Immediately following the NHL draft, fans are usually clamoring to see these shiny, new prospects in action. But the reality is that most of them aren't yet ready for the NHL and need a season or two or three before they can compete. Of course, there are always a few exceptions to the rule.
The biggest asset for a prospect in terms of being NHL-ready from the moment he walks across the stage at the draft is size. Teams are investing their futures in these players. The last thing they want is for their prized picks to suffer injuries early in their careers. Hockey sense is another huge factor, as some savvy undersized players will understand how to survive, and thrive, at the NHL level.
Current NHL roster makeup also plays a factor, though a lesser one. The truth is if a prospect is talented enough, the team will find room for him on the roster. No GM is going to put anything less than the best team he can on the ice.
With those factors in mind, here are the projected estimated times of arrival for the 2012 first-rounders, starting with those we could see skating on NHL ice this fall.