2012 NHL Draft: An Early Access Look at the Potential Top Ten Picks
When the NHL draft winds down on Saturday, scouts as well as general managers around the league will begin to take a good look at some of the prospects next year. Some of these young men have already begun to make a splash and have put themselves on the radar for next year.
However, we must remember it is early, and there is a full season between now and then.
Nevertheless, we are taking a look at how may round out the top 10 next season. We wish all these prospects good luck next year and hope their draft dreams come true...
1. Nail Yakupov
5-10, 170, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
The 2012 Draft becomes almost like a repeat of the 2004 one, with two Russians occupying the two top spots. A Russian import with an incredibly high skill level, Yakupov already looks to be the runaway candidate for the number one overall selection. Having been drafted 2nd overall in the CHL import draft by the Sting, the 17-year-old Nizhnekamsk native came to North America last season hoping that it may put him on the fast track to his dream of playing in the NHL (unlike Grigorenko).
The 2011 CHL Rookie of the Year scored 49 goals and 101 points in 65 games in his first OHL season. For a comparison, look to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, who also played for the Sarnia Sting in his rookie OHL season. He tallied 92 points in 63 games for them, nine less than the Russian in two less games. Yakupov also played for Team Russia at the 2011 World Junior U18 Championships, scoring a hattrick in the bronze medal game. He has a little growing left to do, but the downright sniper has no worries about size as long as he can keep skating circles around defensemen.
He will fit a team with an instant need for a superstar, but whether whoever wins the number one pick needs a superstar or not it is certainly difficult to pass up on a player with the potential to be the new Alex Ovechkin.
2. Mikhail Grigorenko
6-3, 191, RW, CSKA Moscow (Rus. JR)
The big, strong Russian winger is a passer through and through. Though he contains that big size and skill that has made players like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk so successful at the NHL level, he is undoubtedly the best passer in the draft class, and can often pick out a teammate through a hoard of buzzing defensemen.
Grigorenko is a versatile forward that can also play center, and will fit a team with a sniper-like player who need a setup man. He will, however, see his stock drop because of the infamous Russian factor; if he had left for America at an earlier age, he would certainly be challenging for the first overall pick.
The one big area where Grigorenko needs work is his defensive play, though his good hockey sense and brilliant skating should soon correct that. He played for CSKA in the KHL's junior league, the MHL, this season, scoring 13 goals and adding 17 assists in 38 games. He also played a vital role for the U18 Team Russia team, tallying 18 points in 7 games in the World Junior U18 Championships.
He has expressed interest in coming to the NHL to follow his dream, but he seems unlikely to come to the junior ranks. He will play with CSKA Moscow in the KHL next season, his draft year, and if he continues his good development, he will be a top pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.
3. Ryan Murray
6-0, 190, D, Everett (WHL)
The Saskatchewan native will most likely be Canada's top pick at the draft, and there is a good chance he will be the top defenseman drafted. The 17-year-old defenseman has good size, and the potential to be a solid two-way blueliner at the NHL level.
He spent much of the year leading the Silvertips as their captain, showing he has what it takes to be a captain at the NHL level. If he works a little on his composure at the blueline, he will be a power play quarterback who can score goals.
One of the last players cut from the 2011 Canadian World Juniors Squad last year, Murray overcame his disappointment to post a great season and cement his spot as one of the key players for the Canadian team in the upcoming 2012 tournament.
Unlike many 2012 prospects, Murray's draft year season will be his third. He has already played two seasons in the WHL, having posted 27 points (5 G) in 52 games in his rookie season followed by 46 points (6 G) in 70 games this past year.
The numbers aren't as impressive as some of the other draft prospects, but considering the fact that he is primarily a shut-down guy the statistics are glimmering. If he continues his great play next year, you can expect him to be right up in the top five of drafted players in 2012.
A team needing a franchise defenseman finds him in Ryan Murray.
4. Martin Frk
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
6-0, 202, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
Frk is undeniably the best power forward in the draft. He has great size and a style that is suited for the North American game, prompting him to come over to the 'Q' this season to test himself. While he performed somewhat disappointingly for such a top prospect, one must remember that he had to adapt to the new rinks as well as adapt to his new environment.
The Czech forward was, however, one of the very best players on a fairly strong Mooseheads team, potting 22 goals to go along with 28 assists in 62 games. He also showed his physicality in the penalty minutes column, spending 75 minutes in the box. He was one of the few 2012 draft eligible prospects to play at the World Junior Championships (U20), where he played a surprisingly important role on a disappointing Czech team, scoring 3 goals and 6 points in 6 games. Again, he showed some good menace and aggressiveness, tallying 31 PIMs in those six games. If he can learn to control that physical play and not take penalties, that may be his key to the NHL.
If he works on his attitude, for example bringing it all every night, then he will be a key pickup early in the draft.
5. Nick Ebert
6-1, 195, D, Windsor (OHL)
The defenseman showed his potential at a very early age, starring in the United States Hockey League as a 15-year-old. However, like a lot of other 2012 prospects, he soon left for the OHL because he knew that was the best and quickest way to the NHL. Ebert is an all-around guy that you really can't say is offensive or defensive. He is on of the younger prospects in the draft pool and his youth shows in his skating. He is much faster than everyone else and he seems fresher on the ice. His workhorse like mentality may just be his key to reach his dream.
