHL product, Tim Bozon, a point per game left wing. Montreal kept snagging talent with centre Brady Vail at #94. Vail was projected as a mid-second round pick prior to the draft. The Canadiens 5th round pick - Charles Hudon was actually in the top 10 in the class in win shares.
Canadiens final draft grade: A
Nashville Predators - If you're a microstats sort of fan, the Predators have the draft for you. Most statheads hold the view that the draft is all about finding impact players and that teams should focus on boom-or-bust type players rather than waste picks on player types available for a low price in free agency. The Preds did this with nearly every pick.
At #37, the Preds picked up Pontus Åberg, a mid-first round talent who slipped nearly 20 slots because of concerns about his skating and agility. But Åberg is a natural goal-scorer and possesses a wicked shot. He's got the potential to be a power play weapon. Thirteen picks later, the Preds snagged Colton Sissons, a straight-ahead guy who works hard, skates well, and can score, though he's a finisher not a creator. Sixteen picks later, the Preds took Jimmy Vesey, a pure goal scorer who will engage in battles and crash the crease, but has some strength issues and some skating deficiencies.
They weren't done with the boom/bust picks, either. Their second pick of the third round was Brendan Leipsic, profiled here by Dan Lizee, a skilled player with scoring ability but diminutive in size at 5'8. Drafting deficient skaters continued as the Preds took Zach Stepan in the fourth round. Stepan admits to his skating issues, but still scores loads of points and creates chances with his excellent passing ability.
Predators final draft grade: A
New Jersey Devils - The Devils grabbed Stefan Matteau with a solid pick in the first round, and managed to get a falling Damon Severson in the second round at #60. I was a bit disappointed with Ben Johnson at #90. Though he was ranked higher than #90, he doesn't have much of an offensive game. He is a great skater, however and might have a future in the NHL. The Devils opted for the extremely large and angry Ben Thomson in the fourth round, getting Thomson 60 or so picks before he was expected to go.
After Thomson, the Devils drafted three smaller players with offensive skills and significant issues with their games, but all fit the boom/bust mold rather well.
Devils final draft grade: B
New York Islanders - The Islanders went to Pittsburgh with seven picks. The Islanders left Pittsburgh with seven defensemen. I know this draft is wildly unpopular with the media and on Twitter, but if you look at each pick individually, the Islanders got good value in all but two picks with this class. Griffin Reinhart shot up the draft rankings, but #4? This was too high, but probably only by 3-4 picks.
Ville Pokka at #34 gives the Islanders a puck-mover who is solid in his own end, but needs to improve his skating. Adam Pelech, a big & aggressive defender with skating issues, slid 15-20 spots and the Islanders snapped him up at #65. The next pick, Loic Leduc, was a reach at #103, but it's the kind of reach a fan should like to see in the later rounds. Leduc is enormous - 6'6, but only 195 lbs - but still has to grow into his body. He's got the physical tools, but needs to work on his skating. He's physical and has shown flashes of offense.
I didn't like the next pick - Doyle Somerby, a 6'5 235 lb USHS defenseman - because he doesn't have the offensive abilities of a boom/bust pick. The Islanders made up for that pick with their sixth and seventh round picks, however, grabbing Jesse Graham from Niagara and Jake Bischoff from the USHL. Both are very small, but full of offensive ability and little defensive acumen. They are excellent skaters and great with the puck - classic late-round picks.
Islanders final draft grade: B
New York Rangers - The Rangers had just four picks in the 2012 draft and used them relatively effectively. At #28, they USNTDP defensemean Brady Skjei and USHS centre Cristoval Nieves at #59. Nieves is one of the best skaters in the draft and can create offense on his own. The main knock on him is his tendency to float to the perimeter.
The Rangers best pick, and maybe one of the steals of the draft was Calle Andersson, a 6'2 211 lb defender from Farjestad. Anderson is big, skates well, is an excellent passer and is good positionally. His only problem is his lack of a physical game, but I think we've heard that about nearly every Swedish defenseman.
Rangers final draft grade: A
Ottawa Senators - This must've been an easy draft for the Senators, as they sat back and grabbed falling players throughout. Cody Ceci in the first was very good, though a goalie in the second was questionable. Jarrod Maidens fell 35-40 spots to them at #82. Timothy Boyle wasn't on any draft board, so that was a significant reach.
But the Sens had a nice end to the draft with Robbie Baillargeon at #136. Baillargeon was ranked just outside the top 100, so there was value there as well. Mikael Wikstrand in the 7th round was nice as well - he's all offense, but worth a shot.
