Drafting with the (Future) Stars Preview, Part 2

[Ed. Note: Yesterday, Justin covered the likely first three teams to pick in the 2012 Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. To close out his analysis, the final four picks.]

First three teams to pick: 1) Columbus Blue Jackets, 2) Edmonton Oilers, and 3) Minnesota Wild

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

4. New York Islanders

Current Draft Position: 4th
Record: 28 - 31 - 11
Points: 67
Projected Point Total: 73

Remaining Schedule (12 Games):
Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Florida, Pittsburgh (twice), Boston, Ottawa, New Jersey, Winnipeg, Columbus

Accumulated Opponent's Record: 419 - 328 - 88
Playoff Team Split: 6 playoff teams, 5 non-playoff teams
Home/Road Split: 5 home games, 7 road games

Breakdown: The New York Islanders face the Pittsburgh Penguins on a back-to-back, between March 27th and March 29th, which might end up being their ugliest hockey of the season. Remember earlier this season when Crosby returned and lit up the Islanders for four points? Well, think of the Isles trying to contain that, along with Evgeni Malkin, who is playing the best hockey of his career. I would say the Islanders stay drafting fourth, and they'll garner enough points from bad teams to stay semi-competitive down the stretch, but not competitive enough to either rise or fall.

Prospects & Interest: Last summer, for the second time in as many years, the Islanders selected a forward fifth overall. Ryan Strome was selected in 2011, while Nino Niederreiter was selected in 2010. With franchise player John Tavares in the fold for the long haul in Long Island (no pun intended), Matt Moulson having emerged as a viable sidekick, and a bevy of other good forwards in Okposo, Grabner and Parenteau, there is absolutely no need for GM Garth Snow to draft someone like Mikhail Grigorenko or Alex Galchenyuk. Instead, the Islanders find a very good, and very talented defenseman falling into their proverbial lap, and his name is Mathew Dumba. When Dumba arrives in the NHL (possibility that he plays next season, he's that good), he'll be joining one of the best young teams in the NHL. The diminutive yet tenacious defenseman will be a sensation with a great, youthful core already established. This could end up being possibly the best and most valued pick within the first round for a team with a desperate need for one position. Now if only they could dump those alternate jerseys.

5. Montreal Canadiens

Current Draft Position: 3rd
Record: 28 - 32 - 11
Points: 67
Projected Point Total: 75

Remaining Schedule (11 Games):
Ottawa (twice), Long Island, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Florida, New York, Washington, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Toronto

Accumulated Opponent's Record: 374 - 295 - 100
Playoff Team Split: 5 playoff teams, 5 non-playoff teams
Home/Road Split: 5 home games, 6 road games

Breakdown: Along with us, Montreal has the least amount of games in hand of the seven teams profiled in this article. Their schedule though is hostile, as they play four (!) back-to-backs between now and the end of the season. Nevertheless, Montreal seems equipped to at least gain points in a few of these games, as the true playoff team split at least helps instill confidence in a young team. I have them rounding out the season strong, pushing them from 3rd worst, to 5th worst, helped by a 9-point improvement.

Prospects & Interest: With Montreal involved in the Bobby Ryan sweepstakes early in the season, most of us around here at least got to know some of their prospects. The farm system for Les Habitants consists of a lot of terrific young defenders such as 6'3 Nathan Beaulieu, their 1st round pick in 2011, and Jarred Tinordi, a 6'7 prospect selected in the 1st round of 2010. Add in forwards like Louis Leblanc, Blake Geoffrion and Brendan Gallagher, and the Habs have a strong young core moving forward, which makes it hard to decipher who General Manager Pierre Gauther will inevitably select. With both Galchenyuk and Grigorenko available here, you'd have to believe Gauthier is interested in one of the two big centres. I believe Grigorenko will slip past the prior four teams simply based on organizational need; his attitude issues won't hinder his stock as much as people think. For what it's worth, I believe Canadiens fans would be ecstatic to have either Grigorenko or Galchenyuk centering budding star winger Max Pacioretty on their future first line. Grigorenko should be the pick here, since he's a superior talent to Galchenyuk.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs

Current Draft Position: 7th
Record: 30 - 32 - 8
Points: 68
Projected Point Total: 77

