If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I live for draft projections. We had some moderate success mocking the NFL draft  this season (the good: called Rob Gronkowski  and Brandon Spikes  to Patriots; the bad: had Ricky Sapp about 100 picks too high), so after years of doing NHL  mocks elsewhere, it’s time I bring my projections to the Big Bad Blog. There’s been enough chatter about this draft (what the first two picks mean, whether the Bruins will move around with all their picks, etc.) that Bruins fans should be as prepared as possible before the 25th day of the month rolls around.
The Oilers can’t lose with this pick and quite frankly, neither can the Bruins in the No. 2 slot. Both guys are can’t-miss prospects with no visible flaws in their game and measure/weigh in the . They both figure to be up their among the league leaders in goals by the time they hit their prime, and they’ll at least be difference-makers at rookies. The fans in Edmonton prefer Hall, so it could be the difference in a remarkably close race.
Boo hoo, the Bruins don’t get the guy at the position at which they need the most help. Isn’t their biggest need a goal-scorer? Just because they’re loaded up the middle and don’t have impact scorers on the wing, doesn’t mean they won’t gladly take the guy who scored eight more goals than Hall this past season (48 G). As for the talk of trading up, the difference between these two guys isn’t big enough to warrant moving the 15th or 32nd pick.
3. Florida Panthers  (77 points) Cam Fowler, D, Windsor (OHL)
Much like the top two forwards in this draft, there is a bit of uncertainty as to who the first defenseman off the board will be. Many feel that Erik Gudbranson will be the guy who goes third, but the Panthers might prefer the American-born goal-scoring blue-liner in Fowler.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets  (79 points) Brett Connolly, LW, Prince George (WHL)
The Blue Jackets are one of the teams rumored to be interested in trading for Senators center Jason Spezza, and unlike many of the other teams reportedly involved in talks, they actually make sense as a landing spot. As a result, don’t be surprised if Columbus doesn’t end up selecting with this pick. If they stay put, however, they’ll try to add offense after recently signing 2009 first-round defenseman David Savard.
5. New York Islanders  (79 points) Erik Gudbranson, D, Kingston (OHL)
Gudbranson would be a beyond solid pick for the Islanders because he, along with Blake Kessel once he signs, will help build a versatile stable of young defensemen. Gudbranson uses what size he has (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and is your more hard-nosed defenseman, while Kessel is more offensive-minded and will help on the power play.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning  (80 points) Brandon Gormley, D, Moncton (QMJHL)
The bad news for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is that he won’t be able to get Seguin, who has been compared to the Hall of Famer by many, with the sixth pick. The good news is that the Lightning can’t get much worse than they were in ’09-’10 and that adding Gormley to a good young nucleus can only help. Gormley, who is more like Fowler than Gudbranson, is a good puck-moving defenseman who figures to be a top-four defenseman for years to come.
7. Carolina Hurricanes  (80 points) Nino Niederreiter, LW, Portland (WHL)
The team could very well be on the verge of losing left wing Ray Whitney to free agency, and while the NHL  is different from the NBA and NFL in that teams generally can’t plug in draft picks to replace lost talent, Niederreiter is the best left winger in this draft not named Hall or Connolly.
8. Atlanta Thrashers  (83 points) Ryan Johansen, C, Portland (WHL)
Don’t be surprised if four of the first eight picks are Windsor Spitfires and Portland Winterhawks, as is the case here. Windsor’s Hall isn’t the only one to boost his stock with an outstanding showing in the playoffs, as Johansen racked up 18 points in 13 games in the postseason for Portland.
9. Minnesota Wild  (84 points) Mikael Granlund, LW, HIFK (Finland)
The Wild finished last season with 214 goals, just 18 more than the dead-last (you guessed it) Boston Bruins. They need a difference-maker on offense — someone who will take them back to the days of healthy Marian Gaborik . Granlund won’t give them the 42 goals Gabrorik scored in ’07-’08 right away, but he dominated in Finland to the tune of 40 goals, so it’s a start .
10. New York Rangers  (87 points) Derek Forbort, D, USA Under-18
The Rangers technically only have four defensemen under contract for next season, and while they have over $10 million in cap space according to CapGeek.com, they have a ton of players to re-sign. They couldn’t have been planning on missing the playoffs when they signed Gaborik, so they’ll work to add some balance to the team with the second American-born defenseman to go in the top 10.
11. Dallas Stars (88 points) Jeffrey Skinner, C, Kitchener (OHL)
Show me a guy who racked up 33 points in 20 playoff games and I’ll show you an absolute steal at No. 11. In the regular season Skinner outscored both Seguin and Hall with 50 goals, good for second in the OHL.
12. Anaheim Ducks  (89 points) Tyler Toffoli, RW, Ottawa (OHL)
Some could call this a reach, but in the NHL draft there are no reaches, just “surprise picks.” Toffoli can help an offense by playing either wing or center. This kid is a YouTube must for any fan of athletic goals.
13. Phoenix Coyotes  [from Calgary (90 points)] Quinton Howden, LW, Moose Jaw (WHL)
This is the pick the Coyotes got from Calgary in the Olli Jokinen deal back in March of 2009. Phoenix needs goal-scorers bad, so while it might be tempting to go after defenseman Jon Merrill, Howden’s 28 goals make him the priority.
14. St. Louis Blues (90 points) Jon Merrill, D, USA Under-18
Merrill is set to head to Michigan, and after refining his game at the college level he should be in great shape to form an impenetrable top pairing with former first overall pick Erik Johnson. Merrill was suspended back in January for an off-the-ice issue, though it likely won’t hurt his draft stock or standing with Michigan.
