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Posted On Tuesday, 06.12.2012 / 10:15 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Order of first round of 2012 NHL Draft set

With the Stanley Cup Final settled, it's time to take a look at how the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft will look.

The first 14 picks were set by the results of the NHL Draft Lottery held in April. The 12 teams eliminated in the first two rounds of the playoffs come next. Non-division winners are placed in inverse order of points, followed by division winners through the same process. That's why the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had the fourth-most points in the League, have a better draft spot than the Florida Panthers, finished with nine fewer points but won the Southeast Division.

The next two spots go to the losing teams in the conference finals, again in inverse order of regular-season points, meaning Phoenix will pick 27th and the Rangers 28th. New Jersey, which lost in Game 6 of the Cup Final, will pick No. 29, while the Cup champion Kings will take No. 30.

Three teams have multiple first-round picks: Tampa Bay will pick 10th and 19th; Washington has the Nos. 11 and 16 picks; and Buffalo will pick 12th and 21st.

Columbus also could have two first-round picks. They currently have the No. 2 pick and hold an option to take Los Angeles' pick. The Blue Jackets acquired the rights to the pick in the Jeff Carter trade, and can take the Kings' first pick this year or next, or trade the option.

Three teams currently will sit out the first round: Colorado, which sent it's pick to Washington in the Semyon Varlamov deal; Detroit, which traded it's pick to Tampa Bay as part of the Kyle Quincey trade; and Nashville, which dealt its pick to Buffalo in exchange for Paul Gaustad.

The New Jersey Devils will hold onto the 29th pick. They had the option of forfeiting the pick as part of the NHL-imposed penalty for circumventing the salary cap to sign Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010. They now must surrender their first-round pick in 2013 or 2014

1. Edmonton

2. Columbus

3. Montreal

4. N.Y. Islanders

5. Toronto

6. Anaheim

7. Minnesota

8. Carolina

9. Winnipeg

10. Tampa Bay

11. Washington (from Colorado)

12. Buffalo

13. Dallas

14. Calgary

15. Ottawa

16. Washington

17. San Jose

18. Chicago

19. Tampa Bay (from Detroit)

20. Philadelphia

21. Buffalo (from Nashville)

22. Pittsburgh

23. Florida

24. Boston

25. St. Louis

26. Vancouver

27. Phoenix

28. N.Y. Rangers

29. New Jersey

30. Los Angeles

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Sunday, 05.20.2012 / 12:29 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Updated order for first round of 2012 NHL Draft

With the conference finals going on, it's time to take a look at how the first half of the playoffs has affected the order of the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

The first 14 picks were set by the results of the NHL Draft Lottery held in April. Now that the first two rounds of the playoffs are completed, all but the final four picks are set.

The 12 teams eliminated from the playoffs make up the next set of picks. Non-division winners are placed in inverse order of points. Division winners next are slotted in through the same process. That's why the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had the fourth-most points in the League, have a better draft spot than the Florida Panthers, finished with nine fewer points but won the Southeast Division.

The teams that lose in the conference finals will take picks 27 and 28; the loser in the Stanley Cup Final will pick No. 29; the Stanley Cup winner will take No. 30.

Three teams have multiple first-round picks: Tampa Bay will pick 10th and 19th; Washington has the Nos. 11 and 16 picks; and Buffalo will pick 12th and 21st.

Columbus also could have two first-round picks. They currently have the No. 2 pick and hold an option to take Los Angeles' pick, which can be no worse than No. 27. The Blue Jackets acquired the rights to the pick in the Jeff Carter trade, and either can take the Kings' first pick this year or next.

Three teams currently will sit out the first round: Colorado, which sent it's pick to Washington in the Semyon Varlamov deal; Detroit, which traded it's pick to Tampa Bay as part of the Kyle Quincey trade; and Nashville, which dealt it's pick to Buffalo in exchange for Paul Gaustad.

Also, New Jersey has the option of forfeiting its pick, which can be no worse than 28th, as penalty for circumventing the salary cap in signing Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010. The Devils have to surrender their top pick in either the 2012, 2013 or 2014 draft.

Here's the order as of now. We don't know the how the final four picks will play out, but for fans wondering, the Kings and Coyotes will pick either No. 27, 29 or 30; the Devils and Rangers can pick No. 28, 29 or 30.

