According to the Chinese calendar, 2012 is the year of the dragon.
But when it’s all said and done, it could become the year of the defenseman.
The 2012 NHL Entry Draft appears, at least at this stage, to be huge on the back end. Though there are an impressive 14 defensemen ranked in the first round of Future Considerations’ preliminary ranking for the draft, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that many more go in the first 30 picks.
“You could realistically see 20 defensemen go in the first round next year,” an Eastern Conference based NHL executive said before the 2011 draft in Minnesota.
Being part of such an elite draft class isn’t lost on Niagara IceDogs blueliner Jesse Graham. Ranked 20th, the six-foot, 165-pound Graham is excited to be part of what could be a historic year.
“It’s a real honour to be mentioned with that group of guys,” said Graham, who had 18 points in 63 games last season. “All of us are training hard and working hard so hopefully we all get recognized the same way.”
Michael Matheson, a Boston College commitment who is heading to Dubuque of the USHL this season, echoed those sentiments.
“It’s a pretty nice honour to have that recognition, being in the same group with guys like that,” said Matheson, ranked 23rd.
It’s not only the quantity of defensemen available in 2012 that has scouts excited, but the quality as well. The class of blueliner that will be available in the latter half of the first round rivals that of the first. It is this depth that will make the draft next year, rumoured to be in Pittsburgh, truly unique.
“The blueline is pretty deep in our age group, I can’t even explain,” said Morgan Rielly, ranked seventh heading into the season. “All these guys have a chance to be high draft pick in 2012. There’s a whole bunch of great d-men in this draft year. It’s a hard competition for sure.”
Rielly, who had 22 assists and 28 points in 65 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors, is one of six defensemen currently ranked in the top-10. He is joined by Everett Silvertips standout Ryan Murray, Red Deer Rebel Matt Dumba, Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Americans Jacob Trouba and Nick Ebert.
Matheson and Graham help add to that depth, as does Portland Winterhawk Derrick Pouliot, Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67s and Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes.
And it will be up to these names, and many more, to ensure the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is the year of the defenseman.
Aaron Vickers is the managing editor of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickersFC. Follow the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed at www.twitter.com/FCHockey, on YouTube at www.youtube.com/futureconsiderations and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FCHockey