There is unpredictability in every draft, so when Filip Forsberg slipped to Washington at No. 11 in the 2012 edition, it was shocking, but understandable. After all, trends can lead to strange runs at the annual event and eight defensemen taken in the first 10 slots certainly qualifies. But as the leading scorer for the Nashville Predators this season, Forsberg is showing why we had the left winger ranked second overall in our Draft Preview edition that year…and No. 1 wouldn't be the same if we re-ordered right now.
The biggest x-factor in the 2012 draft was Alex Galchenyuk, who went third to Montreal. Galchenyuk missed almost the entire season due to a knee injury while playing for Sarnia in the Ontario League and though his game had been compared to Marian Hossa's, it was tough to nail down when a team would take a leap of faith on a player who lost a crucial year of development.
Clearly that wasn't an issue, as Galchenyuk went on help Team USA win gold at the 2013 world juniors in Russia and joined the Habs right after the lockout ended days later.
The top pick in the draft was Nail Yakupov and he was the consensus No. 1 at the time. Yakupov has been hindered in Edmonton by coaching changes and general disorganization and it's a bit surprising in retrospect that a one-way winger would be the top prospect when such a premium is put on centers these days, but there you have it.
The other big x-factor was Mikhail Grigorenko, who literally wore a Canadian flag-patterned golf shirt to the draft combine in order to diffuse any worries about the "Russian factor," even though he was already over here with the Quebec League's Quebec Remparts. Grigorenko, that big, talented center teams crave, went one pick after Forsberg – they were the two big casualties of that run on defensemen. Like Yakupov, Grigorenko struggled as Buffalo couldn't find the right spot for him and he's still finding his way.
So who would be the top picks if the 2012 draft happened today?
You'd have to think Galchenyuk would be a potential No. 1, while Winnipeg's Jacob Trouba – in reality ninth overall and the seventh D-man taken – would be up there too. Columbus took blueliner Ryan Murray second overall and though injuries have limited his effectiveness, he has been good when healthy. Fellow defenders Morgan Rielly (Toronto, fifth overall) and Hampus Lindholm (Anaheim, sixth overall) have both come as advertised.
Pittsburgh got a steal when the Pens nabbed Olli Maatta 22nd overall, but if we're talking about the here and now, New Jersey was the winner by finding Damon Severson 60th.
No doubt a lot still needs to shake out before we truly write the book on this draft, since players such as Teuvo Teravainen and Andrey Vasilevskiy have yet to take on NHL roles, but is interesting to see Forsberg on Nashville's top line and leading the Preds in scoring after that bonkers trade that sent Martin Erat to the Capitals (at this point, Washington can really only hold on to the fact they also got Michael Latta in the deal).
At the time, we wrote in Draft Preview that Forsberg's upside and creativity were hallmarks. Scouts had wanted to see more dazzle, but regarded him as the safest forward in the class and a solid two-way player. Washington either couldn't see it or couldn't wait and now Nashville is reaping the rewards.