Ebert was always an important player on his USHL team, and he would contribute right away on a pretty strong Spitfires squad. The New Jersey native put up 41 points (11 goals) in 64 games, but more importantly was very solid defensively. He is a joker and brings a good attitude to every game and every practice. His stock may well rise throughout the year...
6. Alex Galenchyuk
6-1, 185, C, Sarnia (OHL)
The boy with Russian ancestry has decided he wants to play for the US, and they will be very happy to have him. One in a long line of Sting prospects for this draft, Galchenyuk tore up the Midwest Elite Hockey League in his first North American season, scoring an average of almost 2.5 points per game with 44 goals and 87 points in 38 games. The Sting would go on to take him first overall in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection Draft, deciding to pass on super-prospects Matia Marcantuoni and Marcus McIvor. It seems they made the right decision.
Galchenyuk is a fast forward with size and strength. He has a good shot but his passing needs work. He put up 31 goals and 83 points in 68 games for the Sting, and with another big prospect (...) there his numbers will only rise. The future is bright for Galchenyuk, who has the potential to be a thirty goal scorer at the NHL level.
7. Jacob Trouba
6-1, 183, D, USNTDP
Playing for the National Team Development Program, Trouba was expected to be a run-away top pick for much of last season. His stock has dropped this year, but the 17-year-old still has a lot of potential. In a draft year flush with defensemen, everyone has to work hard, and Trouba has done just that. The Michigan native has been decent at the USHL level but has truly excelled playing internationally, leading scouts to believe his skills may be well suited for the NHL. The Kitchener Rangers hold his OHL rights, and they are working hard to get him over. He says he still hasn't made his decision.
Trouba is a hard-nosed, shark-like defensive d-man who will not provide anything flashy offensively but is always reliable in his own end. He put up a meagre 7 points in his 31 NTDP games. He tallied 15 points in 14 tournament games internationally for the NTDP, confirming that he is significantly better - offensively at least - on the international stage. He claims to have a more competitive fire in those games, because he loves representing his country so much. Has Team USA found its next great defenseman?
8. Olli Määttä
6-1, 185, D, JYP (SM-Liiga)
A out-and-out defensive defenseman, Määttä stock may have risen the most of all draft-eligible players this year. He excelled when starting out on JYP's U18 team, dominating the few games he played in and quickly earning a call-up to the U20 team. There he also dominated, making scouts take notice of his offensive game as well. He earned another call-up to D Team in the Finnish second division, where he played with older men and still held his own. All this without mentioning him being one of the very best players on a good Finnish team at the U20 World Juniors as a 17 year old, playing with and against drafted players and being one of Finland's best defensemen.
He will never put up the best numbers offensively, but he has a solid two-way game and a good outlet pass. He tallied 6 points in 23 games for D Team, with one goal. Next year look for him to be even more important on the WJC as Finland look to mount a Gold challenge, and expect him to be playing on JYP's full SM-Liiga team. His performances there will provide a better prediction for where he may be drafted.
Right now, he is like Forsberg: he could be drafted anywhere from 5th to 20th overall.
9. Matia Marcantuoni
6-0, 189, C, Kitchener (OHL)Marcantuoni is easily the best draft-eligible skater, and that is what will end up being his key to the NHL.
If he can round out the rest of his game, he will end up being an absolute steal. He has pretty good size, but is surprisingly shifty and has very quick feet. Playing for the Kitchener Rangers this season, he spent quite a bit of time centering Gabriel Landeskog, expected to be one of the top three picks in the 2011 draft, and they often fed off each other. His speed complemented Landeskog's physical play perfectly.
The Toronto native put up a pretty solid 11 goals and 27 points in 42 games, but his game is still developing. He seems to know that he will need to be better defensively to make it to the big-leagues. He worked really hard on that aspect this season and it reflects in his stats. Regardless, he is likely to be a high risk, high reward top 10 pick in the draft.
10. Filip Forsberg
6-1, 176, LW, Leksand (Allsvenskan)
Fortunately for him, the Swede is likely to be picked higher than his skill suggests simply because of his last name. Teams should be willing to take a risk on that. Nevertheless, Forsberg is a skilled player that deserves to be in consideration as a top 10 selection. Still 16, he is on of the youngest players in the 2012 pool and he has a lot left to develop in his game. He has good size, but he definitely needs to round out and put on some sheer muscle if he wants to be able to hold his own in the NHL, let alone the Swedish Leagues next season. When he does, he will be a scary force to be reckoned with.
Forsberg is a sniper through-and-through. and he proved it this season. He worked his way through the junior ranks of his team, Leksand, dominating at every level and eventually ending up with the U20 team. There, he would go on to pot 21 goals and add 19 assists for 40 points through 39 games. He also proved to be an important player on the Swedish U20 Junior team, tallying 10 points in 11 games as the team's youngest player. Next season, he will play for Leksand in the Swedish Allsvenskan and should be a big part of that team, playing against grown men. A major knock on him on draft day will be that, unless traded, he will only have experience playing in the second-tier Swedish league.
Forsberg's draft ranking will ultimately be decided by how he performs at the World Juniors next year. With plenty of graduations on the Swedish team, he should play an important role. As of right now, he could go anywhere from 5th overall to 20th.