1. Edmonton
2. Columbus
3. Montreal
4. N.Y. Islanders
5. Toronto
6. Anaheim
7. Minnesota
8. Carolina
9. Winnipeg
10. Tampa Bay
11. Washington (from Colorado)
12. Buffalo
13. Dallas
14. Calgary
15. Ottawa
16. Washington
17. San Jose
18. Chicago
19. Tampa Bay (from Detroit)
20. Philadelphia
21. Buffalo (from Nashville)
22. Pittsburgh
23. Florida
24. Boston
25. St. Louis
26. Vancouver
27. Conference finals loser
28. Conference finals loser
29. Stanley Cup Final loser
30. Stanley Cup champion

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 5:13 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Dumba to captain Canada's World U-18 team

Red Deer's Mathew Dumba has been named captain of Canada's team for the World Under-18 Championship, which starts Thursday.

Dumba is No. 11 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft. Dumba captained Canada's summer U-18 team to a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.

Windsor forward Kerby Rychel (2013 draft eligible) and Erie defenseman Adam Pelech (No. 120) were named alternate captains.

"All three players have tremendous leadership qualities," Canada coach Jesse Wallin -- also Dumba's coach in Red Deer -- said. "They have all shown a presence around the team and are respected by their teammates. We are pleased with our leadership group."

Canada opens round-robin play Thursday against Denmark. They're in Group A, along with Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland and the U.S. Group B consists of Germany, Latvia, Russia, Switzerland and Sweden.

The tournament runs April 12-22 in Brno and Znojmo, Czech Republic. Canada finished fourth at last year's tournament.

Some of the top players for the 2012 draft will take part in the tournament. Check out some of the talent filling out the rosters for Finland, Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Russia.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 4:46 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Button breaks down top 5 picks for 2012 draft



NHL Network analyst Craig Button, like most hockey fans, watched with great interest the results of the 2012 NHL Draft Lottery.

With the win, the Edmonton Oilers earned the right to pick No. 1. And in Button's opinion, the choice is clear -- Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov, the top-rated North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking.

"Nail Yakupov is too good a player for the Edmonton Oilers to bypass," said Button. "The Edmonton fan base, they know about stars. Nail Yakupov has star written all over him."

At No. 2, Button sees the Columbus Blue Jackets dipping into the deep pool of available defenseman by opting for Everett Silvertips blueliner Ryan Murray.

"[Murray is] a real steady, strong defenseman," said Button. "Maybe not flashy, but incredibly effective. He's a leader, he's a player that will play 15 years in the League and he will help a team win."

At No. 3, Button sees the Montreal Canadiens going for center Mikhail Grigorenko, who plays for Canadiens legend Patrick Roy with the Quebec Remparts.

"You hear so much talk about their center ice and not being big in the forward ranks," said Button, "Grigorenko is a perfect complement to Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais.

With the fourth pick, Button believes the New York Islanders will take Swedish forward Filip Forsberg.

"We know they've taken forwards a lot," said Button, "but with Filip Forsberg, arguably he's in the same class as Nail Yakupov. Too big, too skilled, too determined. I believe he adds a tremendous amount to the Islanders' group."

With the fifth pick, Button envisions the Toronto Maple Leafs selecting Sarnia's Alex Galchenyuk. The center missed most of the season with a knee injury, but that will be a thing of the past when next season starts.

"He's a player that reminds me of Ron Francis," said Button. "And for a team in dire need of centermen, Alex Galchenyuk fits the bill."
 
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 3:00 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Blackhawks' Shaw offers insight and evaluations

To those prospects passed over in previous drafts -- listen up!

There is hope. Just ask Chicago rookie forward Andrew Shaw, who was passed over in the 2009 and 2010 NHL drafts before the Blackhawks finally tabbed him in the fifth round (No. 139) last June.

He's currently playing big minutes in many situations alongside David Bolland and Bryan Bickell and has quietly become one of the most liked players in the Blackhawks locker room.

"It was a little disappointing not being drafted those first two years, but I had no pressure on me after that and went out there and had fun and stuck with my game," Shaw told NHL.com. "Chicago liked what they saw and decided to draft me. At prospect camp, I had everything to prove so I just went out there and gave it my all and they came back with an AHL contract. I didn't want to play in the Ontario Hockey League anymore and knew, if I did my best, there may be a shot."

The Blackhawks signed Shaw to a three-year contract on Jan. 3. At the time, his 12 goals and 21 points ranked third for the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. His 80 penalty minutes ranked second.

