Recently I published the first half of An Early Season 2012 NHL Mock Draft, and this is the second half. If you missed the first part, you can read it here:
Picking up at the end of the last article, here is the continuation of the mock draft, with the sixteenth through thirtieth selections.
16. Brendan Gaunce F (Belleville Bulls) (OHL)
Brendan Gaunce has great vision, skating ability, hockey sense, a pro calibre shot, and unbelievable leadership qualities on and off the ice. He is the younger brother of Colorado Avalanche prospect Cameron Gaunce, and will most likely be selected in the first twenty picks of the 2012 NHL Draft. Brendan Gaunce was the highest-scoring AAA minor midget hockey player in Ontario in his OHL draft year with 55 goals and 93 assists for 148 points in 86 games with the Markham Waxers. In his rookie year with the Belleville Bulls, Gaunce had 36 points in 65 games, and will be relied on heavily in the 2011-2012 season. Through nine games this season, Gaunce has nine points. One of Brendan’s role models growing up was Brendan Shanahan, and they do play a similar style of hockey. Considering his size, Gaunce is an above average skater, however it will need to be improved to be a star at the next level. Montreal has a crowded defense right now, so the last thing they need is to add another blueliner. That means that one of the next best choices is Brendan Gaunce. He’s risen quite a bit in draft rankings since the end of last season, and expect him to continue to do so. Montreal would be glad to get him at sixteenth overall.
Jarrod Maidens already plays the game like a pro forward. He’s a powerful skater with an NHL shot playing who currently plays for the defending OHL champions, the Owen Sound Attack. Last season, Maidens was the beneficiary of playing with forwards such as Joey Hishon (Colorado Avalanche prospect) and Garrett Wilson (Florida Panthers prospect). Now that they’ve moved on, Maidens is out to show scouts that he’s the real deal. The Attack’s fourth overall pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection, Maidens is certainly one of the purest goal scorers available in the draft. His shot is very accurate, and his hockey sense is above the average level. Like Gaunce, Jarrod Maidens has risen a lot in recent draft rankings, and is now an almost certain first rounder. Nashville always seems to be in need of more high-end forward prospects, and Maidens could definetely be the right guy for them.
18. Sebastian Collberg F (Frolunda) (Sweden)
Sebastian Collberg is a small winger, but he really makes up for it with his high skill level. Collberg specializes in moving around the perimeter of the opposing teams zone, and he’s able to do that because of his great agility. He’s also able to use his speed to get through larger defenseman, and that’ll really help him when he needs to adjust to playing on North American ice. Sebastian is a shoot first kind of player, and that’s how it should be, as he’s really been able to develop his naturally hard shot in the Swedish Elite League. Collberg could use a little more weight if he wants a smooth transition to the North American game, but that minor issue can easily be fixed with some strength training. The Ducks are loaded with scorers like Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Corey Perry right now, but they could need some more scoring in the near future, making Collberg a nice fit.
19. Jordan Schmaltz D (Sioux City) (USHL)
Jordan Schmaltz is a perfect example of an offensively gifted defenseman. Last year with Sioux City, Schmaltz had 44 points in just over 50 games. Through 6 games this season, he has 5 points. One of the reasons that Schmaltz is so effective in the opposing teams end (other than skill) is that he’s able to use his size to his advantage. At six-foot-two, 175 pounds, he’s able to swiftly move around opponents with power, and that’s something coveted in todays NHL. The Wisconsin native is a possible top-ten selection, but is more likely to fall to the mid-first round. Tampa Bay does have Victor Hedman already, but Schmaltz could be a great addition to their powerplay unit in a few years, and he surely wouldn’t mind playing with a talent like Steven Stamkos.
Cody Ceci is one of those players that seems to be getting better every game. He’s a big body defenseman at six-foot-two, 200 pounds, and was one of the best defensive defensemen in the league last season while getting a whole lot of ice time. Ceci became much more comfortable in his own zone as the season progressed, and really developed his hockey sense as a result. There is an offensive upside with Ceci, but don’t expect him to be a big powerplay defenseman at the next level like he his now. Some scouts will tell you that Ceci wouldn’t be a good first-round selection, but he is very capable of being one if he keeps developing. Since he’s expected to have a great 2011-2012 season, Cody Ceci could potentially go in a spot similar to this. Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr are top defensemen in Buffalo right now, but Regehr won’t be around forever. By the time the Sabres need blueline help, Ceci should be ready to step in.
21. Olli Maatta D (London Knights) (OHL)
For starters, Ollia Maatta was the first overall selection in the 2011 CHL Import Draft. This big Finnish defenseman has had a lot of high expectations placed upon his shoulders since that selection, but so far he’s doing just fine. Olli looks very comfortable playing with the Knights, one of the top teams in the country right now, and he should have a great year playing for them. Maatta’s a lot of fun to watch on the ice, as he’s not afraid to get in the scrum and drop the gloves, and he always seems to enjoy getting into an opponents face. Maatta is very defensively sound in his own end, and that will make the transition to the pros a lot easier. He’s always playing with his head up, enabling him to make a strong first pass coming out of the zone. Maatta’s the complete package, and is someone who could get to the NHL a lot faster than other first round picks this season.
Right now, Henrik Samuelsson is commonly known as the son of former NHLer Ulf Samuelsson. The next generation of Samuelsson brings a great power forward style of game to the ice, making him a player that a lot of teams will covet in the 2012 NHL Draft. Due to an average offensive skill set, Samulesson probably won’t go inside of the top fifteen picks, but do expect him to go in the middle to late first round. He’s six-foot-two and almost 200 pounds, so he’s already NHL ready in terms of size. However he will very likely need some seasoning in the AHL when he comes over from Europe before he steps into a regular-season NHL game. Henrik is a very gritty player, not something you see from a Swede very often, so it’ll be interesting to watch how he’s able to match up against larger North American opponents someday. With Los Angeles’s current power forward Dustin Penner being a constant question mark, Samuelsson could learn the ropes from him, then eventually take his position.
Zemgus Girgensons, a native of Riga, Latvia, had a nearly flawless transition to the USHL last season. Zemgus won the league championship with the Dubuque Fighting Saints last season, while scoring 49 points in 51 games played. Girgensons is known for his good size, soft hands, and the physicality he brings to every game. He has a great skating stride, and looks very comfortable playing anywhere on the ice. So far this season, he has 7 points in 6 games. He will be a future two-way forward in the NHL, and has committed to play for the University of Vermont next season. One knock on Girgensons’ game is his speed, but he’s still a very effective power forward. Watch for a big 2012 World Junior Championship from him, as it will certainly prove that he’s worthy of a first-round selection. With Joe Thornton getting older, the Sharks could use another power forward, and Girgensons could really learn the NHL game from a veteran like him.
As of right now, Pontus Aberg is considered one of the best skaters available in the 2012 NHL Draft. His tremendous skating ability, quick acceleration, and high-end speed allow him to create scoring opportunities on every shift. This season will be a big year for Aberg, as he needs to prove to NHL scouts that his style of game can work in North America. Some will tell you that Aberg is a bit of a selfish player, that he carries the puck too much and doesn’t use his teammates effectively, so that could really cause him to slide in the draft. Pontus’ defensive committment also needs a little work, but that will get straightened out sooner than later. Based on pure skill alone, Pontus Aberg should be a first-round pick though.
25. Mike Matheson D (Dubuque) (USHL)
The second Fighting Saint to go in this first round mock draft, Mike Matheson has made tremendous leaps up draft rankings in the last few weeks. Matheson, a six-foot-one, 180 pound defenseman from Quebec, chose to bypass the major junior route through the QMJHL, instead choosing to go the NCAA path, recently committing to Boston College. On the ice Matheson displays smooth skating and nice hands, off the ice he’s looked at as a great leader, as well as a very intelligent, mature young hockey player. He’s great at running breakouts out of the zone, and is mainly regarded as an offensive defenseman. It will still be a few years before he plays in the NHL, but he’s worth a first round pick.
Gianluca Curcuruto may have one of the coolest names in the draft. Aside from that, he’s also a very good defenseman. The central part of his game is moving the puck, but he’s also dependable in his own end. He’s definitely one of those players that has a lot of potential to rise upwards in the draft if he has a great season with the Greyhounds. Gianluca is a mobile blueliner who also loves the physical side of the game. Watch a few Greyhounds games and you’ll see that he can really step up and throw a big hit. Selected 14th overall in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection, he also has a hard shot from the point. He would be a nice fit with the Red Wings’ style, plus the transition to new red and white uniforms probably won’t bother him.
Scott Laughton is primarily a two-way forward, and one that already plays the game like a pro. If you’re looking for a pure goal scorer, Laughton’s not your guy. But if you’re looking for a defensively reliable forward that can play all situations, he certainly fits the mould. The third overall selection in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection, Laughton tries to model his game after current Los Angeles King, Mike Richards, saying that “he is a leader and he does anything for his team to win. He’s always there when his team needs him.” Scott Laughton could have the opportunity to play for the Flyers like Richards did, and since he values his leadership skills greatly, Laughton is also future NHL captain material.
Nicholas Kerdiles is one of those players who isn’t necessarily the flashiest player on the ice, and he isn’t going to amaze you with dazzling pucks skills, but he is one of those player that every coach wants on their team. Kerdiles is a solid skater, and at excels playing along the boards in the offensive zone, because he always seems to come away with the puck and drive the net. His hockey sense is exceptional, and he believes that making the simple play with the puck is almost always the best option. The defensive zone is really where he shows his value though. Kerdiles keeps his stick in the passing lanes at all times, and reads plays very well. If Nicholas Kerdiles’ offensive skills improve throughout this season, he could end up being chosen a lot higher than 28th.
Charles Hudon may be the biggest question mark of all the first round prospects. Some scouts will tell you he’s first-round material, but others don’t even consider him worth a second-rounder. This is mostly due to some people saying that he’s an inconsistent player, that he’s too flaky to take in the first. Although Hudon is fairly small, his creative puck skills more than make up for it. Hudon’s NHL potential will probably max out as a second-line scorer, but that would be just fine with the team that drafts him in June. Charles will need to have a great year this season. He’ll need to prove to scouts that he can score on a consistent basis, and that he could survive playing against large pro defenseman. Watch him closely this season, because he certainly can be a first round selection.
30. Ryan Rupert F (London Knights) (OHL)
Every mock draft needs a massive sleeper pick right? Ryan Rupert is just that. Look around online, tell me if you see his name on any top draft rankings. You probably won’t see his name anywhere. But Rupert is a very intriguing prospect, because he can score, and he’s also a gritty player. Ryan’s an impressive skater, with great hands, vision, and hockey sense. He’s not big, and neither is his twin brother Matt Rupert, who also plays for the Knights, but he impacts nearly every game he plays in. The Grand Bend, Ontario native has 15 points through 13 games right now, so keep an eye on him this season, as Ryan Rupert could very well surprise some and be a first-round selection. You read it here first.
That wraps up my early season mock draft, and hopefully you enjoyed it. I always love feedback, so feel free to comment below or send me an e-mail if you have any questions. Thanks!