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NHL Hockey Column: 2012 NHL Draft Preview

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June 20, 2012
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2012 NHL Draft Preview

Gates Imbeau
Hockey Writer, Fantrax

In Fantasy keeper leagues, the National Hockey League Draft is a highly anticipated event. Whether it is used to add key players on route to completing a rebuild, or a means of finding that hidden gem, this time of year can easily be as stressful as it is joyful. The satisfaction that comes from drafting successful prospects is truly irreplaceable and this report aims at helping you achieve that goal.  

Joining me this week are colleagues Brendan Ross (@rossyyoungblood) and Rich Dillon (@RichDillon17), co-managers of DobberProspects.com. As a fellow keeper league poolie, I took the opportunity to ask several questions that go beyond the typical rankings.


Who would you peg as the most NHL-ready prospect?

Brendan Ross :

The answer to this question is narrowed down to two top draft prospects – Sarnia’s Nail Yakupov and Everett’s Ryan Murray. Nail Yakupov has outplayed his competition in the OHL showing offensive skills worthy of NHL action. However, from watching Yakupov in 25-plus games, he is a player that needs to add substantial core strength to better handle larger defenders as he was knocked off the puck easily at times late in the season. His quick elusive skating, strong puck control and advanced hockey sense buys himself extra time in at the major junior level but as he takes that next step to the NHL, his time and space will be shortened testing his physical strength even more.

Ryan Murray has clearly impressed scouts with his poise, hockey sense and flawless skating style spinning off opponents to initiate a graceful breakout. He returned from a lengthy ankle injury showing very little adjustment and flourished as the season unwound – eventually earning him a spot on Team Canada playing alongside current NHLers in the 2012 Men’s World Championship. Despite receiving limited ice-time, Murray took an invaluable experience home after rubbing shoulders with Duncan Keith and Dion Phaneuf.

In the end, the development time for defenseman is usually longer and earning defensive minutes as a rookie NHL blue liner is much more difficult than a winger who can be thrown out in special situations (powerplay). Nail Yakupov’s strength and durability will be tested but he gets the (slight) nod over defenseman Ryan Murray as the most NHL-ready prospect.


Rich Dillon :

It’s much easier for a forward to step in as an NHL rookie pro than a defenseman, but even without that being said, my choice would have to be Nail Yakupov. He has the skill, vision, and physical strength necessary to not only play in the NHL immediately, but to have immediate success, much like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog last year.  Many said when Ryan Murray made Team Canada for the World Championship that he would play in the NHL this fall, however, the tournament showed that Murray isn’t quite ready to handle the speed and strength of NHL forwards quite yet.


Who is your personal favourite prospect of the 2012 draft class? Which teams would he best be suited for?

Ross :

Alex Galchenyuk has become my favourite prospect of the 2012 draft class but I would also include a small shout-out to Olli Määttä, a solid reliable defenseman destined to have a long NHL career.

Galchenyuk is a special talent that I personally watched developed into a consummate player last season. It is rare to have the chance to draft a player with Alex’s compete level but it is even more scarce to find those intangibles combined with his offensive skill level. As a pivot with good size and possession skills, Galchenyuk’s game would be welcomed on all 30 NHL teams but the lottery teams best suited for him would be Edmonton, Columbus, Montreal and Toronto. Three years from now, the Oilers may look back at the 2012 draft and question why they decided to choose Yakupov over Galchenyuk (assuming they do so) as I feel Galchenyuk fits perfectly as an above-average number two center for Edmonton. On the other hand, it is no secret that Montreal and Toronto covet a pivot fitting Galchenyuk’s description as well.


Dillon :

Which team would he best be suited for?   I think this is a deep draft, so I like many prospects, but Griffin Reinhart has really impressed me. I like his size, skills, character, and leadership.  To me he is the total package, and will be a steady point producer. He likely won’t have a 70-point season, but I can see him on a Stanley Cup champion one day. He skates well and is improving defensively. I can see him as a poor man’s Zdeno Chara in the future. The Tampa Bay Lightning would be a great fit for Reinhart if he’s still there at pick number ten. Their current group of blueliners are either aging or unproven, so Reinhart would be a perfect complement to their young forwards.


