While we were hoping to see a lot more big trades at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (see: Roberto Luongo, Rick Nash), we instead saw a fairly quiet weekend of action. Turns out all of the focus was kept on…well…drafting players.
In recent years, NHL rookies have continued to have a
bigger impact on the game much sooner than expected. For example, last season
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Ladeskog, Adam Larsson and Sean Couturier all had
major impacts on their team’s success.
Now that the picks are in for the 2012 draft, let’s have
a look at who is most likely to have a major impact on the 2012-13 season:
1. Nail Yakupov,
The first pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft figures to
have as much of an impact on the stat sheet as any rookie in the entire class. The
Edmonton Oilers are young, fast and inexperienced, which means there will be
plenty of playing time for Yakupov.
The Oilers are going to throw him right into the fire
just as they did Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and you can expect him to collect plenty
of points just like the previous first overall pick did. Yakupov has drawn
comparisons to players like Pavel Bure and inserting him into a freewheeling,
freeskating team that has skilled forwards should produce fantastic results.
Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks
Another defenseman that should have an immediate impact
is Swedish prospect Hampus Lindholm. The Ducks traded away Lubomir Visnovsky on
draft day, which creates an immediate hole in the roster for the sixth pick in
the 2012 draft to fill.
Lindholm wowed scouts with his VO2 Max testing by setting
a new record, so it’s fairly clear that his body is very close to being
NHL-ready – if not there already.
The Ducks used a high draft pick on Cam Fowler early in
the 2010 draft and threw him into the fire; look for them to do the same with
Grigorenko, Buffalo Sabres
Mikhail Grigorenko was rated as a top-three prospect on
many NHL draft boards, so the Buffalo Sabres are definitely pleased that they
landed him with the 12th pick overall.
Buffalo is already close to being an Eastern Conference
contender and Grigorenko should be able to help their case. In some other
situations, he might need some seasoning first but because the Sabres are a
complete team, they can put him in the lineup right away because they won’t
expect the world from him.
He’s got size, which the Sabres are short on, and he’s a
gifted scorer as evidenced by his 85 points in 59 games in the QMJHL last
season. Look for Buffalo to give him a long look in the early part of the
2012-13 season and, if he plays as expected, he could pay dividends.
4. Ryan Murray,
Columbus Blue Jackets
The second pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft should have a
big impact on the upcoming season. The Blue Jackets have already shown that
they plan to build from back-to-front, signing defenseman James Wisniewski in
free agency last season, then adding goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky via trade this
offseason. Now they used the second pick of the draft on Murray, who should be
one of the team’s anchors in the back for the next 10 years.
He’s the perfect fit for the Blue Jackets, who are
desperately searching for an identity. He is big, reliable and even experienced
after playing with men for Canada in the 2012 World Championships.
More importantly, he’s been a team captain at almost
every level he’s played. The Blue Jackets could use a man like him to be a
cornerstone piece of the future.
5. Mathew Dumba,
Given how the Minnesota Wild finished the 2011-12 season,
they are desperate for help just about everywhere on the ice. The selection of
defenseman Mathew Dumba should help right away.
The Wild lack leadership and it’s not hard to envision
this guy being a future captain. He captained Team Canada’s Under 18 team, so
look for his voice to grow louder and louder in the locker room as he gets more
For now, though, the rookie will be relied upon for his
excellent shot from the point and big hits. The Wild need some kind of spark
and Dumba should be afforded every opportunity to be just that.