LOWDOWN: If the Oilers decide to go with another elite goal-scorer/sniper, Nail Yakupov is the the guy. Can't pass up a player with 40- or 50-goal potential -- a superstar in the making in the ilk of Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos; he broke Stamkos' rookie scoring records with the OHL's Sarnia Sting. Oh, and stop talking about the KHL. He's staying put in North America.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
LOWDOWN: Can skate like the wind, eerily smilar to (soon to be) Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer. Calm under pressure, is an excellent passer and can singlehandidly control the pace of a game. I spoke to one scout at the 2012 NHL Scouting Combine who believes he has No. 1 overall talent (in an injury shortened year, he scored 3 goals and 18 points in 18 games). Would be a nice addition to the Blue Jackets corps -- a potential D partner for the recently acquired Jack Johnson.
Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL)
LOWDOWN: Could have pushed for the No. 1 overall pick last year if he was eligible. Isn't overly physical, but is great positionally and with his stick -- which also helps to spark a quick up-ice transition. Won't score a bunch, but will accumulate points because of his playmaking ability. Plays a similar game to Chicago's Duncan Keith.
New York Islanders
Alex Galchenyuk, LW/C, Sarnia (OHL)
LOWDOWN: First overall talent, but a bit of a wildcard. Played in only two games with the Sting this year because of a knee injury he sustained in the pre-season. In 2010-11, he collected 31 goals and 83 points in 68 games. As a sniper with size (6'1" and 198 pounds), he has the potential to be a superstar in the NHL.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Filip Forsberg, RW, Leksand (SWE)
LOWDOWN: Had a quiet World Junior tournament this past September, but put up solid numbers in Sweden's second highest-ranking division (is the top-ranked European skater by Central Scouting). Won't bring you out of your seat with style and creativity, but will get the job done at both ends. A safe pick at No. 5.
Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Put up outstanding numbers with the OHL's Ottawa 67s: 17 goals and 60 points in 64 regular-season games. Built like a tank at 6'2" and 207 pounds, which could be the cause for a small lack in foot speed. But it's also helped manufacture a cannon-like shot. Would be a nice complement to Cam Fowler in Anaheim.
Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
LOWDOWN: Has the physical tools to be a No. 1 overall pick, but there are too many question marks about the pivot's desire and work ethic. Seems to play when he wants to, which is cause for concern among a number of scouts. Still, he likely won't drop any further because of his talent (nor should he). Put up 40 goals and 85 points in 59 games with Patrick Roy's Quebec Remparts.
Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (FIN)
LOWDOWN: What he lacks in size (5'11" and 161 pounds), he makes up for in creativity. After dominating Jokerit's junior season, he earned a promotion to the SM-Liiga and still produced at a high clip. Has great touch around the net, hockey sense and can skate extremely well.
Mathew Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL)
LOWDOWN: One of the most intriguing players available in the draft. Dumba has a unique, all-encompassing skill-set that sees him dominate offensively (20 goals and 57 points in 69 games last year) and punish his opponents with a staunch physical edge. Is a high-risk, high-reward player but has worked diligently at minimizing untimely step-ups, which had previously resulted in costly errors.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Faksa was an OHL rookie, but that didn't hamper his production. In 62 games, he scored 29 goals and 67 points. Plays a religious two-way game with heavy physical presence, similar to Gabriel Landeskog.
Washington Capitals (via COL)
Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL)
LOWDOWN:Had a strong showing in the WHL Championship Series vs. the Edmonton Oil Kings, but didn't stand out among a strong core of defenceman: Joseph Morrow (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Troy Rutkowski (Colorado Avalanche) were better, but that's to be expected given they're all NHL draftees. Still, he's a solid puck-mover that will be a very good NHL blueliner.
Stefan Matteau, LW, USA-U18 (USHL)
LOWDOWN: Rugged and highly skilled. Matteau is the son of ex-NHL great, Stephane Matteau. Took some undisciplined penalties (and suspensions) last season, but still produced at a respectable clip; has the potential to be a great power forward in the NHL and will surprise many with a higher-than-expected pick.
Jacob Trouba, D, USNTDP (USHL)
LOWDOWN:Struggled with consistency, but put up big numbers in the USHL. Didn't look particularly strong at the 2012 World Junior Championship, but is a strong two-way defenceman that skates well for his size (6'2" and 196 pounds). High compete level makes him an extremely valuable pick.
Olli Maatta, D, London (OHL)
LOWDOWN:Put up good numbers with the London Knights, but didn't look particularly strong in the Memorial Cup as his club lost to the host Shawinigan Cataractes in the Final. Sometimes looks disinterested, but is an overall well-rounded defenceman.
Colton Sissons, RW, Kelowna (WHL)
LOWDOWN: Had a strong season, but improve much over last -- scoring 41 points in both 2010-11 and 2011-12, albet in a (somewhat) shorter season this past year (a concussion slowed him down). Is the captain of the Rockets and his leadership is lauded by scouts everywhere.
