THE DIRT: Another year, another #1 pick for the former “City of Champions”. Yakupov is the best player in this deep draft class and regardless of whether the Oilers decide to hold on to this pick or use it as leverage in a trade, he will be the first player to have his name called in Pittsburgh.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL)
THE DIRT: If Rick Nash is in fact on the trading block over the summer months, Murray – who became the youngest captain in Silvertips franchise history in 2010, might just become the same for the Blue Jackets very soon.
Filip Forsberg, C, Leksand (SWE)
THE DIRT: He may not speak French ... but this young Swede gives the Habs a creative and skilled play-maker unlike any that they’ve seen in a very long time (or pendant longtemps). .
New York Islanders
Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
THE DIRT: Flames fans might recall Grigorenko from the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships held at the Dome this past year – where he was a big part of Russia’s potent offense. He’ll join a very young and very gifted front line on Long Island.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia (OHL)
THE DIRT: Brian Burke selecting an American isn’t exactly going out on a limb, but after missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury the Leafs hope that things are back on track for this gifted offensive weapon (83 points in his rookie season with the Sting).
Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener (OHL)
THE DIRT: Teemu Selanne can’t have too many more years (if any) left in Disneyland but fans might be pleasantly surprised at how much this Czech looks like “The Finnish Flash” on the ice already. Great speed and an eye for the net make Faska a top-6 threat for the Ducks (hopefully well into his 40’s).
Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
THE DIRT:The Wild already have a pair of exciting Forward prospects who are chomping at the bit to make the jump to the big club. Rielly is arguably the best puck moving defenceman in the entire draft class and will add one more young player for fans in the State of Hockey to look forward to.
Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (FIN)
THE DIRT: The ‘Canes may walk away with one of the steals of this draft with Teravainen at #8 overall. He made a big jump in the player rankings to end the year and if his development curve continues along this path he could be NHL ready sooner than anyone expected.
Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL)
THE DIRT: Plays a mature and well rounded game that helped carry the Oil Kings to a WHL Championship last season. Oh yeah, he’s 6-foot-4 and has a canon for a shot too.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Matt Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL)
THE DIRT: Already drawing comparisons to a fellow Red Deer Rebels d-man selected in the first round by the Flames in 2003. Dumba’s size and toughness should help Tampa’s back-end which surrendered an NHL-high 281 goals against last season.
Washington Capitals (via COL))
Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa (OHL)
THE DIRT: The first of two picks just six spots apart for the Caps in the first round thanks to trading away the rights to goaltender Semyon Varlamov last summer. Washington takes the best player available with their first selection and after blasting his way up the draft rankings over the past couple months, that’s Ceci.
Jacob Trouba, D, USA U-18 (USHL)
THE DIRT: If Trouba ends up playing Junior with the Kitchener Rangers next season, it’ll be a short drive for Darcy Regier to keep tabs on his first round pick. Trouba could one day anchor the Sabres blue line alongside Tyler Myers and that could be downright scary.
Olli Maatta, D, London (OHL)
THE DIRT: Maatta was lights-out for the Knights during the OHL playoffs (6 G & 17 A in 19 games) and continued his strong play right into the final game of the 2012 Memorial Cup. The Stars had one of the oldest blue lines in the NHL last season and Maatta will bring youth and energy with him to big D.
Sebastian Collberg, RW, Frolunda (SWE)
THE DIRT: The Flames missed the playoffs by 5 points last season and finished the year just 3-9 in shoot-outs. Collberg is a finesse player that can light the lamp when it matters most – and the Flames can’t afford to give away any points if they are to compete in the West.
Derek Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL)
THE DIRT: Derrick Pouliot is one of the many talented defencemen projected to go in the first round in Pittsburgh. Training alongside 2012 Norris Trophy favourite Erik Karlsson may just give Pouliot a leg-up in developing into one of the best of the class.
Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville (OHL)
THE DIRT: A point-per-game player for the Bulls last season and a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Under 17 Tournament. Size, strength and skill – Gaunce would fit in well with any team that drafted him.
