With the 2011 NHL Entry Draft wrapping up, a new class of draftees enter the long road towards a grinding NHL career.
This year's drafted provided us with many young talents, such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, and Adam Larsson. It is without a doubt that these three will join the long list of top-five picks who have become stars in the NHL.
However, it is never too early to take a look at the top candidates for the 2012 NHL Draft. Scouts from many teams have already started eyeing some top prospects across America who their team could draft.
With that in mind, here is a very early version of a mock draft of the top 10 picks in next year's draft.
As a bantam in 2008-2009, the Vancouver, BC, native Morgan Rielly registered an amazing 84 points in only 43 games for Notre Dame. That included 41 goals, and 43 assists.
That was enough to be drafted second overall in the 2009 WHL bantam draft by the Moose Jaw Warrirors. At only 16, Rielly is a fluid and graceful skater, who isn’t afraid to rush the puck.
Rielly is comparable to Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks. Both are around average size, are magical skaters, are left-handed shots and play the game very solid both ways.
Read more here.
Olli Maatta, a Finnish defenseman, is projected ninth in the 2012 NHL Draft.
In a very short period of time over the course of this season, the astute defenseman has gone from a U18 invite to a U20 WJC participant to an assistant captain at the U18 WC in Germany.
Serving as one of Finland's biggest minute crunchers, Maatta has opened eyes with his solid, and often outstanding, play in all three zones. In addition, he's been a mainstay on Finland's power play.
"It's always been a big dream of mine to one day play in the NHL. To create the opportunity to play in that league at some point, a guy has to work incredibly hard and keep doing that on a regular basis. If I keep working on myself and my game, and do everything required of me along the way, then I hope I can one day be a real option for an NHL team," says Maata, via Chapin Landvogt of Hockey's Future.
A native of Riga, Latvia, the 6'1'', 181-pound center Zemgus Girgensons plays for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL.
“He’s dominant down the middle,” says Fighting Saints Coach Jim Montgomery. “He’s a complete player who works as hard defensively as he does offensively."
His coach brings up names such as Jonathan Toews and Mark Messier to describe the youngster’s will.
“At the beginning of the year, we had all our players write down their two best attributes,” Montgomery recalled. “Zemgus wrote ‘puck protection’ and ‘I will never give up.’ And I couldn’t agree more. I describe him as a relentless player. His intensity, his never-say-die attitude; you would think he comes from Moose Jaw.”
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Alex Galchenyuk was the top pick in the OHL draft in 2010 and is currently playing for the Sarnia Sting.
“I’ve known his dad for a long time,” says NHL Hall of Famer Igor Larionov, “So when they came to North America, I went out to watch the kid play. I was very pleased.”
Larionov compared Galchenyuk to Marian Hossa and thinks the kid will do well in the OHL.
“His hockey sense and his abilities are incredible,” Larionov noted. “He knows how to take a hit, how to give a hit and he has great instincts.”
Read more here.
Henrik Samuelsson, the son of NHL Sanley Cup winner Ulf Sameulsson, plays for the U.S. U-18 team, even though he is 16.
Despite an age gap of nearly four years between Samuelsson and his teammates—some of the oldest players are approaching 19—his coach Mike DeAngelis said Samuelsson has fit right in.
"His ability to see the ice is phenomenal, and his passing ability and shot - those are his biggies. His hands, his vision and his shot are off the charts for a kid that age. That's why he's already on an NHL scouting list to be drafted," said Mike DeAngelis, Samuelsson's coach.
At 6'4'', 205 pounds, defenseman Griffin Reinhart has the size to make NHL scouts salivate at just 16-years-old, but the scary thing is, he has the skill as well.
The Vancouver native played as an under-ager for the Hollyburn A1 Huskies in 2008-09 and led them to a provincial title, scoring 18 points in six playoff games.
Griffin is the son of former NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart, who scored 560 points over his 648- game NHL career with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.
"I feel I have many strong area’s to my game, such as shot, puck moving and I’m very mobile for a big guy," says Reinhardt via hockey scout Dan Sallows.
Sallows compares himself to Shea Weber, which can't be far from the truth. Both Sallows and Weber are tough defensemen who are great skates and passers with great hockey sense.
Mikhail Grigorenko is arguably the best 1994 born player in Russia, and he is the captain of the 1993-born national team. Grigorenko is a very talented forward with excellent reading of the game. He has fantastic hands and can score points with ease.
However, Grigorenko isn't really committed to the NHL just yet. "I haven't really thought about the NHL yet. My main thought for now is to get into a MHL team and then to the KHL. I'm thinking about this only," said Grigorenko in an interview with Alessandro Seren Rosso of RussianHockeyFans.com.
He may have to start thinking about the NHL soon, since he is a projected top five pick in next year's draft.
Playing for the United States League’s Waterloo Black Hawks, 6'2'' Nick Ebert is a rarity—a 15-year-old playing in a circuit that boasts players already drafted into the NHL and some who will be turning 20 this season.
“He certainly doesn’t play like he’s 15 years old,” said Waterloo coach P.K. O’Handley. “His size and ability are at such a high level, I would compare him to an 18-year-old. He can really skate, he can get up the ice.”
Unlike Mikhail Grigorenko, Ebert is optimistic and looks foward to his NHL career.
"If I ever get a chance to go up there and just have my name on a back of a jersey of an NHL team, honestly, that'd definitely be what I've been working toward," he said in an interview with Kevin Wey of McKeen's Hockey.com.
Seventeen-year-old defenseman Jacob Trouba currently plays for the under-18 U.S. team.
“We describe him as a shark,” says his coach Danton Cole, “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. With Jacob, he brings a lot of different elements to the game,” Cole said. “He has a real good edge to him and he likes to play that physical style. But he also moves the puck well.”
Trouba is projected to be a top five pick in the 2012 draft by Elite Hockey Prospects.
"Yakupov is a game breaker," an NHL scout said earlier this week. "He's got a lot of speed, agility and can make all his moves when going balls out. He's got a natural knack for scoring and is a threat to score every single time he's out there. The defense is only so-so, but when you're talking about a player as dangerous as he is, you can live with that."
An outstanding skater, Nail Yakupov has a very fast burst and not only the top speed you want in your skill forwards, but the shifty, elusive east-west movement that make him very tough for defenders to contain.
Although only 5'10'', he's so quick that the size isn't an issue. When you hear scouts and hockey people talk about small players needing certain skating chops to alleviate concerns about them at the NHL level, Yakupov is the prototype player they're referring to.
Yakupov just missed the cut for the 2011 draft by a month, and NHL scouts say that he could have been a top three pick even in this year's draft. He has been compared to Alexander Ovechkin, and that is a lot to look foward to.
Read more here.