Belleville centre Brendan Gaunce (OHL Images)The majority of NHL draft talk circles around the likes of Sarnia Sting's Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk, Everett Silvertips' Ryan Murray, and Swedish star Filip Forsberg. However, there is high-end potential within the 2012 draft class that goes far beyond just five or 10 big-name prospects.
Similar to Buzzing the Net's top-10 prospects column, Yahoo! has teamed up with scouts to put together a piece on a dozen gems headed to the entry draft in Pittsburgh.
Although these 12 prospects may not be as highly regarded as other prospects for the time being, it is quite possible that some of them will have stronger careers in the pros. After all, precedents show the draft order and calibre of careers never align perfectly.
Here is a look at Yahoo's dozen gems of the 2012 draft class.
Brendan Gaunce, centre, Belleville Bulls (OHL) — Similar to Los Angeles Kings' Mike Richards and Washington Capitals' Books Laich, Gaunce is a heart-and-soul player who coaches love and teammates look up to. He blocks shots, back checks religiously, anticipates plays well, and is strong along the boards — proving to be an elite two-way centre.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder's offensive upside is not as strong as Yakupov's or Galchenyuk's, but it is still strong enough for scouts to project him as a future top-6 forward. He showcased his strong offensive abilities in his second season with the Bulls, scoring a point per game with 28 goals and 68 points.
Sebastian Collberg, wing, Frolunda (Elitserien) — Even though Forsberg has garnered the majority of the draft attention out of Sweden this year, Collberg isn't that far behind him.
Collberg possess superb offensive instincts, a lighting shot, and good speed. His elite skill was evident at the U-20 world juniors in Alberta this year. He netted four goals and seven points in six games, outscoring Forsberg by six points.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound winger is, however, like nearly every player in this draft, a long-term project. He needs to improve his strength and defensive play. Nevertheless, if he reaches his full potential, he could blossom into a star like Ottawa Senators' Daniel Alfredsson.
Dalton Thrower, defence, Saskatoon Blades (WHL) — There's a lot to like about Thrower. He has great character, is responsible in his own end, is tough as nails, and possesses great offensive upside, which is evident in his 54-point season on the Blades' back end this year.
Although Thrower isn't regarded as a future cornerstone defenceman, the 6-foot, 185-pounder seems to be a player who could play on a team's No. 1 power play and penalty kill. This complete game has drawn some comparisons to the likes of Montreal Canadiens' P.K Subban and Vancouver Canucks' Kevin Bieksa.
Belleville Bulls goalie Malcolm SubbanMalcolm Subban, goaltender, Belleville Bulls (OHL) — Subban's pure athleticism and elite composure has separated him from the rest of the North American goaltenders of the 2012 draft class. As noted by puck-stopper scout Justin Goldman in Yahoo's column on the top netminders of the draft, "I think Subban is the top goalie available. And I think most scouts agree with this due to his tremendous butterfly foundation."
The middle son of the Subban clan thrived in his second season with the Bulls, posting a .923 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average. The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder is considered the favourite to represent Canada in the blue paint at next year's world juniors.
Tom Wilson, wing, Plymouth Whalers (OHL) — Wilson isn't just a typical power-forward. He's a 6-foot-4, 200-pound wrecking machine who would slash his own grandmother in the back of the legs if she looked at him the wrong way on the ice.
The Toronto native, who has been compared to Boston Bruins' Milan Lucic, spiked his draft stock with an outstanding post-season showing. Despite spending 39 minutes in the sin bin, Wilson still found the time to score seven goals and 13 points in 13 games.
Henrik Samuelsson, centre, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) — It took Samuelsson no time at all to adapt to the Dub after joining the Oil Kings in early January. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound centre scored seven goals and 23 points in 28 games. He also looked strong in the playoffs, notching 14 points in 17 games. He was an impact player for Edmonton at the MasterCard Memorial Cup, unlike some of their veteran forwards. He has even snuck into the first round of some mock drafts.
