Ranking The NHL Draft’s Top Prospects

CALGARY, CANADA - JANUARY 5: Mikhail Grigorenko #17 of Team Russia digs for the puck under Mattias Backman #5 of Team Sweden during the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship Gold Medal game at the Scotiabank Saddledome on January 5, 2012 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Trying to figure out where players will wind up on NHL Draft weekend is often an exercise in futility. Not only does each team have its own needs and system in preparing for the draft, but they also have to react to the decisions of 29 other franchises. So regardless of what anyone tells you, trying to predict what will happen and how each team will respond to the circumstances is, at the end of the day, guesswork.

But it's fun and entertaining guesswork. Bob took his crack at it Tuesday, and we'll have at least one more mock draft prior to Friday's real thing. So rather than trying to guess who each team will select, I will instead present you with my list of the top-15 prospects, one of which should be Carolina's choice at No. 8.

Speaking of No. 8, the franchise has only once selected a player in that draft position. In 1980, the Whalers selected defenseman Fred Arthur eighth overall, but he played in just 80 career games (just three with Hartford, the rest with Philadelphia) in three seasons before retiring and going on to medical school — and eventually becoming a doctor — rather than face demotion to the minors.

Since Arthur retired before his contract was up, Philadelphia — who acquired had Arthur in a multi-player trade — received a third-round pick as compensation that turned out to be current Kings assistant coach and long-time Flyer John Stevens. The initial trade that sent Arthur to Philadelphia also included a couple draft picks that turned into big names: the Flyers received the fourth pick in 1982 and selected Ron Sutter, who along with twin Rich was the youngest of the famed Sutter brothers, while the Whalers used the 56th pick in third round they received in the trade to choose Kevin Dineen, the last Whalers captain, first Hurricanes captain and current head coach of the Florida Panthers.

While Arthur's career wasn't worthy of a top-10 pick, the names tied to him certainly shed a light on how important the NHL Draft is. I have compiled a list of the draft's top 130 prospects. Since the draft's opening round will take place Friday, with the remaining six rounds Saturday, here's a look at my top-15 prospects.

1. Nail Yakupov, RW, Sarnia (OHL) — The clear-cut No. 1. Speed, scoring and an awesome (albeit oft-mispronounced) first name.
2. Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL) — All substance, little style. His poise and all-around skill make him a likely top-pairing defender for years to come.
3. Filip Forsberg, RW, Leksand (SEL) — Poised to be the highest drafted Swedish forward since the Sedins went 2-3 in 1999. All-around talent.
4. Mikhail Grigorenko, C/RW, Quebec (QMJHL) — Size and vision, plus the ability to play in the middle or on the wing. Could be the best player to come out of the draft.
5. Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL) — Despite missing most of the season, one of the best D in the class. Maybe this year's best skater.
6. Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW, Sarnia (OHL) — Knee injury and struggles without Yakupov are a concern, but someone will gamble that he's a star in his own right.
7. Matthew Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL) — Reminiscent of former Rebels d-man Dion Phaneuf, Dumba can point-produce from the blueline and intimidate with big hits.
8. Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (OHL) — Big, steady and capable in all three zones, with NHL bloodlines. You'd just like to see more snarl to go with all that size.
9. Jacob Trouba, D, U.S. NTDP — Smooth with size and plays in both ends, but a bit inconsistent. Has Compuware ties, making him a consideration for Carolina.
10. Codi Ceci, D, Ottawa (OHL) — Similar to Bobby Sanguinetti in his draft year, though not as good a skater. Can produce from the blueline and has a great frame for the NHL.
11. Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (FinE) — Incredibly talented and shifty. Most think he will overcome the fact that he's one of the draft's smallest players (160ish pounds).
12. Radek Faksa, C/LW, Kitchener (OHL) — Great size but (right now) an average skater. Competitive with room to improve, but a bit of a project.
13. Olli Maatta, D, London (OHL) — Won't dazzle in either end, but can contribute everywhere. Raised his draft stock with a great postseason.
14. Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville (OHL) — A power forward, could be first Canadian forward drafted. Has the size teams covet, but needs to improve his skating.
15. Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL) — A potential power play quarterback. A bit understand, but is tough and will stand up for himself.

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