2012 NHL Draft, North American Skater Forward Edition

I have been looking over the Top 30 North American Skaters for this 2012 NHL Draft and wanted to learn more about them to see what we could do with our #28th overall pick this year. I only took into account forwards in the top 30 and did not include Yakupov,Grigorenko, or Galnychuck because I really doubt we are going to be able to pick them and you have probably heard enough about all of them lol. You can find the entire list here of all the players that were invited to this draft.

Sorry for the length of this post but I felt that we needed to learn more about these players in order to better ascertain who we should pick.

#22 Phil Di Giuseppe LW, Shoots Left 6’1" 200lbs UMichigan Wolverines (CCHA)

Talent Analysis
Some will classify Di Giuseppe as a "pure-scorer". And while there is no doubt that he can put the puck into net, there is far more to his game than just scoring goals. He is equally adept as a playmaker. Two areas that set Di Giuseppe apart from many other freshmen are his tremendous hockey instincts and his ability to cycle pucks down low. He thinks the game extremely well and has a low panic point. Di Giuseppe is also quite good not only around the net but along the boards and corners as well. He sees the ice and follows/supports plays really well too. Di Giuseppe possesses great poise and patience with the puck, and his decision-making is very good.

Another Great Article on Di Giuseppe:

#25 Tanner Pearson LW, Shoots Left 6’0" 198lbs Barrie (OHL)

Talent Analysis
There are a few things that make Tanner Pearson stand out from the rest of the 2012 draft class, especially amongst potential first rounders, the main one being that he is entering his third year of draft eligibility. Passed over in the previous two years, there’s little chance the same will happen this year to the Barrie Colts 19 year old leading scorer.

A player that can play up and down a lineup, Pearson is a complete forward. He has good size, skates well and competes hard every shift. He plays an effective two way game and has been lethal on Barrie’s powerplay this year. He certainly possesses the size and skill set to project as a top six forward in the NHL and in a few years can certainly help an NHL team.

#15 Tom Wilson RW, Shoots Right 6’4" 194lbs Plymouth (OHL)

Talent Analysis
Wilson is a very imposing winger who has thrived with the Plymouth Whalers this season as a forward who brings plenty of size, grit, and physicality to the team’s lineup. Wilson is versatile and has enough ability to play with skilled players while playing a physical role. His skating has steadily improved and his willingness to take the body with his size creates a lot of space for teammates. He’s good in the corners on the cycle and does a good job wearing down opposing teams as well. It is concerning that he only has 6 goals while playing with players like Stefan Noesen, Rickard Rakell, and JT Miller, but Wilson is a player who is likely going to take some time to grow into his frame and find out just how high his ceiling is.

#7 Radek Faksa C, Shoots Left 6’3" 203lbs Plymouth (OHL)

Talent Analysis
Calling Faksa's transition to the North American style of hockey a success might be a conservative descriptor. Faksa was a PPG+ [29G/38A]player through his first sixty-two games in the Ontario Hockey League, playing a major role in Kitchener's sixth-ranked offense in the regular season. Prior to his work with the Rangers, Faksa was absolutely lighting up Czech competition -- his 49 PTS [19G/30A] in 28 GP with HC Trinec (U18) in '10-'11 solidified his first-round status for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft a full year ago. More impressive than his offensive output, though, is his two-way play, highlighted by boorish physicality in the defensive zone. Faksa might not be the world's most brilliant offensive talent, but he's as well-rounded of a forward as there is in the upcoming draft. Another Mika Zibanejad (including past head trauma)? It's certainly a fair comparison.

#17 Stefan Matteau C, Shoots Left 6’1" 209lbs USA U-18

Talent Analysis
Matteau is a gritty power forward that finishes his checks and is willing to drop the gloves. Can dictate the play and revive momentum with his smarts and potent physical play. He is exceptionally balanced and mobile for his size. A strong north / south skater with a hearty stride and the ability to churn out decent speed. His first few steps are a work in progress and his defensive footwork needs continued development.

There is no one more effective in the USHL when shielding the puck, fending off the opposition and creating space down-low. Protects the puck miraculously with his frame, reach and ability to force his way through traffic. Possesses play-making vision and hands. Sees the ice extremely well, especially from confined quarters such as the corners and boards. Is able to feed the puck out of tight situations and hit his mark the majority of times, although here – he was a bit quick to distribute and had a few issues with connecting. Hard to contain when storming his way down the ice and into the offensive zone but needs to work on his puck control skills when in flight. Makes for a monstrous net presence.

Outstanding defensive awareness and anticipation. Works a disruptive stick, covers his point well and shows a lot of hustle and engagement on the back-check. Effective in jamming up lanes and supporting the puck. Ferocious when challenging the puck carrier. Is clever with his body positioning to restrict the oppositions’ time and space.

#13 Brendan Gaunce C, Shoots Left 6’2" 215lbs Bellevile (OHL)

Talent Analysis
Brendan Gaunce has great vision, skating ability, hockey sense, a pro calibre shot, and unbelievable leadership qualities on and off the ice. Brendan Gaunce has been described as a ‘mediocre’ skater but has the size, strength and intangibles that mid-first-round selectors will crave in an excellent two-way center. Gaunce’s sophomore campaign has seen him produce at a point-per-game level and, simultaneously, develop into one of the best two-way forwards in the OHL.

