The NHL Draft is scheduled to begin on Friday, June 22. The following is one man's opinion on who gets drafted in the first round.
Team: Edmonton: Player - Nail Yakupov (Sarnia), RW
Notes: This being their third straight picking in the No. 1 spot, the Oilers are already loaded with offensive prospects, so there's a chance they may deal the No. 1 pick. My guess is they will go for Yakupov, considering he's easily the most NHL-ready of the top prospects.
Team: Columbus: Player - Ryan Murray (Everett), D
Notes: Considered to be the safest bet to become a No. 1 defenseman at the NHL level, Murray brings size, skill and intangibles to the table. Like Edmonton, Columbus may also think about dealing this pick, possibly as part of a deal to ship star forward Rick Nash, but if they hold onto the No. 2 selection, Murray offers great potential in the near future.
Team: Montreal: Player - Mikhail Grigorenko (Quebec), C
Notes: At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Grigorenko, who plays for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, already has the size to be an NHL-caliber centerman and scouts love his hands and hockey sense. With Montreal's lack of size up front, this Russian forward could be a great fit for the Canadiens.
Team: NY Islanders: Player - Mathew Dumba (Red Deer), D
Notes: While Murray is considered to be a safer bet than Dumba, this Red Deer Rebel has the potential to be an even more dynamic talent at the NHL level. He scored 20 goals for Red Deer to lead all WHL defensemen in 2011-12 and has drawn comparisons to Dion Phaneuf due to his knack for delivering big open-ice hits. The Islanders are thin on talent at the blue line after Mark Streit, but Dumba could help change that fact.
Team: Toronto: Player - Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia), C
Notes: Missed most of the 2011-12 season with a knee injury, but he put fears about the effects of that injury to rest at this year's Scouting Combine, where he reaffirmed his status as an explosive offensive prospect. Galchenyuk, the son of a Belarussian hockey player, was born in Wisconsin, but has lived all over the world and is fluent in English, Italian and Russian.
Team: Anaheim: Player - Filip Forsberg (Leksand), C
Notes: The top-ranked player out of the European crop according to NHL Central Scouting, this centerman has a tremendous offensive skill set and plays a strong all-around game. While Forsberg is not related to his country's national hero, Peter Forsberg, this Swede is like "Foppa" in that he is the complete package and is capable of doing a bit of everything on the ice. Anaheim needs to improve its depth down the middle and Forsberg seems like a safe bet to help in that regard.
Team: Minnesota: Player - Morgan Rielly (Moose Jaw), D
Notes: There is an excellent chance Minnesota will go with a defenseman in this spot and it's a good bet that Rielly will still be available at No. 7. Some scouts compare Rielly to Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. If that turns out to be an apt comparison then Rielly will be an absolute steal at this spot.
Team: Carolina: Player - Radek Faksa (Kitchener), C
Notes: Czech forward playing for Kitchener of the OHL had a terrific first season in North America, leading all OHL rookies in goals (29), assists (37), points (66) and plus-minus (plus-19) over 62 games in 2011-12. Has excellent size and, along with Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, could provide a serious 1-2 punch down the middle for Carolina.
Team: Winnipeg: Player - Jacob Trouba (U.S. NTDP), D
Notes: The youngest player for Team USA at the 2012 WJC, this big, skilled blueliner is headed to play college hockey this fall at the University of Michigan. That means he wouldn't be able to help the Jets right away, but with a little seasoning he could be a potential No. 1 D-man.
Team: Tampa Bay: Player - Olli Maatta (London): D
Notes: Finnish defenseman helped the London Knights win an OHL title and make it to the Memorial Cup final. Although he has an excellent shot, Maatta may project as more of a stay-at-home defenseman at the NHL level. The Lightning were a pitiful defensive team in 2011-12 and would do well to add Maatta with one of their two first-round picks in this year's draft.
Team: Washington: Player - Teuvo Teravainen (Jokerit-Jr.), LW
Notes: Finnish winger is undersized at 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, but he could be the best playmaker and stickhandler available in this year's draft. Always looking for offensive depth to help lessen the pressure placed on Alex Ovechkin, Teravainen would fill a need for Washington.
Team: Buffalo: Player - Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton), D
Notes: Scheduled to pick four times in the first 44 picks of this year's draft, the Sabres will have plenty of options this weekend. While defense isn't the biggest need for Buffalo, Reinhart, who is yet another standout defensemen from the WHL, could be too good to pass up at No. 12.
Team: Dallas: Player - Brendan Gaunce (Belleville), C
Notes: The Stars have a big whole in the middle left by the departure of Brad Richards and Gaunce has the size to fill it. Considered by many to be the best power forward available at this year's draft, Gaunce is a gritty and talented prospect.
Team: Calgary: Player - Cody Ceci (Ottawa), D
Notes: Besides goaltender, Calgary needs help just about everywhere. Without second-round pick, the Flames will have to make the No. 14 pick count and Ceci, a big and skilled blueliner from the OHL, could be the best player available.
