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Backdraft 2012: Redoing the top 10 picks from the '12 NHL draft

The 2012 NHL draft was unlike any other in recent memory. The No. 1 pick went bust and there's no forward or defenseman who's an obvious replacement. So, it's a couple of goalies at Nos. 1 and 2 in the updated top 10 – and there's a couple more goalies right behind them.
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USA Today

USA Today

The 2012 NHL draft was difficult to gauge at the time, and that remains true eight years later.

Here's what we know: Nail Yakupov, Edmonton's third consecutive No. 1 pick, was the biggest bust since Atlanta took Patrik Stefan first overall in 1999. The Nos. 2 and 3 picks, Ryan Murray and Alex Galchenyuk, weren't exactly home runs but at least they're still in the NHL. The same can't be said for No. 4 Griffin Reinhart. You could argue that only No. 5 Morgan Rielly and No. 9 Jacob Trouba deserved to be drafted in the top 10, though at least No. 6 Hampus Lindholm and No. 7 Mathew Dumba have become bona fide top-four defensemen. (And, yes, if you're counting, that's seven straight defensemen selected at Nos. 4 through 10.)

Here’s a look at the original top 10 draft picks in 2012, followed by a redo of the top 10 with the benefit of hockey hindsight.

2012 NHL draft: The original top 10

1. Nail Yakupov, Edmonton
2. Ryan Murray, Columbus
3. Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal
4. Griffin Reinhart, NY Islanders
5. Morgan Rielly, Toronto
6. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim
7. Mathew Dumba, Minnesota
8. Derrick Pouliot, Pittsburgh
9. Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg
10. Slater Koekkoek, Tampa Bay

2012 NHL draft: The top 10 do-over (with original draft position in parentheses)

1. Andrei Vasilevskiy (19th, Tampa Bay)
2. Connor Hellebuyck (130th, Winnipeg)
3. Filip Forsberg (11th, Washington)
4. Morgan Rielly (5th, Toronto)
5. Matt Murray (83rd, Pittsburgh)
6. Jacob Trouba (9th, Winnipeg)
7. Jaccob Slavin (120th, Carolina)
8. Tom Wilson (16th, Washington)
9. Frederik Andersen (87th, Anaheim)
10. Tomas Hertl (17th, San Jose)

Honorable mentions: Colton Parayko (86th, St. Louis); Teuvo Teravainen (18th, Chicago); Mathew Dumba (7th, Minnesota); Tanner Pearson (30th, Los Angeles); Hampus Lindholm (6th, Anaheim).

Notable:

  • Who's No. 1? Who isn't? This 'Backdraft' series covers the 10 NHL drafts from 2005 through 2014, and the 2012 edition was the toughest to identify the updated No. 1. There's no clear-cut choice who rises above the rest, and there are four or five players, and maybe even six or seven or eight, for whom you could make the case for No. 1. I went with the two best goalies at the top, followed by the best forward and best defenseman, then the goalie who's already got two Cup rings. And then two more top-notch D-men and a one-of-a-kind forward. I finally had to hit 'Publish' just so I'd stop flip-flopping the order. Let's get into it.
  • Vasilevskiy No. 1: The first goaltender drafted in 2012 at 19th overall looks like the best of the bunch. He's everything you want in a franchise goalie: big, fast, athletic and confident. Not to mention, he's 25, he's the league's reigning Vezina Trophy winner, he's locked in as the starter on a loaded Lightning team and he's gone 83-27-7 over the past two seasons. The sky's the limit for Vasilevskiy in Tampa Bay.
  • Hellebuyck No. 2: There are a few steals in the updated top 10, but none bigger than Hellebuyck. He was the Vezina runner-up in 2017-18 and was on his way to another nomination this season. Hellebuyck was even getting some Hart Trophy speculation for his soaring performance with the Jets this year.
  • Forsberg No. 3: A first-line sniper, put him down for 30 goals and 60-plus points. Washington could've had the two most impactful forwards in the 2012 draft had they not infamously traded prospect Forsberg to Nashville for the last dregs of Martin Erat's career in 2013. (The Caps drafted Tom Wilson at No. 16, but more on him later.)
  • Rielly No. 4: He scored 20 goals and 72 points en route to a fifth-place finish in Norris Trophy voting in 2018-19. Injuries slowed him down this year, but Rielly's a top-pairing defender with elite offensive instincts. You could argue he's No. 1 overall, but then again, you could argue he comes in behind Trouba and Slavin, too.
  • Murray No. 5: How do you solve a problem like Murray? The 10th goalie drafted in 2012 has already won two Stanley Cups as a starter, and he did it while he was still technically a rookie. What's better than leading a team to two Cups by age 23? Not much, which tilts Murray toward the top of the class. The case against him, of course, is injuries. He's missed big chunks of all four seasons he's played in the NHL. Split the difference and he comes in at No. 5.
  • Trouba No. 6: There's not much that separates Rielly and Trouba. The Leafs defenseman brings more offense, while the Jets-turned-Rangers blueliner is more physical and well-rounded defensively.
  • Slavin No. 7: A first-rate shutdown defender who can chip in offensively, Slavin has gone from "Who's that guy?" to "That guy's great!" in a hurry. The Hurricanes' blueline has been one of the best in the league for the past few years, and he's a big reason why.
  • Wilson No 8: The Caps' power forward ranks seventh in goals and seventh in points among forwards drafted in 2012, but he brings another dimension that few other players possess. Fear. Intimidation. Reckless endangerment. Whatever you want to call it, opponents always know when Wilson is on the ice, and they're usually careful not to provoke him. His aura of menace creates space for his linemates and he can put the puck in the net, too, with back-to-back 20-goal seasons (in 63 and 68 games, respectively).
  • Andersen No. 9: He went 187th overall to Carolina in 2010 – and rose to No. 8 in Backdraft 2010 – but wasn't signed and re-entered the 2012 draft. Andersen has played about 100 more NHL games – and has about 60 more wins – than both Vasilevskiy and Hellebuyck.
  • Hertl No. 10: It was fun when he had a four-goal game as a rookie and became known as 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Hertl,' but his development into a powerful two-way center is even more impressive.
  • Deep defense corps: The 2012 draft produced plenty of NHL-caliber blueliners beyond Rielly, Trouba and Slavin. Parayko, Dumba and Lindholm made it as honorable mentions, and they're joined by: Esa Lindell (74th, Dallas), Colin Miller (151st, Los Angeles), Brady Skjei (28th, NY Rangers), Shayne Gostisbehere (78th, Philadelphia), Cody Ceci (15th, Ottawa), Olli Maata (22nd, Pittsburgh), Erik Gustafsson (93rd, Edmonton), Damon Severson (60th, New Jersey), Matt Grzelcyk (85th, Boston), Jake McCabe (44th, Buffalo) and Matt Benning (175th, Boston). And, of course, Murray, who went No. 2 overall but falls significantly down the rankings.
  • Flock of forwards: Only three forwards (Forsberg, Wilson, Hertl) cracked the updated top 10 and only two more made it as honorable mentions (Teravainen, Pearson). In short, there's no Connor McDavid to be found in the 2012 draft. But there's a solid supporting cast, led by No. 3 pick Galchenyuk as well as: Alex Kerfoot (150th, New Jersey), Andreas Athanasiou (110th, Detroit), Josh Anderson (95th, Columbus), Connor Brown (156th, Toronto), Radek Faksa (13th, Dallas), Cedric Paquette (101st, Tampa Bay), Chris Tierney (55th, San Jose), Oskar Sundqvist (81st, Pittsburgh), Mark Jankowski (21st, Calgary), Jordan Martinook (58th, Phoenix), Nikita Gusev (202nd, Tampa Bay) and Jimmy Vesey (66th, Nashville).

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