The newest New York Ranger, Josh Nicholls, might owe Shane McColgan a thank you and root beer as a result of signing with the Blueshirts. The 6-foot-2 and 186 pound forward is a teammate of McColgan’s with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades and you can bet the Blueshirts dialed into Nicholls this season while tracking McColgan’s progress.

Nicholls, who can play Center and RW, was originally a 2010 seventh round draft pick (#182) of the Toronto Maple Leafs. When he did not sign with Toronto, Nicholls was eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft but went undrafted.

As per Bob McKenzie of TSN, Nicholls signed an entry level contract (with a cap hit of $925,000) and will remain with the Blades until their season is over.

Nicholls was on the radar prior to the 2010 NHL Draft. NHL’s Central Scouting ranked him as their 93rd North American skater. McKeen’s ranked him at number 129 in their rankings of the Top 150 players. International Scouting Service ranked him at #199 and had the following write-up on him:

• Good linear skater but edge work needs improvement
• Two way player
• Leadership qualities
• Puck handling skills are decent
• Good stick around net in offensive zone
• Good positioning in d-zone
• Plays PK

Nicholls, who will be 21 on April 17, is playing his fifth season with the Blades – starting his WHL career as a 16-year-old.

The Tsawwassen, BC native has shown solid development as his WHL has progressed. After posting nine goals and 16 assists in 63 games in his rookie season, Nicholls’ numbers have steadily increased – as seen here:

• 18 goals and 30 assists in 71 games in 2008-2009
• 34 goals and 53 assists in 71 games in 2010-2011
• 30 goals and 38 assists in 56 games in 2011-2012
• 41 goals and 32 assists in 65 games (and counting) in 2012-2013

Hockey’s Future offers up the following Scouting Report on him:

“An interesting combination of size and speed, Nicholls is a two-way forward who displays some offensive upside. He is able to line-up both at center and on the right-wing. Very thin at the moment being only 186lbs and 6’2 so weight will be a priority over the next two seasons. Not a physical force, but forechecks well. He has developed into a well-rounded forward over the last few seasons; dangerous in all areas of the ice.”

“A long-term project with intriguing upside, Nicholls will spend the 2012-13 season in the WHL where he will continue maturing. Nicholls will continue his prominent offensive role with Saskatoon this season.”

“Projection: Versatile two-way forward with size.”

On his SNY Blog, Adam Rotter wrote that Nicholls scored a highlight goal reminiscent of Marek Malik’s shootout game-winning goal in November 2006. The main difference is that Nicholls’ goal was during the regular course of the game.

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While John Ferguson Jr. of the San Jose Sharks might have been scouting the New York Rangers, it turns out that the Blueshirts trading partner turned out to be a Wild card – as in the Minnesota Wild. The Rangers traded veteran winger Mike Rupp to Minnesota in exchange for Froward Darroll Powe and RW Nick Palmieri.

It is a trade that sees the Rangers get younger and smaller while saving about $400,000 in cap space as Palmieri the Connecticut Whale of the AHL. Both players have one more year left on their contracts (Rupp at $1.5 million and Powe at $1.07 million). Palmieri ($577,150) is making just above the NHL’s minimum salary of $525,000.

In an unscientific and strictly cursory search of the Internet, Wild fans seemed more upset to be losing Palmieri than Powe. It appears that it is a case of size and potential winning out over a third/fourth line checking forward with limited offensive upside. However given the Rangers penchant for taking penalties, they probably need a penalty killer like Powe than a tough guy like Rupp – especially with Aron Asham and Stu Bickel in New York and some size and tough guy alternatives in Connecticut (Palmieri, Micheal Haley, Brandon Segal and Brandon Mashinter).

In Powe, the Rangers received a 27-year-old who can play Center and Wing and is a left-handed shooter. The 5-foot-11 and 212 pounder is scoreless in eight games this season. He played in all 82 games last year and scored six goals and seven assists. In 294 career NHL games, Powe has tallied 28 goals and 28 assists.

Powe played four years at Princeton University before signing with the Philadelphia Flyers as an undrafted free agent in March 2007. The Flyers dealt Powe to Minnesota for a 2013 third round draft pick in June 2011 and he signed with Minnesota in July 2011. He is a John Tortorella type of player in that he is good defensively and will get in on the forecheck. While he doesn’t have an enforcer’s size, Powe has been known to scrap.

The one thing that limits his ice time is that he does not have much of an offensive game. His best use will be as a fourth line player who can kill penalties and take a shift on the third line as defensive presence and forechecker.

The addition of Palmieri helps replace the loss of Rupp’s size. The 23-year-old Palmieri is 6-foot-5 and weighs 230 pounds.

He was originally drafted in the third round (#79) of the 2007 NHL Draft by New Jersey. The Devils dealt Palmieri. Kurtis Foster, Stephane Veilleux, a 2012 second round draft pick (that belonged to Washington) and a conditional 2013 third round draft pick to Minnesota for former Ranger draft pick Marek Zidlicky. Since the Devils made the Eastern Conference Finals and Zidlicky played in 75% of the Devils playoff games in the first round, that pick is transferred to the Wild.

Palmieri played in 40 games with Houston Aeros of the AHL and scored 10 goals and 11 assists with 35 PIMs. Last season, Palmieri split his time between the Wild and Devils organizations. In 38 NHL games, he scored four goals and three assists with 14 PIMs. In 38 AHL games, he scored eight goals and nine assists with 32 PIM. He represented the USA in 2011 World Championships scoring two goals and one assist in six games.

In their 2007 NHL Draft Guide, the International Scouting Service wrote of Palmieri, “Palmieri is a big player with a strong powerful skating stride who would be more effective if he moved his feet more and played physical on a more consistent basis. He has good puck skills and does a nice of using size to protect the puck during battles along the boards. Playing in Erie this past season, Nick had the opportunity to play in all key situations – 5 on 5, 4 on 4, PP and PK. In the offensive zone he has a heavy shot with a quick release. Needs to improve play away from the puck and show more consistent effort in overall game.”

Here is the Toronto Star’s Scouting Report on Darroll Powe:

Assets: Works hard, provides energy and is a solid defensive forward. Can play both center and wing. Is aggressive and hard to knock off the puck, due to a strong lower base. Is plenty versatile.
Flaws: Doesn’t own a lot of natural offensive ability, so he’s reduced to role-player status at the National Hockey League level. Also doesn’t always play with consistency and can wear down over time.
Career Potential: Versatile depth forward with a defensive conscience.

Here is the Toronto Star’s Scouting Report on Nick Palmieri:

Assets: Boasts impressive size at 6-3, 220 pounds. Displays the ability to use his big frame to initiate contact. Works hard to improve his game. Unleashes a hard shot.
Flaws: Needs to improve his skating, as well as his passing skills and how to better utilize his linemates. Has to display a more consistent power game in the NHL.
Career Potential: Meat-and-potatoes winger with a little upside.

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“He who hesitates is lost.” It is believed that this idiom traces its roots back to Joseph Addison’s “Cato”. Whether the phrase originated with Addison or predates the English writer, it certainly refers to my favorite hockey blogger (me) and to my favorite hockey team (the Rangers).

At the end of last week I was doing some research for my next edition of “Ranger Ramblings”. I zeroed in on Coach John Tortorella’s reliance on his top players while seemingly ignoring the rest of his roster – especially in the wake of the loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

On Friday, as part of the research, I zeroed in on three potential UFAs that would fit the Rangers needs. Imagine my surprise on Saturday night when I saw the ticker on the NHL Network that said the Rangers had signed Jason Arnott to a one-year deal – the same Jason Arnott who was at the top of my list.

After kicking myself for not finishing the article up before the start of the weekend, I figured that I could always whip up a column on how Arnott fits into the Rangers given his faceoff proficiency last season (505) and his big-time shot that would help cure some of the ills of the Rangers power play.

Imagine my shock on Monday morning when I open up the “Daily News” and see that Arnott’s deal with the Rangers was DOA because he did not pass the team’s physical.

As expected, Blueshirts President/GM Glen Sather was tight-lipped about the specific circumstances.

“He couldn’t pass a medical so we’ll move on, that’s all I can tell you,” was Sather’s explanation when Andrew Gross of The Record spoke to Slats at practice this morning.

It remains to be seen if Arnott does sign with another team – a team who might be more willing to gamble that he is healthy enough to last the season.

However, it seems that Sather is not content to stand pat with his roster.

“We’re always looking,” Sather told Gross. “We have 10 rookies at Hartford (AHL). It’s necessary to look around. It’s going to be a long year, you never know what’s going to happen. There’s always injuries so it’s smart to look around.”

After reading what Sather said, I thought that my second choice might be in play for the Rangers. While Option B does not bring the same faceoff skills as Arnott, he does bring an offensive upgrade and has a background of being a top performer on the power play just a few years ago. On top of that, he is a pretty good shootout candidate and he has proven he can handle the pressure of playing in the New York area.

Well, low and behold, I see that I am two-for-two because Petr Sykora signed to play the rest of the season in Switzerland with SC Bern.

There was one more player that I thought could help the Rangers. While he would not add much to the offense, the fact that he won 55% of his faceoffs during the season would be a tremendous upgrade over Jeff Halpern. Sadly, I do not think former Ranger Dominic Moore will play hockey this season following the tragic loss of his wife Katie on January 7, 2013.

Jeff Z. Klein of the NY Times (1/28/13) came up with a brief list of potential Rangers targets. He mentioned Sykora’s name, but did not think he was a fit for a Tortorella coached team. I am not so sure that another one of his suggestions, the smallish Daymond Langkow (5-10) would fit his system either.

Brian Rolston’s name has been kicked about online, but I am not sure if there is much in the tank – although he would be a help on the power play and in shootouts. It also doesn’t hurt that he is a former teammate of Marian Gaborik and has experience playing in the New York area.

One better possibility is Andrew Brunette. The 39-year-old can play either wing and is exactly the type of forward the Rangers need in front of the net on the power play because he is a finisher who is at home at the top of the crease. Klein said that Brunette reported that he was thinking of retiring earlier this month.

While he was never a great skater, time has slowed him a step. However, he spent six seasons playing with the Minnesota Wild so you know he has an idea of how to play defense. The one drawback might be that Brunette is not an overly physical player despite having good size (6-1/215).

However let’s be honest, who would you rather see as the fourth line RW – Stu Bickel, Aron Asham or Brunette?

