They say that you never really know what you have in a prospect until five years have elapsed since you drafted him. The five year anniversary of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft passed us by earlier this year, so it’s now fair to look back at that class and critique it.
The 2012 draft was unusual, as eight of the top 10 picks were defensemen. It was also a notable year because the first overall selection—Nail Yakupov—is now considered to be the biggest bust in the game since Patrik Stefan (1999's 1st overall dud).
Now that these boys have all grown into men, we felt it was time to go back and re-draft the first round of this draft class, knowing what we know now. That’s what today’s list will be—a full re-draft of the first round of the 2012 draft—and there’s no doubt it’s still the year of the defenseman. Thirteen defensemen were drafted in round one in 2012, and in our re-draft that number actually jumped to 16.
Before getting into it, we’d be remiss not to mention a few honorable who narrowly missed the cut. Mikhail Grigorenko, Olli Maatta (a two-time Cup champion FFS), Pontus Adberg, Jake McCabe, Colton Sissons, Jonas Korpisalo, Cedric Paquette, Chris Tierney, Connor Hellebuyck—all of these guys failed to make the cut, proving that perhaps the class of 2012 wasn't as shallow as it seemed.
29 Edmonton Oilers - Filip Forsberg
Original Pick: Nail Yakupov
Filip Forsberg kicks off the 2012 re-draft, as he jumps 10 spots from his original draft position of 11th overall all the way up to 1st. The Edmonton Oilers would have no doubt been called crazy if they picked Forsberg at the time, but hindsight is always 20/20 and they’d look like geniuses today. Funny enough, Forsberg was actually a Washington Capitals pick, but they got fleeced in a trade with the Preds, and thus the Swede’s NHL career began in Nashville.
Forsberg has been incredibly consistent in his career so far, putting up 63, 64, and 58 points in his last three season (chronologically). Since his NHL career didn’t truly begin until 2014-15—he’d played 18 games combined over the two seasons prior—he sits just 9th in games played, but he leads the class in goals (91), and he’s second in assists (100) and points (191).
28 Columbus Blue Jackets - Matt Murray
Original Pick: Ryan Murray
Matt Murray really forced my hand here, as I couldn’t justify selecting a two-time Stanley Cup champion starting goaltender any lower than 2nd overall. Yes, I realize Olli Maatta is also a two-time champ, yet doesn’t appear on this list, but I think we can all agree that a starting goalie shoulders much more responsibility than does a depth defenseman.
Had Murray—originally selected deep in the 3rd round, 83rd overall—actually been the 2nd overall pick in 2012, he would have been property of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets of course today have the reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky minding the pipes, which means this one probably worked out best for both the Pens and the Jackets. Murray heads into a news season as the clear cut starter in Pittsburgh for the first time in his career.
27 Montreal Canadiens - Hampus Lindholm
Original Pick: Alex Galchenyuk
It’s a tough call, but I’m making it: Hampus Lindholm was the best defenseman selected in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Originally picked up by the Ducks 6th overall, Hampus makes the jump up three spots to 3rd overall here. Defenseman Morgan Rielly has actually scored more points than Lindholm, but only by a slim margin (119 to 112). Lindholm hears his name called first in the re-draft because his overall game is far superior at this stage.
As for the Canadiens, while Galchenyuk has proven he can produce offense, the primary reason he was drafted as high as third, was that the Habs felt he could be their no.1 centre. That hasn't happened and the team has a big hole on the blueline on the left side today.
Lindholm played on the top pairing in Anaheim in 2016-17, along with Cam Fowler, playing 22:26 a night. The puck was heading in the right direction with Lindholm on the ice, as he plays a quiet yet effective game—and does it consistently. If Lindholm had heard his name called third he would have ended up in Montreal.
26 New York Islanders - Shayne Gostisbehere
Original Pick: Griffin Reinhart
Ghost Bear! Going off the board at 4th overall in our 2012 re-draft is offensive defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. The Flyers plucked this gem in the 3rd round in 2012, 78th overall. It took a while for Gostisbehere’s game to get into NHL shape, but he burst onto the scene as a 22-year-old rookie in 2015-16, and was lights out all season, earning a Calder nod.
