2011 NHL Draft: Nail Yakupov and the Top 20 NHL Prospects of 2012

Brad LeClairCorrespondent IMay 7, 2011

2011 NHL Draft: Nail Yakupov and the Top 20 NHL Prospects of 2012

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    With the 2011 Draft on the horizon, we're here to give you a little taste of what the next season should hold for top round talent in minor league hockey. Yes, this is the top 20 prospects right now for the 2012 draft.

    Now while I have not seen all of these players in action, I have seen some, and I can tell you that this draft is the deepest in recent years and should make for some interesting trades at next years trade deadline. Teams will actually want to acquire more picks this year instead of wanting to trade them away.

    With that said, lets take a look at what 2012 has in store for the NHL...

20. Brendon Gaunce: Center Belleville Bulls

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    Gaunce is a very capable, big, smart centerman who projects well as a top two line NHL centerman. He was taken second overall in the OHL Priority Draft in 2010 after being the highest scoring minor midget player in Ontario, which says something to his potential.

    The great thing about Gaunce, as opposed to the last midget scoring leader in Ontario John MacFarland is that it looks like he won't flame out and disappear. What was surprising about Gaunce is that he also played a fair bit of defence as well in his midget/high school days, so he is very defensively responsible

    The best part about Gaunce is that he plays the game with a level of maturity and grace that only seasoned NHL veterans have. Always makes the smart play, knows how to get out of trouble and lastly, makes his linemates better.

    NHL Comparison: Ryan Kesler

19. Michael Matheson: Defenceman, Lac St-Louis Lions

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    A relatively unknown, Matheson was named the top rookie in all of Quebec AAA midget hockey. Since he was a question mark for committing to a QMJHL team because of his word saying he wanted to play in the NCAA, Matheson would be drafted in the second round, and likely hurting his stock a little bit.

    At 6'1" and 170 pounds, Matheson has good size and will eventually grow into his body and add the needed strength before he starts his NHL career.

    His best qualities are his passing, skating, and ability to make a great outlet pass. He gets points with relative ease, and will eventually be a good powerplay option.

    He models his game after greats like Nicklas Lidstrom and others, but likely projects a little lower than that.

    NHL Comparison: Tomas Kaberle

18. Filip Forsberg: Winger, Leksands J20, SuperElit

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    There really isn't a ton of information out on Filip Forsberg, but from all the things I've read, Forsberg is a true sniper. At 6'1" 170 pounds, Forsberg has some good size to work with and should eventually fill out to around 6'3" and around 190-200 pounds.

    Again, by all accounts, his play with the puck, and ability to score the puck will get him drafted in the first round. His last name still seems to have a lot of pull in the NHL.

    He had a very good U18 hockey championships, and has the ability to get even better.

    NHL Comparison: Daniel Alfredsson

17. Luca Ciampini: Winger, Halifax Mooseheads

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    Ciampini is a power forward in the truest sense of the word. Ciampini is a bit small for a prototypical power forward in the Rick Nash, Todd Bertuzzi, Dustin Penner sense, but his play is definitely similar to all.

    This skilled winger for the Halifax Mooseheads loves to carry the puck and take it hard to the front of the net. He won't wow you with magnificent dangles and showstopping goals, but his play just gets the job done.

    He'll eventually grow into his frame and should be a good goal scoring threat on a nightly basis in the NHL. He goes to the net at all times, which should make him a goalie's nightmare at the next level.

    NHL Comparison: Rick Nash upside, Tomas Holmstrom downside

16. Slater Koekkoek: Defenceman, Peterborough Petes

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    One of the better two-way defenceman in the entire draft, Koekkook looks to be a top 20 pick in next years draft.

    At 6'2" 185 pounds, Koekkoek will likely need to add around 20 pounds of muscle to play at the next level, but he has the ability to succeed at the next level.

    Blessed with a cannon from the point, good skating skills, footwork and a pretty gritty attitude, this defender looks to be a real steal

    NHL Comparison: Andrei Markov with some nasty to his game.

15. Oscar Dansk: Goaltender, Brynas IF Galva

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    The best goalie in the 2012 draft will likely be Oscar Dansk out of Sweden. A big goalie, who also played at Shattuck St Mary's, Dansk will likely go in the first round based on potential alone.

    When he plays you'll be reminded plenty of Henrik Lundqvist, with his size and ability to absorb pucks and control his rebounds.

    His stats have been unreal putting up minuscule Tim Thomas like numbers while with the Brynas IF Team. A 1.10 GAA and a .940 SV% are pretty filthy if I do say so myself.

    NHL Comparison: Henrik Lundqvist

14. Sebastian Collberg: Winger, Frolunda

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    A very skilled forward with a good ability to shoot the puck and protect it. He was absolutely stunning for Team Sweden at the Under 17 Championships recording six goals and five assists in 11 games with Team Sweden.