In addition, Brunette spent three seasons as a teammate of Gaborik’s with the Wild.

Given the miniscule ice time Torts is doling out to the fourth line, it makes more sense to have a power play specialist in the lineup, especially one who can move up to the second or third line depending on the tenor of the game.

You would still have Mike Rupp around to handle the rough stuff so all you would need is a faceoff specialist to replace Halpern. The veteran center is pretty much a forgotten man as he saw just over six minutes over six minutes of ice time against Philadelphia and then played 4:16 (on 10 shifts) against Toronto – and that wasn’t even the biggest indictment.

The man who was brought in to be the Rangers “faceoff specialist” did not take one draw against the Maple Leafs. With Halpern winning just 34.8% of his faceoffs, the meter might be running on Halpern.

Sather has to do some roster juggling in order to get Tortorella some support players that he has confidence in giving ice time to. There has to be a better balance of ice time between the “haves” or the “have nots”. Interestingly enough, the skewed ice time concern is not a byproduct of the abbreviated season.

The Rangers will be playing their 48-game schedule in 99 days – a tough feat to be sure. However, the Rangers played their last 48 games last season in just 100 days. While some might argue that this year’s version as it “easier” because they didn’t play 34 games previous to that stretch, the one thing last year’s squad had – and this year’s team is missing – is a full training camp where Tortorella could condition his team the way he wanted them conditioned.

The Rangers “need” to make roster moves almost reached critical mass following the win over the Flyers at the Garden. However, with Ryan Callahan’s shoulder subluxation costing him 10-14 days a major crisis was adverted. Even if Cally’s injury causes him to miss 3-4 weeks, the Blueshirts are still ahead of the game compared to the Ottawa Senators.

The Rangers 2012 first round foe will be without Jason Spezza for at least two months as the Ottawa center faces surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.

While the Rangers appear to have dodged a bullet in the short term in respect to Callahan’s injury, Rick Carpiniello of the Journal News did throw a scare into Rangers fans.

IN a January 30, 2013 Rangers Report Blog entry, Carpiniello reminded fans that former captain Barry Beck also suffered a shoulder subluxation that haunted him throughout his career as he battled recurring shoulder problems and faced many surgeries before finally retiring. On the plus side, medical science has improved over the years so hopefully Callahan’s injury is a short term concern with no major long term repercussions.

My hesitation theme comes full circle as we address the Rangers hesitant ways in terms of their on ice play. The bane of the Blueshirts existence continues to be their woeful power play.

After sleepwalking their way to yet another home loss to the Penguins, the Rangers power play sits tied for 26th in the NHL with three goals in 28 chances (10.7 %).

With Pittsburgh employing a passive penalty kill, the last thing the Rangers needed to do was continue with their hesitant and tentative play on the power play. If an opponent is being aggressive on the penalty kill it almost forces a power play to be more aggressive – and that tends to open up more scoring chances.

When the penalty killers are not being aggressive, a team can be lulled to sleep – and that is a recipe for disaster when you are a team like the Rangers who tend to be more passive/hesitant on the power play to begin with.

“There are a couple of things that are key to a good power play. First and foremost is puck movement. Our puck movement has been too slow. And when we do get into a situation where we can move it, we’re holding on to it too long and the penalty killers can adjust,” Tortorella said.

“Then there’s also movement without the puck. Players need to jump into spots. We’re all sitting on the outside and we’re not jumping into holes to, again, make the penalty killers react. The whole key with a power play is reading the defense and taking what they give you. And you can’t even get to that step if you’re all on the outside. The penalty killers aren’t going to move. They’re going to keep to the middle and keep you on the outside.”

I don’t think anyone would disagree or be surprised with what Torts said. What is most surprising about Tortorella’s comments is that he made them to John Dellapina of the Daily News on October 15, 1999 when Tortorella was an Assistant coach with the Rangers.

By the way, kudos to Adam Rotter for SNY for digging up that original article and posting it on his SNY Rangers blog .

This quote shows that Tortorella is not lost when it comes to drawing up a successful power play. He has been able to get his players to buy into a defensive responsibility first style of play, but for some reason, there is a big disconnect when it comes to running the power play.

The Rangers lack of power play success is not from a lack of talent. Rather, it is from a lack of execution in terms of doing what the coach is preaching and has preached in the past.

The Rangers slow start is disappointing – especially in terms of the abbreviated 48-game schedule. However, it is not like last year’s team stormed out of the box. The 2011-2012 Blueshirts opened the season 0-2-1 and 3-3-3 before winning five games in a row and 10 of 12.

The last word belongs to the coach. While he was talking specifically about the power play back in October 1999, the following quote from Tortorella pretty much sums up his job as we hit February 2013.

“But coaching is not just enduring the bad streaks and enjoying the good ones. It’s shortening the former without making panicky moves and lengthening the latter by not overlooking warning signs. It’s a very important thing that, through the schedule and into the playoffs, you come back and touch on the basics,” Tortorella explained to Dellapina.

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As we stand poised for the start of the NHL’s “Annual 48-Game Season” (which is actually held about every 20 years, but annual sounded better), the New York Rangers face the sprint to the Stanley Cup as one of the hunted – as opposed to just one of the hunters. Fans can only hope the Blueshirts do better during this 48-game season than they did the last time.

The 1994-95 season was the first time the NHL season saw a 48-game season since the 1941-42 season when the league was comprised of just seven teams. The New York Americans folded at the end of that year and the NHL remained with the “Original Six” until expansion in 1967.

Taking a look back now, it is interesting to note that the Rangers started the 1994-95 season as the defending Stanley Cup champions and they ended the 1941-42 season with the best record in the NHL – with the Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup. Toronto eliminated the Rangers in six games in the Semi-Finals.

The 94-95 Rangers fought tooth and nail just to earn the right to defend the Stanley Cup. Their 22-23-3 record was good enough for an eight place finish as they edged out the Florida Panthers by one point. After eliminating the top-seeded Quebec Nordiques in six games, the Philadelphia Flyers steamrolled the Rangers out of the playoffs in a four-game sweep.

To avoid a repeat performance this season, the Rangers will have to get off to a better start than they did in 1995 when they opened the season 2-5-0. It will not be easy as the Rangers first seven games include home and road games against the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and Flyers. The only “soft touch” is a home game against Toronto.

While the NHL did the Rangers no favors with that tough start, it did cut them a break in terms of back-to-back games. The Blueshirts play the fewest sets of back-to-back games (6) while Chicago and Detroit each have 12. The Flyers and New Jersey Devils face 10 sets. The Penguins and New York Islanders face seven sets.

Dirk Hoag of On The Forecheck also put together the total number of miles each team will have to travel this season. The Devils will travel the least amount of miles this season (11,659) with the Rangers just edging the Devils for second fewest (12,048 to 12,159).

While most fans would expect the Winnipeg Jets to log the most miles since they are still stuck in the Eastern Conference, their mileage of 27,431 is surpassed by six Western Conference teams with the Dallas Stars logging the most frequent flyer miles at 31,345.

While not having to deal with an extraordinary number of back-to-back games will save some wear and tear on the Rangers, it might not have been the worst thing to happen to the Blueshirts.

In their December 3, 2012 edition, The Hockey News put together a “Points Percentage” chart that looked at results from the end of 2004-05 Lockout through last season. They studied back-to-back games (2-in-2), three games in four nights (3-in-4) and four games in six nights (4-in-6).

In looking at all of the above scenarios, the Rangers finished with the fourth best “Percentage Points” Behind the Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and Devils. The Blueshirts finished 9th best in 4-in-6 games, 2nd in 3-in-4 games, and were #1 in
2-in-2 games.

While those numbers put the Rangers chances in a good light, they do not take into consideration that the team will not have the benefit of a full training camp. Quite the contrary the Rangers, like all teams, are hitting the ground running at the start of the season. While all the teams are in the same situation at the start of the season, the Rangers are at a bit of a disadvantage.

Coach John Tortorella is known for his boot-camp like training camps where conditioning is just as important as “strategy”, an opinion he shared in an interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa.

“X’s and O’s, you can throw them right out the window. The biggest part of my job this year is keeping the team healthy and trying to keep them on a plane where you don’t lose any of their adrenaline or just fade out,” Tortorella explained.

Torts realizes the need to be focused mentally and physically and will be emphasizing rest and recovery on off days as opposed to concentrating on practicing.

“My biggest thought is recovery. We have to be careful how much we force-feed them here. It’s about gauging your team and understanding where they are physically and mentally as they go through this,” Tortorella admitted.

To his credit, Tortorella knows he has to be more open-minded than normal and has been monitoring the players and communicating with team leaders to judge how the team is responding.

“Our [regular training] camp, there are some things that go on mentally. It’s not so much the physical conditioning; it’s developing what you have mentally. It’s a mindset that you try and develop and we are minus that right now,” Torts admitted.

On the plus side, Coach Tortorella realizes that his team is better equipped to reach that mindset now than they were a couple of years ago.

“Before you can win, you need to believe that you are going to win. So I think the mental aspect is the biggest thing that has improved the last two or three years and that starts with a tremendous leadership group.”

Last year the Rangers showed that they could compartmentalize the extra distractions last season (e.g. the Europe trip and the Winter Classic) and focus on the job at hand.

Part of that job will be finding the right line combinations as the team looks to integrate Rick Nash on the top two lines and find the right places for youngsters Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider. With the Reader’s Digest version of training camp and a condensed schedule that leaves little time for practice, the Rangers line combinations will have to be a work in progress during the season.

We all know that Tortorella is not shy about mixing up his line combinations, but he is in a Catch-22 situation in terms of giving his combinations enough time to gel versus needing to make changes in order to produce wins.

THE USA’s victory in the U-20 Tournament in Ufa, Russia might provide the foundation for the Rangers during the sprint that is the 2012-2013 season. When the American team struggled offensively, Coach Phil Housely did not hesitate to make a couple of line changes that revitalized the Americans’ offense as the tournament progressed. That newfound offense, a solid defense, stellar special team play, and superb goaltending paved the way to Gold for the USA.

The Rangers have the offensive potential to fill out two scoring lines. Their defense and goaltending already produced a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. The biggest question will be the special teams.

The addition of Nash is not going to make a bit of difference to the power play if the team is not willing to get shots on goal AND create traffic in FRONT of the net.