Gostisbehere got off to a slow start in his sophomore season, as he was asked to take on more of a two-way role. He seemed to piece things together toward the end of the year, and his career boxcars of 24-61-85 in 142 GP are impressive. If Ghost Bear did get picked 4th overall as he should have, he would have been New York Islanders property… they chose Griffin Reinhart instead, who doesn't even appear in this re-draft. Yeah.
25 Toronto Maple Leafs - Frederik Andersen
Original Pick: Morgan Rielly
Our 5th overall pick Frederik Andersen makes a substantial jump up 82 spots in our 2012 re-do. The Ducks selected Andersen deep in round three, 87th overall. This was actually the second time Andersen had been drafted, as he was first grabbed by the Hurricanes in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. Unable to find a deal in Carolina, Andersen entered the draft as a grizzled 22-year-old.
Ironically, if Andersen had been picked 5th overall, he’d have been property of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is where you will find the Danish netminder today. Of all the goalies drafted in 2012, Andersen leads the pack with 191 games played. Actually, the more impressive stat is that Andersen has more wins (110) than any other goalie has games played (second most is Andrei Vasilevskiy with 90 GP).
24 Anaheim Ducks - Alex Galchenyuk
Original Pick: Hampus Lindholm
Alex Galchenyuk is the player many Oilers fans wish they picked instead of Nail Yakupov, and for good reason. Sure, Galchenyuk has slid three spots from his original position of 3rd overall, but he’s had a heck of a career so far. He leads the whole class in games played at 336, and he leads the class in points as well with 204.
If Galchenyuk did get drafted 6th overall, he’d have ended up as Anaheim Ducks property. Alas, the Habs picked him up 3rd overall, but they can’t be overly disappointed with the pick, even if he's not a center. Despite his drop in out 2012 re-draft, he’s still the second forward off the board. Considering how Montreal’s biggest need at the time, and to this day, is scoring, they should cherish Galchenyuk’s contributions. Had the Ducks taken him, he'd likely be thriving on left wing alongside Getzlaf and Perry.
23 Minnesota Wild - Morgan Rielly
Original Pick: Matthew Dumba
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly is one of just four players from the class of 2012 who have cracked the 300 games played mark, and he’s played the most among all defensemen from the class. This is partially due to the fact that Toronto was shallow on D and sort of rushed him to the NHL, but Rielly’s development has been encouraging for the Leafs.
Rielly’s game still has holes, exemplified by his career minus-66 rating, but last season he was asked to take on a more shutdown role with partner Nikita Zaitsev, and he improved as the year progressed. Had he been drafted 7th overall instead of 5th, he would have been Minnesota Wild property, who instead got Matt Dumba that year. 2017-18 is a big year for Toronto, as they’re out to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke.
22 Pittsburgh Penguins - Jacob Trouba
When the draft was held back in 2012, Jacob Trouba was the 9th overall pick, and that’s one slot lower than where he ends up in our re-draft today. Good on ya, Jacob! He would have ended up with the Penguins had this gone down, but sadly for Trouba he’s still waiting to participate in a single playoff win, let alone celebrating consecutive Stanley Cup wins.
Trouba has already played a healthy 271 games in the NHL, and one could consider 2016-17 a breakout year for the young defenseman. He started off the year on the IR, but once he finally got healthy he was ready, and he ended up with 33 points in his 60 games. That is elite offensive production on a point-per-game basis for an NHL defenseman.
21 Winnipeg Jets - Colton Parayko
Original Pick: Jacob Trouba
Colton Parayko was another late round gem to come out of the 2012 draft, as the St. Louis Blues grabbed him deep in the 3rd round, 86th overall. Parayko cracked the roster for the first time at the onset of 2015-16, and he hasn’t looked back since, playing in all but four games for the Blues over that time period.
If he did get picked here, he’d have ended up as a Winnipeg Jet, but alas it was not meant to be. With the departure of offensive defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, the door is open for Parayko to take on a more offensive role in Missouri. Alex Pietrangelo will probably still be given the best opportunity on this front, but Parayko’s 68 points in 160 games so far is reason to believe he can chip in more offensively if given the chance.
