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The Desert Dog Blog: Coyotes Prepared For Busy Weekend at NHL Draft

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE – With nine picks in hand, the Coyotes are poised for a very busy time at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh this weekend. The first round is Friday starting at 4 p.m. (AZ time), and Rounds 2-7 are Saturday starting at 7 a.m. (AZ time).

Only three teams – the Washington Capitals (11 picks), Carolina Hurricanes (10) and Nashville Predators (10) – are scheduled to select more prospects than Phoenix this year inside the Consol Energy Center. However, thanks to their run to the Western Conference Final in 2011-12, the Coyotes are not set to make their first selection until the 27th overall pick of the first round. Phoenix hasn’t waited that long to draft a player since 2003, when it had to wait until the third round to make its first pick (Tyler Redenbach, 77th overall).

“In all my years as a manager and even as an assistant manager, I’ve never been this far back in the draft, which is a good thing for us,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said.

Don Maloney

Drafting so late in the first round, Maloney said, gives the Coyotes flexibility. He said the team doesn’t feel compelled to keep the 27th overall pick, and that it would consider packaging it in a deal to either move up in the first round or out of it altogether.

Should a trade not materialize, Maloney said the Coyotes have identified three or four forwards they believe will be available with the 27th pick. However, if Maloney and the scouting staff - led by first-year Director of Amateur Scouting Rick Knickle - feel a high-quality blueliner still is waiting to be drafted at No. 27, they would consider selecting a defenseman in the first round for the fourth year in a row.

“We’ll take the best asset, preferably a forward if we can, but if not we would be very happy to take a defenseman,” Maloney said. “If it comes down to a third- or fourth-line forward versus a top-four defenseman, we’ll take a defenseman. One good thing for us is we’ve got a great pool of defensemen in our system that are ready to play, and you can never have enough of them.”

Below is a list of Phoenix’s draft picks for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft:

First round – No. 27

Second round – No. 58
Third round – No. 81
Third round – No. 88 (via Philadelphia in trade for rights to Ilya Bryzgalov)
Fourth round – No. 102 (via Colorado in trade for Daniel Winnik)
Fifth round – No 148
Sixth round – No. 178
Seventh round – No. 184 (via Montreal in trade for Petteri Nokelainen)
Seventh round – No. 208

The Edmonton Oilers are set to make the first overall pick in the draft for the third year in a row. The Oilers selected forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Taylor Hall in 2010.

Nail Yakupov. Photo by Getty Images.

While this year’s draft is considered by many to be top-loaded with defensive talent, forward Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting (Ontario Hockey League) appears to be the consensus pick as the best player available.

"Yakupov is worth the price of admission to watch him in warm-ups," Central Scouting's Gary Eggleston told "I haven't seen a kid like this with hand speed in some time. He has quick reflexes and his decision-making and reactions are lightning-quick. He's a franchise-type player in the waiting. He beats defenders with ease with the puck on a string."

► Click here to see the full order of picks for this year's draft.

The draft is being held in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1997. That year the Boston Bruins selected Joe Thornton with the first overall pick.

The Penguins are excited to once again serve as host.

“Let's face it, this is for the fans,” Penguins G.M. Ray Shero told “Yes, it is for the kids being drafted, but we're also celebrating the game of hockey and that's great.”

Maloney, too, is eager for the annual event, especially Saturday when teams can add real value to the organization with multiple picks.

“It’s a good time,” he said. “It’s all about hope and the future. It’s one of my favorite times of the year.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Coyotes fans are invited to attend the team’s official NHL Entry Draft viewing party at 18 Degrees Neighborhood Grill in Scottsdale. Click here for more information.

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