Senators final draft grade: A
Philadelphia Flyers - The Flyers did well with Scott Laughton in the first round, but jumped way off of the board to grab Anthony Stolarz, the 9th ranked goaltender, in the second. It's Philly, so I expect goaltending to be handled with poorly, but that's one of the bigger reaches of the draft.
Shayne Gostisbehere was ranked in the mid-200s, grabbing him a #78 was poor value. The Flyers reached again Fredrik Larsson, a Swedish defenseman at #111. They rebounded with Victor Leier, a boom/bust pick at #117. Leier is small, but can score and skate. Reece Willcox at #141 was listed in the 120s, so they got some value there. The Flyers got smart in the 7th round at #201 with Valeri Vasiliev - a bowling ball of a defenseman. Vasiliev hasn't committed to coming to North America anytime soon, but without the KHL factor, I've been told he would've been a 2nd or 3rd round pick. If Paul Holmgren can entice him, he might be the best pick of the draft.
Flyers final draft grade: C
Phoenix Coyotes - Fast rising Henrik Samuelsson, son of ex-Coyotes coach Ulf Samuelsson, gives Phoenix a pest, but his offense may not be there at the next level. Phoenix jumped way down the charts for overager Jordan Martinook at #58 - Martinook has been compared to Raffi Torres. Q defensemen James Melindy was a safe pick at #88 but plodding defenseman Rhett Holland was drafted at least a round, maybe two to early.
The Coyotes made a really nice boom/bust pick with Finnish defensemen Niklas Tikkinen in the fifth round at #148. Tikkinen moved to defense from forward just two years ago, and though he has miles to go with his defensive game, he's extremely mobile and has no problem carrying or passing the puck out of his own end to generate a rush. He's also very adept at pinching to create scoring chances. Tikkinen may never pan out, but he was a great selection. The Coyotes came back 30 picks later with another great boom/bust pick in Samuel (Hunter) Fejes. Fejes led Shattuck in scoring and has been described as a chaos player. He's got offensive skill and skating ability, but none of it is polished. He's headed to Colorado College in the fall and the Coyotes have three years to watch him develop. Fejes has tremendous skill - the question for the Coyotes is can anyone harness that skill?
Coyotes final draft grade: C
Pittsburgh Penguins - Ray Shero got a great return for Jordan Staal, part of which was Carolina's #8 overall pick. Then Shero reached for Derrick Pouliot with the pick. Pouliot was going to be a first-round pick, but probably the bottom third of the round, not the top. The Pens got a break when Olli Määttä fell to them and the Pens have never met a high-end defensive prospect they didn't like. Second round pick Teddy Blueger (another Latvian!) has all sorts of offensive talent, but lacks consistency and wasn't projected to go until the third round, so that's another slight reach.
That theme continued with Oskar Sundqvist. The Pens picked up two goaltenders, though neither Matthew Murray nor Sean Maguire will be ready in time to help their current situation. Shero did manage to get Anton Zlobin at #173. Zlobin spent most of 2010-11 acclimatizing to the language, culture and game and still managed to ring up 45 points in 59 games. This year, he led Shawninigan in goals and points and scored a point per game in the playoffs and then led Shawinigan to a Memorial Cup win. I don't know if it was the KHL factor playing a part, but Zlobin is an excellent pick in the seventh round.
Penguins final draft grade: C
San Jose Sharks - Doug Wilson attacked the draft in much the same way that David Poile did. Tomas Hertl at #17 was right on and then he missed with Chris Tierney at #55. Tierney started the season at #72, but fell deep into the sixth round until a nice playoff run brought him back to #107 on the consensus list. Tierney is a defensive forward and a nice forechecker, but he would've been available later. Christophe Lalancette at #109 is right on - he's a strong offensive talent but lacks strength and top-end speed and agility. He's more smart than physical, but a nice pick, nonetheless.
The next three picks were all boom/bust picks: Daniel O'Regan is a small USHS forward who showed wonderful playmaking ability at the Ivan Hlinka; Cliff Watson is a steady defenseman with superior skating ability and good angles play, but lacks developed offensive skill and Joakim Ryan is a small Swedish defenseman with an excellent offensive game and great mobility.
Sharks final draft grade: B
St. Louis Blues - The Blues love mobile offensive defensemen, and this draft didn't disappoint. They jumped on Jordan Schmaltz at #25, which wasn't bad value - Schmaltz was ranked as high as #18 and as low as #37. Sam Kurker, a USHS winger was selected at #56, a 40-50 slot reach in the second round. Kurker is athletic and has a goal-scoring talent. Eleven picks later, the Blues went back to the USHS for the very trendily named MacKenzie MacEachern. MacEachern was a larger reach than Kurker, but like Kurker, he's athletic and has scored a ton of goals in HS. The Blues capped the third round with another big, athletic kid from way off of the board - Colton Parayko. Parayko is headed to the NCAA next season, but he's a strong kid who can skate.
The big athletic reaches continued in the 6th with Finland's Petteri Lindbohm, a 6'3 210 specimen who needs work on his agility. Tyrel Seaman another big athlete who hasn't been able to find his offense in the WHL was their seventh pick. Except for Seaman, the Blues went off of the board with every second day pick. They may have drafted a great basketball team, but this is a draft built on a whole lot of hope.
Blues final draft grade: F
Tampa Bay Lightning - Here's how upside down the Lightning's draft was: their seventh and final pick, #202, delivered far more value than their first, #10. Slater Koekkoek is a talented player, but the pick was confusing. Nine picks later Steve Yzerman went with Andrey Vasilevskiy, the top-ranked goaltender in the class, and given the Lightning's issues in net, it makes sense, but with valuable goal-scoring available, it's tough to say they got a great return.
Dylan Blujus is a good defenseman, but came off of the board 40-50 slots early at #40. Brian Hart was a solid pick at #53 and the same goes for Tanner Richard at #71. Yzerman's best pick was Nikita Gusev at #202. Gusev is a late-first, early-second round talent and even a slim chance of Gusev coming to North America makes that an incredbly valuable pick.
Lightning final draft grade: C
Toronto Maple Leafs - Thank goodness this draft wasn't in Toronto. The words "Morgan Rielly" may have set off a mutiny in the arena. I feel bad for the kid - he's a very good player. He's an offensive dynamo and has drawn comparisons to Phil Housley, but he's not Filip Forsberg and he's not Mikhail Grigorenko. The fans wanted a scoring forward and they got another defenseman. The Leafs got a gift in the second round when the Oilers reached for Mitch Moroz and left Matt Finn for the taking. Finn is an all-around solid blueliner, a nice match for Rielly. That sort of depth should give Brian Burke the ability to trade a young defender for the scoring forward he needs. Oh, right.
Burke added a couple of boom-or-busts in the later rounds, including Connor Brown, a centre on the absolutely brutal Erie Otters team in the OHL. Brown was a CHL worst -72.
Leafs final draft grade: C
Vancouver Canucks - After drafting Brendan Gaunce, a solid pick, the Canucks embarked on a bizarre journey on day two. They led off with Alexander Mallet, an overager from Rimouski who quadrupled his previous production last season. Their next pick was #147 in the fifth round, and the Canucks grabbed Ben Hutton, an overager playing Junior A in the CCHL. Thirty picks later, the Canucks added Wesley Myron, an - you guessed it - overager from the BCHL.
Overager, overager, overager...Mike Gillis is has some sort of strategy working here, but I'll be damned if I can figure it out.
Canucks final draft grade: ?
Washington Capitals - I don't think anyone projected Forsberg's fall, and Washington's draft table was the beneficiary. Forsberg is a top three talent and could be a star in the NHL. Then, just five picks later, the Capitals went with Tom Wilson, the big winger from the OHL and the latest "next Lucic". Wilson scored just 9 goals in 49 games last season. Size is great, but this is a big projection. With both Teuvo Teräväinen and Olli Määttä on the board, the Caps may have missed a big opportunity to keep the star pipeline open.
They added Chandler Stephenson and Thomas DiPauli, small wingers with opposing styles: Stephenson is a playmaker and DiPauli is a shutdown centre, though neither project to impressive offense. Seven picks later, the Caps added Austin Wuthrich, who posted an impressive rookie season at Notre Dame in the NCAA. Pick #137 brought a third consecutive player out of the USNDT - Connor Carrick, a small defenseman headed to the NCAA who will need to add strength to play the pro game. #167 was yet another player from the USNDT, this time Riley Barber at the end of a 60 spot slide into the 6th round.
Capitals final draft grade: B
Winnipeg Jets - Jets fans are at each other's throats over a bizarre weekend by their management team. The weirdest move was trading (yes, I know it was a seventh-round pick) anything for a goaltender that no one was going to sign in the first place. But that's not the only move being questioned: the management team passed on both Filip Forsberg and Mikhail Grigorenko in favor of Jacob Trouba. Trouba is very good - some had him as the best defensemen in the draft - but passing on two very talented forwards in a system that is bereft of any scoring punch is questionable.
Lukas Sutter was a half-round reach at #39, but Scott Kosmachuk fell 30 spots to them at #70. The Jets grabbed a goalie in round 5 and then Ryan Olsen, the tough-minutes centre from Kelowna in the sixth round. Olsen is really intriguing - he played some very tough minutes in his draft year.
Jets final draft grade: C