Top heavy. Weak. Strong. Convoluted. Dynamic.
We've heard those adjectives and lot more used to describe the prospect pools of this NHL Draft, as well as those of years past. The unpredictable nature of the draft makes it seem kind of like an annual trip to the farmer's market -- you don't truly know what's ripe until you get there, and there's a chance you might not get what you want when all is said and done.
With 72 hours left until the 2012 NHL Draft gets under way in Pittsburgh, teams are putting the finishing touches on their lists and having final meetings before the drama begins in earnest. The Blue Jackets, owners of the No. 2 overall pick, will sit and wait while most of the attention centers on the Edmonton Oilers -- winners of the draft lottery in April. With a stable of young and dynamic forwards that includes Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, will they go "best player available" and select Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting?
Could the Oilers opt to strengthen their blue line, and draft a defenseman? Anything is possible, and the Blue Jackets will certainly be paying close attention to the events on stage before they the podium. In recent years, the top five picks in the draft order have taught us at least one thing: there are top-end and (potentially) game-breaking players to be had at the top of the board.
The Blue Jackets will have an opportunity to select a player whom they hope will have an impact on the franchise at No. 2 -- a position that has yielded several current NHL superstars over the years.
2011 DRAFT: The Colorado Avalanche owned the second pick in this draft, and GM Greg Sherman stepped to the microphone to select power forward Gabriel Landeskog from the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. Landeskog made the jump to the NHL right away, and in his rookie season, scored 22 goals and put up 52 points to solidify his candidacy for the Calder Trophy.
2010 DRAFT: Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has to be thanking the Toronto Maple Leafs for this one -- after sending winger Phil Kessel to Toronto in a huge trade, the Bruins collected the Leafs' first-round pick in 2010, which ended up being a lottery pick at second overall. They took Seguin right after Hall was selected by Edmonton, and the 19-year-old center has become one of the Bruins' best scorers after a tremendous sophomore campaign in 2011-12.
2009 DRAFT: Victor Hedman drew comparisons to Chris Pronger throughout his draft year, but when he was drafted by the Lightning, the management team in Tampa knew their stud defenseman was going to need some time to develop. He's on the upward path now, and having recently signed a multi-year extension to remain with the Bolts, Hedman projects as a strong top-pair defenseman in the NHL.
2008 DRAFT: Much of the buzz leading up to this draft was generated by the Lightning's "Seen Stamkos" campaign, and after Stamkos was drafted with the top pick, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi zeroed in on a young defenseman from the Guelph Storm (OHL): Drew Doughty. In the Kings' Stanley Cup run in 2012, Doughty was arguably their best offensive player and played big minutes with veteran rearguard Rob Scuderi.
2007 DRAFT: Former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon may have drafted one of the most skilled players in the class (Patrick Kane), but the Flyers stepped to the podium at Nationwide Arena and selected James van Riemsdyk -- a young power forward who was a member of the hockey team at the University of New Hampshire. His injury troubles have been well-documented, but a recent long-term contract extension solidifies him as a potential top-six forward on Broad St. for years to come.
2006 DRAFT: The St. Louis Blues took some heat for drafting Erik Johnson at No. 1 overall, mainly because the strength of this draft class was at center ice. The Penguins and GM Ray Shero got it started by taking Jordan Staal at No. 2, and then the Blackhawks followed with Jonathan Toews at third overall. Staal has become a third-line fixture in Pittsburgh, playing shutdown minutes behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- but many believe he's got the ability to play a larger offensive role if given the opportunity.
2005 DRAFT: It took a while for Bobby Ryan to develop his game and emerge from the shadow of the player drafted right before him (some guy named Crosby), but once he hit the NHL stage on a full-time basis, he became a dynamic force for the Anaheim Ducks. Ryan was an offensive catalyst for Team USA at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and at age 25, figures to be a building block at power forward for both the Ducks and USA Hockey.