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  • Grading the NHL Draft Day One Print
    Futures Watch
    Written by Steve Wozniak   
    Saturday, 23 June 2012 00:40

    The NHL is not immune to the dreaded "draft bust," but it's less prevelant than in most other sports. We take a look at each of the 30 picks and hand out grades for at least 27 teams.

    Unlike its counterparts in the other three major pro sports, hockey is often immune to the “draft bust” concept. There are, of course, a few that don’t live up to potential, such as Erik Johnson, Patrik Stefan or Rick DiPietro. But they are the exception, not the curse.

    Due to the worldwide network of scouts that the league employs as part of Central Scouting, the amount of homework done on players is too thorough to misfire in the draft.

    Friday night’s first round of the 2012 draft was a mix of the expected, the calculated gambles, and the outright bizarre.

    We take a look at each of the 30 picks and hand out grades to the league’s general managers. Detroit, Nashville and Colorado, you guys get a pass. As for the rest…

    EDMONTON OILERS: Nail Yakupov
    Grade: A
    There was little surprise here. In a draft that lacked any true A+ players like an Ovechkin, Crosby or Stamkos, Edmonton went with the sure playmaker. Yakupov’s pure euphoria at donning an NHL sweater should silence the conspiracy theorists who think every Russian player will jump to the KHL.

    COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: Ryan Murray
    Grade: A
    Columbus couldn’t have gone wrong here. They are sorely in need of everything. With the acquisition of Sergei Bobrovsky earlier in the day from Philadelphia, at least the goaltending situation was stabilized. Murray will quickly add depth to a blueline that was lacking. Seriously, when Marc Methot is in your top two pairings, you need help.

    MONTREAL CANADIENS: Alex Galchenyuk
    Grade: B+
    Montreal drafts a talented player who speaks three languages, and French isn’t one of them. Galchenyuk is a bit of a wild card. Two seasons ago, he played brilliantly, but missed all but a handful of games this past season after ACL surgery. Galchenyuk is a center by trade, but could easily convert to a left wing to fill a huge shortage there for the Habs.

    NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Griffin Reinhart
    Grade: A
    New York has spent the better part of the last half-decade stockpiling a lot of young talented forwards. They may be totally are overpaying for Lubomir Visnovsky, who they picked up earlier from Anaheim, and Reinhart will add immediate talent to the back end. The Isles just found the guy who’s going to be feeding John Tavares and Michael Grabner on breakouts for the foreseeable future.

    TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: Morgan Rielly
    Grade: C-
    Rielly is a defenseman who does everything well. But it’ll be hard for him to crack the lineup with a solid defensive corps already in place. The Leafs are already short on forwards, and have seven becoming unrestricted free agents after next season. Another seven in the system become restricted free agents. Toronto needs to start putting together some depth at forward for the future, and general manager Brian Burke missed a golden opportunity to do that here.

    Mathew DumbaANAHEIM DUCKS: Hampus Lindholm
    Grade: B
    In recent years, the cupboard has grown remarkably bare in Orange County. The Ducks needed depth behind the big three of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. They also needed, to a lesser extent, some help on the blueline. Lindholm brings a bruising style of play to help complement the more finesse game of young blueliner Cam Fowler. In the eyes of many around the sport, though, Lindholm may not have been as good as the four D-men taken right behind him.

    MINNESOTA WILD: Mathew Dumba (Pictured)
    Grade: B+
    Dumba has a ton of raw talent who may need only a season or two in the AHL to blossom into a top-four blueliner. At that time, the slew of talented forwards the Wild have coming out of college should be coming into their own. Minnesota fans will wring their hands over this one, but general manager Chuck Fletcher is building what will be a power in a few years.

    PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: Derrick Pouliot
    Grade: D
    Is the crew for the TV show “Hoarders” in Pittsburgh for the week? The Penguins have eight defensemen on the NHL roster for next season, they picked up Brian Dumoulin from Carolina in the Jordan Staal trade, have former first-rounders Joe Morrow and Simon Depres in the system, Scott Harrington and Philip Samuellson on the cusp of making the jump to the big time … and they pick another defenseman? While Pittsburgh has a ton of offensive talent at the pro level, their depth there in the system is thinning. The Penguins had a chance to pick up one of many impact wingers in this spot, and didn’t.