"He's been good for us in a lot of ways; we appreciate the way he competes," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Offensively, he's got a nice set of hands and he gets rewarded for going into the high traffic areas. He finds ways to get around the puck through positioning or with his hands. He's getting some assignments against top lines and his line (with center Dave Bolland and left wing Bryan Bickell) has been effective."

Shaw posted a career-high 54 points, including 22 goals, in 66 games last season for the eventual Ontario Hockey League champion Owen Sound Attack. He ranked 11th in the league with 135 penalty minutes and was honored at the end of the season as the OHL's Hardest Working Player.

NHL.com recently asked Shaw to evaluate two former teammates in Owen Sound considered to be top prospects for the 2012 Draft -- forwards Gemel Smith and Jarrod Maidens.

"Gemel is a great prospect; he has a lot of skill and he's quick," Shaw said. "He plays with a lot of energy and he plays tough … he plays big and is tough. I actually looked up to him and he was always all over me about how he got more points than me last year."

And Maidens:

"He knows the game, has great vision and is always finding the puck," Shaw said. "He has great dishes and he can find the back of the net, like he did in Game 7 [against Mississauga] last year."

Maidens led Owen Sound in rookie scoring with 21 points in 2010-11. He also recorded 6 goals and 10 points in the 2011 playoffs, helping lead the Attack to the OHL championship. He scored the overtime game-winner against Mississauga in Game 7 of the championship round.

Shaw also had some advice for those players who are draft eligible, but who might not be selected come June.

"Just have fun and keep playing the game and don't let it get you down," Shaw said. "My buddy Mike Halmo [from Owen Sound] never got much publicity last year, but it was great to see him sign a contract with the New York Islanders. I called him the day I found out. I think it made it easier for him knowing I was playing in the NHL because it made him realize there was a spot for players like me and him."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 10:44 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

NHL players offer advice for top 2012 draft prospects

There are sure to be several top prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft seeking advice from players who went through the wars and are now reaping the benefits.

Forwards Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers, Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers and Ryan O'Reilly of the Colorado Avalanche are three such players.

All three recently spoke to NHL.com and provided a few words of wisdom for those players hoping to hear their names at this year's draft to be held June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Couturier, who was selected eighth overall by the Flyers last June, recommends that players just continue doing what they do best.   

"I think they just need to remain who they are, not try and do anything extra special and just play the game the right way," Couturier told NHL.com. "Scouts have been following you for a while, so there's no need to change. Just be yourself."

Couturier is a solid example in perseverance. The 6-foot-3, 197-pound forward dropped from No. 2 to No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings in April, 2011, and then was chosen No. 8 by the Flyers. Hard work and solid two-way play, a quality that was certainly evident in his game for Drummondville in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, have enabled him to become a key cog for this year's team in Philadelphia.

With regard to the NHL Combine, Couturier smiled before issuing the following:

"Be in shape … be ready."

Stepan was drafted in the second round (No. 51) by the Rangers in 2008.

"The best advice that I got from people around me was going into the draft in a positive frame of mind," Stepan told NHL.com. "Don't expect anything. It's a big deal to get drafted, but once you get drafted that's when the work begins. You never really know what's going to happen at the draft so don't really expect anything.

"Other than the first round, it's kind of a scramble. I was projected to go third, fourth or fifth round and then went in the second, so just go with the flow and enjoy it."

While Stepan did conduct 26 interviews in the opening few days of the Combine, he never underwent the physical portion of the week-long event since he wanted to attend graduation ceremonies at Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep in Minnesota.

"I lucked out big time," Stepan said.

O'Reilly, drafted in the second round (No. 33) by the Avalanche in 2009, recalls his draft year as if it were yesterday.

"I think when you look at it, kids maybe focus too much on the off-ice perspective and while it is an important thing, if you care about the on-ice enough, those things off the ice will come naturally," O'Reilly told NHL.com.

He laughed when reminded of the impressive showing he had at the 2009 Combine -- his 18 reps at 150 pounds on the bench press tied for the most among the 94 players who tested.

"You want to do that extra stuff but need to remember you've never really arrived … you're always trying to get somewhere better and always have to keep a beginner's mind. No matter what the situation, go out and do it and learn and get better and never be satisfied," O'Reilly said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 8:00 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Alex Galchenyuk's season debut impresses scout

One of the top North American prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft, Sarnia Sting center Alex Galchenyuk, returned to the lineup for the first time in 66 games on Wednesday to the delight of the hometown faithful at RBC Centre in Sarnia.