Despite still not projecting as favorably as some of his 2012 draftmates, Gaunce will be highly sought-after because of his ability to do the ‘little’ things like winning faceoffs, backchecking effectively and contesting puck battles. He’s very hard to push off the puck and protects it well: Gaunce is a beast along the boards. His shot is quick, heavy and given his ability to muscle his way in close – very tough to stop.

Strengths: Strength, Size, Defensive Acumen, Shooting, Grit, Intangibles
Weaknesses/Concerns: Skating, Creativity

#14 Colton Sissons C/RW, Shoots Right 6’1" 190lbs Kelwona(WHL)

Talent Analysis
"Despite his large frame, he doesn't get held back by his skating. He has a good first few steps and has good mobility and edgework. He skates hard and also plays with an edge. He loves to lay the body and is very strong at creating room for his linemates ' Along with his size and strength, he features a very sharp hockey mind and knows where to be at what times on the ice." — Cody Nickolet,

"Has high hockey IQ, and a great three-zone game. Relentless in puck pursuit, and a wing who can project up and down the lines due to his high-energy play, slick passes, and big-time shot." Bill Placzek,

"He’s very strong at both ends of the rink, pays attention to detail defensively, a real good, solid, all-around two-way player ' He’s [also] a very good leader'a quality teams really look for." — BJ MacDonald, NHL Central Scouting.
"With good size and a lethal shot, Sissons undoubtedly projects on the high end as a top-6 winger in the NHL ' Look for [him] to continue to put up impressive goal scoring numbers, while also continuing to improve his all-around game leading up to the draft." – The Scouting Report: Midterm Rankings.

#18 Zemgus Girgensons C, Shoots Left 6’1" 201lbs Dubusque (USHL)

Talent Analysis
Zemgus Girgensons has the grit, two-way game and work ethic to be a top-six power-forward in the NHL. As the undisputed best Latvian and best player from the United States Hockey League (USHL) available in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Zemgus Girgensons has received some significant attention.

He’s noticeably strong, with big powerful strides and a wide base which allows him to effectively fight through checks. Girgensons is a potentially dominant player on the cycle/forecheck because of his tenacity and physical presence. He protects the puck efficiently and won’t turn it over without a fight. The Latvian’s skating is solid, with good speed – though he doesn’t have ideal acceleration.

Girgensons can finish with the best of ‘em, possessing a pro-caliber release and a heavy shot. Because of his willingness to fight through opponents and get to the dirty areas of the ice, he has some significant goal-scoring upside. His defensive game shows a lot of polish for an eighteen year-old. He has good on-ice awareness, managing gaps and filling lanes with willingness and skill. Girgensons blocks shots, wins faceoffs, throws checks and plays on the PK. Failing all else, he should have a place in the NHL as a solid two-way grinder.

#20 Martin Frk RW, Shoots Left 6’0" 198lbs Halifax(QMJHL)

Talent Analysis
An extremely raw prospect, Frk already possesses a pro-quality shot and plays with an edge, but the rest of his game needs work. Although his skating is often pointed to as his main weakness, his overall conditioning is a more pressing concern. Not just a triggerman on the ice, Frk has improved at carrying the puck and using his teammates more, but still requires more polish and development. As his mobility on the ice improves, so will his overall play.

With professional-grade size, physicality and a heavy shot; Martin Frk seemed to be a lock to be the second from the ‘Q’ off the board – but concussion issues have raised durability concerns and where he falls is anyone’s guess.
Frk still brings a lot of value to the team that selects him. Offensively, that upside starts with his shot. Frk possesses a potent one-timer, capable of beating goaltenders from the high-slot as well as the circles. His wrister is heavy as well – with a lightning-quick release, though he tends to find chest protectors as often as twine. Frk also has a fair bit of ‘dangle’ to his game and can weave through traffic or play a more power-centric game.

Speaking of ‘power’, despite average size, Frk’s style is most reminiscent of a traditional ‘power-forward’ because of his tremendous grit, intense physicality (in particular a willingness to fight through checks), willing presence in the ‘dirty’ areas of the ice and solid puck-protection. He place with a noticeable edge and while this sometimes translates into discipline issues, the role of agitator/bully is one valued by teams league-wide.

Furthermore, some find his overall offensive game to be substandard. His distribution/playmaking capabilities are wanting and he seems to have poor offensive acumen/hockey IQ. Frustrating fans and coaches alike with his under-utilization of teammates and frequent unnecessary turnovers, Frk will be a project for whoever drafts him.

#21 Mike Winther, C/LW, Shoots Left 5’11" 170lbs Prince Albert(WHL)

Talent Analysis
"Mike has great speed and offensive instincts. He is a solid two-way player who is reliable in his own zone and in all situations." — Prince Albert Head Coach Steve Young.

"[He] has pretty solid hockey sense from an instinctual and vision standpoint. His positional play is fine, and while he can make plays he shows a bit of a sniper’s instincts in terms of finding open space in the high percentage areas … He combined that with a solid shot and can finish from outside the blue paint." – Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus.