20 Tampa Bay Lightning - Ryan Murray
Original Pick: Slater Koekkoek
Ryan Murray was selected 2nd overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2012, immediately after Nail Yakupov. Yakupov of course failed to make an appearance in our re-draft, which goes to show just what a terrible pick he was by the Oilers. Rumor has it they almost went with Murray instead of Nail, and that would have been a better choice for sure (although far from the best choice).
Had Murray gone 10th overall, he would have ended up property of the Lightning. Murray’s development hasn’t been as swift as Columbus had probably hoped when they first drafted him; to be fair, he struggled with injuries for the first three seasons of his career. Today Murray has a steady role on the third pairing in Columbus to help guide along D partner Markus Nutivaara, who’s coming off a stellar rookie season.
19 Washington Capitals - Andrei Vasilevskiy
Original Pick: Filip Forsberg
Andrei Vasilevskiy is the third and final goalie to show up on our list, and he comes off the board at number 11 overall. This represents a jump for Vasilevskiy, albeit a small one, as he was originally picked 19th overall by the Lightning. Vasilevskiy shouldered much of the starter’s role in Tampa last year, finding his way into 50 games and recording 23 wins in the process. Had he been called 11th, he'd be Capitals property.
2017-18 will be the first season in which Vasilevskiy starts it as the clear-cut number one, as Ben Bishop finds himself in Dallas (by way of L.A.). That can be a pretty big responsibility to place on the shoulders of a 23-year-old netminder, but Vasilevskiy does have the benefit of having a pretty stellar Tampa team in front of him, so he’s in great position to succeed.
18 Buffalo Sabres - Jaccob Slavin
Original Pick: Mikhail Grigorenko
Jaccob Slavin, at the tender age of 23, is already a very well-rounded defenseman. The Denver, Colorado native was a deep pick in 2012, finally hearing his name called late in the 4th round, 120th overall. This was a great selection by the Hurricanes, as he jumps well into the first round in the re-draft. Had he gone 12th, he'd be a Buffalo Sabre.
Slavin is a good example as to why it’s a good idea to wait five seasons after a player’s draft year to evaluate them. 2016-17 was Slavin’s sophomore season, and he broke out for the ‘Canes, notching 34 points and recording a plus-23 rating in a full 82 game season. I don’t put much stock into plus/minus anymore, but Slavin and Brett Pesce (his regular defense partner) were plus-23, and the third-highest on the team in that category was Lee Stempniak at plus-2.
17 Dallas Stars - Damon Severson
Original Pick: Radek Faksa
Damon Severson makes a big jump in our re-draft, as he was originally chosen late in the second round, 60th overall, but here he goes off the board at 13. Severson took on a larger role with the Devils last season, much thanks to the 2016 offseason departure of Adam Larsson. He sort of struggled with the transition, but the Devils were a pretty bad team last year so it’s tough to blame Severson’s minus-31 rating all on him.
Whether the Devils did enough offseason tinkering to improve the club is yet to be determined, but Severson is just getting to the age where you can expect him to be entering his prime soon. He has shown he has the skills to contribute offensively, but can he develop into a well-rounded rearguard? We'll see, but if he was picked 12th he'd be a Dallas Star pick.
16 Buffalo Sabres - Matt Dumba
Original Pick: Zemgus Girgensons
The Wild’s Matt Dumba was one of the eight defensemen selected in the top 10 in 2012, as he was originally picked up by Minnesota 7th overall. He’s slowly but surely improved over the seasons—as defensemen tend to do—and I think it’s fair to expect yet another step forward from the 23-year-old in the next few seasons.
Dumba does drop in our updated draft, however, falling seven spots down to number 14. That’s not to say Dumba is a bust. In fact, by 2012 standards, it’s pretty much par for the course. Of the six players who were selected before Dumba in 2012, two of them don’t even appear in the re-draft, and out of the other four, three of them dropped in the draft as well. Dumba would have ended up as Sabres property in this hypothetical scenario.
