NHL Combine 2012: 4 Storylines to Keep an Eye on

Adrian SzkolarContributor IIIJune 1, 2012

NHL Combine 2012: 4 Storylines to Keep an Eye on

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    As the 2012 NHL Entry Draft approaches, scouts and executives from all over the NHL have gathered at the International Centre in Toronto, Ontario, to get a closer look at some of the draft's top prospects and figure out where they are at in terms of their physical maturity.

    With the NHL combine's test drills already underway, here are five story lines to keep an eye on.

Yakupov or Murray?

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    The consensus #1 prospect throughout the season has been Sarnia Sting winger Nail Yakupov. The Russian put up 69 points in 41 games this season before having his season cut short after suffering a hit to the head in March.

    The Edmonton Oilers, who hold the #1 pick, are also taking a close look at Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray, who put up 31 points in 46 games this season.

    Taking advantage of his position as GM of the Canadian national team, Edmonton President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe selected Murray to a roster otherwise filled with NHL players, presumably to give him a second look at the 18-year-old and see how he played against older competition.

    Yakupov is thought to be the best player overall in this draft. However, the Oilers lack a high-end defenseman in their system and already has high-end young talent in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, so the team could conceivably take Murray 1st overall rather then Yakupov.

The Status of Alex Galchenyuk's Knee

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    Considered one of the best forwards available in the draft, Alex Galchenyuk suffered a severe knee injury in a preseason game early in the year, causing him to miss almost the entire season.

    Galchenyuk came back late in the season and played in two regular season games and six playoff games, putting up four points over the eight games.

    Despite the injury and the lack of playing exposure scouts have on him for this year, Galchenyuk is still expected to be among the first players off the board come draft day, with some mock drafts having him go as early as 3rd overall to Montreal.

    A teammate of Yakupov in Sarnia, Galchenyuk put up 83 points in 68 games last season.

Several of the Combine Invites Are Injured

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    Several players, many of whom are currently projected to go in the first round, will not be able to participate in all the combine's tests due to injuries sustained during their playing seasons.

    Yakupov, Galchenyuk and Murray are among the the players whose injuries will limit their participation in the combine drills, according to NHL.com.

    Other projected 1st rounders who are at the combine injured include Radek Faksa (concussion) of Kitchener, Mikhail Grigorenko (sprained ankle, shoulder) of Quebec, Martin Frk (concussion) of Halifax, Tanner Pearson (ankle) of Barrie, Jarrod Maidens (concussion) of Owen Sound, Zemgus Girgensons (hip and jaw) of Dubuque, Colton Sissons (concussion) of Kelowna and Thomas Wilson (MCL and broken knuckle) of Plymouth.

    While a player's draft stock won't be affected much based on inability to participate in combine tests, it won't make the NHL teams' draft decisions any easier.

Mikhail Grigorenko's Draft Stock

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    At one point touted so highly that he was compared to fellow countryman Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko has seen his stock fall in the past couple of months.

    While the 6'2" center has high-end skill, as evidenced by the 85 points he put up in 59 games for the Quebec Remparts this season, there are questions about his work ethic and compete level.

    During his team's playoffs, he reportedly contracted mononucleosis, which caused his play to drop significantly and was seen as one of the big reasons his team blew a 3-0 series lead against Halifax.

    According to TSN's live coverage of the combine, Grigorenko did not test in any of the combine's drills, due to injuries to his ankle and knee.

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