Despite how often people try to evaluate a draft class as players are selected, it can take years for new draftees to grow into their roles with the teams that selected them. As time rolls on, you can begin to see who struck gold with their first-round selections, and who would love to take a mulligan on their pick.
With the 2012 NHL Draft now a distant memory, it is a good time to look back at the first 10 players selected in order to see who developed into their projected talent, and who ended up as a draft day bust. The 2012 NHL Entry Draft was held June 22 & 23 at the Consol Energy Center (now PPG Paints Arena) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
#1. Nail Yakupov – Edmonton Oilers
Of the four first overall picks made by the Edmonton Oilers over the last decade, Nail Yakupov was the most disappointing player for the team. While he had top-end scoring talent, he lacked the hockey IQ and intangibles necessary to make the step from juniors to the NHL.
Yakupov’s rookie season was his best year in Edmonton, as he scored 17 goals and 31 points in a lockout-shortened campaign. After that year, though, his career largely stalled, only managing to break 30 points once more with the Oilers. In 2016, after playing four seasons in Edmonton, he was traded to the St. Louis Blues for a conditional third-round pick and prospect Zach Porchiro. He would spend one year with the Blues before signing with the Colorado Avalanche in 2017, where he put up nine goals and 16 points as a depth winger for the team.
At all points in his NHL career, Yakupov failed to meet the expectations of a first-overall pick. Even as a depth winger, he was unable to find that scoring magic that made him the top-prospect within his draft class. After this disappointing NHL career, he is set to return to the KHL when he signed a one-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg in July 2018. Perhaps he will be a late bloomer and find his game in KHL, but for now, he is one of the biggest draft busts of the last decade.
#2. Ryan Murray – Columbus Blue Jackets
When the Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Ryan Murray second overall, they did so with the expectations that they had found the top defensive prospect in a draft loaded with high-end defensive talent. While it is difficult to judge defensemen due to how long it can take for them to develop a complete game, it looks likely that Murray will never become the top-pairing defender the Blue Jackets hoped he could.
This isn’t necessarily his fault, either. Injuries have severely limited Murray’s development throughout his professional career, with the young defender only playing a complete season once in five years with Columbus. His point totals have also dramatically fallen in recent years, as he as only posted 23 points over the last two seasons.
Murray still has the toolset to put it all together in the NHL, but it is seeming less and less likely that this will happen in Columbus. He has been supplanted by star defenders like Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, and if his injury struggles continue, the team may have to move on from him in the near future. For now, he is signed through the 2018-19 season, but as he approaches restricted free agency in 2019, a change of scenery may be exactly what he needs in order to reach his full potential.
#3. Alex Galchenyuk – Montreal Canadiens
Throughout his career with the Montreal Canadiens, Alex Galchenyuk struggled with one thing: consistency. He would show flashes of greatness throughout his career since being drafted third overall and joining the team as an 18-year old, but he hasn’t been able to reach this dominating play each and every night.
In 2014-15, he appeared to be the next star in Montreal after scoring a career-high 30 goals and 56 points in 82 games. Over the next two seasons, though, he would fail to break the 20-goal mark, while only posting 44 and 51 points respectively. During these years, he was moved up and down the Canadiens nightly line-up, playing at both center and wing. As said by Kyle Meideros of habseyesontheprize about the start of Galchenyuk’s sixth year with the team:
Now entering his sixth NHL season, his descriptors have become: a defensive liability, an underachiever, untrustworthy.
After years of rumors and speculation, the Canadiens traded Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi in June 2018. This change of scenery could provide him with the exact fresh start needed to reach his full NHL potential. If he can find a consistent starting role in Arizona, he could thrive alongside their roster filled with young, high-talent forwards.
#4. Griffin Reinhart – New York Islanders
Sometimes you have to know when to admit you were wrong and try to turn around a bad situation. After drafting Griffin Reinhart fourth overall, he was sent back to the WHL to continue development until the 2014-15 season, when the New York Islanders decided to pull the plug on their top pick of 2012. They sent an underachieving Reinhart, who had played just eight games with the team, to the Edmonton Oilers for a first and second-round pick in the 2015 draft.
This trade has since become infamous for both teams, as Reinhart became a staple of the Oilers AHL team after floundering through just 29 games with the team. Eventually, he was left open at the expansion draft and was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights, where he has continued to play for their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
That first-round pick the Islanders got back for Reinhart, however, was used to draft Mathew Barzal, who went out and had one of the best rookie seasons in over a decade en route to winning the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2018. While Reinhart was a bust for them, they still salvaged the situation and turned a mistake into a true star.
