McKenzie: Russian Yakupov tops pre-season Draft Rankings

Bob McKenzie

9/22/2011 9:37:02 PM

After four straight years of Canadians going first overall, the 2012 NHL Entry Draft may turn out to be revenge of the Euros.

Russian winger Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting is No. 1 on TSN's Pre-Season Top 10 Ranking for the 2012 Draft.

Seven of 10 scouts pegged Yakupov as the leader coming out of the gate. He had 49 goals and 101 points as a 16 year old OHL rookie. He's a dynamic goal-scorer but who isn't afraid to get his nose dirty to score goals and make plays.

Red Deer Rebel defenceman Mathew Dumba, at No. 2 on our list, is one of several prospects who could mount a challenge to Yakupov. Just one scout ranked Dumba as No. 1 but his leadership skills and incredible energy with and without the puck make him an elite pick. Dumba is a reckless and aggressive hitter but has a bomb for a shot and the wheels to get up the ice in a hurry.

Big Swedish centre Filip Forsberg is No. 3 and an NHL-ready package in terms of size and skill as an offensive pivot who was head and shoulders the most dominant player at the Ivan Hlinka Under-18 tournament in August.

Everett Silvertip defenceman Ryan Murray, a late 1993 birthdate, would have been an elite pick in last year's draft were he eligible. He's considred the defenceman with the best all-around game. Not as flashy as some of the many offensive blueliners available this year, Murray can make an impact at both ends of the ice and did receive one No. 1 vote.

The No. 5 slot belongs to Yakupov's linemate in Sarnia, Alexander Galchenyuk, a first generation American of Russian descent who plays an elite offensive game with Russian flair. He's eligible to play internationally for either the U.S. or Russia but has indicated his preference is as an American. Along with Yakupov, Dumba and Murray, Galchenyuk was the only other player to get a first-place vote.

Russian offensive centre Mikhail Grigorenko, who plays for Patrick Roy's Quebec Remparts, is No. 6, followed at Nos. 7, 8 and 9  with three skilled offensive defencemen -- Moose Jaw Warrior Morgan Rielly, American-born Nick Ebert of the Windsor Spitfires and Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks.

There's a tie for the 10th and final spot, between Kitchener Ranger power winger Matia Marcantuoni, a big body who is one of the fastest skaters in the draft, and Team USA Under-18 defenceman Jacob Trouba, who has both edge and offensive upside.

Others who received honorable mentions as top 10 possibilities include: Peterborough defenceman Slater Koekkoek, ex-NHLer Paul Reinhart's son Griffin, who plays defence for the Edmonton Oil Kings, slick Swedish forward Sebastien Collberg, Ottawa 67 blueliner Cody Ceci, London Knight centre Andreas Athanasiou and Halifax Moosehead Czech sniper Martin Frk.