The 18-year-old shares some similarities with his father, former NHLer Ulf Samuelsson. He plays with an edge, finishing his checks, chirps opponents, and gives out a frequent slash in the back of the legs. Nevertheless, with Samulesson playing centre and his dad being a former defenceman, there are obviously some clear-cut differences between father and son.
Damon Severson, defence, Kelowna Rockets (WHL) — Despite being overshadowed by the WHL's top defensive talent, Severson had a very strong sophomore season with the Rockets. The Melville, Sask., native munched up tons of minutes on Kelowna's top blueline pairing, racking up seven goals and 37 points throughout 56 games.
Severson shares a handful of similarities with Thrower. He is the complete package, making a strong impact at both ends of the ice. Therefore, the 6-foot-2, 198-pounder seems to be a safe pick as a future pro. The only question is where his ceiling sits.
Lincoln Stars' Kevin Roy (Jeff White, depicted image; USHL photo)Kevin Roy, wing, Lincoln Stars (USHL) — Roy is somewhat of a late bloomer. His first year of draft eligibility was last year.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound winger, who is set to play for Brown University next season, dominated the USHL in his rookie season with the Stars this year, netting an outstanding 54 goals and 104 points in 59 games. These unbelievable stats are a telling point for Roy's impeccable offensive skills and instincts. He, along with likely first-rounder Phil Di Giuseppe from the Michigan Wolverines, is one of two non-major players on Canada's roster for this summer's Canada-Russia Challenge series.
Logan Nelson, centre, Victoria Royals (WHL) — Nelson's move from the USHL for the WHL last summer appears to be pure gold for his development. The 6-foot-1, 178-pounder blossomed into a two-way centre in Victoria, scoring 23 goals and 62 points in 71 games. Obviously, a major improvement point wise from his previous nine-point season with the Des Moines Buccaneers.
The Rogers, Minn., native was passed over at last year's draft. Nonetheless, it seems Nelson, who was ranked 73rd among North American skaters by NHL's Central Scouting, will don an NHL jersey the second time around.
Brady Vail, centre, Windsor Spitfires (OHL) — From Florida to Michigan to Windsor, Vail has skated on many different ice surfaces in his young hockey career. His latest move to Ontario seems to have definitely paid off after being ranked 67th among North American skaters by NHL's Central Scouting service.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound centre, who scored 22 goals and 52 points in 68 games this year, plays a strong two-way game. His work ethic stands out about him the most. He works vigorously along the boards, in front of the net, and sacrifices his body by blocking shots on a nightly basis.
Outside the top 100
Brendan Leipsic, centre, Portland Winterhawks (WHL) — Despite his 5-foot-9, 175-pound stature, Leipsic plays a big game. He works hard, hits hard, and doesn't let anyone intimidate him.
Leipsic separated himself from the late-round prospect pile with a strong showing in the Winterhawks' playoff run, netting seven goals and 15 points in 20 games. He appeared to be Portland's best player some nights. Taking into account he plays alongside the likes of Calgary Flames prospect Sven Bartschi, St. Louis Blues prospect Ty Rattie, and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Joe Morrow, this is quite an accomplishment.
Alex Kerfoot, centre, Coquitlam Express (BCHL) — Those who follow the B.C. hockey leagues closely, know the name Alex Kerfoot very well. The 5-foot-7, 140-pounder dominated the AAA midget league a year ago, posting 36 goals and 108 points in 38 games with the Vancouver NW Giants. He followed that unbelievable showing with an impressive rookie season in the BCHL, scoring 25 goals and 69 points in 51 games with the Express.
Kerfoot plans to do the NCAA route. As reported by Dan Sallows, he has visited Boston College, Yale, and Harvard. Nonetheless, precedents show it's too early to rule out Kerfoot changing his mind and doing the major junior route. The Seattle Thunderbirds hold his rights.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen.