Recently I published the first half of A February 2012 NHL Mock Draft. As you can see, this is the second half. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.
The order used in this mock draft is based on Stanley Cup odds, and the player rankings are based on a combination of popular opinion, as well as my personal thoughts.
Picking up at the end of the last article, here is the continuation of the mock draft, with the sixteenth through thirtieth selections.
At the start of the season, Matt Finn wasn’t being considered as a legitimate first round selection. The Storm defenseman wasn’t the big, strong, defenseman we see now. Guelph coach Scott Walker says, “His conditioning is 100 times better this season. I was talking to [Hockey Canada] lately about Matt and they’re like, ‘wow, what a difference.’ ” Finn has developed into a solid two-way defenseman that can score and be reliable on the back end. He says his idols are Drew Doughty and Nicklas Lidstrom. While he may not be as good as they are, he could still be a very good blueliner for the Maple Leafs in seasons to come. Toronto is pretty full up front right now, meaning a defenseman would be the smarter decision at the moment.
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. Scouts believe that Collberg could use a little more weight if he wants a smooth transition to the North American game though. The Devils chose defenseman Adam Larsson in the 2011 first round, so a skill forward makes sense this year. Why not make it another Swede?
Matteau made a splash in the junior hockey newsworld recently, after announcing that he would be opting to play in the QMJHL next season. He had previously signed a letter of intent to play for the University of North Dakota. Instead, he will play for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada come the 2012-2013 season. His father is an assistant coach with the Armada, meaning it came as no surprise when the team acquired his “Q” rights in early January. “He’s dynamite,” NHL Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee told NHL.com. “The times I saw him, he was just pulling away from people, bulling his way down the ice and going to the net and scoring some nice goals. He can make good plays out of the corners and play physical.” Ottawa has been a major shock this season, meaning they’ll likely be picking when Matteau is available. Though this could be considered too high of a position for Matteau by some but, Stefan could fit nicely with the Senators’ core forward group. Another defenseman isn’t what the team needs.
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. You may have noticed that Nashville has some pretty decent defenseman on their blueline right now, so another one isn’t neccessary. Aberg is a bit of a sleeper selection, but going this high isn’t a stretch.
The defenseman with possibly the coolest name in the draft slides down five spots from where I previously placed him. However, it should be noted that the only reason this is happening is because Koekkoek is out for the season after playing only 26 games for the Petes. Koekkoek is a solid two-way defenseman that is a tremendous on ice leader with great work ethic. At 6-foot-two, 180 pounds, Koekkoek is a big body on the ice that can throw some pretty good hits and score goals while being very reliable in the defensive zone. His injury is just about guaranteed to lower his chances of being a top-twenty pick, but based on potential and talent alone, he certainly belongs in that category. Drew Doughty would be a great mentor for someone like Koekkoek when he gets to the pros.
Like Stefan Matteau, Colton Sissons was not mentioned in An Early Season 2012 NHL Mock Draft. The North Vancouver, British Columbia native has been one of Kelowna’s top players this season, putting up a solid 38 points through 51 games. The Hockey Writers’ own Patrick Kearns wrote, “Sissons plays a two-way game, and is proficient at both ends of the ice. He was one of the best defensive forwards on the ice in his rookie year. On top of a strong two-way game, Sissons has a good nose for the net, and is strong along the boards and in front of the net. He displays incredible awareness while on the ice, and already plays like a veteran.” Don’t let the offensive numbers concern you though, as scoring goals in the pros won’t likely be what he’s there for. Sissons could be considered the biggest sleeper in this mock draft. I chose to put him in pretty much the highest position he could go. However, if he starts sliding, he could also end up being a late second round pick.
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. 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 so many other players in this draft class, Maidens is currently out of Owen Sound’s lineup nursing an injury. However, his play this season has still kept him in first round talk. There’s a good chance he’ll go within the first twenty-five picks. This is Washington’s second pick in the first round. Earlier I had them picking a defenseman in Olli Maatta, so this time around they’ll take a forward in Maidens.
Skjei is the third player from the USA Under-18 program to go in the first round, and the fourth player from the United States Hockey League. At 6’2″, 200 pounds, he’s a fairly large presence on the blueline. He has played well in the USHL this season alongside his teammates Matteau and Jacob Trouba. The Flyers have loads of talent up front, but their defense is beginning to need some top prospects. With Chris Pronger having a questionable future, and Kimmo Timonen not getting any younger, the Flyers would be smart to take a defenseman as early as they can in the draft. Skjei fits the mould they’re looking for.