#5. Morgan Rielly – Toronto Maple Leafs
For the better part of a decade, the Toronto Maple Leafs struggled with a mediocre defensive group that held them down as a team. When they drafted Morgan Rielly fifth overall in 2012, they were attempting to address this area of weakness by bringing in a young, top-end defenseman whom they could build their team around.
Five years into his professional career with Toronto, one can safely say that the Maple Leafs found their man on defense. Throughout the 2017-18 season, Rielly experienced a breakout year, scoring 52 points in 76 games. This ranks him 16th in overall defensemen scoring, putting him in line with some of the best defenders in the league… all while making $5 million a year through the 2021-22 season.
The best part for Toronto, though, is the fact that Rielly is only 24 years old. He still has time left to develop both his body and hockey instincts into a truly elite player. If this development continues, he could become a Norris candidate in the upcoming years.
#6. Hampus Lindholm – Anaheim Ducks
On the day of the draft, Hampus Lindholm was expected to be a mid-first round pick with high upside. The Anaheim Ducks, however, believed that he was the real deal, and took him with the sixth overall pick, well ahead of projections. As Collin Insley of THW said in his draft day profile of Lindholm:
Lindholm is an awfully intriguing prospect that, in time, might be considered a steal for Anaheim.
While he may not have reached ‘steal’ status as a high draft pick, the Ducks still have to be satisfied with their selection five years into his playing career. When healthy, Lindholm is that smart, two-way player that every franchise wants to build around. While his scoring numbers are not staggering, he has consistently posted around 30 points each season since joining Anaheim.
As one of the many young and talented defenders who started with the Ducks this season, Lindholm looks to be a major keystone for the future of the franchise. As long as he can stay healthy, he will continue developing alongside the franchise’s young core, and could still grow into a top all-around player in the league.
#7. Mathew Dumba – Minnesota Wild
There was little doubt about the quality of player that the Minnesota Wild were getting when they drafted Mathew Dumba seventh overall. With the size, drive and grit necessary to become a top-pairing defender, he had the full toolkit coming into his professional career. If given the proper time and space, he seemed like a player who would quickly put it all together.
During the 2015-16, Dumba experienced a breakout with the Wild, playing in 81 games and collecting 10 goals and 26 points along the way. After increasing his scoring totals in 2016-17, he would have a career year in 2017-18, scoring 14 goals and 50 points, all while playing upwards of 23 minutes each night. After this successful year, he was rewarded by Minnesota with a five-year, $30 million extension to keep him with the team through the 2022-23 season.
At 23 years old, Dumba hasn’t even started reaching his prime years yet. If he continues to develop his game and can stay healthy, he will find his way into the discussion as one of the elite defenders in the league. While his career is still young, the Wild have already struck gold with Dumba.
#8. Derrick Pouliot – Pittsburgh Penguins (From Carolina Hurricanes)
The mood around the Pittsburgh Penguins after the 2012 draft was pure excitement due to a massive trade that sent Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes and brought Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the eighth overall pick back to Pittsburgh. With this pick, the Penguins selected Derrick Pouliot, who was seen at the time as a sure-fire NHL defenseman.
As time went on, though, Pouliot was unable to establish himself on the stacked and highly talented Pittsburgh blue line. He would go on to play less than 70 games with the franchise over three seasons before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 2017. This change of scenery has done Pouliot relatively well, as he played 71 games in Vancouver in the 2017-18 season, registering 22 points along the way.
No, this is not the type of production you would expect out of a top-10 draft pick, but there still is promise for Pouliot’s future. He may never reach the lofty expectations given to a player with his draft profile, but he can still become a valuable defender for the Canucks.
#9. Jacob Trouba – Winnipeg Jets
If you are looking purely at production, the Winnipeg Jets made a fantastic pick when they took Jacob Trouba ninth overall in 2012. Since becoming a full-time NHLer in the 2013-14 season, Trouba has been a stalwart along the Jets’ blueline, averaging more than 22 minutes on the ice each night. During his best season in 2016-17, he scored 33 points in 60 games, making him the second-highest scoring defenseman on the team.
