by Corey Pronman
With the 2013 draft season about to kick off shortly with the summer camps and the Ivan Hlinka tournament, I thought I would ask a few NHL sources to reminiscence a bit on the 2012 NHL draft, specifically the top of the draft for their thoughts on some of the main headlines from the event. I also tend to get more interesting quotes after the fact than before the event as well.
On the draft as a whole: Seeing the reactions from fans to some of the picks in the top ten and throughout day one was pretty interesting. Usually drafts do not go along the mainstream consensus and nothing usually surprises me however 2012 was somewhat of an exception. As one NHL scouting director said, “That was the craziest draft I have ever been a part of. From the first pick onwards nobody really knew who was going where.” One NHL exec said, “Usually, and you’ll never get teams to admit this obviously before the draft, but we all tend to have the same 4-5 guys within the same range [referring to within the first round]. This time was different though.”
On the injuries: This was a well documented draft injury wise due to all the top to above-average prospects who either got hurt for lengthy or moderate amounts of time. One scouting director said, “I have never seen that many top names get hurt in a single season.” Another scouting director said it was a frustrating season and the injuries threw a wrench into their operations, “You plan your schedule out before the season starts to go to this part of North America or Europe to see a top player, and you either have to reschedule because the player is hurt, or you make the trip and he gets scratched the day of.”
On individual selections:
Hampus Lindholm, 6th overall to Anaheim: One NHL exec said there was no surprise at all to their team that Lindholm went that high. That source said, “You watched him develop as the season went on, and he was playing in a mens league, and every week or two you go back and he’s playing 2-3 more minutes, and a few weeks later 2-3 more minutes again. By the end of the season when Rogle was pushing to get promoted to the top division, he was a key reason why.” By midseason he said their team knew that Lindholm was going to go very high. When I asked him to comment on his upside he said, “I don’t think he’s going to be this great offensive player, but you watch him and he does so much.” Leading into the weeks of the draft I had heard from several scouts who thought Lindholm was top 10 quality, and a few who put him ahead of Filip Forsberg for top Swede in the draft.
Derrick Pouliot, 8th overall to Pittsburgh: When I asked a scouting director if he was surprised to see Pouliot go at 8 he said firmly, “No” and continued by saying, “That’s basically where we had him. We though he was right there with the other top Canadian defensemen.” Scouts of course don’t discuss their draft boards with each other, but they do get a feel from their colleagues on what they think of certain players. From talking to NHL sources about what they had heard from their peers, it seems there were certainly some teams that had Derrick Pouliot in their top 10, but most did not.
Slater Koekkoek, 10th overall to Tampa Bay: Continuing on the injury topic above, when I again asked a source if they were surprised to see Koekkoek go that high, he responded, “This was a draft where players like Galchenyuk and Rielly who barely played went in the top five and they were being drafted based on their underage season. If you were evaluating Koekkoek based on his underage season, he would go that high.” Koekkoek was a player who drew a lot of divide from scouts I talked to. Several did not have him in their top 20, or even top 30, whereas I know a few who did consider him a top 10 prospect.
Mark Jankowski 21st overall to Calgary: Jankowski played in an obscure league and certainly did not get the limelight of some other top round prospects. When I asked one scout before the draft where he thought he would go he said somewhere in the mid 20’s. The indication I had gotten was Jankowski was a love him/hate him type of player and those kinds of prospects tend to go high because all it takes is one team to love him. Calgary’s next pick was at 42, but from what I was hearing there was little to no chance Jankowski was going to be available at that spot.
On how the first round played out: I’ve written about how I think forward prospects should be given an edge over defense prospects of close or equal talent levels due to projection uncertainty. When I asked an NHL executive for their thoughts on the first round, they echoed that, “All those defensemen going so high, it was crazy.” When I asked that same exec on where Filip Forsberg and Mikhail Grigorenko went he said, “Well we certainly had both players going higher.”