Remaining Schedule (12 Games):
Tampa Bay (twice), Ottawa, Boston, Long Island, New Jersey, New York, Carolina, Philadelphia, Buffalo (twice), Montreal

Accumulated Opponent's Record: 412 - 329 - 98
Playoff Team Split: 5 playoff teams, 5 non-playoff teams
Home/Road Split: 6 home games, 6 road games

Breakdown: Well Toronto, I hope you have fun with two surging teams. The Sabres and Lightning have both been on tears lately, and they show no signs of stopping. Although Toronto drew the true split on each stat listed above, it's hard really suggest this is anything other than a difficult schedule. Combine these factors with the New York state threesome, and trips to rivals Ottawa and Montreal, and the Leafs have a challenging yet exciting way to round out the year. The Leaf fan in me (somewhere in there...) tells me Carlyle will actually get his players to play meaningful minutes with only a dozen or so games left. I predict they'll gain a sobering 11 points to finish the season. Luckily, this also gives them better draft position.

Prospects & Interest: The truculence kool-aid is being consumed in litres in Toronto. As we all know, Burke never likes to show his hand, but everyone already know the cards he's holding. The Leafs have a good core of young talent headlined by centers Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri, both of whom have already seen time with the Buds. On defense, the Leafs drafted Stuart Percy last year with the 25th overall pick. Percy, Devante Smith-Pelly's teammate with the OHL's Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, is added to a core stabilized with promising stay-at-home blueliner Luke Schenn. Of course, they also have Jake Gardiner, who they acquired with 2012 All-Star Joffrey Lupul from the Ducks for stud blueliner Francois Beauchemin. There is one piece missing to the Burkian puzzle though, and it comes in the way of American centreman Alex Galchenyuk. Although he has missed all of this season with a torn ACL - and that may scare off some suitors - Burke knows Galchenyuk is the right fit for his team moving into the future. A power forward who is also big, nasty and tough gives the GM/Head Coach tandem of Burke and Carlyle their very own Ryan Getzlaf replica a few years down the road. Easy pick for the gruff, silver-haired Irishman.

7. Carolina Hurricanes

Current Draft Position: 5th
Record: 26 - 29 - 15
Points: 67
Projected Point Total: 79

Remaining Schedule (12 Games):
St. Louis, Minnesota, Winnipeg (twice), Florida (twice), Columbus, Detroit, Toronto, New Jersey, Ottawa, Montreal

Accumulated Opponent's Record: 408 - 333 - 103
Playoff Team Split: 5 playoff teams, 5 non-playoff teams
Home/Road Split: 5 home games, 7 road games

Breakdown: This might be an overzealous pick selecting Carolina to finish the season strong, but I believe they can. Eric Staal is having his worst full season in the pros, and veteran goaltender Cam Ward's stats are nothing to boast about either. I think Muller's Canes can steal a few games from teams like Florida and Winnipeg down the stretch. The Washington Capitals can then thank them later.

Prospects & Interest: Uber-sniper Jeff Skinner is having a bit of a rough sophomore slump accumulating only 19 goals and 21 assists with a -7 rating on the season, but he is undoubtedly the player the Hurricanes are investing their future in. Skinner, along with Victor Rask of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen are the two pieces General Manager Jim Rutherford is looking to build around. The Canes would absolutely love Swedish left-winger Filip Forsberg with this selection, if he is passed over by the Wild. Their second option would be finding somebody to play alongside last year's 1st round selection Ryan Murphy of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. The pick here would likely be Jacob Trouba, a big, physical defenseman who is committed to the University of Michigan next year. A wild card selection could be Cody Ceci from the OHL's Ottawa 67's who is rapidly climbing pre-draft rankings; or even Morgan Rielly, a smooth-skating defenseman with an improving offensive game, currently playing with the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors.

While there are so many factors to delve into when regarding sports outcomes, there's no plausible way of perfecting prediction. On top of a multitude of factors, there always tends to be a fair share of streaks, fatigue, injuries and of course, front office idiocy. More than anything I hope this provides you with a functional blueprint of organizational desire, and even more so, a basic thread where we can keep all of our draft wishes before jumping head first into this orchestrated nonsense once the off-season begins.

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