San Jose Sharks
Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle (SWE)
THE DIRT: This 6-foot-3 native defenceman needs to up his physical play in order to carve out a place for him in the NHL but the Sharks hope that the likes of Brent Burns and fellow Swede Douglas Murray can help to teach him the ropes.
Matt Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)
THE DIRT: Chicago drafts at the same position they did last season at #18 overall. Last time around the Hawks went with size up front in Mark McNeill – this year its size (and more importantly grit) on the back-end. Finn led the Storm in scoring from the blue line and was a thorn in the side of anyone he lined up against.
Tampa Bay Lightning (via DET)
Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa Tolpar (RUS-JR)
THE DIRT: With two picks in the top 20, Steve Yzerman can take a huge step towards fixing his team’s defensive woes. Vasilevski could very well be a starter in the NHL in the next five years – he was lights out for Russia in the 2012 WJC.
Stephen Matteau, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
THE DIRT: The Flyers hope that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree when it comes to scoring big playoff goals in selecting the son of former Stanley Cup Champion Stéphane Matteau. The young Matteau is a big and agile forward with a laser for shot.
Buffalo Sabres (via NSH)
Tomas Hertl, C, Slavia (CZE)
THE DIRT: Under contract to play in the Czech Republic for the next two seasons, this should allow for Hertl to hone is already impressive skill-set before making the leap to the NHL for the Sabres in the not-too-distant future.
Pontus Aberg, LW, Djurgarden (SWE)
THE DIRT: Will we one day see Pontus Aberg potting goals from either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin? Only time will tell – but this winger is one of the oldest players in the draft and has been skating with players nearly twice his age in Sweden for the better part of the past year.
Ludvig Bystrom, D, Modo (SWE)
THE DIRT: This the latest the Panthers have ever selected with their first pick in the draft. Dale Tallon is still able to pick up a diamond in the rough with Bystrom though, and watch for him to be a star in Miami very soon.
Malcom Subban, G, Belleville (OHL)
THE DIRT: It’s only fitting that with all of the controversy swirling around goaltending in Boston, that they select one with their first round selection in Pittsburgh. Subban has a work ethic that is synonymous with winning and despite a disappointing showing in the playoffs, many believe he is the best goaltender available in the entire draft.
St. Louis Blues
Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque (USHL)
THE DIRT: The Blues not only get the most fun name to say at the draft, they also get a steady and well-rounded player in Girgensons. With international experience suiting up for his native Latvia in the 2012 WJC, he is the definition of a team player and can play any position up front.
Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
THE DIRT: The Canucks snagged the player that very well could be their starting goaltender at this same position in the 2004 Entry Draft. This time around, they hope that patience will once again be key in developing this home-grown d-man into a future star.
Ville Pokka, D, Karpat (FIN)
THE DIRT: Not sure what the record is for the most defenceman selected in the first round but Pokka would mark the 13th and there’s still one or two more that could crack the top 30. A surprising star for Finland in the 2012 WJC filling in for the injured Olli Maatta.
New York Rangers
Colton Sissons, RW, Kelowna (WHL)
THE DIRT: The captain of the Rockets and of Team Orr in the 2012 CHL Top Prospects Game, Sissons may be better suited to play at center for the Rangers – a position that he has played in the past and is comfortable with.
New Jersey Devils
Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough (OHL)
THE DIRT: The Devils owe a first round pick in either 2012, 13 or 14 for exceeding the salary cap in signing Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010. Odds are they’d sacrifice #29 overall this season but if not, it’d be worth it to roll the dice on Koekkoek. If not for a suspect shoulder, he very well could be one of the best d-men of this draft class.
Los Angeles Kings
Phillip Di Giuseppe, LW, Michigan (CCHA)
THE DIRT: The Kings have earned the right to draft with the motto of “best available player” after their remarkable run and Di Giuseppe is just that. This Toronto area native will serve as a nice addition to one of the NHL’s elite rosters.