The National Hockey League will hold its annual Entry Draft this weekend at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, and the Edmonton Oilers, who are holding the No. 1 overall pick for a third straight year, will get the event started once again on Friday evening.
The Oilers picked Taylor Hall with the top selection in 2010 and last year they used the No. 1 spot to nab Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This year, the consensus top prospect is Russian winger Nail Yakupov and the big question is whether Edmonton will use its No. 1 selection or trade down.
The dilemma for the Oilers is that Yakupov is another forward just like Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. Even though Yakupov is expected to be a can't-miss prospect, the Oilers are clearly a team that desperately could use defensive help rather than another young offensive talent.
After Yakupov, this year's draft is expected to be deep in terms of defensemen available, although scouts seem to believe there isn't a blueliner that stands out above the rest. Still, Ryan Murray, Mathew Dumba, Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba are among the several defensemen that are expected to go early in the first round on Friday.
The 2012 draft also projects as one of the stronger goaltender classes in recent years. Canadian backstop Malcom Subban -- younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban -- is expected to go in the first round and European netminders Andrei Vasilevski and Oscar Dansk could also get selected on Day 1 of the draft.
The most intriguing unknown heading into every draft is how actively teams will pursue or entertain trades. The Oilers may choose to set the tone early at this year's draft weekend by dealing the top pick, but of course, the team is playing its cards close to the vest.
The second pick in this year's draft belongs to Columbus, which may also be busy trying to make a deal this weekend. The Blue Jackets are still shopping Rick Nash -- a former No. 1 overall pick by Columbus in 2002 -- and the draft is where a deal to land the star winger may actually happen.
Two of the NHL's Original Six franchises are holding top-five selections in this year's draft. The Montreal Canadiens are currently in the third spot and the Toronto Maple Leafs are two spots behind with the fifth selection. Sitting between the two storied clubs is the New York Islanders, who are picking fourth this year to mark the team's fifth straight draft with a top-10 selection.
The first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft will begin Friday evening at 7 p.m. (et) and rounds 2-7 will start on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. (et). The entire first-round order is as follows:
1. Edmonton 2. Columbus 3. Montreal 4. NY Islanders 5. Toronto 6. Anaheim 7. Minnesota 8. Carolina 9. Winnipeg 10. Tampa Bay 11. Washington (from COL) 12. Buffalo 13. Dallas 14. Calgary 15. Ottawa 16. Washington 17. San Jose 18. Chicago 19. Tampa Bay (from DET) 20. Philadelphia 21. Buffalo (from NAS) 22. Pittsburgh 23. Florida 24. Boston 25. St. Louis 26. Vancouver 27. Phoenix 28. NY Rangers 29. New Jersey 30. Los Angeles