Team: Ottawa: Player - Hampus Lindholm (Rogle-Jr.), D
Notes: The Sens hit a home run when they picked Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson with the 15th overall pick of the 2008 draft and they may try to repeat that success by taking his countryman this weekend. Lindholm has excellent size (6-foot-3, 196 pounds) and is a superb skater with a strong offensive skill set.
Team: Washington: Player - Zemgus Girgensons (Dubuque), C
Notes: Latvian forward with good size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) played for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL in 2011-12, but is headed to the University of Vermont in the fall. The Capitals, who have 11 picks in this year's draft, need to bulk up down the middle and Girgensons would certainly help in that regard.
Team: San Jose: Player - Stefan Matteau (U.S. NTDP), C/LW
Notes: The son of former NHLer, Stephane Matteau, this big forward combines toughness and a balanced offensive game. The Sharks are in the market for guys that play with an edge and Matteau offers that quality more than any other prospect in this year's draft.
Team: Chicago: Player - Derrick Pouliot (Portland), D
Notes: Canadian defenseman is a bit undersized at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, but he is considered by scouts to be a superb puck mover and a speedy skater. Pouliot wouldn't fill a tremendous need for Chicago, but he could be the best available player left at No. 18.
Team: Tampa Bay: Player - Malcolm Subban (Belleville), G
Notes: Although the Lightning acquired Anders Lindback a week before the draft, they may take a flier on Subban, a raw talent who is still learning the goaltending position after switching from defense at 12 years old. The brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, is still several years away from being an NHL goaltender, but his extremely high ceiling makes him the most coveted goalie prospect in this year's draft.
Team: Philadelphia: Player - Sebastian Collberg (Frolunda-Jr.), RW Notes: Speedy Swedish forward needs to bulk up before heading to the NHL, but he possesses a lethal shot that has helped him develop a reputation as a deadly goal scorer. Collberg doesn't fill a desperate need for Philadelphia, but he may be the club's best option if the top defensive prospects get snatched up early.
Team: Buffalo: Player - Thomas Wilson (Plymouth), RW
Notes: The Sabres need to get bigger up front, and at 6-foot-4, 203 pounds, Wilson would certainly help bulk things up in Buffalo. Scouts are split on whether or not Wilson's offensive skills will allow him to be a top forward at the NHL level or merely an effective two-way player.
Team: Pittsburgh: Player - Matthew Finn (Guelph), D
Notes: While his offensive upside is questioned at times, many scouts believe this smart, mobile defenseman is the most complete blueliner available this weekend. With the way Pittsburgh gave up goals at the end of the 2011-12 season, shoring up the back end would be a wise decision.
Team: Florida: Player - Colton Sissons (Kelowna), C
Notes: Although only an average skater, Sissons is said to be a born leader that plays a complete game even if his offensive upside is limited. After ending a lengthy playoff drought last year, he could add character to a steadily improving team.
Team: Boston: Player - Brady Skjei (U.S. NTDP), D
Notes: Big, American defenseman is considered to be a raw talent that scouts project as defensive blueliner at the NHL level. The Minnesota native has excellent size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and skating ability and could be a good complement for Dougie Hamilton, Boston's dynamic defensive prospect.
Team: St. Louis: Player - Dalton Thrower (Saskatoon), D
Notes: After posting six goals and 20 points in 68 games for Saskatoon of the WHL in 2010-11, this high-rising defenseman broke out with 18 goals and 54 points in 66 games for the Blades last season. Scouts say he plays a strong two-way game and the only real weakness in his game is his lack of size.
Team: Vancouver: Player - Slater Koekkoek (Peterborough), D
Notes: Peterborough defenseman suffered a season-ending shoulder surgery in November, but despite the lost season, his combination of size, skill and toughness could make him an intriguing prospect for the Canucks.
Team: Phoenix: Player - Tomas Hertl (Slavia), C
Notes: Czech centerman is not all that big (6-foot, 187 pounds), but he is adept at getting the most out of his size to put himself in prime scoring position. Hertl could be a nice fit for Phoenix, which needs to improve its scoring depth.
Team: NY Rangers: Player - Martin Frk (Halifax), RW
Notes: Czech winger playing for Halifax of the QMJHL is a raw talent and needs to work on polishing certain areas of his game like playmaking and overall hockey sense. But his heavy shot makes him a natural sniper and the defensive- minded Rangers certainly could use the help putting the puck in the net.
Team: New Jersey: Player - Tanner Pearson (Barrie), LW
Notes: Canadian forward was passed over in the NHL Entry Draft in each of the last two years, but he is expected to go late in the first round this weekend after having a breakout season for the Barrie Colts of the OHL in 2011-12. Has an impressive offensive skill set that could help the Devils a few years from now.
Team: Los Angeles: Player - Lukas Sutter (Saskatoon), C
Notes: The son of longtime NHL player Rich Sutter also had five uncles play at the NHL level, including Daryl Sutter, who just happens to be the head coach of the Kings. Like the rest of the Sutter clan, Lukas is known for his gritty and physical style of play and he'd fit in nicely on his uncle's team.