The 2011-12 hockey season is nearly over and for the teams missing this year's playoffs, it is time to begin looking at prospects that can help the franchise rebound going into next season.
This year's draft is deep at nearly every position and that will give teams plenty of options heading into June's draft. Here is the latest projections for the entire first round from NHLMockDraft.com in hopes it helps the average hockey fan get to know the top prospects this year.
Columbus will have the top overall pick and there is little doubt to the player they will select. Nail Yakupov is considered the top prospect from most experts and the right-winger could impact the Blue Jackets as soon as next year. Yakupov is excellent on the offensive end of the ice and will give Columbus some much-needed offense for the next few years.
Edmonton has a difficult decision awaiting them in June as the next best prospect is Russian center Mikhail Grigorenko, but the Oilers need some help on defense and that could have the team taking Ryan Murray with the second overall selection. Murray is a tough defensive player with decent offensive skills and would give the Oilers a good foundation to build around on the back line.
Hockey is more like baseball in that most players will see some time in lower leagues before making the jump to the NHL. Several players from this draft could help a team this year, but look for most of these young players to make their debut over the next couple years.