Every year, most people in and around the NHL have a pretty decent idea about what is going to happen at the top of the draft. In fact, heading into the 2011 NHL draft, nine of ESPN Insider's projected top-10 picks were selected -- in some order -- among the first 10 names called. Only Ryan Murphy (whom we had slotted at No. 9 to the Boston Bruins) slipped to No. 12 and the Carolina Hurricanes. While we were occasionally off by a slot or two -- like Gabriel Landeskog and Jonathan Huberdeau -- we had a pretty solid picture of how the round would shake out. This year? Forget about it.
Start at the top of the draft with the Edmonton Oilers. We know they need a defenseman. We know drafting defensemen high in Round 1 is risky. We know that the top prospect is winger Nail Yakupov. But we also know that the Oilers have been closely monitoring defenseman Ryan Murray -- Central Scouting's No. 2-ranked North American skater. So what do the Oilers do?
We'll reveal our final mock draft for the 2012 draft on Wednesday. How long will it last though? Most seasons, we'll see mock drafts exploded by a surprise pick somewhere in Round 1. In 2007, the Los Angeles Kings selected Thomas Hickey with the fourth overall pick, despite names such as Karl Alzner, Sam Gagner, Logan Couture, Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk still on the board.
I believe this year the wild-card pick or surprise pick could come even before the fourth overall selection. For that matter, that pick could come at No. 1 overall. But in the deck that is the NHL draft, there's always more than one wild card. Here's a look at the pivotal picks and players who could drastically alter the look of the 2012 NHL draft.
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