The Rangers outstanding penalty killing is sure to be a work in progress as the Blueshirts find ways to replace the losses of Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Brandon Prust. The team will have to turn to newcomers Nash and Jeff Halpern as well as development from the likes of Hagelin and Kreider.

Even with the Rangers having to factor in the recently waived Wade Redden’s contract, the team has about $4 million in salary cap space to play with at the NHL trade deadline. I would expect the Rangers to look to add some depth at forward – perhaps adding a little offense to the third/fourth lines. I would not be surprised to see them look for an upgrade on defense by adding a veteran who as a third pair blueliner.

The Rangers should finish fourth in the Eastern Conference with the Penguins claiming the top spot. While the Rangers might sit fourth, it is entirely possible that they could have the second-best record in the East.

As we saw last year, playoff seeding is not always the be-all and end-all in determining playoff success. The Rangers are a team that is built to succeed in the playoffs. If the Rangers can find a way to average three goals per game come the playoffs, they will be raising Lord Stanley’s Cup. Last season, the Rangers scored just 43 goals in 20 playoff games and ended up just six wins shy of a championship.

BRANDON MASHINTER

The New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks swapped AHL forwards as the Blueshirts sent Tommy Grant and a 2014 conditional 7th round draft pick to San Jose for Brandon Mashinter. The 6-foot-4 and 230 pound LW was San Jose’s sixth rated prospect in 2012 Future Watch edition of The Hockey News. Here is what THN said about him: “Missed a chunk of season with a concussion; More than a fighter, though.”

The 24-year-old has not registered a point in 13 NHL games (17 PIM) – all of them played during the 2010-2011 season. In 206 AHL games (all with Worcester), Mashinter scored 52 goals and 51 assists with 280 PIM. This season, he has two goals and three assists in 30 games (44 PIM).

“This should be good for him, and I hope he does well,” Worcester coach Roy Sommer said to Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram. “We’ll miss him but he’s a big, strong kid, he can skate, he can shoot, and he can fight. You know he’s got more than two goals in him.”

The Hockey News offers the following Scouting Report on Mashinter:

ASSETS: Is a huge physical specimen that can intimidate opponents. Brings a lot of
physicality to the rink, and also boasts some offensive ability.

FLAWS: Is still a somewhat raw winger in many areas of the game, so he needs more
work on his overall play. Must specifically work on his defense.

CAREER POTENTIAL: Massive physical winger with a little upside.

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Now that the NHL’s Lockout has been resolved, I hope Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr aren’t too upset if I don’t genuflect and kiss their rings for granting us the privilege of “enjoying” the 2012/2013 season. Given that hockey fans are again faced with the prospect of a 48-game schedule that begins in mid-January, perhaps we should refer to the season as the 2013 season?

Don’t misunderstand me, I am glad that we will get to watch NHL hoc key prior to the 2013/2014 season – especially with Cablevision and MSG refusing to show Connecticut Whale games live as opposed to the same dozen or so re-tread games they keep showing.

As I said, I am glad the NHL is back but I just don’t seem to have the same fervor for hockey – at least not yet. That might be change come Opening Night, in mid-February, or even towards the end of a 48-game season where the New York Rangers repeat their annual race to struggle to make the playoffs (last season not withstanding).

I suppose I should thank the NHL and the NHLPA for their individual roles in the Lockout because it gave me an opportunity to really focus on the 2013 U-20 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. Was I the only who thought a city named Ufa should be in Italy as opposed to Russia? Think about it for a few seconds and you will get the joke – I hope.

I am not one of those hockey fans who are so bitter that he is going to swear off hockey in order to teach the NHL and NHLPA a lesson. I love the New York Rangers and I love hockey. Why would I deprive myself of something I love so much to teach the league and the players a lesson – especially when they don’t even know who I am.

On the other hand, I am not going to run out and buy tickets to head down to the Garden nor am I going to pony up the pro-rated fishnagels to order the NHL’s Center Ice Package. The only way I will be viewing the Center Ice Package will be during whatever free previews they offer at the start of the season.

Of course, the NHL would be very wise to heed the advice many hockey writers have been giving to them – offer the Center Ice Package free to whomever wants it this season.

Dan Oldfield of CBC sports said it best when he wrote, “Two dollars off the price of a ticket and a big ‘Thank You Fans’ decal painted on the ice won’t cut it.”

Oldfield hit the nail right on the head. The NHL, and the NHLPA for that matter, need to come up with a meaningful gesture to win back fans. A dopey decal on the ice is not a “thank you”, it is a “f@#$ you” to fans.

If the NHL won’t reward fans with a free Center Ice Package perhaps they can get the teams to bring in cheerleaders like they had in Ufa at the WJC {grin}.

The worst part about the Lockout was that it could have been settled a long time ago if both sides had been willing to make concessions at the beginning of the negotiations instead of nearly waiting until it was too late.

The NHL should have recognized that the NHLPA was not going to sit back idly as the owners sliced and diced the salary cap down to the ridiculous numbers they were originally offering.

The NHLPA should have realized that a 50-50 split was inevitable given that is what the NBA and the NFL both agreed to.

I understand that the Lockout was all about posturing. Bettman and his hardline owners (that would be you Jeremy Jacobs and Ed Snider) were out to crush the NHLPA. Ownership always attempts to that in any labor negotiation.

Fehr and the union were going to fight tooth and nail to avoid the beating they took from the press at the end of the 2004/2005 Lockout. In the end, the players still managed to walk away ahead according to Mark Recchi.

“Look at that last deal. We ended up with the [salary] cap and everyone thought it was a bad deal. But it ended up great, right? No matter what the system is, or has been, the players get their money,” Recchi explained to David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail.

The players do deserve credit for scoring a victory in terms of getting owners to implement a “defined-benefit” plan for the players. Shoalts points out that prior to the current CBA “benefits were [not] guaranteed and payments depended on the performance of the plan’s investments. The plan was infamous for its low payouts even after a group of players successfully sued the league in the 1990s and won improvements.”

In a day and age where athletes are looking out only for themselves, the NHLPA scored big in taking care of past and future NHLers.

The biggest plus is that the two sides agreed to a 10-year CBA with each side having the option to opt out after eight years – something rational people would not consider, but no one ever accused the NHL or the NHLPA of being rational.

The Canadian Press published a story that wrote how Buffalo Sabres President Ted Black “apologized” to the fans and assured them that the Sabres focus is on winning the Stanley Cup.

Later in the article, Black reflected on the drama that occurred as a result of the lockout.

“Hopefully,” Black stated, “fans don’t have to go through this for the next 10 years.”

Ted, hopefully fans will NEVER have to go through this again.

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Back to the bargaining table.

The NHL’s brand-new offer to the NHLPA could be the last hope in conserving the aeason and with this offer comes hope.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the offer today.

“In light of media reports this morning, I can confirm that we delivered to the Union a new, comprehensive proposal for a successor CBA late yesterday afternoon,” he said in a statement. We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time. We are hopeful that once the Union’s staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible.”

A new round of bargaining is set to begin this weekend.

The two sides will satisfy in person on Sunday after a teleconference on Saturday.

The owners reportedly lightened needs about making income arbitration and complimentary company harder to attain as well as changed the specific agreement variance from five percent to 10 percent.

There is also a one-time buyout in 2013-14 that will assist a team get under the $ 60 million cap and it will not count towards the salary cap.

If this doesn’t work, the period will most likely be canceled. The owners have held off over half the games already and online sports betting say any longer would make it impossible to have a season.

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First off, I do not have a horse in this race between the NHL and NHLPA. I say a pox on both of their houses for making fans have to go through another CBA fiasco. In the end, the owners and the players will both be wins with hockey fans being the ultimate losers – either in terms of a lockout or higher prices at arenas.

The NHL’s recent counterproposal to the NHLPA’s first proposal caused a sensation because the League did not include a salary rollback – like they did following the 2005 Lockout. Way back then, the NHL instituted a 24% salary rollback – something they included in their initial offer to the players as the NHL looked to knock the players’ percentage of hockey-related income from 57% to 46%.

I am not going to delve any deeper into the figures being thrown around by the NHL and the NHLPA because I am not a labor negotiator, nor do I play one on television. Besides all of these numbers and contract negotiations are giving me agita.

The one thing I will say is that both Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr are receiving a lot of heat from the media and the fans – rightly so. However, when you take a deeper look at their roles they are merely the pawns of the groups that have hired them.

Like it or not Bettman is the best Commissioner the NHL has ever had. Now before you start coming after me with the torches and pitchforks you have to realize he is also the ONLY Commissioner the NHL has ever had. Prior to Gary leaving basketball for hockey, the NHL’s figurehead was known as NHL President as the power was maintained by a select few owners.

When you think about it, nothing has changed in the NHL other than the figurehead’s title. The league is still run by a select few owners (e.g. Jeremy Jacobs and Ed Snider) and if you think Bettman isn’t taking his marching orders from the hardline owners, well, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Conversely, the players knew what they were doing when they brought in Donald Fehr and his brother Steve. While salary escalation proves otherwise, the players are still smarting from the “beating” they took during the last negotiations and they wanted to make sure they are perceived as the winners this time around.

Fehr is great at deflection so he should be able to use his skills to get the players the “win” they want. If you don’t believe that Fehr is good at public relations and deflecting, then how is it Bettman and the NHL gets grief for erasing the 2004/2005 NHL season, but it was Fehr and Major League Baseball that was the first league to wipeout its playoffs back in 1994?

Sadly the NHL’s only leverage is to lock the players out – even though the NHLPA would be more than willing to start the 2012/2013 season. The problem is that the leverage then switches to the players with the owners fearing a repeat of 1992 when the players staged a nine-day strike on April 1, 1992.

Enough with the millionaires and billionaires, let’s get back to the NHL’s latest proposal.

According to Kevin Allen of USA Today, here is how the NHL’s salary cap would look under the owner’s newest proposal: “The NHL proposal calls for a fixed salary cap of $58 million next season and then caps of $60 million and $62 million. Under the plan, the league projected a fourth-year salary cap of $64.2 million, a fifth year at $67.6 million and the final season’s cap of $71.1 million.”

The one point that does need to be looked it is how NHL teams would get down to the NHL’s proposed $58 million salary cap. CapGeek.com estimates that 16 of the league’s 30 teams are already over the salary cap – including the New York Rangers who stand at $58.5 million.

