In a draft crop that is rich with top tier defensemen, a pair of Ontario Hockey League forwards – and teammates – are expected to hear their names called very early at the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.
Russian-born forwards Nail (pronounced Nah-eel) Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk of the Sarnia Sting are projected to be among the top players picked when the draft gets underway on June 22. The offensively-gifted Yakupov is unanimously considered to be the best player available this season despite only playing 42 games due to injuries. However he was able to score 69 points in those games, following up a rookie campaign where he set franchise records with 101 points and 49 goals. Galchenyuk was held pointless in just two regular season contests after tearing his ACL in the preseason, but was able to collect four points (2+2) in six playoff games. Both players appear to be fully recovered from their injuries, and acquitted themselves well in the fitness testing portion of last weekend’s Scouting Combine in Toronto.
Mikhail Grigorenko is another Russian-born skater that should be selected early, after scoring 85 points (40+45) in 59 games with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts. He’s a big body (6’3”, 200 lbs.) who is more physically imposing than Yakupov and Galchenyuk, but his work ethic has been called into question by several scouts. Grigorenko attended the Scouting Combine but did not take part in the fitness testing because he’s been hampered by a bout of mononucleosis. Several mock drafts have him going anywhere from third overall (The Hockey News) to ninth (McKeen’s Hockey).
Wednesday – Top 10 European Forwards
Monday, June 11 – Top 10 North American Defensemen