    He struggled a bit in the Under 18 Championships not recording a point, but he was a year younger than all the players on that team, next year I expect him to dominate.

    Collberg likes to rush down the wing and shoot the puck from all angles bringing back memories of Markus Naslund.

    NHL Comparison: Michael Cammalleri

13. Olli Maatta: Defenceman, JYP (Finland)

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    The youngest player at on the Finnish Team at the World Junior Championships, Maatta's game isn't flashy right now, but for a 16-year-old, he gets the job done.

    Plays mature beyond his years, hence why he played in the Under 20's for Finland.

    Makes a good outlet pass, and is usually never caught out of position. Plays the game calm and cool all the time.

    Skates alright, but could use some improvement, Maatta has the potential to play top two minutes in the future.

    NHL Comparison: Kimmo Timonen

12. Morgan Rielly: Defenceman, Moose Jaw Warriors

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    Rielly is what you call a great all-around defenceman. Plays well both offensively and defensively.

    The 5'11", 178-pound blueliner, is a world class skater, has very good hockey sense and incredible vision, to go with a great shot. He never panics, and makes those around him better with his ability to create offense off the rush.

    Played for Canada at the World Under 18 Championships and looked to be one of the teams best players. Will likely grow some more, but still will need to work on his strength before getting to the next level, like all 16-year-olds.

    NHL Comparison: Duncan Keith

11. Derrick Pouliot: Defenceman, Portland Winterhawks

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    One of the more prolific offensive defenceman that will likely be available in the 2012 draft.

    Blessed with unreal vision and a knack for feeding their teammates at the most opportune time, Pouliot will be a coveted defenceman next year, who could go in the single digits if he improves next year.

    His game defensively definitely needs some work, but at 17 in the WHL he finished the year as a plus-13, which is a great thing to see from a youngster.

    NHL Comparison: Brian Campbell

10. Matia Marcantuoni: Winger, Kitchener Rangers

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    An absolute world class skater, and likely at the next level will be one of the fastest in the NHL. But Matia isn't just a skater, he's an all-around hockey player, and a very good one at that.

    He's a good defensive player as well, who always hustles back to get into the play and pick up his man. He'll eventually need to gain some more strength to battle in the corners, but that will all come with time.

    He's also a very good dressing room guy, who could likely captain a team at the next level. He Captained Team Ontario at the World Under 17's in 2011.

    NHL Comparison: Mike Gartner

9. Matt Dumba: Defence, Red Deer Rebels

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    Matt Dumba is a physical force. He loves to hit, and sometimes goes out of his way to nail a player, which does have its downside. He's likely the best open ice hitter in the WHL as a 16-year-old.

    Dumba was just named the WHL Rookie of the Year, so his stock is rising fast.

    Finished this season with 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 points in 62 games, along with a +24 rating.

    Aside from getting caught out of position a few times, Dumba is actually quite a dangerous offensive defender who literally and shoot a puck through plexi-glass.

    NHL Comparison: Dion Phaneuf and PK Subban

8. Griffin Reinhart: Defenceman, Edmonton Oil Kings

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    At 6'4" and 210 pounds, Griffin Reinhart is a beast in the truest sense of the word. He's already got NHL size and strength, and guess what hockey fans, he can also skate pretty well for a kid his size who has not fully grown into his body.

    He's got some good offensive skills and once finished growing will remind a lot of fans of Drew Doughty while on the ice.

    He's a shutdown defenceman at the next level who will likely also be a powerplay quarterback because he possesses a great shot from the point.

    NHL Comparison: Shea Weber

7. Jacob Trouba: Defenceman, USA National Team Development Program

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    Trouba has seen his stock rise, and likely will continue to rise heading into next season. Trouba along with Nick Ebert are the United States two best prospects for 2012, both of whom are defenceman.

    Trouba is a slick skating, powerplay specialist who plays a very sound game. He could use some work on the defensive end, but who really can't at this stage of their careers.

    He's been so good for the United States that he has played seven games with the Under 18 squad, when he still qualifies for the Under 17 team.

    According U17 head coach Dalton Cole, “We describe him (Trouba) as a shark,” Cole said. “He wants to make things happen out there. He’s a great kid to coach. He likes putting the work in and wants to learn the position.”

    He also plays the game with some nastiness, and some grit, which lends itself nicely to an 82 game grind.

    Trouba will likely go in the top 10 in 2012 as a result, I have a feeling though he won't last past seven.

    NHL Comparison: Cam Fowler

6. Martin Frk: Winger, Halifax Mooseheads

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    Coming in around 6'1" and 205 pounds, Martin Frk will likely be the first power forward taken in the first round in 2012.

    Although he had a mediocre World Juniors and start to his junior career in Canada, Frk's combination of physical play and skill set will get him drafted high I believe.

