The 2012 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry draft was held at the ConsolEnergyCenterin Pittsburgh, PAon June 22nd. It was a boisterous and passionate crowd in the arena and the events of the 1st round, particularly as it related to trades involving the host Pittsburgh Penguins, didn’t leave anyone disappointed.
The draft kicked off with the intrigue as to whether the Edmonton Oilers, who were selecting 1st overall for the third consecutive year, were going to address their critical need at defense and draft Ryan Murray, considered the most NHL-ready defenseman in the draft, or draft the most electrifying player in the draft in forward Nail Yakupov.
The Oilers chose Yakupov with the 1st overall pick, leaving the Oilers with what could be considered an embarrassment of riches of elite, young talent at the forward position. Yakupov joins former 1st overall selections in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall as well as elite young forwards – and also 1st round picks, albeit a bit later in the round – in Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. Should Oilers’ General Manager (GM) Steve Tambellini choose to address their blueline via free agency and trades, the Oilers could in the very near future be a team no one wants to face for a very long time.
The Columbus Blue Jackets chose defenseman Ryan Murray with the 2nd overall pick, a pick considered the safest pick in the draft asMurray can contribute immediately and help to solidify what may be the Blue Jackets only area of depth.
However, it was what didn’t happen which became the most intriguing event of all: New York Islanders GM Garth Snow revealed that he offered to Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson his entire draft – their 1st round pick, 4th overall as well as all of their remaining picks in rounds 2-7, a return of 12 versus 6 draft selections for Howson. Howson turned the offer down, which indicates that either he thought that highly ofMurray or that their inability to develop players throughout their history made this generous offer far too risky. For the embattled Howson, he’d better hope this pays off.
After the first two draft selections, the next five draft picks appeared to fall where most draft pundits expected them to, lead by the ultimate risk-reward player in Alex Galchenyuk, who missed almost the entire Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season with an early-season Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury but recovered in time for the OHL playoffs and resumed his place as one of the most desired talents in the draft.
And then came the first trade of the evening.
The Pittsburgh Penguins traded former 2nd overall pick and Selke Trophy finalist (2009) Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Brandon Sutter, defenseman prospect Brian Dumoulin and Carolina’s 1st pick in the 2012 draft, the 8th overall pick which was used to select defenseman Derick Pouliot. Just a few days earlier, Staal turned down a 10-year offer to remain with the Penguins, opting instead to be reunited with his older brother Eric, already a star with the Hurricanes.
In return, the Penguins receive a shutdown center in Sutter, some premier blueline prospects and, most importantly, provides Penguins GM Ray Shero salary cap flexibility, thus allowing Shero to enter the Unrestricted Free Agency (UFA) fray with the likes of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter now being available.
The other trade of note disclosed during the 1st round of the NHL entry draft was the trade of Dallas Stars center Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals in exchange for forward Cody Eakin and the Capitals 2nd round pick – 54th overall. Ribeiro provides the Capitals with another scoring option, particularly with the impending departure of Alexander Semin to free agency. The Stars receive a young scoring forward in Eakin as well as some salary cap relief, something essential for a team with one of the lowest payrolls in the NHL as well as an organization who had to file for bankruptcy at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season.
As for the remainder of the 1st round of the draft, the two biggest surprises were the drops of forwards Filip Forsberg and Mikhail Grigorenko to the 11th and 12th overall picks, respectively. Forsberg’s drop was primarily due to his disclosure that he intended to return to his Swedish Elite League, whereas Grigorenko’s precipitous drop – Grigorenko was considered the top or second-rated prospect in the draft, before rumblings about his character began to circulate, exacerbated only by a disappointing Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) playoff performance.
With the NHL Entry Draft now complete, its attention now turns to the start of the UFAsigning period which begins on July 1st. With the drama surrounding the trade discussions involving Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan and the future destinations of Parise and Suter, the intrigue won’t wane anytime soon.