"I really like how he is a very smart player in the offensive zone and is always on the right side of the puck around the net. He also has a very quick release, his skating is very good, and he is hard to knock off the puck when he gains control." – Rick Jackson, Central Scouting.

#24 Scott Kosmachuk, RW, Shoots Right 5’11" 185lbs Guelph (OHL)

Talent Analysis
His biggest asset is his high complete level and aggression. He never quits on a play, and is always willing to sacrifice his body in order to ensure team success. He always is willing to finish a check on the forecheck, and is extremely willing to battle down low and along the boards. He is strong in puck battles, and effective at using his body to protect the puck down low. He generates most of his offense off of the cycle. He is strong on the puck in the offensive zone and rarely turns it over.

Kosmachuck has some room to develop his three zone positional play. At times he can struggle with being in the right place at the right time in his own zone, and chases the puck a bit to often. He needs to work on being more intelligent positionally in his own zone. He has shown good offensive growth this season, however most of his goals are scored within 5-6 feet of the net on secondary opportunities, not via high-end skill.

#27 Cristoval “Boo” Nieves, C, Shoots Left 6’3” 185lbs Future UMichigan Wolverine (CCHA)

Talent Analysis
Nieves’ prime attraction is his rare combination of size and speed. Size can’t be taught – and at 6’3, Nieves stands tall above the competition. His skating game is truly a wonder to behold – almost certainly the fastest draft-bound prep student, Nieves has earned comparisons to the speediest in this class including Sweden’s Pontus Åberg. With plus-acceleration; a long, graceful stride and an elite top-gear Nieves has the wheels to excel in the NHL.

Offensively, he projects more as a distributor than a sniper. While he has a heavy shot and a quick release, there has been some mention of difficulties finishing the golden opportunities he creates with his anticipation and speed. The biggest question-marks for Nieves arise around his physical game and the competition level he’s faced. With his big frame and skating game, teams want to see more of a commitment to taking the body than he’s shown thus far.

#28 Scott Laughton C, Shoots Left 6’0” 175lbs Oshawa (OHL)

Talent Analysis
While Laughton is not the most talented player of the draft, he is certainly one of the most combative and hard-working players available. Despite a relatively average frame, he plays a determined, physical and smart game while remaining valuable to his team in all situations. Laughton can also chip in offensively often enough to be a threat and garner power play time on the second unit. He is not afraid to block shots or take a big hit to clear the puck from the defensive zone.

While he certainly will never be a point-per-game player in the NHL, Laughton has good-enough offensive skills to produce on a relatively regular basis while neutralizing the opponent’s best line. His shot is underrated as he tends to look too much for the pass, which is often a detriment to his offensive numbers. Laughton is not afraid to drop the gloves or deliver punishing hits in order to wake up his team or change the momentum of a game, but he could play a more disciplined game at times.

Jesus this guy sounds like our entire team, no thanks we don’t need any more of you guys around.

#29 Nicolas Kerdiles, C, Shoots Left 6’1” 196lbs (USHL)

Talent Analysis
Despite lacking an eye-catching standout skill, Nicolas Kerdiles is one of the more well-rounded and polished prospects for 2012.
Consistently aggressive at both ends of the ice, Kerdiles tenaciously pursues the puck along the boards and behind the net. He’s excellent on both the forecheck and backcheck and will out-work opposing attackers and pick their pockets if they’re not careful. Patient and positionally sound, the California-born forward balances out the intensity with deliberate play when setting up defensively.

He possesses a strong build and gets his nose dirty willingly (though not as dramatically as teammate Stefan Matteau) and will deliver open-ice hits as the opportunities present themselves. Balanced on his skates, Kerdiles absorbs punishment and maintains puck possession under duress.

His skating game isn’t outstanding (he doesn’t have dynamic acceleration or agility) – but it gets the job done. His north-south game is much more developed but he’ll juke when you least expect it and it seems that one or two times each game he beats a defender outright with ‘play-action’ and some fancy footwork. His motor is usually running at such a high level that deficiencies in his wheels can be overlooked.

With ‘plus’ hockey IQ, Kerdiles is a savvy distributor of the puck and fills lanes at both ends effectively. He consistently identifies the open man on the rush and makes sure passes. It’s that intelligence that takes him from a surefire second-rounder to a contender to go nearer to pick twenty.

Strengths: Grit, Puck-Possession, Defensive Play, Physiciality, Hockey IQ, Distribution
Weaknesses/Concerns: Absence of a ‘Plus’ Offensive Tool (Offensive Upside), Quickness

If it were up to me, these would be the top six, from top to bottom, that I would go for out of these North American Forwards in the first round. (#Rankings are for North American Skaters in this draft)

  • Radek Faksa (Ranked #7)
  • Nicolas Kerdiles (Ranked #29)
  • Phil Di Giuseppe (Ranked #22)
  • Stefan Matteau (Ranked #17)
  • Zemgus Girgensons (Ranked #18)
  • Mike Winther (Ranked #21)

What do you guys think?

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