    WINNIPEG JETS: Jacob Trouba
    Grade: B
    Trouba is an outstanding defensive defenseman, and extremely smart. Unfortunately, the Jets will have to wait a couple years while Trouba hones his game at the University of Michigan. In two to four years, they will have a legitimate top-four blueliner for years to come.

    TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: Slater Koekkoek
    Grade: C
    Koekkoek is a quality offensive-minded defenseman, but Tampa’s problem in recent years has not been scoring goals; it’s been preventing them. The Lightning picked the right position, but maybe not the right type of player.

    WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Filip Forsberg
    Grade: A
    With the first-round top-heavy on defensemen, the Capitals were lucky to get one of the top forwards in the 11th spot. Washington gets something it’s been dearly missing in recent years – a complete two-way player who perfectly couples finesse and grit.

    BUFFALO SABRES: Mikhail Grigorenko
    Grade: A+
    Grigorenko may not be an A+ player, but he qualifies as such in the 12th slot of the first round. The Russian was ranked third among skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings, but questions about his work ethic and oddly enough, his age, hampered his stock among teams. Grigorenko adds a ton of size up front for the Sabres, who lost that when they traded Paul Gaustad to Nashville.

    DALLAS STARS: Radek Faksa
    Grade: A
    The penny-pinching Stars get exactly what they love: a quality impact forward who will play on the cheap. In his first season this side of the pond, the Czech dominated in Canadian juniors, leading all OHL rookies in scoring. He will compete with a plethora of star forwards joining the Stars this season out of the college ranks.

    BUFFALO SABRES: Zemgus Girgensons
    Grade: B-
    The Sabres got Grigorenko for the immediate impact. Girgensons is the long-term investment who can help Buffalo after developing his game a little more at the University of Vermont.

    OTTAWA SENATORS: Cody Ceci
    Grade: A
    Not only do the Senators get a hometown boy, but they get a sleek skater and great puck-handler who will follow in the mold of Erik Karlsson. Ceci will be the heir apparent to the role being held now by aging veteran Sergei Gonchar.

    WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Thomas Wilson
    Grade: A
    If the draft is any indication, the Capitals’ new philosophy will be on muscle. Previous pick Forsberg will be a great defensive forward, and Wilson adds a bit of mean to a lineup that was more pizzazz than push.

    SAN JOSE SHARKS: Tomas Hertl
    Grade: C
    San Jose needed a forward; there’s no argument there. But conventional wisdom said that Teuvo Teravainen was a more talented playmaker. Time will tell if the Sharks saw something most scouts didn’t.

    CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: Teuvo Teravainen
    Grade: B+
    With Patrick Sharp on the trade block – presumably to clear some cap space – and a relative dearth of forwards in its system, Chicago had to go with offense. Teravainen is one of the more undersized forwards in the draft, but his skill and playmaking compensate nicely. As the youngest prospect – he doesn’t turn 18 until September – Teravainen will likely take a couple years to build up his stature and hone his game in the AHL.

    TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: Andrey Vasilevskiy
    Grade: A
    After missing a bit with their first pick, the Lightning went right for their greatest need with their second. Vasilevskiy is the goalie of the future that Tampa Bay can build around. Anders Lindback, whom the Bolts acquired from Nashville earlier in the week, can hold the fort for a year or two until Vasilevskiy is NHL-ready.

    PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: Scott Laughton
    Grade: D
    Laughton was ranked 28th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, so snagging him with the 20th pick was a bit of a reach. Laughton is a hard-nosed player in the mold of Harry Zolneirczyk, but it’s hard to see where he fits in with Philadelphia’s future plans. The Flyers were in much more need of blueliners to replace their aging/injured defensive corps, and Olli Maatta was still on the board at the time.

    CALGARY FLAMES: Mark Jankowski
    Grade: F
    The Flames traded out of the 14th spot to land here, and so we have to think that Jankowski was the guy Calgary had its eyes on all along. The lanky center may have averaged nearly a goal per game last season, but that was for a high school team. His undersized frame and lack of junior hockey experience mean that Jankowski is a long-term project. He was maybe a late second-rounder or third-rounder, and so Flames management will have a lot of explaining to do if Jankowski doesn’t develop into a top-six forward. Too big a gamble for the first round.

    PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: Olli Maatta
    Grade: Incomplete
    Maatta is a strong physical presence on the back end, and the Penguins were lucky to find him still available this late in the first round … but seriously, Pittsburgh? Another defenseman? Pittsburgh picking Maatta here is like turning in a brilliantly written history research paper for your trigonometry class. It may be awesome, but not even close to what was needed.

    FLORIDA PANTHERS: Michael Matheson
    Grade: C
    Matheson was probably underrated on a lot of draft boards. His offensive prowess is unquestioned. But because of a light frame, he may struggle a bit at times to shutMalcom Subban down defensively. Luckily, he’s headed to Boston College to put on some bulk and learn under the tutelage of Jerry York, who has sent more than a few players to the NHL.

    BOSTON BRUINS: Malcolm Subban (Pictured)
    Grade: A
    Well, Boston has come to grips with the fact that the Tim Thomas era is likely over. Tuukka Rask is the man of the hour again in Beantown, but Subban helps ensure that the Bruins have another high-caliber netminder waiting in the wings. It does, however, create some tension in a household where his brother P.K. is playing for archrival Montreal.

    ST. LOUIS BLUES: Jordan Schmaltz
    Grade: C-
    St. Louis continues its tradition of using first-round picks on blueliners headed to the NCAA for a few years. It didn’t work so well with Erik Johnson. The jury’s still out on Ian Cole. Schmaltz will head to the University of North Dakota, and hopefully contribute more than former first-round pick David Rundblad did … which is to say, not at all.

    VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Brendan Gaunce
    Grade: A
    Gaunce is a big, physical center who can go to the dirty areas as well as work his magic in open ice. Again, the glut of defensemen at the top of the draft left an extremely talented forward to fall further than he should have.

    PHOENIX COYOTES: Henrik Samuelsson
    Grade: D-
    The only reason this isn’t a failing grade is that Phoenix played to the Consol Energy Center crowd by picking a Pittsburgh native. Samuelsson, whose father Ulf played for the Penguins and whose brother Philip currently plays for the Pens’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, was ranked 75th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He may be big at 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, but has shown little signs of being a pure scorer. He projects as a possible quality checking line wing and penalty killer. Those are what you pick in the third or fourth round, not the first.

    NEW YORK RANGERS: Brady Skjei
    Grade: A
    The Blueshirts benefitted from a few miscues by the teams picking in front of them. Skjei is a great puck-moving defenseman who also shows sound discipline in his own end. He should not have been available at this point. The Rangers can thank Phoenix, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Florida for gift-wrapping this one.

    NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Stefan Matteau
    Grade: B
    Do you know which forwards New Jersey has under contract beyond next season? Ilya Kovalchuk and David Wohlberg. That’s it. It’s no secret the Devils had to build up a stock of offensive talent, and they got a good start with Matteau. The Chicago native is a big and feisty center who showed a lot of scoring punch in midgets before showing a lot of plain punch with the U.S. National Team Development Program – Matteau racked up 166 penalty minutes in just 46 games last season.

    LOS ANGELES KINGS:
    Tanner Pearson
    Grade: A
    Pearson averaged over a point per game in his junior career. He is a speedy sniper with great vision. It’s not often that a No. 30 pick could earn a spot on the pro roster straight out of training camp, but that’s exactly what Pearson is capable of. Not to mention his name just screams Southern California. 

    Photos by Getty Images

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    Last Updated on Saturday, 23 June 2012 02:55