15. Boston Bruins (91 points) Austin Watson, RW, Windsor (OHL)
I’ve said it all along, just like I said Tim Tebow  would be a first-round pick (you all laughed!): This will be the pick the Bruins will move up with. They should target one of the top puck-moving defensemen, whether it be Fowler at or Gormley, as it’s rare a team that is so close to a being a true Cup contender has this many coveted picks in a two-year span. If they stay put Hall’s teammate is a fine option to address depth at wing.
16. Ottawa Senators  (94 points) Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, Sibir (KHL)
Tarasenko is like a bigger (but still not big) Brian Gionta. His speed and ability to do just about anything with the puck make him a steal at 16 based on pure talent, but should Tarasenko spurn whomever drafts him to stay in the KHL (something he has denied having any interest in doing), a team that needs help could very well end up wasting a top pick.
17. Colorado Avalanche  (95 points) Jack Cambpbell, G, USA Under-18
Craig Anderson, who up until this year wore hats on the bench more often than masks on the ice, put together a fine season for the Avalanche, starting a franchise-high 71 games. He was a little bumpy down the stretch, however, as he had a goals against average of 3.47 in March. Overall the numbers were good, but can he do it again?
18. Nashville Predators  (100 points) Alex Burmistrov, C, Barrie (OHL)
Burmistrov could very well leapfrog his fellow Russian in Tarasenko based on his status as more of a sure thing to stay in North America. The center passed on playing in the KHL at all, as he travelled to Canada to play juniors and prove his intentions.
19. Los Angeles Kings  (101 points) Emerson Etem, C, Medicine Hat (WHL)
Etem hails from California, so it only seems fitting that in a draft that takes place in Los Angeles, the home team draft the kid who racked up 37 goals this season for the Tigers. Etem would be a great value this late.
20. Pittsburgh Penguins  (101 points) Nick Bjugstad, F, Blain Minn. (HS)
As if the Penguins could use any more offense, right? There are a couple of defensemen they could have their eye on, but neither could step in right away and replace Sergei Gonchar should he leave, so they’ll take the project of a winger in Bjugstad.
21. Detroit Red Wings  (102 points) Dylan McIlrath, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
I would say that Niklas Lidstrom isn’t going to play forever, but none of us have proof of that. In any case, the 6-foot-5 McIlrath is seen as a dominant defender who can and will use his body relentlessly.
22. Phoenix Coyotes (107 points) Mark Pysyk, D, Edmonton (WHL)
Psysk has a ways to go physically, as he is a very skinny 6-foot-1 and 173 pounds. He’s also coming off an injury, so whoever gets him will have to be patient and hope the speedy defenseman can fill out his body and reach his potential.
23. Buffalo Sabers (100 points) Jarred Tinordi, D, USA Under-18
Tinordi isn’t viewed as a two-way defenseman, but when you’re 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, you don’t need to be. Size matters for the type of prospect Tinordi is and after a year or two at Notre Dame , he’ll be ready to overpower forwards at the next level.
24. Atlanta Thrashers [from New Jersey (103 points)] Tyler Pitlick, C, Minn. State (WCHL)
A big question regarding Pitlick is where he’ll play next year, as his coach at Minnesota State has admitted his freshman is considering leaving the school. Beneath the uncertainty is potential, and wherever he ends up, he should be a top-six forward.
25. Vancouver Canucks  (103 points) Charlie Coyle, C, South Shore (EJHL)
Coyle has a bit more bulk to him than the other centers with his height (6-foot-2) and though he comes from a lesser level of competition, his size and strength should have him off the board before the end of the first round. He’ll attend BU next year and the Canucks havea history of going after Hockey East guys.
26. Washington Capitals  (121 points) Alexander Petrovic, D, Red Deer (WHL)
The Capitals had better be confident that they have their netminder of the future in ’06 first-rounder Semyon Varlamov, as Seattle (WHL) goalie Calvin Pickard could be given some attention with this pick. The top-scoring team in the league doesn’t need any more scoring, so they’ll take the best defenseman available.
27. Montreal Canadiens  (88 points) Jaden Schwartz, C, Tri-City (USHL)
Family issues have preoccupied Schwartz as his sister battles leukemia, reminding all that there are bigger things than where you end up in a draft. Schwartz had 33 goals in 60 games for the Storm this season.
28. San Jose Sharks  (113 points) Kirill Kabonov, RW, Moncton (QMJHL)
From all accounts, this kid has some serious character issues, as he faced massive difficulties getting permission to play for Moncton due to disputes with the KHL. He was also kicked off the Russian Under-18 team, but at 6-foot-3 and 176 pounds, the talent is there. The Sharks are one of the few teams that can afford to take a risk on Kabonov, who is ranked No. 8 overall by International Scouting.
29. Anaheim Ducks [from Philadelphia (88 points)] Teemu Pulkkinen, RW, Jokerit (SM-Liiga)
Pulkkinen is a bit of a wild card in this draft because generally players outside of North America and Russia go unnoticed by the average fan unless they’re projected to be a top pick. The right winger comes from a credible league, though as SM Liiga produced the likes of Teemu Selanne, Tuomo Ruutu, and Jere Lehtinen.
30. Chicago Blackhawks  (112 points) Calvin Pickard, G, Seattle (WHL)
Just hear me out. I know the Blackhawks won the Cup with Annti Niemi and that the Stanley Cup  playoffs are the best place to prove your worth as a goaltender, but too many goalies have fallen on their faces and proven to be one year wonders. This is an insurance policy the Blackhawks can afford to invest in.
For more NHL mock drafts, check out the Puck Doctors’  database.