1. Edmonton Oilers-Nail Yakupov-Forward
Nail Yakupov made an immediate impact in the OHL in the 2010-11, setting franchise marks in both goals and points for the Sarnia Sting. Despite facing injury this past season, Yakupov tallied a tremendous 69 points in 42 games. He is a dynamic offensive player, who combines great ice vision with a knack for creating quality offensive chances. Yakupov has one of the best shots in the draft class, and his great hands allow him to manipulate the puck in a variety of ways to fool both opposing defensemen and goaltenders. His strength on his skates and his shiftiness on the ice will also help him at the next level. Yakupov tends to float back to the defensive zone and will need to improve his play away from the puck if he is to become a star in the league. Despite this, there are no questions about Yakupov’s game-breaking ability and for that reason he is regarded as the top prospect in the draft. He'll be joining an Oilers' core that's full of promising young forwards.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets-Ryan Murray-Defenseman
Ryan Murray has the skill, character, and hockey sense that every team looks for, making him the top defenseman prospect in a loaded class. His talent is noticeable, as he became the youngest player since Paul Kariya to be selected for Team Canada for the World Junior Championship. He surprised some scouts by registering 46 points in 70 games in his first season with Everett. However, even if he doesn't become a point-producer NHL, he still has the ability to be the puck-moving, quick transitional defenseman every team covets. Murray is not a physical player, but he is the strongest positional defenseman in the draft, which points to his high hockey sense. Scouts compare him to Scott Niedermayer, and by factoring in his character and talent they might not be too far off. He is captain material and should fit nicely into the future plans of the Jackets.
3. Montreal Canadiens-Alex Galchenyuk-Forward
This marks Habs GM Marc Bergevin's first selection with the team. After an extremely promising 2010-11 campaign, Alex Galchenyuk suffered an unfortunate ACL tear in the 2011 preseason. He fought his way back for the final two games of the regular season and playoffs, but clearly wasn't in top form. Despite the downgrade in play, Galchenyuk impressed scouts with his willingness to battle through his rehabilitation and return to the ice after many thought his season was over. Looking at his 2010-11 tape, Galchenyuk shows an incredible playmaking ability similar to Marian Hossa. He has high-end puck skills and is effective at top-speed. His quick decision-making is unmatched by many of the top prospects and he owns likely the best snapshot in the draft. Galchenyuk is also an above-average defender, willing to throw his solid frame into opponents, while keeping an active stick in passing lanes. Montreal has been searching for a big center for years so their hope is that he is the guy.
4. N.Y. Islanders-Griffin Reinhart-Defenseman
Griffin Reinhart is one of the more physically intimidating players in the draft. At 6’4, Reinhart uses his big body to smother forwards who try to maneuver around him. Reinhart is a great catalyst for the offense leaving his defensive zone, and he possesses a solid point shot. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling among the defencemen in this draft class, but he will likely be a very good addition to any blueline in need of a steady two-way defenseman. The Islanders already had a good core of forwards, but with Reinhart and the recent acquisition of blueliner Lubomir Visnovsky, they're turning into a well-rounded squad.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs-Morgan Rielly-Defenseman
Another player with his season cut short due to an ACL injury, Morgan Rielly showed flashes of offensive brilliance in the 18 games he played for Moose Jaw. Rielly likes to lead the rush and couples his top-end skating ability with a quick read and react game. He has the rare ability to dictate the pace of the game, much like Erik Karlsson, and possesses tremendous puck-handling ability. Scouts are also surprised with his defensive play, as he is ahead of the curve for a prototypical puck-moving defenseman. Rielly must continue improving his strength if he is to make an impact in the NHL sooner rather than later. There is no doubt, however, that he possesses the skills to flourish at the next level. He should help the Leafs transition game and quarterback their power play in the future.
6. Anaheim Ducks-Hampus Lindholm-Defenseman
Hampus Lindholm's development in the past year has caught the eyes of scouts and NHL teams alike. He is a great puck-moving defenseman who excels in the transition game. While he's not exactly like fellow countryman Erik Karlsson, he makes strong, accurate passes and processes the game well under pressure. He has good size, but isn't very physical. He should improve his work along the boards and his ability to separate his man from the puck. Overall, he's a strong prospect whose development should excite whichever team drafts him. To some, the Ducks "reached" a bit for Lindholm but after trading away Lubomir Visnovsky, an already-thin blueline corps needed more to work with. The future's looking brighter there already.
7. Minnesota Wild-Matthew Dumba-Defenseman
Matthew Dumba is a high-motor defenseman with a strong competitive spirit. Despite being undersized, he is one of the most physical players in the prospect pool. He is known for his devastating open-ice hits, which helped energize his Red Deer teammates throughout the season. Dumba played big minutes for the Rebels and showcased his offensive skillset by tallying 57 points in 69 games. Another plus is that he may have the best point shot in the class. However, some scouts worry about his size and whether his style of play will translate to the NHL where he will compete against bigger and faster players. Some are also worried about his lack of defensive zone awareness, as he often gambles on the big hit. It would be a surprise if he makes the Wild's team out of training camp.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (from Carolina)-Derrick Pouliot-Defenseman
Derrick Pouliot is one of the best skaters in the draft. He doesn't have elite speed, but his balance and ability to change direction are unmatched by most. His tremendous poise helps him excel at skating the puck out of trouble. Pouliot also has offensive upside evidenced by his 59 points in 72 games with Portland this season. His skating ability allows him to lead the rush and he almost always makes the right first-pass. He even contributed on special teams, leading the power play unit for his club. However, Pouliot must continue to work on his defensive game, while adding more strength and muscle to his frame. Nevertheless, he's produced at all levels he has competed in and will be a nice addition to the Penguins' back end.
9. Winnipeg Jets-Jacob Trouba-Defenseman
Jacob Trouba is a true project. He has all the physical tools NHL organizations are looking for, while being a great skater. He has a heavy point shot with the potential of playing on the power play at the next level. He is very difficult to knock off the puck, a testament to his physicality and athleticism. However, his decision making with the puck must improve. He has the physical ability to shut down opposing forwards, but further experience will help him progress in the defensive zone. Trouba’s raw ability and high upside alone will get him drafted fairly high. The Jets could really use a little bit of everything in their system and while they could've used some scoring flair, Trouba fits the mold of a punishing defenseman.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning-Slater Koekkoek-Defenseman
Slater Koekkoek is another player in the second-tier of defensemen in the draft, but he still remains a solid blueline prospect due to his raw talent. Before his season was cut short due to a shoulder injury, he was one of the top scoring defensemen in the OHL. He was used on the power play and has a good point shot. He likes joining the rush rather than make the first pass, but he doesn't have the best puck skills. He needs to improve his quickness and turns on the ice, as he tends to lose body position on the defensive end. It's definitely a surprise that he went this early in the draft.