Class of 2012 defensive about its status

Defenceman Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67's. (MARK WANZEL/QMI Agency)

Defenceman Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67's. (MARK WANZEL/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:29 AM ET

The draft class of 2012 has something to prove to its critics as well as potential teams.

It's getting irksome for the kids to keep hearing from many scouts, media and fans that this is such a weak draft.

"I think there are a tonne of great players in this draft," Ottawa 67s defenceman Cody Ceci said. "They say one player has not stood out and done everything. But we can't put ourselves down. We have to stay positive, go to NHL camps, prove people wrong, make some teams and put it back in their face."

Dan Marr, the NHL's director of Central Scouting, said the high number of defencemen projected in the first round is creating the wrong perception.

"Defencemen don't necessarily have exciting, flamboyant styles of play," Marr said. "But the top 15 in this draft are really good quality. They may not be exciting to watch, but they're going to be very, very good players when they get to the NHL.

"The year Tyler Myers was drafted (the Sabres took the Calder Trophy winner 12th overall in 2008) was a good example and a lot of those kids continue to get better. That was the year with so many (Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo and Luke Schenn, all picked ahead of Myers).

"There was another pile in 2003, too, with Dion Phaneuf, Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn and (recent Norris Trophy finalist) Shea Weber. So there's nothing wrong with having a lot of defencemen in the draft.

"Teams used to have a different philosophy going in when they'd take certain players. That changed with the new rules. They said it would open up the game for smaller forwards, but it also opened it for bigger forwards who can skate. If you can't skate, your playing time is diminished. Fourth-liners aren't getting the jobs they used to."

MULTI MANIPULATION

Teams that stockpiled picks should be the big winners as the draft unfolds Friday into Saturday, Package deals to move up or secure experienced players are likely to be plentiful.

The Sabres, with four picks in the top 44 starting at 12th and 21st, are the team everyone expects will make a splash, as per the wishes of owner Terry Pegula. But it's not to pitch for Rick Nash, as they would have no one of note to get the puck to a winger of that stature. Which is why prying Jordan Staal out of Pittsburgh or Colorado's Paul Stastny might make more sense.

Tampa Bay is also sitting with the 10th and 19th selections, both in the gray area of this year's draft. General manager Steve Yzerman would prefer to use both to get help on defence, but the 19th pick is the one in play for a trade. The Bolts pick again at 37th. Washington has a pair at 11th and 16th.

SUBBAN VS. SUBBAN?

The Habs-Leafs rivalry often sets brother against brother, but there's a long shot chance Toronto-born siblings could be on opposite sides.

The Leafs need an experienced goaltender, but with all the changes expected in the draft order late in the first round to the early second, it could happen that Bellevile Bulls' Malcolm Subban is available when Toronto makes its second selection. The Leafs are now at 35th, but did their due diligence on P.K.'s brother, along with 24 other teams during and after the NHL scouting combine.

"I've thought about (getting picked by the Leafs), but we'll see what happens," Malcolm said. "It would be pretty amazing to be honest with you, growing up and watching them. I love my city and it would be cool to play there, against my brother."

DRAFT DOT DOT DOTS

The favourite scouting term of endearment we heard this week: "That kid is all lungs and nuts." ... About 100 media peppered 13 potential first-rounders on a riverboat cruise around Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon, while one curious kid had his own legit question. "How many of these reporters have ever seen me play? ... Friday marks the 10th anniversary that Nash was picked first overall by Columbus at the Air Canada Centre. It's also a coincidence the Jackets were playing in Pittsburgh as the trade deadline passed and he was marooned ... With so much first-round uncertainty on Friday and the potential for trades, teams will have to be ready for curveballs as the order unfolds. But one dodge they must be careful with is calling a timeout. If that happens, they are obligated to make a pick, they can't trade ... In a nice touch, the NHL is letting 10-year-old local minor hockey player Sal Cerilli be a runner on the draft floor this weekend. His family home was flattened by a tornado a year ago and insurance issues have kept them from a permanent residence.


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