Who do you believe is the most underrated top 10 prospect?

Dillon :

I really like Filip Forsberg.  He isn’t the first (or second or third) name that comes up when people talk or write about this year’s draft prospects. While not nearly as flashy as the other top ten forwards, Forsberg plays a well-rounded game and can contribute to an NHL club right now.  He will ascend to a scoring role, and when he does, he could be quite productive.


Ross :
Oil Kings’ defenseman Griffin Reinhart. He showed during Edmonton’s Memorial Cup run that his raw game has all of the makings to become a franchise defender. Ranked 10th by NHL Central Scouting and International Scouting Services (ISS), Reinhart has the combination of size, mobility, offensive and defensive acumen that makes him a great investment for the future. His father Paul enjoyed a lengthy successful NHL career as a defenseman and the hockey bloodlines cannot be overlooked. As Reinhart refines his game and realizes his massive potential, NHL franchises could be kicking themselves if they pass him over at the 2012 NHL Draft.

 

On the flipside, who do you believe is the most overrated top prospect?

Ross :

Recently, mainstream media rankings have started to lower him in the rankings but the hype surrounding Brendan Gaunce never caught on with me. Gaunce is a fantastic two-way prospect but he was receiving rave reviews early mainly because he was considered a “safe” pick while his draft peers were still developing their immature games attempting to showcase their relatively unknown skills. The Belleville Bull forward has a long bright NHL career but people need to temper their expectations on Gaunce as he projects to be more of a 2nd/3rd line centerman than top line option. Gaunce is a strong character player with the intangibles coaches lean on but his offensive minutes might be limited at the next level.

Dillon :

Although I think he is going to be a very good player in the NHL, I feel at this point Matt Dumba is more style than substance. He is highly-skilled without a doubt, but his booming shot and flamboyance make him stand out. Dumba is very high-risk and makes poor decisions at times, and his defensive positioning needs to improve before he will be ready for the NHL.

Finally, if you could pick a hidden gem, who would you select?


Dillon :
Brady Skjei is one to watch. Overlooked due to the outstanding crop of defenseman in this year’s draft, Skjei barely takes a backseat to any of them. He is possibly the best skater in the draft, comparable to Duncan Keith, and has good hands and size. Skjei will likely fall to the latter part of the first or the second round, but the team that lands him will be very happy. In other draft years, he would be one of the first few defensemen off the board.


Ross :
Scott Laughton is your man. Playing on a veteran filled Oshawa Generals’ team, the 17-year old earned quality minutes based on his exceptional two-way play. A player that will skate through a wall to win, Laughton is a proficient faceoff man, penalty-kill specialist and will fight or lay a bone-crushing hit to energize his team. Not stopping there, Scott Laughton owns quick hands, advanced offensive instincts and plays well in the puck possession game that makes him an offensive weapon as well. The Generals’ coaching staff learned quickly that Laughton can be trusted in all situations and he projects to be a big-minute forward at the next level, similar to Mike Richards or Ryan Callahan. Laughton is a player to watch closely as he could get snatched up earlier than most expect.


You can follow Dillon and Ross if you'd like on twitter for extensive coverage leading up to the draft @rossyyoungblood and @RichDillon17.

So poolies, when the clock strikes and you make way to the podium... will you be ready? All of the extensive research and advice comes down to that moment.  Sit back, relax, and trust your judgement.  

Good luck to all who are participating in a fantasy hockey NHL Draft.

In addition to the Studs and Duds, Gates Imbeau serves as the assistant manager of Dobber Sports (www.dobbersports.com). Catch him on twitter at @GM_Gates or by email at gates@dobbersports.com.

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