    Some scouting sites have this kid going in the late first round after losing a ton of stock this year, but I feel after a good start in Halifax next year and likely a heroic effort at the World Juniors for Czech Republic, he'll re-assert himself as the best power forward in the 2012 draft.

    He finished last year with only 50 points and 75 penalty minutes in 62 games played. For a rookie adjusting to a new country and the smaller ice surface, I thought he did just okay for a high end prospect. He could have done better, but it wasn't a terrible first season with Halifax to say the least.

    To be honest, he's just plain lazy and a snap-case and that's likely the biggest reason that scouts really question his ability at the next level. If he puts it all together he can be Cam Neely like, if he just sifts around hoping to play like Alex Ovechkin, he'll likely turn out like Nathan Horton pre-Boston.

    NHL Comparison: Cam Neely or Nathan Horton

5. Ryan Murray: Defenceman, Everett Silvertips

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    Ryan Murray, likely Canada's top draft eligible player for 2012, is a defenceman playing for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League.

    Craig Hartsburg, head coach of the team says “He’s been unbelievable since the first day I saw him,” said Everett coach Craig Hartsburg, who knows a little something about being an elite blueliner. “You forget how old he is.

    At 15 he was playing like an 18- or 19-year-old. He does everything right, he’s a total professional.”

    After injuries to a few key veterans, Murray took control of the team and was their best player playing on some nights, 30-35 minutes a night. All of this coming at the ripe age of 16 years old.

    Likely will be a powerplay quarterback and a rock on defence wherever he goes. I'm expecting big things out of this defenceman in the future.

    NHL Comparison: Nicklas Lidstrom or Tomas Kaberle

4. Alex Galchenyuk: Center, Sarnia Sting

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    Galchenyuk is likely one of the best overall players in the 2012 draft, and likely one of the more NHL ready players.

    His hockey sense and ability to read the game separates him from many of his other competitors in this years draft.

    His nationality is probably the biggest question regarding Galchenyuk. Born in America to Russian parents, Alex spent some time living throughout Europe in Italy, Russia, and Germany. His father is a former Russian Super League player who migrated over to America to play for Milwaukee in the American Hockey League.

    From what I hear though, the family is originally from Belarus.

    Aside from nationality, Galchenyuk is a virtual lock to be a top 10 pick next year, and I personally can't wait to see what team he chooses to play for at the World Juniors.

    NHL Comparison: Marian Hossa

3. Mikhail Grigorenko: Center, CSKA Moscow

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    At 6'2" 185 pounds, Mikhail Grigorenko will likely chase down the top overall selection in 2012, but for the lack of transfer agreement with Russia, I see this talented centerman getting picked a little later than first overall.

    A very good skater and puck handler, Grigorenko is a shifty player who seemingly gets out of trouble with a simple head-fake or slick pass.

    Probably the best passer in the 2012 draft; he creates opportunities out of nothing, and that is one thing you can't teach.  His skill with the puck is almost Sidney Crosby or Mario Lemiuex like, but will likely fall short of that comparison.

    One downside to his game is that he may be too used to the International ice surface.and takes a bit too much time out there to make a decision.

    NHL Comparison: Joe Thornton

2. Nick Ebert: Defenceman, Windsor Spitfires

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    At 15 years old, Nick Ebert was exceptional playing out of Waterloo, Iowa. Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy states that "one prominent scout even proposed that had Ebert been born in Ontario, he could have applied for the same ‘exceptional player’ status that allowed John Tavares to play in the Ontario League at the same age."

    Now that right there is enough to get me on board with this kid, even without seeing him play.

    After watching a few games this past year when Windsor played near my hometown, I can tell you that Nick Ebert will be a special NHLer.

    Ebert comes in as the first defender taken, and will likely be an All-star in the NHL.

    His combination of offensive skill, defensive responsibility, and overall ability to take over a game by himself will likely see him taken very high in the 2012 draft. He should take over as the Spitfires top defenceman after the departure of Ryan Ellis.

    NHL Comparison: Drew Doughty

1. Nail Yakupov: Winger, Sarnia Sting

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    Quite a bit smaller than Alexander Ovechkin, but probably the closest Russian prospect to come anywhere close to Ovechkin's skill since he entered the NHL.

    Yakupov has an unreal set of hands, can pick corners blindfolded and will likely be the top overall selection in the 2012 draft if he remains this consistent.

    In his rookie season, he tallied 49 goals and 52 assists for 101 points. Not since John Tavares has a rookie put up those kind of numbers in the OHL.

    At six feet tall and roughly 190 pounds, Nail already has a decent enough body for the NHL, and he should grow some more, and could easily get up to 6'2" and 200 pounds, making him a pretty impossible force to stop.

    NHL Comparison: Pavel Bure upside without injuries, Alex Radulov downside