While that might not seem that bad, remember, that figure does not include Michael Del Zotto. The Blueshirts could gain some wiggle room based on the Long Term Injured Reserve status of Marian Gaborik and Michael Sauer.

Amnesty buyouts would not give the Rangers much relief because the above-mentioned cap hit does not include Wade Redden’s $6.5 million cap hit. However, it does include Chris Drury’s $1.67 million buyout hit.

As a last resort, the Rangers could contemplate buying out a Brian Boyle ($1.7 million), a Taylor Pyatt ($1.55 million) or a Michael Rupp ($1.5 million). However, that does not help much when you look at the cap hits of possible replacements like J.T. Miller ($1.24 million) and Christian Thomas ($900,000).

This where my idea comes into play as a way to help alleviate the salary cap dilemma that would arise should the cap drop down to $58 million neighborhood. It is a simple idea that borrows ideas from the NBA and the NFL.

Gary Bettman’s former employer, the NBA, allows teams to go over their salary cap into to re-sign their own free agents – the so-called “Larry Bird Rule”. The NFL uses the “franchise” tag to retain unrestricted free agents if certain conditions are met.

I propose that the NHL institute a “franchise tag” that an organization could use on one of its players. That player’s salary would NOT count against the team’s salary cap. In order to prevent teams from taking advantage of this “loophole” during free agency, the franchise tag could only be applied to a player drafted or solely developed by that team.

For example, the Rangers could place the franchise tag on Henrik Lundqvist and remove his $6.875 million salary from the team’s cap hit because he was drafted and developed by the Rangers.

Along the same vein, the Rangers could decide to franchise Dan Girardi because he was developed by the Rangers as an undrafted free agent. A player like Marian Gaborik (signed as a free agent) or Rick Nash (acquired in a trade) would not be eligible for the franchise tag.

Conversely, a team could decide NOT to use the franchise tag if doing so would drop them below the NHL’s salary cap floor.

If a franchise player were to be traded or leave as a free agent, the team could designate another eligible player as their franchise player and said player would not be eligible for the franchise tag.

This idea offers teams near the salary cap ceiling a chance to “enjoy” some cap relief while allowing teams some ability to retain their own players. In a weird way it rewards teams for developing their own players rather than relying on free agency and trades.

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The New York Rangers entered the 2012 NHL Draft with a chance to add a legacy prospect to their ranks in the first round as Henrik Samuelsson (son of former defenseman Ulf Samuelsson) and Stefan Matteau (son of LW Stephane Matteau) were names rumored to be available with the 28th overall pick.

Don Maloney eliminated any chance of Henrik Samuelsson being drafted by the Blueshirts when he drafted him just one spot before the Rangers selected. With the opportunity for echoes of “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau” to ring through Madison Square Garden, the Rangers brain trust passed in favor of Brady Skjei (pronounced “shay”) as the organization continued to stockpile young mobile defenseman.

Of course, it in the biggest piece of irony that came out of the 2012 NHL Draft, the New Jersey Devils drafted Matteau with the 29th overall pick. I guess Devils President/GM was not going to let another Matteau beat him in the playoffs.

While I trust that Director of Player personnel Gordie Clark knows what he is doing, my preference would have been to trade down into the second round and pick up extra draft picks.

In the second round, the Rangers selected center Cristoval “Boo” Nieves with the 59th overall pick. Nieves, from Baldwinsville, NY, played in prep school hockey at the Kent School in Connecticut.

The Rangers elected to trade their 2012 third round draft pick to the Nashville Predators for their 2013 third round draft pick.

The Blueshirts returned to the draft board with their fourth round selection at #119. This time the Rangers did not pass up on the chance to draft a legacy prospect as they selected defenseman Calle Andersson – son of former Ranger blueliner Peter Andersson who played 39 games for the team in 1992-193 and 1993-94 before being traded to the Florida Panthers. Both Anderssons were fourth round picks, although Peter retains bragging rights because he was drafted with the 73th overall pick.

Just when you thought the Rangers were finished, they turned to their third round trade partners and made a deal with Nashville. This time the Predators were trading their 2012 fifth round pick for the Rangers 2013 fifth round pick. The Blueshirts used that pick to draft RW Thomas Spelling from Denmark.

While I can speak about Spelling’s style of play, it is apparent that the Rangers placed an emphasis on strong skating in their 2012 draft strategy, as well as focusing on prospects who are projected to be solid two-way players.

BRADY SKJEI

Central Scouting (CS): #19 North American skater
International Scouting Service (ISS): #26
McKeen’s (McK): #21
Red Line Report (RLR): #29
The Hockey News (THN): 26

The 6-foot-3 and 200 pound defenseman spent last season as part of the U.S. National Development Team program. In 56 games with the Under-18 team, Skjei scored four goals and 18 assists with 32 PIM. Brady helped lead the USA to Gold in the U-18 tournament. While he only posted a lone assist in six games, he was a Plus-10 for the tournament.

Skjei will attend the University of Minnesota, where his grandfather, Stan, starred as a football player in the early 1960s.

CS: His USNTDP Coach Danton Cole said, “His game has improved greatly, both offensively and defensively. He’s a tremendous skater and a good example of a guy who understands the little nuances of playing defense. He’s thrived in the [USNTDP] program and is a physical specimen; he’s big and strong and has made great strides in learning how to play the game. His angling is good and he has put himself in a really good position moving forward in his career.”

ISS: They compare his style of play to future Ranger teammate Ryan McDonagh. They describe him as a “big, smooth skating defender with great offensive potential and some reliable defensive instincts.” They do say that he “needs to continue working on his defensive zone coverage.”

McK: “Skjei plays a skilled two-way game, as he can do many things well and has good size to complement his all-around game. A more than capable skater, he is fluid in all directions thanks to a crisp stride, long extension and he possesses multiple levels of speed…. Not overly belligerent, his game lacks a physical component to it, yet he compensates with a stead compete level and uses his size in one-on-one situations advantageously.”

THN: They list Skjei’s NHL Translation as “smooth-skating defenseman”. One scout told THN, “It looks like poetry watching this guy skate. He’s effortless and massive, which makes him attractive. He sometimes makes some shaky decisions, but his skating ability for his size is frightening.” Another scout said. “When somebody gets him at the next level and tells him. ‘Just be simple and go with your skating stride,’ he’ll be a real effective NHLer.”

CRISTOVAL “BOO” NIEVES

CS: #27 North American skater
ISS: #63
McK: #48
RLR: #94
THN: #55

The 6-foot-3 and 184 pound Nieves played his prep school hockey with Kent in Connecticut and seven goals and 32 assists in 39 games (12 PIM). After finishing up at Kent, Nieves headed west to play for the Indiana Ice in the USHL. In 13 games with Indiana, he scored two goals and eight assists with 2 PIM. Nieves was a member of the USA team that competed at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament where he tallied three assists in four games.

Nieves will attend the University of Michigan where he is set to wear future teammate Carl Hagelin’s #12.

ISS: Since they only do style comparisons for their Top 60 players, Nieves just missed the cutoff. Here is their Scouting Report on Boo, “Nieves rocketed up the charts after showing off his stuff with USA at the Ivan Hlinka. A very raw prospect that has much upside. Nieves is a smooth skater with explosive quickness. He has good size but is very thin and has a ton of room to build on hi frame. He has great hands and displays a high level of skill. An excellent playmaker, Nieves can create offense off the rush. He tends to be a set up man more than a shooter.”

McK: “Nieves’ game is predicated on speed because of his first-step quickness, effortless stride and ability to change directions, which are among the best in the draft…. Nieves is more of a playmaker-passer since he sees he ice well and gains considerable real estate with his speed…,His lack of scoring will relegate him more in the mold of a defensive forward at the NHL level. His elite speed and passing skills make him a sought after commodity; however, he is labeled a ‘buyer beware’ pick as his game is far from complete.”

THN: They listed Nieves’ NHL Translation as “offensive forward.” One scout told them, “He’s got tremendous tools. When you go see him, he jumps out at you. He gets up to speed really fast and he’s a quick strider. Creates turnovers and reads the play.” THN pointed out that while he creates plays, “finishing those plays was a concern and his numbers at Kent School in Connecticut were not overwhelming based on his elite skill level.”

CALLE ANDERSSON

Central Scouting (CS): #15 European skater
International Scouting Service (ISS): #47
McKeen’s (McK): #68
Red Line Report (RLR): #144
The Hockey News (THN): 87

The 6-foot-2 and 208 pound Andersson is a right-handed shooting defenseman that THN described as a “Mobile d-man [who] can play big minutes and makes a great first pass. He played for Farjestad Junior team in Sweden and scored 12 goals and 24 assists with 36 PIM in 49 games. Andersson also represented Sweden at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and at the World Junior Championship. In 10 games with the Swedish U-18 team, he scored three goals and six assists.

ISS: They compare his style of play to that of Christian Backman. “A mobile defender with good size, Andersson stood out for all the right reasons during the U-18 WJC. He found himself logging major minutes in all critical and crucial situations …. An effective two-way blue-liner who gets his stick in the passing lanes and uses his strong skating ability to position himself in the defensive zone.” ISS says that Andersson need work on “[using] his massive frame more to his advantage. Improve shot.” They do say that his NHL potential is as a “top four all-around defenseman”.

McK: “Andersson had a productive Hlinka tournament while playing a permanent role in the top-four rotation. Andersson shows flashes of his skill, but there appears to be a dimension of his game that is missing. He struggled against better competition at the World U18 Championships because he wasn’t quick enough to make plays with the puck…. His skating is above average as he has a good stride and shows some explosiveness out of the gate…. Andersson will return to U20 juniors next season, which should give him ample ice time to iron out his game.”

THOMAS SPELLING

CS: #90 European skater
RLR: #115
ISS, McK and THN: Not Rated.

The 6-foot-1 and 176 pound Spelling really opened scouts eyes with his performance in the Danish playoffs this year while playing Herning Blue Fox. In 17 playoff games, Spelling registered 10 goals and 10 assists with 14 PIM as he led Herning to the Danish championship.

Spelling was no slouch during the regular season as he averaged better than a point per game in 33 games (21-16-37-6 PIM). He also represented Denmark at the WJC, scoring one goal and three assists in 6 games.

The 21-year-old has shown a steady increase in scoring in his three years in Denmark’s top league – progressing from 14 points in his rookie season to 29 points in his sophomore season to his career-high of 37 last season. Spelling will be playing for Rogle in the Sweden’s Elite League next season.

NHL.com rated Spelling as the top player to watch from Denmark. As it turns out he was the second of two Danish players to be drafted as Anaheim selected goalie Fredrik Andersen in the fourth round (#87).

Here is how the Rangers official web site describes Spelling: “Strong transition player who is highly skilled with a very quick release.”

PROSPECTS DEVELOPMENT CAMP

The Rangers are in the midst of their annual Prospects Development Camp that brings together 16 players whose NHL rights are owned by the Rangers along with 15 invited players. There are four intriguing names among the invitees. Two of them have connections to Madison Square Garden.

Gabe Grunwald is the son of New York Knicks GM Glen Grunwald and played last season in the NAHL. He is committed to attend the University of Wisconsin starting with the 2013-2014 season. I would presume that he is in camp as a favor to his father.

Andy Bathgate is the grandson of Hall of Famer, and Rangers legend, Andy Bathgate. In addition to his grandfather, the younger Bathgate has another connection to the Blueshirts – sort of. He was Pittsburgh’s fifth round draft pick (#151) in the 2009 NHL Draft – a pick that was acquired from the Rangers, even though it was originally Pittsburgh’s pick. Confused? Allow me to explain.

The Penguins originally traded their fifth round pick to Toronto in February 2008 as part of the deal that brought Hal Gill to Pittsburgh. The Blueshirts acquired the pick from the Maple Leafs in July 2008 in a deal that Ryan Hollweg to Toronto. Pittsburgh reacquired the pick from the Rangers in the trade that sent the rights to Chad Johnson to New York.

Pittsburgh gave up their rights to Bathgate when they did not sign him by June 1, 2011. As a result, Bathgate was eligible to be re-drafted in 2011, but was not selected.

“Andy Bathgate hasn’t played much hockey for a while,” assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald told Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “You look at his numbers, and say, ‘Well, geez, he should be doing this or that. He’s a first-line center.’
“But he hasn’t played much hockey. He’s a tough kid to project because of the lack of games he’s played over the last 2 1/2 years because of his shoulder injury.”

The 6-foot-1 and 175 pound center played last season with the Plymouth Whalers (OHL) and scored 19 goals and 44 assists in 68 regular season games and then added five goals and three assists in 13 playoff games.
IN 2009, ISS offered the following brief comments on Bathgate in their Draft Preview, “Strong work ethic. Anticipates well. Not overly physical. Good acceleration. PK specialist”.

You have to figure that Bathgate could be in the mix for a spot in the AHL.

The other two players of interest have no connection to the Rangers and present an interesting set of skills.

In January 2011, Myles Bell was the subject of a feature story on NHL.com. The story, by Alan Bass, focused on Bell’s attempts to work on becoming a better two-way defenseman as he approached the 2011 NHL Draft.

“He’s got tremendous offensive instincts,” Regina Coach Curtis Hunt told Bass.
“That’s probably one of his greatest attributes. He’s got real good poise with the puck, a tremendous shot from the blue line and good vision across the top and in special-teams situations — and from behind the goal line. He has a good first pass, as well. He’s probably as tough as they come, and at 17 he can probably take on anyone (physically).”

In addition to Bell’s Junior coach, Bass also spoke to Peter Sullivan who was with the NHL’s Central Scouting.

“He’s got very good hockey sense and sees the ice well,” Sullivan explained to Bass. “He can either slow down the style of the game or speed it up when he wants to. He’s definitely got all the tools. He has a good shot. He’s used in all situations, both on the power play and penalty kill. He can lay out the big hits. He’s got all the aspects that you want in a defenseman.”

Three months later Bell went from NHL prospect to lucky to be alive when he was involved in a fatal car accident in Calgary in April 2011 that claimed the life of Bell’s 18-year-old passenger. This past March Bell was sentenced to two years probation and 240 hours of community service and is prohibited from driving for five years.

The Canadian Press wrote, “Justice Gerry Meagher says the youth, who was 17 at the time, was guilty of driving at excessive speed but has shown remorse.”

Bell was driving 100 kilometers per mile over the speed limit, or about 62 MPH.

After playing his first three Junior season with Regina, Bell was traded to Kelowna last season. The 6-fott and 200 pound blueliner played battled injuries and played 54 regular season games, scoring 15 goals and 26 assists with 55 PIM. In four playoff games with the Rockets, Bell tallied a goal and an assist. One of Bell’s Kelowna teammates last season was Rangers prospect Shane McColgan.

This is not the first time that Glen Sather has extended a second chance to a player who was involved in a fatal car accident. Sather signed Craig MacTavish in 1985 after MacTavish spent a year in jail for vehicular homicide after the Boston Bruins let him out of his contract following his release from prison.

The final player of interest is center Dane Fox – who was draft eligible this year, but was passed over. I have to admit that I considered Fox as I was drafting my Second Round NHL Mock Draft, but I eventually saw him as a third round selection. What is interesting in the bypassing of Fox is that he received high marks from the four scouting services that I studied. CS rated him their 46th best North American skater. ISS had him as their 54th best prospect and compared him to Dave Bolland. McK listed ho mast the 60th best player available, while THN listed him as their 76th best prospect.

According to Mark Malone of the Chatham Daily News (in Canada), the Rangers told Fox they were really interested in him, but only had four selections. You have to wonder that if the Rangers really wanted to, they could have found a way to pick up a stray seventh round draft pick. It will be interesting to see if they regret their inaction as Fox is eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft.

“That made me feel a lot better” Fox admitted to Malone in reference to the Rangers interest. “It was a long, long, long day for me, but I’ve been through a lot worse. This is just more motivation.”

“I was obviously a bit disappointed (to go undrafted) being ranked where I was, but you try to stay positive,” he said.

The 6-foot-1 and 186 pound Fox played last season with the OHL’s London Knights and Erie Otters and scored 23 goals and 54 assists with 87 PIM in 62 games.

McKeen’s offered one possibility as to why Fox slid out of the 2012 NHL Draft.

In their 2012 Draft Guide they wrote, “Despite his improved play and lead-by-example attitude he displayed with the Otters, Fox has some off-ice character issues that could lower his stock and NHL teams would need to do their homework before making him their selection.”

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The 2012 NHL Entry Draft represents the 50th draft conducted by the National Hockey League. The first NHL draft took place on June 5, 1963 in Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

Prior to 1963, teams acquired amateur players through a series of Junior team sponsorships. The Draft was instituted a means to eliminate the sponsorships. However, players who were already part of an NHL’s team sponsored list were ineligible.

In The Hockey News’ NHL Draft Preview, Brian Costello wrote a brief history of the draft. In the article, he quoted Toronto Maple Leafs President Stafford Smythe who spoke about the need for a change back in November 1962.

“A Universal draft has to come,” Costello quotes Smythe. “Take a look at the records. Montreal and Toronto clubs won 14 of the last 19 Stanley Cups. When the other owners get to see the picture correctly, they’ll vote to change the rules.”

With the pickings so slim, it came as no surprise that only 21 of a possible 24 players were drafted. The Detroit Red Wings passed on the third and fourth round selections while the Chicago Blackhawks passed on their fourth round selection.

Of the 21 players drafted in the four rounds, only five made the NHL: Garry Monahan (1st overall), Peter Mahovlich and Walt McKechnie were first round selections. Jim McKenny was drafted in the third round and Gerry Meehan was the last selection of the draft in the fourth round.

It took a few years before the draft would produce what NHL President Clarence Campbell said would be “a uniform opportunity for each team to acquire a star player” when the New York Rangers drafted Brad Park with the second overall pick in the 1966 Draft.

For the third consecutive year, the Edmonton Oilers will have the first overall pick and first chance to fulfill Campbell’s vision. It also marks the fourth straight year the Oilers will have a Top 10 draft pick.

Oilers GM Steve Tambellini is attempting to recreate the draft success the Pittsburgh Penguins when they made five Top 5 selections from 2002-2006 as they drafted Ryan Whitney (#5-2002), Marc-Andre Fleury (#1-2003 after trading up), Evgeni Malkin (#2-2004), Sidney Crosby (#1-2002), and Jordan Staal (#2-2006).

It is pretty much a given that Russian-Born LW Nail Yakupov is the top player in 2012 Draft. While his first name is pronounced “Nah-eel”, many fans wanted their teams to “Fail for Nail” – as THN pointed out. One scout told THN, “He’s a goal-scorer. A game creator with his speed and his ability to put the puck in the net.”

The problem for the Oilers is that, since 2007, they have used six of eight first round picks on forwards. Edmonton might be better off looking to draft one of the top defensemen available – whether it is Ryan Murray, Matt Dumba, Morgan Rielly, or Griffin Reinhart.

The question is will Edmonton just draft the best player available, or will they just draft the defenseman that bests fits their needs? If the Oilers decide to pass on Yakupov, there will be a long line of teams rushing to trade for the first overall selection.

Would Edmonton accept Rick Nash (should he agree) as part of a bigger deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets?

Speaking of Nash, his future will play a big part in how the draft shapes up. Will the Blue Jackets look to draft a replacement or will they go for Ryan Murray?

New GM Marc Bergevin would love dearly to make a big splash in first draft with the Habs, but does he have enough to interest the Oilers?

While the Islanders have John Tavares and some offensive talent, would GM Garth Snow look for another valuable offensive weapon as a means to move the franchise’s agenda of getting a new arena?

Brian Burke is getting much heat in Toronto, but is it enough heat for Burke to gamble like he did when he traded for Phil Kessel?

Since my crystal ball is out being serviced for the summer, I am going to leave the draft order as it is as of June 21.

In this Mock Draft, each player has ratings for the following scouting services: The Hockey News (THN), McKeen’s (McK), NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), and International Scouting Service (ISS). CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters, European skaters, North American goaltenders and European goaltenders. THN lists each prospect’s NHL Translation. ISS provides a prospects’ comparable NHL player.

1. Edmonton Oilers – Nail Yakupov – RW
CS: # 1NA —– McK: # 1
THN: # 1 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 1 (Pavel Bure)
If GM Steve Tambellini holds on to the 1st pick, the Oilers will adhere to the motto of “draft the best player available”. ISS probably described Yakupov best when they wrote, “Simply put, he is a Ferrari. A dynamic scorer. Undisputed top player in the draft.”

2. Columbus Blue Jackets – Filip Forsberg – RW
CS: # 1E —– McK: # 3
THN: # 2 (Two-way Forward) —– ISS: # 2 (Jordan Staal)
Columbus expects to be the center of draft universe in Pittsburgh given the Nash situation and their 2nd overall draft position. Since the strength of the draft is in defensemen, it makes sense for GM Scott Howson to bring in a top forward

3. Montreal Canadiens – Mikhail Grigorenko – C
CS: # 3NA —– McK: # 9
THN: # 3 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 4 (Russian Joe Thornton)
Murray and Alex Galchenyuk will get long looks for the Habs, but Grigorenko’s offensive abilities, and size, will be too much to pass up. In addition to his on-ice pluses, Grigorenko is used to playing in Quebec province from his QMJHL days.

4. New York Islanders – Ryan Murray – D
CS: # 2 NA —– McK: # 4
THN: # 4 (Two-way Defenseman) —– ISS: # 3 (Nicklas Lidstrom)
Isles have a cadre of young prospects among their forwards corps so bringing a top-notch d-man is the next step in the natural progression of rebuilding a franchise. With that said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Isles move down to take another d-man and add more draft picks.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs –Alex Galchenyuk – C
CS: #4NA —– McK: # 2
THN: # 7 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 14 (Paul Stastny)
I see the Maple Leafs as the biggest pursuer of the Oilers 1st pick because Brian Burke needs to make a splash. Galchenyuk is as talented as they come, but he lost a year of development after suffering a torn ACL. Toronto might go elsewhere if there is a concern over Galchenyuk’s health.

6. Anaheim Ducks – Griffin Reinhart – D
CS: # 10NA —– McK: # 7
THN: # 8 (Two-way Defenseman) —– ISS: # 5 (Rob Blake)
Ducks have some age and decision to make among their forwards. Teemu Selanne will be back while Saku Koivu is an UFA – and they face the likelihood of losing Justin Schultz as an UFA. With the strength of this part of the draft in blueliners, look for Anaheim to go with the son of former NHLer Paul Reinhart as his size, shot and hockey sense push him ahead of the rest.

7. Minnesota Wild – Jacob Trouba – D
CS: # 9NA —– McK: # 10
THN: # 9 (Defensive Defenseman) —– ISS: # 5 (Jack Johnson)
The Wild could look to go with a forward to help boost their offense, but Trouba brings in the size and grit they can use on defense. ISS says he “has the size, skill and skating ability to be a top two NHL d-man.”

8. Carolina Hurricanes – Teuvo Teravainen – LW
CS: # 2E —– McK: # 5
THN: # 12 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 9 (Claude Giroux)
The Canes could go with Faksa to provide a physical compliment to Eric Staal. However, Teravainen offers a smooth skating LW who is able to use his hockey IQ to enhance his puckhandling ability.

9. Winnipeg Jets – Radek Faksa – C/LW
CS: #7NA —– McK: # 16
THN: # 11 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 16 (James van Riemsdyk)
With Ondrej Pavelec being romanced by the KHL, the Jets could start the goalie rush. If not, the Jets will go with Faksa who adds size and power to their forwards corps. If Faksa goes to Carolina, the Jets will probably look at Teravainen or one of the d-men.

10. Tampa Bay Lightning – Morgan Rielly – D
CS: # 5NA —– McK: # 6
THN: #6 (Offensive Defenseman) —– ISS: # 7 (Kris Letang)
With Anders Lindback in the fold, GM Steve Yzerman can continue the transformation of the Lightning. Rielly is an outstanding skater and puckhandler who will eat major minutes and can play in all situations.

11. Washington Capitals (1) – Sebastian Collberg – RW
CS: #3E —– McK: # 14
THN: # 14 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 13 (Jeff Skinner)
With Alexander Semin a good bet to leave as an UFA, Collberg would provide Alex Ovechkin a shooter/scorer to team up with in the future. While he didn’t score any points in 41 games in Sweden’s Elite League (playing a few shifts per game), Collberg was a big part of Tre Kronor’s WJC gold medal performance.

12. Buffalo Sabres – Matt Dumba – D
CS: # 11NA —– McK: # 6
THN: # 5 (Offensive Defenseman) —– ISS: # 8 (Chris Chelios)
The Sabres would probably prefer to draft a forward, but Dumba’s talent is too good to pass up. He is a top two d-man who is an outstanding offensive player with good instincts defensively. He just needs to bulk to his 6-0/180 frame to make an impact in the NHL.

13. Dallas Stars – Brendan Gaunce – C
CS: # 13NA —– McK: # 18
THN: # 17 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 11 (David Backes)
Brendan’s brother Cameron Gaunce is a d-man in the Colorado organization. Brendan projects out to be a solid two-way power forward that brings leadership and hockey sense to a well-rounded NHL game.

14. Calgary Flames – Cody Ceci – D
CS: # 6NA —– McK: # 12
THN: # 10 (Offensive Defenseman) —– ISS: # 10 (Brent Burns)
Ceci is a solid all-around blueliner who combines an offensive flair within a 6-3/210 frame. Ceci fits the Flames need to add offense and scoring from their defensemen.

15. Ottawa Senators – Derrick Pouliot -D
CS: # 12NA —– McK: # 17
THN: # 13 (Offensive Defenseman) —– ISS: # 22 (Brian Campbell)
Ottawa has some good young talent on the way at forward with Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg. Pouliot adds another offensive weapon to go along with Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.

16. Washington Capitals – Olli Maatta – D
CS: # 8NA —– McK: # 13
THN: # 20 (Two-way Defenseman) —– ISS: # 12 ((Dmitry Kalikov)
With Dennis Wideman an UFA, Roman Hamrlik getting old and Tom Poti retiring, Maatta fits in well with the 16th overall selection. He is a solid d-man who stepped up his play in the playoffs with 23 points in 19 playoff games.

17. San Jose Sharks – Zemgus Girgensons -C
CS: # 18NA —– McK: # 15
THN: #16 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 24 (Shane Doan)
Born in Latvia, Girgensons moved to the USHL to help speed along his development and adjustment to North American hockey. He is committed to the University of Vermont. Zemgus’ size and leadership skills make him a fine replacement for Joe Thornton.

18. Chicago Blackhawks – Matthew Finn -D
CS: # 16NA —– McK: # 20
THN: #18 (Two-way Defenseman) —– ISS: # 18 (Ryan Suter)
The Blackhawks could begin a run on goaltenders given the need to find a young goalie to push Corey Crawford. Finn is a solid d-man who is positioned well to join Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on Chicago’s blue line.

19. Tampa Bay Lightning (2) – Thomas Wilson – RW
CS: #15NA —– McK: # 19
THN: # 25 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 17 (Ryan Clowe)
Yzerman could look to make it two defensemen in the 1st round but, after trading away Carter Ashton, Tampa Bay should draft Wilson as a power forward replacement in the organization. Even if Wilson’s potential doesn’t completely pan out, he would be an effective physical winger to ride shotgun for Steven Stamkos.

20. Philadelphia Flyers – Slater Koekkoek – D
CS: # 23NA —– McK: # 22
THN: # 23 (Two-way Defenseman) —– ISS: # 21 (Justin Schultz)
With Chris Pronger’s career uncertain, the Flyers need to start stockpiling their blueline reserve. While he won’t make anyone forget Pronger in the physical aspect of the game, Koekkoek has good size and will be a boost to the Flyers PP. His development was stunted a bit last year as a shoulder injury limited him to just 26 games with Peterborough.

21. Buffalo Sabres (3) – Nicolas Kerdiles – C
CS: # 29NA —– McK: # 43
THN: # 33 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 15 (James Neal)
Buffalo has a lot of young talented forwards. However, the likes of Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe lack size – hence the drafting of Kerdiles (6-2/200). He helped lead the USA U-18 team to Gold and will continue his development at the University of Wisconsin. The Sabres might also consider Wilson if he slips down to this spot.

22. Pittsburgh Penguins – Stefan Matteau – C/LW
CS: # 17NA —– McK: # 26
THN: # 30 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 31(Brooks Laich)
The hometown Pens would love to make a splash as the host of the 2012 Draft. They have some cap concerns over extending Jordan Staal’s contract, so they might look to shake up the draft and move up as part of a trade. If not, Matteau adds size and leadership and can either fill a hole on the wing or at center. Ranger fans will not be happy that the son of Stephane Matteau goes to a divisional rival, but it could have been worse, he could have ended up with the Devils.

23. Florida Panthers – Hampus Lindholm – D
CS: # 4E —– McK: # 11
THN: # 15 (Two-way D-man) —– ISS: # 19 (Oliver Ekman-Larsson)
Dale Tallon has done a fine job rebuilding the Panthers. They have the enviable option of giving their prospects a chance to mature as opposed to rushing them (e.g. Jonathan Huberdeau and Jacob Markstrom). Lindholm has nice size (6-3/200) and showed good development as the season progressed. He helped his team, Rogle, gain promotion to the Swedish Elite League

24. Boston Bruins –Ludvig Bystrom – D
CS: # 8E —– McK: # 41
THN: # 19 (Two-way D-man) —– ISS: # 29 (Marc-Edouard Vlasic)
With Tim Thomas taking a “sabbatical”, the Bruins might look to draft a goalie to team with Tuukka Rask down the line. However, they can use another d-man to help Dougie Hamilton bridge the gap beyond Zdeno Chara. While Bystrom still needs to be more consistent, he showed he has the ability to step up his play as he played 20 games in the Elite League with Modo as an 18-year-old.

25. St. Louis Blues – Brady Skjei – D
CS: # 19NA —– McK: # 21
THN: # 26 (Smooth-skating D-man) —– ISS: # 26 (Ryan McDonagh)
The Blues have some good talent in the pipeline at forward with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, so adding another blue chip blueliner to help out Alex Pietrangelo is a good thing. Skjei is a big (6-3/205) fluid skating d-man with tremendous upside. He is committed to the University of Minnesota.

26. Vancouver Canucks – Henrik Samuelsson – C
CS: # 75NA —– McK: # 32
THN: # 50 (Third Line Center) —– ISS: # 27 (Mats Sundin)
With a decision to make between going with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, Vancouver might be in the market for a goalie of the future. With Cody Hodgson dealt away at the deadline, Vancouver will look to Samuelsson to step into his spot. The son of former NHL d-man Ulf Samuelsson, Henrik is a solid two-way forward that thrives in the physical game. He will benefit from the tutelage of the Sedin Twins.

