Drafting with the (Future) Stars Preview, Part 1

[Ed. Note: As I said on Tuesday, we've got two new additions to Anaheim Calling. Kevin Riach was up first with his "State of the Summer Address". Last but certainly not least, is Justin, otherwise known as "JuMowbray". Welcome to the team, guys!]

With last night's win over the Red Wings, the Ducks currently sit 12th in the Western Conference, and 23rd overall. Below them in the standings are seven teams with myriad problems to address this off-season. Each respective team will enter the Consol Energy Center this summer with hopes of nabbing their future star player.

Of the seven teams, each of them has approximately 12 games left on the docket, with every one meaning significantly less than the next in terms of playoff chances, but more in terms of draft position. I will profile the seven teams (three today and four tomorrow) that find themselves in prime draft position to select their aforementioned star. Addressed will be who could rise in draft position, and who could fall; as well as a brief prospect analysis accompanied by a speculation as to whom each team might select. In turn, I hope this helps clear up who will be available once Bob Murray and co. step up to the podium July 22nd in Pittsburgh.

*Stats and schedules as of March 15, 2012, provided by NHL.com and Yahoo! Sports

1. Columbus Blue Jackets

Current Draft Position: 1st
Record: 22 - 41 - 7
Points: 51
Projected Point Total: 56

Remaining Schedule (12 Games):
Vancouver, Calgary, Chicago, Carolina, Edmonton, Detroit (twice), Florida, St. Louis, Phoenix, Colorado, Long Island

Accumulated Opponent's Record: 432 - 310 - 103
Playoff Team Split: 7 playoff teams, 4 non-playoff teams
Home/Road Split: 5 home games, 7 road games

Breakdown: With the Blue Jackets so far out of a playoff position, and currently 10 points behind their closest cellar-mate, it's almost certain Columbus will be selecting 1st overall. Being crammed in the best division in the current NHL, the Jackets have a tough road ahead of them not only rounding out this year, but in the future as well.

Prospects & Interest: The consensus #1 choice this season has been Nail Yakupov. The enigmatic Russian winger tops essentially every prospect ranking out there, and for good reason. With top CBJ prospect Ryan Johansen coming into his own in the Buckeye State, Scott Howson would be foolish not to draft a talent as cerebral as Nail, who hails from the OHL's Sarnia Sting. With the future of Rick Nash up in the air, it only cements the fact that this tandem can help put fans in the seats at Nationwide Arena. Ryan Murray of the WHL's Everett Silvertips might garner some attention, but it would be hard for this organization to pass up the best Russian prospect since Alex Ovechkin.

2. Edmonton Oilers

Current Draft Position: 2nd
Record: 27 - 36 - 7
Points: 61
Projected Point Total: 67

Remaining Schedule (12 Games):
Calgary, Phoenix, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Florida, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles (twice), Anaheim (twice), Vancouver

Accumulated Opponent's Record: 402 - 322 - 116
Playoff Team Split: 5 playoff teams, 5 non-playoff teams
Home/Road Split: 5 home games, 7 road games

Breakdown: Much like Columbus, I find it hard to believe that Edmonton can do much with their remaining schedule. With road trips down to Florida and into California, 29th place in the NHL seems like the position Edmonton will occupy for the rest of the season. Considering the playoff split doesn't indicate bubble teams, opponents like Calgary, Tampa Bay and even Florida will be pulling out all the stops while they vie for post-season play.

Prospects & Interest: You want to talk kid lines? Let's talk kid lines. Top prospects Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall have finally given Oilers fans something to cheer about this season. Eberle, who was drafted with the pick Anaheim sent to Edmonton in the Chris Pronger trade, has already amassed 30 goals this season. His linemate Hall has 26 goals to go along with 26 assists, and their centreman Nugent-Hopkins has 41 points in 49 games. Impressive. Their defensive depth is hardly something to harp about though. Prospect Oscar Klefbom - who was acquired in last year's Dustin Penner deal with Los Angeles - is good, as is fellow European Martin Marincin, but the Oil need a gamechanger on the blueline. I believe Edmonton drafts Ryan Murray of the WHL's Everett Silvertips. Murray, the draft's top-ranked defenseman, has off the charts hockey IQ along with a great set of hands. His play will adore Oilers fans for years to come. While Edmonton could also consider underrated blueliner Mathew Dumba of the WHL's Red Deer Rebels, reports have said Murray seems to be an almost certainty at the 2-spot.

3. Minnesota Wild

Current Draft Position: 6th
Record: 29 - 31 - 10
Points: 68
Projected Point Total: 72

Remaining Schedule (12 Games):
Carolina, Vancouver, Calgary, Buffalo, Washington, New York, Florida, Los Angeles, Chicago (twice), Nashville, Phoenix

Accumulated Opponent's Record: 431 - 294 - 115
Playoff Team Split: 7 playoff teams, 4 non-playoff teams
Home/Road Split: 8 home games, 4 road games

Breakdown: If there were a more brutal schedule for the last dozen games than the Ducks, it would have to be the schedule for the Minnesota Wild. They might be helped by a heavily favourable home schedule, but they face nearly all playoff and bubble teams, with the worst stretch coming in early April when they face Chicago, Nashville and then Chicago again in a span of five days. Also, teams such as Calgary, Buffalo, Washington and Los Angeles will be driven to make the playoffs, and I'm afraid hungrier teams will be feasting on the Wild. Earlier in the season fans from the Twin Cities were thinking playoffs; I suppose they'll have to settle for a good draft pick for the fourth year in a row instead.

Prospects & Interest: Last year the Wild selected in the first round twice. Their first pick, defenseman Jonas Brodin seems poised to join talents such as Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and Justin Falk at the NHL level soon enough; while their second pick Zack Phillips of the Saint John Sea Dogs will likely see the minors for a few more years until he's ready to join Finns Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund in the big leagues. The pick here is difficult, because Minnesota could benefit from either a skilled winger like Filip Forsberg, or a tenacious defender like Mathew Dumba. It's a toss-up at this point, but I think the Wild draft Forsberg, who could form a formidable wing-core with Charlie Coyle and Devin Setoguchi a few years down the road.

Come back to AC tomorrow for the final four teams...

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