However, once you look past his production, you can see that things may not all be well for Trouba. First of all, he has struggled with injuries, only playing more than 70 games once in his first five seasons. This has cost him valuable development time early in his career when he needs it most.
Trouba also requested a trade back in September of 2016 after he felt that he was not being given the full opportunity to thrive in Winnipeg. While this issue was worked through and he received a two-year bridge deal to keep him with the team, he was unable to garner a long-term extension when that bridge deal ended in the 2018 offseason. Instead, he was awarded a one-year, $5.5 million contract in arbitration, which will keep him with the Jets through the 2018-19 season.
Even with all this in mind, Trouba has developed well throughout his five years in the NHL, and he still has room to grow. If they can get a long-term contract worked out, he will continue to be a keystone on Winnipeg’s blue line. However, if they can’t reach an extension, the Jets may look to trade their star defender while he is still a restricted free agent in order to maximize their return instead of letting him walk away from the franchise for nothing.
#10. Slater Koekkoek – Tampa Bay Lightning
Coming into the 2012 draft, everyone knew that the Tampa Bay Lightning were looking to select a defenseman and goaltender in the first round. With their tenth overall pick, they chose defenseman Slater Koekkoek, much to the surprise of, well, everyone. With a high-talent forward like Filip Forsberg still left on the draft board, Koekkoek seemed like a real stretch for Tampa Bay.
Injuries can dictate the course of a career more than actual play on the ice, which has been the case for Koekkoek. He struggled with injuries both before and after the draft, which stunted his development. While he certainly is a talented defenseman, he has been pushed down the Lightning’s depth chart, failing to find consistent ice time with the team. In the 2017-18 season, he spent the majority of the year as a healthy scratch, playing in just 35 games.
Even though he never found a role with the Lightning, there’s still potential within Koekkoek. While many believe that he could become a productive player if given the right opportunity, that seems unlikely to happen in Tampa Bay. However, he was given one more chance to find a role with the team after he signed a one-year extension in the 2018 offseason. As the clear seventh defenseman this season, he may finally have that chance to put it all together and work his way into a consistent starting role with the franchise that drafted him tenth overall.
Complete List of 2012 NHL Entry Draft First-Rounders
|1||Nail Yakupov (RW)||Russia||Edmonton Oilers|
|2||Ryan Murray (D)||Canada||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|3||Alex Galchenyuk (C)||United States||Montreal Canadiens|
|4||Griffin Reinhart (D)||Canada||New York Islanders|
|5||Morgan Rielly (LW)||Canada||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|6||Hampus Lindholm (D)||Sweden||Anaheim Ducks|
|7||Mathew Dumba (D)||Canada||Minnesota Wild|
|8||Derrick Pouliot (D)||Canada||Pittsburgh Penguins (From Carolina)|
|9||Jacob Trouba (D)||United States||Winnipeg Jets|
|10||Slater Koekkoek (D)||Canada||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|11||Filip Forsberg (RW)||Sweden||Washington Capitals (From Colorado)|
|12||Mikhail Grigorenko (C)||Russia||Buffalo Sabres|
|13||Radek Faksa (C)||Czech Republic||Dallas Stars|
|14||Zemgus Girgensons (C)||Latvia||Buffalo Sabres|
|15||Codi Ceci (D)||Canada||Ottowa Senators|
|16||Tom Wilson (RW)||Canada||Washington Capitals|
|17||Thomas Hertl (C)||Czech Republic||San Jose Sharks|
|18||Teuvo Teravainen (RW)||Finland||Chicago Blackhawks|
|19||Andrei Vasilevskiy (G)||Russia||Tampa Bay Lightning (From Detroit)|
|20||Scott Laughton (C)||Canada||Philadelphia Flyers|
|21||Mark Jankowski (C)||Canada||Calgary Flames (From Nashville via Buffalo)|
|22||Ollie Maata (D)||Finland||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|23||Mike Matheson (D)||Canada||Florida Panthers|
|24||Malcolm Subban (G)||Canada||Boston Bruins|
|25||Jordan Schmaltz (D)||United States||St. Louis Blues|
|26||Brendan Gaunce (C)||Canada||Vancouver Canucks|
|27||Henrik Samuelsson (C)||United States||Phoenix Coyotes|
|28||Brady Skjei (D)||United States||New York Rangers|
|29||Stefan Matteau (C)||United States||New Jersy Devils|
|30||Tanner Pearson (LW)||Canada||Los Angeles Kings|