The 2012 NHL Draft featured 13 defensemen taken in the first round, and as the 2013-14 season opens, seven of those players will make their NHL debuts.
Chief among them is Ryan Murray, the second pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Murray likely would have been with the Blue Jackets last season, but a shoulder injury sustained in November while playing junior hockey with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League ended his season.
Healthy and ready to go, Murray will play a key role on the team's blue line, where he likely will be paired with veteran James Wisniewski.
"He's very calm," teammate RJ Umberger told NHL.com. "That's been the M.O. on him, that he's very poised, calm and ahead of where he should be. He looks good so far. He's still learning, but he's going to be a tremendous player."
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Also advancing to NHL action this season will be Mathew Dumba of the Minnesota Wild, the seventh pick. He made the team out of training camp last season, but never got into a game before being returned to his junior team, the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.
Griffin Reinhart of the New York Islanders (No. 4), Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs (No. 5), Hampus Lindholm of the Anaheim Ducks (No. 6), Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets (No. 9) and Olli Maatta of the Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 22) all made it onto their teams' season-opening rosters.
One other defenseman from that 2012 draft made his team's roster, Connor Carrick of the Washington Capitals. A fifth-round pick (No. 137), he impressed the entire preseason and earned his spot.
"He makes great decisions," Capitals coach Adam Oates told the Washington Post. "He can handle the speed and physicality of the game, had a great camp and has just been improving over the last year on a daily basis."
The 19-year-old will be joined in Washington by another member of the Capitals' 2012 draft class, right wing Tom Wilson. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound power forward got into three Stanley Cup Playoff games last season, but will make his regular-season debut Tuesday at the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
Like Carrick, Murray won't be alone in Columbus making his NHL debut. Boone Jenner, a 2011 second-round pick (No. 37) will skate on the Blue Jackets' top line, at left wing on a line with center Brandon Dubinsky and right wing Marian Gaborik.
"Based on what they were able to do and how they were able to play as a group, I would be foolish to try and experiment with [Jenner] now somewhere else," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards told the Columbus Dispatch. "Just because they worked so well together."
There will be a trio of young players with the San Jose Sharks, as forwards Tomas Hertl, Matthew Nieto and Freddie Hamilton all made the team's season-opening roster.
The 19-year-old Hertl is the most promising of the group. The 17th pick of the 2012 draft, he'll start on a line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns.
"He has the skill level," Pavelski said. "He's a first-rounder. He can skate, handle the puck and shoot it. He looks like he's having fun out there."
Nieto likely will fill the third-line spot left open when Raffi Torres injured his knee, while Hamilton could play on the fourth line in place of the injured Adam Burish.
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The Buffalo Sabres could have a line that features their 2012 first-round picks, center Mikhail Grigorenko and left wing Zemgus Girgensons. Grigorenko played 25 games with the Sabres last season before being returned to his junior team, the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, while Girgensons, 18 at the time, spent the entire season in the American Hockey League.
"He's physically a man in terms of his development," Sabres coach Ron Rolston told the Buffalo News when asked about the 6-1, 190-pound Girgensons. "Just strength over the puck. He's a focused player, and I know that he’s going to bring the energy every night. That's what we’re looking for."
While the players have made it onto their team's opening-day rosters, it's no guarantee any of them will last there for the entire season.
Girgensons was speaking recently to the Buffalo News about himself, but could have been talking for every player in the League still on his entry-level contract.
"I don’t think there's such a thing as 'made it' so far," he said. "I think for the young guys, you have to make it every day. You have to make every day count. You've got to prove yourself every day to stay up here because any young guy can be sent down at any time."