Sebastian Collberg, RW, Frolunda (SWE)
LOWDOWN: Absolutely dominated the scoresheet en route to Team Sweden's Gold Medal win at the 2012 World Junior Championship, scoring three goals and seven points in six games. Earned a promotion to Frulunda's main squad, but was unable to record a point in 41 games (but in limited ice time). Still, he's a highly skilled winger that ought to bring it to the NHL some day soon.
San Jose Sharks
Matthew Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Led Guelph in scoring among defenceman with 10 goals and 47 points in 61 games; is a power-play quarterback with excellent leadership qualities, vaulting his stock even higher. Would be a nice complement to San Jose's existing corps.
Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Big (huge, actually) at 6'2" and 215 pounds, Gaunce fills a prized role -- a physically dominant centre. Was strong at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka tournament and scored 28 goals and 68 points in 68 games with the OHL's Belleville Bulls.
Tampa Bay Lightning (via DET)
Thomas Wilson, RW, Plymouth (OHL)
LOWDOWN: In many ways, Wilson is the CHL's version of Stefan Matteau. He's got size (6'4" and 203 pounds), skill (27 points recorded last year) and an attitude -- he racked up 141 penalty minutes in only 41 games, while still upholding a responsible +17 rating. Impressive.
Malcom Subban, G, Belleville (OHL)
LOWDOWN: This could be the pick that ends Philadelphia's goaltending woes. Subban is exceptionally talented and, like his brother, brings a swagger that oozes passion on and off the ice. Put up a 2.50 goals-against average and .923 save percentage last season.
Buffalo Sabres (via NSH)
Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL)
LOWDOWN: Not convinced he's an elite defenceman as some scouts and pundits are suggesting, and I feel strongly about that after having seen him a ton this past season. While he's a leader and has good up-ice instincts, his foot speed is lacking, his decision-making is a little slow, and he's not particularly mean for a big guy; overall, he reminds me a bit like Cam Barker. Still, he won't (and probably shouldn't) drop any further.
Tomas Hertl, C, Slavia (CZE)
LOWDOWN: Small, but crafty. I have a limited view on Hertl's game after having only seen him at the 2012 World Junior Championship, but he looked quite good in showing off his skill and dynamic one-on-one ability. Put up 12 goals and 25 points in 38 games last season.
Martin Frk, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
LOWDOWN: Possesses an incredible, hard and accurate shot that helped him accumulate 16 goals and 29 points in 34 games last season. Missed of the year with a concussion, skipped the World Juniors and doesn't skate particularly well; those knocks could lower his stock, but when he's on his game, he's a force with an NHL future.
Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa Tolpar (RUS-JR)
LOWDOWN: I spoke to a couple scouts at the 2012 NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto who believe he's the best goaltender available in the draft, but gets less attention than Subban due to his location; reads the play well, has elite-level positioning and, with an always adventurous goaltending situation in Boston, Vasilevski could get a chance behind Tuukka Rask in the near future.
St. Louis Blues
Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle (SWE-JR)
LOWDOWN: Big frame (6'3" and 196 pounds), but again, not particularly physical -- a detriment to a big defenceman's draft stock and effectiveness at the NHL level. Still, he had a solid enough season with Rogle's junior club and got a chance with the big boys later on, posting one goal and four points in 20 games. Is good on the rush and prides himself on a strong, two-way game.
Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough (OHL)
LOWDOWN: Missed 40 games with a shoulder injury -- a concern for many scouts, as he's logged big minutes early in his career with a bit of a propensity to get hurt. Still, he's a highly ranked prospect who could go even higher due to his upside, which was desribed as "outstanding" by one scout I spoke to at the Combine.
Brady Skjei, D, USA U-18 (USHL)
LOWDOWN: His skating ability rivals the draft class' best, Morgan Rielly. Needs to use his size better in the defensive zone, but is effective in using it everywhere else in closing opposition passing lanes and disrupting the attack.
New York Rangers
Michael Matheson, D, Dubuque (OHL)
LOWDOWN:Another outstanding skater who's used it to produce, scoring 11 goals and 27 points in 53 games this past season. Struggles a bit with consistency and needs to put it all together before getting a chance at the NHL level; but an intriguing talent nonetheless.
New Jersey Devils
Tanner Pearson, LW, Barrie (OHL)
LOWDOWN: After having been passed over in the previous two drafts, he's now considered a top-ranked prospect with high-end potential. Had a great season with the OHL's Barrie Colts, potting 37 goals and 91 points in 60 games; also represented Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship, one of only two undrafted players to do so this year.
Los Angeles Kings
Lukas Sutter, C, Saskatoon (WHL)
LOWDOWN: It seems apprpriate that Sutter would be brought in to develop under his uncle, Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter. Lukas has a wide range of skills, which includes a nasty side that saw him earn 175 penalty minutes in only 70 games. Even then, he still scored 28 goals and 59 points to end the year as Saskatoon's third-leading scorer.