From The Scouting Report: “Hertl had a very productive first half to the season and may be even underrated at #20 in our rankings. Playing in the Czech Extraliga on a weak team, Hertl has worked his way up the depth chart and been an effective offensive contributor for the team. Hertl has a good blend of size and skating ability and displays some grit and a willingness to finish checks. At the World Juniors, Hertl was one of the top Czech forwards and had a strong showing in the tournament. If Hertl can close out his season with continued strong play he will make a compelling case to be a Top 20 pick this summer.”
The second Fighting Saint to go in this first round mock draft, Mike Matheson has remained fairly steady in most draft rankings, as he’s still projected the go in the late first round. In terms of who’s still available in this spot, most teams will likely choose a forward. But the Sharks need a solid defenseman more than an offensive prospect. Matheson is great at running breakouts out of the zone, and is mainly regarded as an offensive defenseman. Dan Boyle could be a tremendous mentor to Matheson before he retires. Though this is a bit high for Matheson at the moment, it wouldn’t make sense for the Sharks to pass on getting him here.
In my original Early Season 2012 NHL Mock Draft, I had Kerdiles going two spots later than this. However, his play this season has given me a reason to move him up a bit. The California native is committed to play for the Wisconsin Badgers next season. In an interview with The Hockey Writers’ own Shawn Reznik, Kerdiles said, “I think that I’m a power forward who has good speed and skill. I like to use my size and speed to get around defenders on rushes and I tend to use my body in the corners in order to protect the puck. I pride myself on being a two-way player who can not only score in the offensive zone, but also play strong defense down low in the defensive zone.” That sounds like Red Wings-material to me.
If you’ve never heard of Daniil Zharkov before, it’s alright, I won’t hold it against you. Coming into this season, unless you were a really hardcore OHL fan, you would have never thought that Zharkov would be a potential first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. At 6’3″, 197 pounds, Zharkov has been a tremendous player for the Bulls this season, and scouts are really liking what they’re seeing from him. He actually played for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL last season, but decided that the OHL would help him further his career. So far, it seems to have been the right choice. Zharkov has put up 25 points in 31 games for Belleville this year, and is only getting started when it comes to developing his talents. The native of St. Petersburg, Russia could be a big-time sleeper in this year’s draft, as he could end up going a lot higher than this.
28. Gemel Smith F (Owen Sound Attack) (OHL)
For starters, he has been compared to the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand. Smith was also a stand-out player on the 2011 OHL Champions, the Owen Sound Attack. Finally, just to show you that where your drafted doesn’t mean much in terms of how good you can be, Gemel Smith wasn’t taken until the sixth round of the 2010 OHL Priority Selection. He’s proven all the doubters wrong. At 5’11”, 161 pounds, by no means is he the the biggest guy on the ice. However, that hasn’t stopped him from showing scouts that he can play at the highest level. Smith has said that Flyers forward Daniel Briere (a small player himself) is someone he looks up to, saying, “He’s a smaller guy, he’s fast, he’s feisty, he takes pucks to the net and he’s good in both zones, offensively and defensively.” Gemel Smith could be great player to have on your team in the National Hockey League someday, so New York would be wise to take him here.
Frk’s season was really derailed early on due to a lingering concussion that kept him out of action for 97 days. However, in the 18 games he’s played since coming back, he has tallied 14 points. Though the concussion might scare some teams away from drafting him, there’s no denying that Frk has the potential and talent to be a star in the NHL someday. His hand-eye coordination and the power he generates on his shot are great, and his powerful legs give him tremendous balance on the ice. The 6-foot, 198-pound Frk is currently ranked 25th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, but if he hadn’t been injured, that ranking would likely be a few spots higher.
30. Phil Di Giuseppe (University of Michigan) (NCAA)
Phil Di Giuseppe certainly didn’t come into this season with the words “first round pick” surrounding him. That all changed pretty quickly. He’s caught the attention of a whole lot of scouts with his play in the Wolverines’ uniform this season. He earned himself an invitation to Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp, and came this close to landing a spot on the final roster. As a freshman, Di Giuseppe has put up a solid 17 points in 29 games. The Maple, Ontario native can be considered a sleeper for the upcoming draft, as it’s fair to say he could go anywhere between twenty to forty overall. Some classify him as a pure scorer, but Di Giuseppe prefers to call himself a “skill-player”, while noting that he does have the capability to bury the puck once in a while too.
That wraps up my February 2012 NHL Mock Draft. 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.
David O’Connor is a managing editor with the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. His writing has been on the Los Angeles Times’ website, among other places. O’Connor also does some scouting work for the local Junior B hockey club. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.