27. Phoenix Coyotes – Pontus Aberg – LW
CS: # 6E —– McK: # 28
THN: # 22 (Skilled Forward) —– ISS: # 20 (Phil Kessel)
With the Coyotes ownership still unsettled, GM Don Maloney is going to have to look to the Draft to add offensive help. Aberg played the majority of the season in the Swedish Elite League where he used his outstanding speed and competiveness to succeed.

28. New York Rangers – Dalton Thrower – D
CS: # 26NA —– McK: # 38
THN: # 29 (Two-way Defenseman) —– ISS: # 28 (Kevin Bieksa)
The Rangers would have loved to see one of the power forwards fall to them, but that is not the case. The Blueshirts could look to the long-term future and draft a goalie to groom as Henrik Lundqvist’s eventual successor. In the end, Thrower might be a nice alternative. He is a right-handed shooting d-man that would fit in well with their bevy of lefty d-men. He is a fierce competitor who loves to be physical, throw big hits and fight when needed. He would see time on both the PK and PP for New York.

29. New Jersey Devils (4) – Andrei Vasilevski – G
CS: # 1E-G —– McK: # 23
THN: # 21 (Starting Goaltender) —– ISS: # 3-G (Not Available)
President/GM Lou Lamoriello must have something up his sleeve because some people expected the Devils to forfeit this pick as a result of the sanctions for circumventing the salary cap in re-signing Ilya Kovalchuk. It could be Lou buying time until he can secure a 1st round pick a trade or he might just have a particular player in mind. While Martin Brodeur defied Father Time, the Devils will have to replace him eventually. Vasilevski gets the call, although Oscar Dansk and Malcolm Subban are other possibilities.

30. Los Angeles Kings – Scott Laughton – C
CS: # 28NA —– McK: # 25
THN: # 42 (Shutdown Forward) —– ISS: # 23 (Dustin Brown)
The Kings have done well by their selection of Dustin Brown, so drafting Laughton would be a good way to look to the future. While he isn’t a big goal scorer, he is a hard worker with excellent hockey sense and is the type of two-way forward that would help the Kings in life after Brown.

First Round Draft Pick Transactions

1. Colorado’s 1st round pick goes to Washington as the result of the 7/1/11 trade that sent Semyon Varlamov to Colorado in exchange for a 2012 or 2013 2nd round pick and this pick.
2. Detroit’s 1st round pick goes to Tampa Bay as a result of the 2/21/12 trade that sent Kyle Quincey to Detroit in exchange for Sebastien Piche and this pick.
3. Nashville’s 1st round pick goes to Buffalo as a result of the 2/27/12 trade that sent Paul Gaustad and a 2013 4th round pick in exchange for this pick.
4. New Jersey has to forfeit one 1st round pick between 2011 (which they didn’t opt to do) and 2014, at their own choice, as a result of the penalty sanction due to cap circumvention when re-signing Ilya Kovalchuk. The penalty also included a $3 million fine and the forfeiture of the Devils 2011 3rd round pick. The Devils elected to keep this pick.

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In this Mock Draft, each player has ratings for the following scouting services: The Hockey News (THN), McKeen’s (McK), NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), and International Scouting Service (ISS). CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters, European skaters, North American goaltenders and European goaltenders. THN lists each prospect’s NHL Translation. ISS provides a prospects’ comparable NHL player.

The draft positions are as of June 21 and presume that no trades will have been made since then.

31. Columbus Blue Jackets – Ville Pokka – D
CS: # 7E —– McK: # 33
THN: # 28 (Offensive Defenseman) —– ISS: # 41 (Justin Faulk)
After selecting Filip Forsberg in the 1st round, Pokka is a good way to start off Saturday’s draft festivities. Of course a potential Rick Nash trade could change everything, but Pokka is an offensive d-man who is developing defensive game. Pokka played in Finland’s top league as an 18-year-old.

32. Edmonton Oilers – Malcolm Subban – G
CS: # 1NA-G —– McK: # 24
THN: # 48 (Starting Goaltender) —– ISS: # 2-G (Not Available)
Even if Devan Dubnyk proves to be Nikolai Khabibulin’s successor, the Oilers are going to need to address their goaltending at some point. P.K. Subban’s younger brother has only been playing goal since he was 12. A groin injury and a high ankle sprain limited him to just 39 games so his development did not progress as fast as it could have.

33. Montreal Canadiens – Mark Jankowski – C
CS: # 43NA —– McK: # 37
THN: # 37 (Skilled Forward) —– ISS: # 55 (Shawn Matthias)
A scout told THN that Jankowski reminds him of Joe Nieuwendyk. The one concern is that he did not play against the higher competition fellow prospects faced, but he has solid hockey sense. Mark is the nephew of Montreal scout Ryan Jankowski.

34. New York Islanders – Tim Bozon – LW
CS: # 42NA —– McK: # 45
THN: # 43 (Goal-scoring Forward) —– ISS: # 40 (Slava Kozlov)
The son of former NHLer Phillipe Bozon, Tim has done a lot of traveling as part of his hockey life. Born in St. Louis, he played junior hockey in Switzerland, played for France’s U-18 team and played last season in the WHL for Kamloops. In talking with THN, one scout compared him to David Perron.

35. Toronto Maple Leafs – Tomas Hertl – C
CS: # 5E —– McK: # 32
THN: #: 24 (Playmaking Forward) —– ISS: # (Luke Adam)
Hertl played in the Czech Republic’s Extraleague as a 19-year-old and was coached by former NHLer Vladimir Ruzicka. Hertl is a strong offensive player with good hockey sense, but only average skating ability. In addition to working on his skating, Hertl needs to work on his defensive play.

36. Anaheim Ducks – Martin Frk – RW
CS: # 20NA —– McK: # 36
THN: # 45 (Goal-scoring Forward) —– ISS: # 42 (Brett Hull)
If Frk were a better skater, he would have been a 1st round draft pick – that is how good his offensive abilities are. ISS said he is “a top line scoring winger in the mold of Bobby Ryan.” He had an interesting start to the year as a preseason concussion limited him to just 34 games and limited his ability to get into game shape for the Czech Republic’s WJC team.

37. Nashville Predators (1) – Oscar Dansk – G
CS: # 2E-G —- McK: # 34
THN: # 44 (Starting Goaltender) —– ISS: # 1-G (Not Available)
GM David Poile has made a career in Nashville at mining Europe for starting goalies. With Anders Lindback dealt away to Tampa Bay, Poile has a chance to add to that reputation. While Dansk has played junior hockey in Sweden the last two years, he played his prep hockey with Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota. In addition, he has experience representing Sweden in international competition.

38. Carolina Hurricanes – Colton Sissons – RW
CS: # 14 NA—– McK: # 29
THN: # 40 (Two-way Forward) —– ISS: # 25 (Ryan Callahan)
Sissons provides the Hurricanes with a forward with size after going for finesse in the first round. He is a tough and gritty forward who has outstanding hockey sense with a work ethic to match.

39. Winnipeg Jets – Daniil Zharkov – LW
CS: # 32NA —– McK: # 52
THN: # 49 (Skilled Forward) —– ISS: # 33 (Tomas Vanek)
Zharkov played only 50 games with Belleville because of a collarbone injury at the start of the season. The Russia native has spent his last two years in North America so he is familiar with the style of play on this side of the Atlantic. He has a big-time shot and NHL-caliber offensive potential, but must find consistency.

40. Tampa Bay Lightning – Jarrod Maidens – C
CS: # 35NA —– McK: # 47
THN: # 38 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 58 (Mike Richards)
Maidens season was cut short after 28 games due to a concussion. He plays solid in all three zones and is a competitor with leadership qualities. His junior coach showed enough trust to have Maidens on the ice in overtime in Game 7 of the OHL Finals in 2011. The 16-year-old repaid his coach’s trust by scoring the game-winning goal.

41. Colorado Avalanche – Phillip Di Giuseppe – LW
CS: # 22NA —– McK: # 31
THN: # 31 (Two-way Forward) —– ISS: # 35 (Russ Courtnall)
Di Giuseppe uses his hockey sense and game-reading skills to put himself into good scoring position – especially on the power play. While he still needs to work on his defensive play, you can bet that Coach Red Berenson will work on that as Phil approaches his sophomore season at the University of Michigan.

42. Buffalo Sabres – Adam Pelech – D
CS: # 120NA —– McK: # 57
THN: # 41 (Shutdown Defenseman) —– ISS: # 30 (Mark Stuart)
After adding an offensive d-man in the 1st round (as well Nic Kerdiles), Buffalo settles in with Pelech who will give them the prototypical defensive d-man. A broken wrist cost Pelech 24 games with Erie. His brother Matt is with the Calgary Flames and their uncle is Vancouver GM Mike Gillis.

43. Dallas Stars – Jordan Schmaltz – D
CS: # 34NA —– McK: # 44
THN: # 34 (Offensive Defenseman) —– ISS: # 45 (Keith Yandle)
Schmaltz will bring an offensive game to the Stars and will serve as a compliment to huge Jamie Oleksiak (6-7/240). A strong shot and solid passing skills make him a valuable member of the PP. but he does need some work in the defensive zone. He has represented the USA in international play and is committed to attend the University of North Dakota.

44. Buffalo Sabres (2) – Jon Gillies – G
CS: # 6NA-G —– McK: # 61
THN: # Not Rated —– ISS: # 6-G (Not Available)
With all of the picks the Sabres have, they can take a flyer on a goalie for the future. Gillies has the size (6-5/215) teams want. Gillies needs to work on his technique, but will have a chance to do so at Providence College. He will also attend the USA National Junior team evaluation camp in Lake Placid.

45. Columbus Blue Jackets (3) – Andrey Makarov – G
CS: # 7NA-G —– McK: # 84
THN: # Not Rated —– ISS: # 19-G (Not Available)
While Columbus might need to find a veteran goalie to help out now, Makarov’s drafting will be a look to the future. Makarov began the WJC as Russia’s starting goalie before losing the job to Andrei Vasilevski. Makarov spelled the slumping Vasilevski at the end of the semifinals and then was brilliant in a 1-0 loss in the Gold medal game, stopping 57 of 58 shots. Makarov has played the last two seasons in the QMJHL.

