TSN Scout Craig Button has released the first of his monthly rankings for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and it's produced From Russia With Love.
Leading the way is Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting. Yakupov, who scored 49 goals and 101 points in the OHL last season, has already made a big mark breaking the team rookie record of 42 goals in a season previously held by Steven Stamkos.
"Yakupov is an exceptional offensive talent," says Button. "A right winger who reminds me of Alexander Mogilny - and it will take a lot to pass him this season."
If Yakupov's status holds throughout the season, he could be the first Russian-born player to go first overall since Alexander Ovechkin in 2004 and the third Russian to ever be taken No. 1. Ilya Kovalchuk was to first Russian-born player to go first overall in 2001.
Sarnia centre Alex Galchenyuk - who was born in the United States to Russian parents - and Quebec Remparts forward Mikhail Grigorenko are ranked fourth and ninth respectively. The last time three players of Russian descent were taken in the Top 10 was in 2001, when Kovalchuk (No. 1 to Atlanta), Alexander Svitov (third overall to Tampa Bay) and Stanislav Chistov (fifth overall to Anaheim) were selected.
Right behind Yakupov in the second spot is left winger Filip Forsberg (no relation to future Hall of Famer Peter), who scored 21 goals and 40 points for Leksands last season.
"He is a combination of skill and will and he was dominant for Sweden at the Ivan Hlinka tourney in August," explains Button.
Rounding out the first three on the list is Red Deer Rebel defenceman Matthew Dumba, the top-ranked Canadian prospect.
"The only player in the same class as Forsberg at the Ivan Hlinka was Dumba," said Button. "He was a key contributor to Canada's gold medal triumph and was a standout at the NHL's Research and Development Camp a week later."
Canadian defencemen make up a big part of the Top 10 with Dumba, Morgan Reilly of the Moose Jaw Warriors, Everett blueliner Ryan Murray and Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings on the list. The top-ranked Canadian forward is London Knights forward Andreas Athansiou at No. 8.
Click here (http://www.tsn.ca/draftcentre/feature/?id=49649) for the rest of the Top 30 and join Craig on Monday on TSN.ca at Noon et/9am pt for a live chat regarding his rankings.
TSN Scout Craig Button joins TSN and TSN.ca as part of its expanding DraftCentre coverage. Craig started in the NHL as a scout with the Minnesota North Stars and stayed with the organization through the move to Dallas. He later became Director of Player Personnel, helping lead the Stars to a Stanley Cup in 1999. From 2000 to 2003, Craig served as Vice President and General Manager of the Calgary Flames and later joined the Toronto Maple Leafs as a scout.