Are the Columbus Blue Jackets really upset that they lost the first overall pick during the NHL's draft lottery Tuesday night?
Will the Edmonton Oilers, the team that climbed over the Jackets to claim the rights to the No. 1 pick, actually keep it? And if so, who will they take when the entire hockey world has made it clear that they need a defenseman?
As the lottery was finalized Tuesday, it's clear that the top of the first round is anything but settled. The scenarios have already started piling up, and now I'll throw mine into the mix with my updated Lottery Mock Draft.
My initial thought is that Edmonton will look to trade the pick and try to acquire a solid, NHL-proven defenseman. Working in the Oilers' favor is the fact this draft is teeming with impressive defensive prospects. In fact, Edmonton could probably even trade down to the bottom of the lottery and still find a future blueliner with top-four potential.
While productive, puck-moving defensemen are gold in today's NHL, teams have been hesitant to select them early in the draft because of their slow development curve relative to forwards. Take a forward and, if he's physically mature enough, he could suit up and make an impact next fall. That's far less likely with defensemen, which could cause some talented prospects to slip a little bit. (Think Cam Fowler in 2010.) If Edmonton believes it can grab one of its blue-line targets lower in the first round and add an NHL-ready D-man who can contribute immediately, I think it pulls the trigger.
Regardless of who ends up selecting first overall I believe Russian wing Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting (OHL) will be the first prospect to take the stage in Pittsburgh. To me, he remains the top prospect in this class with the most upside. I also think that the Blue Jackets are secretly glad they now have an out from adding another chapter to their less-than-stellar history with Russian prospects. (See also: Filatov, Nikita and Zherdev, Nikolai.)
Now the Jackets can safely look elsewhere, and the upcoming world U-18s could play a big part in finalizing their pick. Many think D Ryan Murray with the Everett Silvertips (WHL) is No. 2, but I believe the Blue Jackets will select Swedish forward Filip Forsberg. Forsberg is big and has great upside to become a top-six forward. And the Jackets' need to find a young center is well-documented.
At No. 3 the Montreal Canadiens are faced with a big decision. After recently clearing out Andrei Kostitsyn at the trade deadline, they will be faced with another high-end talented Russian in the draft: Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts (QMJHL). I've watched Grigorenko in a few CHL playoff games, in which the Remparts are battling Halifax. In those games, Grigorenko has been ordinary. He is a huge risk-reward pick who I don't think they will pass up. He's currently being coached by Patrick Roy, so there's a very good bet the Habs know all there is to know about Grigorenko's character and intangibles. At the end of the day, he's still a 6-foot-3 center with high-end skill who has generated a few comparisons to Evgeni Malkin. Those don't come along every day.
Rounding out the top five are the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs, two teams that would do well by adding top-end defensemen. It may be a toss-up, but I see Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels (WHL) falling in at No. 4 with the Isles. His two-way game and big physical play will make him a tremendous addition on Long Island. At No. 5, I think Toronto will feel it won the lottery if Ryan Murray is still on the board. His character will be too much to pass up for a team that badly needs blue-line help.
With the top five set, here's how I see the rest of the lottery playing out, assuming there isn't a massive shakeup at the top, which I believe is entirely possible. I truly believe there's going to be a lot of turbulence at the top of the draft. While I'll start this list with Edmonton, I'll be surprised if the Oilers end up using the No. 1 pick this June.
1.Edmonton Oilers: RW Nail Yakupov, Sarnia (OHL)
2.Columbus Blue Jackets: C Filip Forsberg, Leksand (SWE-2)
3.Montreal Canadiens: C Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec (QMJHL)
4.New York Islanders: D Mathew Dumba, Red Deer (WHL)
5.Toronto Maple Leafs: D Ryan Murray, Everett (WHL)
6. Anaheim Ducks: D Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton (WHL) -- When all is said and done, he is simply too big and moves the puck too well to overlook. Many will talk about him lacking grit, but in my opinion he will grow to become more confident and comfortable with added strength.
7.Minnesota Wild: D Morgan Rielly, Moose Jaw (WHL) -- After missing most of the season because of injury (ACL), there might be some hesitation, but this offensive D-man's skill set and enthusiasm for the game are very attractive.
8. Carolina Hurricanes: C Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia (OHL) -- He's been impressive in his return from a serious knee injury, and the size/skill he possesses makes him a fit to mesh with a good group of forwards in place in Carolina.
9. Winnipeg Jets: C Radek Faksa, Kitchener (OHL) -- Size, skating and underrated hockey sense give me the feeling that this forward is going to rise to become a key ingredient on a winning team. Strength is much-needed, though.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning: D Cody Ceci, Ottawa (OHL) -- Perhaps the most NHL-ready defensemen in the draft, he brings a multitude of elements to the game, one of which is an elite shot. I can see Ceci paired with Victor Hedman as a solid one-two combination for years to come.
11. Washington Capitals (from Colorado): C Zemgus Girgensons, Dubuque (USHL) -- He has a great work ethic to go with size and skill. The ceiling is high for this Latvian-born forward who could rub off on some of the less hardworking skaters playing in the U.S. capital.
12. Buffalo Sabres: C Thomas Hertl, Slavia (CZECH) -- He will need time to improve his skating, but he's a big forward who makes things happen and plays the game on the wall very well. The Sabres need size up front.
13. Dallas Stars: LW Teuvo Teravainen, Jokerit Jr. (FIN-JR.) -- The Stars have done well with Finns in the past, and this speedy, skilled forward has really come to the forefront playing with Jokerit.
14. Calgary Flames: D Ludvik Bystrom, Modo (SWE-JR.) -- The Flames need someone to go back, get the puck and advance it. This kid can be first to the puck and make plays under pressure, something their current defensemen have trouble doing as a group.