46. Minnesota Wild (4) – Anton Slepyshev – LW
CS: # 10E —– McK: # 67
THN: # 51 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 36 (Brandon Sutter)
The Wild’s search for offense takes them to Russia for the power forward to be. Slepyshev started the year in the Russian junior league before graduating to the KHL where he played 39 games as an 18-year-old. While his offensive game is still developing, he is a solid player in his own zone and is strong on the penalty kill.

47. Carolina Hurricanes (5) – Patrick Sieloff – D
CS: # 31NA —– McK: # 42
THN: # 53 (Defensive Defenseman) —– ISS: # 44 (Travis Hamonic)
Sieloff has average size (6-0/200), but he plays a physical game and is a strong skater. As a result, he is able to be a plus penalty killer and has the ability to succeed in all situations of the game. Sieloff will move from the USNTDP to the University of Miami (Ohio) next season.

48. Chicago Blackhawks – Cristoval “Boo” Nieves – C
CS: # 27NA —– McK: # 48
THN: # 55 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 63 (Not Available)
After passing on a goalie in the 1st round, the Blackhawks might look to go goalie at this point in the draft (Matt Murray?). Odds are they will take a run at a netminder in the 3rd round and settle on Nieves as they look to add someone to anchor their second line. Nieves is more playmaker than scorer and his game is keyed by his speed and outstanding skating ability.

49. Detroit Red Wings – Tanner Pearson – LW
CS: # 25NA —– McK: # 39
THN: # 36 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 88 (Not Available)
It will be next to impossible to replace Nicklas Lidstrom, but Detroit will look to prospect Brendan Smith and UFA Ryan Suter. Pearson was passed over in the last two drafts, but his determination and development made him the first Canadian since Danny Syvret in 2005 to make the WJC team as an undrafted player. He lost a chance to finish a great season with an even bigger flourish when a broken fibula cost him any chance at playing in the playoffs.

50. Nashville Predators (6) – Mike Matheson – D
CS: # 30NA —– McK: # 30
THN: # 27 (Two-way Defenseman) —– ISS: # 34 (Jake Gardiner)
Matheson spurned a chance to play in the QMJHL to commit to Boston College. Matheson is an offensive d-man who uses those skills to be a strong power play QB. While he needs to continue to develop his defensive game, Matheson matched up against opposing top lines as he helped lead Canada to Gold in the Ivan Hlinka tournament.

51. Montreal Canadiens (7) – Damon Severson – D
CS: # 48NA —– McK: # 53
THN: # 65 (Not Available) —– ISS: # 50 (Tim Gleason)
Severson is a solid defenseman who plays a steady game in all three zones and has the ability to play in all situations as well. He plays a physical style and is not afraid to block shots – and will drop the gloves if need be.

52. Pittsburgh Penguins – Andreas Athanasiou – C
CS: # 40NA —– McK: # 106
THN: # 32 (Skilled Forward) —– ISS: # 37 (Wojtek Wolski)
Athanasiou might well be one of the fastest skaters in the draft. Played well in the Ivan Hlinka tourney, but he never carried that momentum over in his year with London. According to McKeen’s, Andreas “recorded sensational tests in Next Testing at the Top Prospects Game.” He needs his to work on his all-around game and his consistency, but is worth the Penguins while to take a flyer on him given the high-risk/high-reward potential he has.

53. Florida Panthers – Brady Vail – LW
CS: # 38NA —– McK: # 40
THN: # 58 (Shutdown Forward) —– ISS: # 48 (Jamie McGinn)
The Palm City, FL native brings excellent defensive play, leadership and character to South Florida. Vail is the type of player you want on the ice in close games against your opponents’ top lines. He is still developing offensively as he jumped from 10 points in his OHL rookie season to 52 points last year for the Windsor Spitfires.

54. Colorado Avalanche (8) – Mikko Vainonen – D
CS: # 11E —– McK: # 98
THN: # 69 (Not Available) —– ISS: # 53 (Rob Scuderi)
Vainonen is a solid defensive d-man who has fine size (6-3/210) and leadership abilities (served as Captain of Finland’s U-18 team). While he won’t be confused with Bobby Orr offensively, he does a good job in the offensive zone because of a good shot and smart decisions.

55. San Jose Sharks (9) – Emil Lundberg – LW
CS: # 44E —– McK: # Not Rated
THN: # 52 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 66 (Not Available)
Lundberg is not your usual Swedish forward. He has a power forward’s size (6-3/210) and mentality. He plays well along the boards and in front of the net – and thrives in the physical game. Lundberg played 51 games in the Swedish Elite League as a 19-year-old.

56. St. Louis Blues – Lukas Sutter – C
CS: # 39NA —– McK: # 50
THN: # 63 (Not Available) —– ISS: # 68 (Not Available)
The Blues started the Sutter family’s foray into the NHL when they drafted Lukas’s uncle Brian. Lukas, whose father is Rich, is a typical Sutter because he is at his best in the physical game. He is a strong defensive player who lives to antagonize his opponents. Sutter’s offensive game is a work in progress, but he improved from 19 points in 2010/2011 to 59 points last season with Saskatoon.

57. Vancouver Canucks – Valeri Vasilyev – D
CS: # 16E —– McK: # Not Rated
THN: # 64 (Not Available) —– ISS: # 57 (Darius Kasparaitis)
This might be a bit of a reach, but Vasilyev adds a physical defensive d-man to the Canucks. At 6-1/205, he has good size and uses in a smart way. While he does not have great offensive skills, he is a very good skater and has a good shot when he has time to shoot.

58. Phoenix Coyotes – Mike Winther – C
CS: # 21NA —– McK: # 63
THN: # 35 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 38 (Tyler Kennedy)
Winther is more of a goal scorer than playmaking center who bases his game on his speed and strong skating. As a result, he is a good candidate to contribute on both special teams. Once Winther finds a consistency to his game, his defensive game should improve as well.

59. New York Rangers – Brian Hart – LW
CS: # 54NA —– McK: # 54
THN: # 56 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 64 (Not Available)
The Rangers have done well over the last couple of years drafting American forwards (Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Derek Stepan) so drafting Hart will be a natural for the Blueshirts. At 6-2/216 Hart is a natural athlete who was a soccer star as well. Hart will continue his development in college at Harvard.

60. New Jersey Devils – Scott Kosmachuk – RW
CS: # 24NA —– McK: # 35
THN: # 47 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 46 (Justin Abdelkader)
Kosmachuk is a strong two-way forward whose offensive game improved from his first year in Junior to his second year (21 points to 59 points). While he has average size (6-0/185), Kosmachuk is not afraid to fight if necessary (110 PIM in 67 games). He has fine speed and skating ability which allows him to be hard on the forecheck. Once Scott finds a consistency to his game, he will be a valuable member of the Devils.

61. Dallas Stars (10) – Calle Andersson – D
CS: # 15E —– McK: # 68
THN: # 87 (Not Available) —– ISS: # 47 (Christian Backman)
Andersson is a solid all-around blueliner who moves the puck well and uses his hockey IQ to anticipate the well. At 6-3/210, he does not need to take advantage of his size better. On the plus side, he is a veteran of international competition for Sweden – playing for the U-19 World Junior A Challenge and the U-18 WJC.

Second Round Draft Pick Transactions

1. Minnesota’s 2nd round pick goes to Nashville as a result of the 6/15/12 trade that sent Anders Lindback, Kyle Wilson and a 7th round pick in 2012 to Tampa Bay in exchange for Sebastian Caron, Philadelphia’s 2nd round pick in 2012, a 3rd round pick in 2013 and this pick. The Lightning previously acquired the pick as a result of the 2/16/12 trade that sent Dominic Moore and a 2012 7th round pick to San Jose in exchange for this pick. The Sharks previously acquired this pick as a result of the 6/24/11 trade that sent Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and 2011 1st round pick to Minnesota in exchange for Brent Burns and this pick.
2. Calgary’s 2nd round pick goes to Buffalo as a result of the 6/25/11 trade that sent Chris Butler and Paul Byron to Calgary for Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik and this pick.
3. Ottawa’s 2nd round pick goes to Columbus as a result of the 2/22/12 trade that sent Antoine Vermette to Phoenix in exchange for Curtis McIlhinney, a conditional pick in 2013 and this pick. The Coyotes previously acquired this pick as a result of the 12/17/11 trade that sent Kyle Turris to the Senators in exchange for David Rundblad and this pick.
4. Washington’s 2nd round pick goes to Minnesota as the result of a 2/24/12 trade that sent Marek Zidlicky to New Jersey in exchange for Kurtis Foster, Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux, a conditional 2023 3rd round pick and this pick. The Devils previously acquired this pick as a result of a 2/28/11 trade that sent Jason Arnott to Washington in exchange for Dave Steckel and this pick.
5. San Jose’s 2nd round pick goes to Carolina as a result of the 2/18/11 trade that sent Ian White to San Jose in exchange for this pick.
6. Philadelphia’s 2nd round pick goes to Nashville as a result of the 6/15/12 trade that sent Anders Lindback, Kyle Wilson and a 2012 7th round draft pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for Sebastien Caron, Minnesota 2012 2nd round draft pick, a 2013 3rd round draft pick and this pick. The Lightning previously acquired this pick as a result of the 7/1/10 trade that sent Andrej Meszaros to the Flyers in exchange for this pick.
7. Nashville’s 2nd round pick goes to Montreal as a result of the 2/17/12 trade that sent Hal Gill and a conditional 2013 5th round pick to Nashville in exchange for Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney, and this pick.
8. Boston’s 2nd round pick goes to Colorado as a result of the 6/24/11 trade that sent John-Michael Liles to Toronto in exchange for this pick. NOTE: Pick may be optioned to Washington. The Maple Leafs previously acquired this pick as a result of a trade that sent Tomas Kaberle to the Bruins in exchange for Joe Colborne, a 2011 1st round pick, and this pick to the Bruins (which was conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Boston reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals – was converted on 5/27/11.
9. San Jose will receive the 25th pick of the second round (55th overall) as Compensation for not signing 2007 1st round pick Patrick White.
10. Los Angeles’ 2nd round pick will go to Dallas as result of the 2/16/12 trade that sent Nicklas Grossman to Philadelphia in exchange for a 2013 draft pick and this pick. The Flyers previously acquired this pick as a result of the 6/23/11 trade that sent Mike Richards to the Kings in exchange for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and this pick.

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