With 2011 almost in the rearview mirror, many investors are starting to mull over their portfolios and ask what comes next. It's a fair question, and the answers we find are really the crux of great investing. The ability to identify value before the market has already baked expectations into the stock price is what distinguishes the successful investor.

With that, let's take a look at Kodiak Oil & Gas (NYSE: KOG). The Denver-based exploration and production company has quickly built a strong position in one of America's biggest oil plays, North Dakota's Bakken shale.

Stats for Kodiak Oil & Gas

Year-to-Date Stock Return 44.31%
Market Cap $1.97 billion
Price/Earnings Ratio 51.93
Estimated 5-Yr. Growth Rate 20%
Dividend Yield N/A
CAPS Rating (out of 5) ***

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Motley Fool CAPS. N/A = not applicable.

A look backward
2011 was a tremendous year for the growth of Kodiak Oil & Gas. The company added acreage in the Bakken on two separate occasions, increasing its total acreage in one of the country's most sought-after plays to more than 150,000 net acres.

Stock performance was average for most of the year, but really took off after the company closed its first acquisition in October:

Kodiak Oil & Gas Stock Chart

Kodiak Oil & Gas Stock Chart by YCharts

The stock continued to climb after news of its second acquisition and its resulting improved production outlook for 2011.

An eye on the future
Kodiak expects to start 2012 off right, closing its most recent acquisition for 50,000 acres in the Bakken shale in January. Moving full steam ahead, the company has also negotiated a contract with Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) for a 24-hour hydraulic fracturing crew, working around the clock to bring its wells online.

The new acreage will significantly increase Kodiak's production levels. By Dec. 31, 2011, the company expects to generate 10,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day from its legacy assets. The new assets drum that number up to 17,000 boe/day. More important, Kodiak expects that number to climb to an average of 22,000 -24,000 boe/day in 2012, with the exit rate on Dec. 31, 2012, hitting 30,000 boe/day.

Kodiak's capital expenditure budget for 2012 is set at $585 million. Of that, $550 million is aimed at drilling and completing 73 new wells, $25 million is set aside for infrastructure development, and $10 million is earmarked for small acquisitions.

Bottom line
If the price of oil remains high, Kodiak Oil & Gas will be able to continue to ramp up production in the Bakken and have a great 2012. The company isn't the only stock that wins with high oil prices -- consider one more stock Fool analysts also expect to benefit handsomely.