15 Ottawa Senators - Tanner Pearson
Original Pick: Cody Ceci
One-third of the on again/off again “That ‘70s line” in L.A. comes in as the number 15 pick in our 2012 re-draft. Tanner Pearson was the defending champs’ 1st round pick in 2012, but since they were fresh off their first Cup win they were selecting 30th overall. Pearson has had a good start to his career, already finding his way into 226 games spread out over the past four seasons.
Pearson has improved his point totals each year, and he reached 44 points in 2016-17. He also hit the 20 goal mark for the first time in his career last season, and if That ‘70s Line stays together and healthy for the bulk of the season, he could approach 30 this year. Jeff Carter is coming off his second-best season of his career, so flanking him for a full season should add to Pearson’s output. In this scenario, Pearson would have been an Ottawa Senator, rather than Cody Ceci.
14 Washington Capitals - Teuvo Teravainen
Original Pick: Tom Wilson
At 16th overall in our re-draft, Teuvo Teravainen actually ends up fairly close to where he was actually selected, and that was 18th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks eased Teravainen into the system over three seasons before sending him to Carolina in the 2016 offseason (along with his 2015 Cup ring). Teravainen enjoyed his best season to date with the Hurricanes last year, recording 42 points in his first season with the club.
Teravainen has been viewed as a top prospect for some time now, and he’s one of those guys that pundits have been waiting for to break out. 2017-18 could very well be the year where we see Teravainen elevate his game to top-line caliber, and he’s already slotted in on the second line in a great position to succeed, as his most likely linemates at this point are veterans Jordan Staal and Justin Williams. Had he gone 16th in 2012, he'd be Capitals property.
13 San Jose Sharks - Andreas Athanasiou
Original Pick: Tomas Hertl
I’ve seen enough from the 23-year-old to select him 17th overall in the 2012 re-draft. Athanasiou electrified fans over the past two seasons with a handful of head-turning goals, most of which consisted of him blazing through the center of the neutral zone, single-handedly creating a five-star scoring chance.
Rumbling from Detroit suggest that Jeff Blashill and co. may not be thrilled with where Athanasiou’s overall game is, and this could be the root of the contract dispute that they find themselves in. Athanasiou’s agent is likely pointing to his client’s 18 goals in 64 games last season, whereas GM Ken Holland is probably more focused on his sheltered ice time and minus-7 rating. If he were picked 17th in 2012 as he should have been, he'd be a Shark.
12 Chicago Blackhawks - Brady Skjei
Original Pick: Teuvo Teravainen
Brady Skjei is another player who took a while to get his game NHL-ready, but he finally got it there in 2016-17. He found his way into 80 games in what was officially his rookie season, although he had played seven games in the season prior. Skjei established himself as a reliable two-way defenseman in his inaugural campaign, registering 39 points and a plus-11 rating.
He looks to hold down his role on the bottom pairing with Nick Holden on New York’s rather deep top six to start 2017-18, but don’t be surprised if the sophomore climbs up the depth chart in the coming season. He’s slotted in to resume his role patrolling the left side of the second-unit, which should ensure that his point totals remain the same or—in an optimistic scenario—see an increase. He'd have been a Blackhawk if he was selected here.
Original Pick: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Tomas Hertl turned some heads during his rookie season in 2013-14, mostly due to his four-goal night early in the campaign. This was what spurred Joe Thornton to famously quip (candidly, but then outed by Vancouver reporter Jason Botchford) “I would have my (sic) out if I scored four goals. I’d have my (sic) out, stroking it.” It’s too bad for Hertl that that’s how his big night is remembered best.
Anyway, Hertl was picked up by the Sharks in the 1st round in 2012, 17th overall. He’s had a few healthy years and a few unhealthy years since breaking into the NHL, but he’s been a reliable middle-six producer for the Sharks. He’s played the 10th most games out of players from his draft class, already hitting 249. With the offseason departure of Patty Marleau, the door could be open to Hertl for a bigger role in 2017-18.
11 Philadelphia Flyers - Jimmy Vesey
Original Pick: Scott Lawton
Harvard University alum Jimmy Vesey signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent in the 2016 offseason, but he was originally property of the Nashville Predators, who selected him in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, 66th overall. The Preds and Vesey never agreed on an entry-level contract, so the winger hit the open market after four years at college.
Vesey had an up-and-down rookie campaign, which was to be expected. It’s not uncommon for college players to struggle to make the jump to the Big Leagues, even if they were stars in the ECAC. That said, Vesey’s rookie boxcars of 16-11-27 in an 80 game season are pretty stellar for a first year pro. Playing 80 games is an accomplishment itself for college grads, as they usually play just 30-40 games per year, including the playoff rounds.
10 Calgary Flames - Colin Miller
Original Pick: Mark Jankowski
I for one was quite surprised when I saw that the Boston Bruins had left 24-year-old defenseman Colin Miller exposed at the NHL expansion draft last June. The Vegas Golden Knights made no mistake and plucked the rearguard from the Bruins, who had actually acquired Miller (and Martin Jones and a 1st) from the Kings in exchange for Milan Lucic.
The Kings maybe didn’t quite know what they had in Miller, as at the time of the trade he hadn’t played a game in the NHL and was their 5th round pick from the 2012 draft (2151st overall). Miller has managed to put together a few solid seasons since arriving in Boston, and his role should be increased in Vegas—although they still have an influx of NHL defensemen in Sin City, so who knows how their top six will look. If he was selected here, he'd be a Calgary Flame.
9 Pittsburgh Penguins - Tom Wilson
Original Pick: Olli Maatta
Tom Wilson actually drops a few slots in our updated rankings, falling from the 16th overall position down to 22nd overall. Wilson was suspended during the preseason this year, and he’s starting to develop the reputation of a dirty player. The Washington Capitals certainly hope he veers towards the “Brad Marchand” type rather than the “Raffi Torres” type.
Wilson made the jump to the NHL rather quickly, finding his way into three playoff games immediately following his draft year, and then playing in all 82 games for the Caps in 2013-14. He’s played a full 82 games in each of the past two seasons as well, and at 313 games played total, he’s played more games than anyone else from his draft year not named Alex Galchenyuk. The Penguins held this pick in 2012.
8 Florida Panthers - Ben Hutton
Original Pick: Mike Matheson
Not a whole heck of a lot seems to be going well for the Vancouver Canucks these days, but one thing they should be happy about is their 5th round pick from 2012. With the selection, which was the 147th pick of that year, they went with defenseman Ben Hutton, who has now put together a couple of decent seasons in a crappy situation in British Columbia.
Pundits have the Canucks finishing in last place (or close to it) in 2017-18, but Hutton can hardly be faulted for that. Despite 146 other players hearing their name called prior to Hutton in 2012, Ben has already found his way into 146 games, which is the 24th most from the entire draft class, and 11th most among defensemen. If picked 23rd, he'd be a Florida Panther.
7 Boston Bruins - Connor Brown
Original Pick: Malcolm Subban
With Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Williams Nylander stealing the show as the three hot rookies in Toronto in 2016-17, it was easy to overlook Connor Brown. Brown was drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 draft, 156th overall. Most of those late picks never see the light of day in the NHL, let alone quietly score 20 goals in their rookie season.
Brown added 16 assists for 36 points in his inaugural year, which was well behind the first pack of rookies but impressive nonetheless. If you were asked the question “who scored more goals last season: Marner or Brown?” you would undoubtedly say Marner, but you’d be wrong. Marner fell one shy of the 20-goal mark. If selected here, Brown would have been Boston Bruins property.
6 St. Louis Blues - Josh Anderson
Original Pick: Jordan Schmaltz
At the time of writing, Josh Anderson and the Columbus Blue Jackets were still at odds when it comes to Anderson’s contract extension with the team that drafted him in the 4th round of the 2012 draft, 95th overall. Maybe they still are, and maybe they’re not, but any way you look at it Anderson has turned into a solid late pick for the Jackets.
Anderson’s first full season with Columbus came last year, and he showed his worth by potting 17 goals and adding 12 assists for 29 points. Assuming that a deal eventually is reached between the two sides, there’s no reason to think that Anderson won’t take another step forward in 2017-18. With a few key players departing over the summer, the opportunity to move up the lineup is there. Had Anderson gone 25th, he'd be a St. Louis Blue.
5 Vancouver Canucks - Matt Benning
Edmonton’s Matthew Benning represents one of the more substantial jumps on our list, as he was first selected 175th overall in the 6th round of the 2012 draft. He wasn’t selected by the Oilers, however, but he was a Peter Chiarelli pick in Boston. Benning never put ink to paper while in the Bruins’ system, but Chiarelli kept his eye on the young D-man and signed him in the 2016 offseason.
Benning impressed the Oilers in 2016-17, playing a prominent role on one of the most improved defense corps in the league. With Andrej Sekera on the shelf for the first few months of the year, there will be an opportunity for Benning to move up onto the second pair with Kris Russell. Some think that pairing will be eaten alive, but only time will tell. If he was picked 26th, he'd have been Canucks property (where his uncle Jim in GM).
4 Arizona Coyotes - Cody Ceci
Original Pick: Henrik Samuelsson
Cody Ceci has become a bit of a divisive character these days, as he’s one of the guys that “old school” hockey fans fawn over while “analytics nerds” crap all over him all the time. Originally selected by the Sens in the 1st round (15th overall), Ottawa was hoping they’d hit another home run by drafting a defenseman at #15 (that’s where they nabbed Erik Karlsson in 2008).
Ceci is obviously nowhere near the player that Karlsson is, and he never will be. Nonetheless, he does still qualify as a first rounder in our 2012 re-draft. Ceci will be relied upon more so in 2017-18 than in years past, largely owing to the offseason departure of Karlsson’s regular D partner Marc Methot. With Karlsson to start the season on the IR, Ceci will play a huge role early on. Is he up to it? Ceci would have been a Coyote if he was selected here.
3 New York Rangers - Esa Lindell
Original Pick: Brady Skjei
According to our re-draft, Dallas nabbed two first round talents in the 2012 draft (albeit deep first round picks). Esa Lindell was originally selected in the 3rd round in 2012, 74th overall, and he enjoyed a very strong rookie season in 2016-17, playing primarily with John Klingberg as his defense partner. The Rangers would have owned his rights in this scenario.
Playing with an offensively-minded D-man can be a challenge for anyone, let alone a rookie D-man. Lindell pleasantly surprised the Stars in the role; sure, he wasn’t perfect in it, but he delivered more than the Stars should have reasonably expected from a rookie. The pairing will likely be broken up this season, as Marc Methot will be Klingberg’s likely regular partner, so we’ll see how Lindell fares in a more sheltered role. My guess is he excels.
2 New Jersey Devils - Radek Faksa
Original Pick: Stefan Matteau
Also just squeaking into the first round of our 2012 re-draft is Radek Faksa, who was originally picked up by Dallas earlier in the first round, 13th overall. The Czech Republic native has taken a while to develop, but things finally seem to be coming together for the center. After scoring just 10 points in 32 AHL games in 2014-15, he responded the next season by recording 26 in 28 games before being called up to Dallas. He hasn’t been back since.
Faksa has played mostly a bottom-six role with the Stars, and as we embark on 2017-18, it looks as though that’s where he’s slotted in to start the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he spent some time on Jason Spezza’s wing on the second line a little bit though, as that’s a role currently filled by Mattias Janmark, and I see Faksa with a higher ceiling than Janmark. Had he gone 29th in 2012, he'd be a New Jersey Devil.
1 Los Angeles Kings - Connor Carrick
Original Pick: Tanner Pearson
Originally drafted by the Washington Capitals in the 5th round—137th overall—in 2012, defenseman Connor Carrick only played 37 games with the Capitals before being traded to Toronto at the 2016 trade deadline. It was in T.O. where Carrick established himself as a reliable defender for Toronto, playing 16:20 per game in 2016-17, suiting up for 67 matches.
Still a bottom-pairing defenseman, Carrick looks to man the point with Martin Marincin to start 2017-18. He’s now played in a total of 120 NHL games, and he could hit the 200 game milestone with a healthy season. If he keeps his head above water in Toronto and continues to be a plus-player there, he will be considered one of the bigger draft steals of 2012.
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