Galchenyuk, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a Sept. 16 preseason game and underwent surgery in October, said he felt no pain following the game. The only pain felt was the postgame sting that accompanied a 7-1 loss to the Saginaw Spirit.

Ho totaled approximately 10 minutes of ice time and played on a line with Brett Thompson and Charles Sarault.

Despite the long absence, there's a strong possibility Galchenyuk still could be drafted among the top 10 players in the first round of this year's draft. He's ranked as a "limited viewing" player on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings, but was No. 2 among OHL skaters in Central Scouting's preliminary rankings.

Playing alongside top North American draft prospect, Sarnia's Nail Yakupov, Galchenyuk produced 31 goals and 83 points in 68 games last season. It was enough to make believers out of any scout who had the opportunity to watch him play. Yakupov is currently sidelined with an upper-body injury.

On Wednesday, NHL.com caught up with Central Scouting's Al Jensen, who provided immediate reaction to Galchenyuk's anticipated debut this season.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 11:47 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

"Boo" Nieves ready to join USHL's Indiana Ice

Indian Ice head coach and general manager Kyle Wallack is looking forward to getting New England prep school standout Cristoval "Boo" Nieves on the ice for his first practice with the team on Thursday at Pepsi Coliseum.

Nieves closed out his high school season at the Kent School in Connecticut last weekend with a semifinal-round loss to St. Sebastian's School (Mass.) in the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association large-schools tournament.

Nieves made the flight to Indiana on Thursday morning.

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Posted On Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 10:24 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

USNTDP forward Stefan Matteau to serve suspension

Forward Stefan Matteau of the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program knows he is much more valuable on the ice than watching his teammates from the sideline.

Unfortunately, however, Matteau will be doing the latter on Wednesday when the USNTDP host the Muskegon Lumberjacks in a United States Hockey League matchup at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube in Michigan.

Matteau, who NHL Central Scouting has ranked No. 13 among those North American skaters eligible for the 2012 Draft, will be serving a one-game suspension on Wednesday for spearing a player on the Green Bay Gamblers on March 1.

Matteau had scored a pair of goals to give the NTDP a 2-0 lead before being issued a game misconduct for his spear with 53 seconds remaining in the second. The gritty Gamblers scored three unanswered goals in the third to ultimately win the contest, 3-2.

For the season, Matteau has connected for 14 goals and 28 points in 39 games. He also leads the team with 151 penalty minutes.

"I can't take bad penalties when the team needs you most," Matteau told NHL.com. "We were up 2-0 and I was playing pretty well. But you learn from these things. I guess I have to be smarter, but the way I play, I think I will get penalties. It's going to get better, but I'm a physical player."

Matteau, the son of former 13-year NHL veteran Stephan Matteau, was asked if he is upset over the amount of time he's spent in the penalty box this season.

"I don't like getting the penalty minutes, but I like that physical game that makes me a tough player, gritty player," Matteau said.

Matteau racked up 67 PIM's with the U.S. National Under-17 Team last season and 98 penalty minutes with the Notre Dame (Sask.) Hounds midget program in 2009-10 prior to joining the NTDP.

"I'm a big bodied power-forward, got a lot of skill and got a good shot and I play with an edge," Matteau said. "I like to bring an all-around solid game."

The U18 NTDP will next host the Youngstown Phantoms on Saturday.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 12:19 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Tringale excels for Lawrence in N.E. Prep tournament

If forward Devin Tringale of Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts wasn't on the radar of those NHL scouts prior to the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association tournament, he is now.

The 5-foot-11 3/4, 195-pound left wing, ranked No. 98 on NHL Central Scouting's list of 2012 draft-eligible North American skaters, scored the overtime winner in the tournament semifinals on Friday before connecting for the eventual game-winner in the championship contest on Sunday at the IceCenter in Salem, N.H.

It marked the first time the fourth-seeded Spartans, who defeated top-seeded Salisbury in the semifinal and then No. 2 seeded Noble & Greenough in the final, celebrated a state championship.

"This is quite an achievement for our boys and we're all very proud of them," Lawrence athletic director Kevin Potter told the media.

Tringale, who is bound for Harvard, scored the decisive goal with 18 seconds left in the second period against Noble & Greenough (Mass.) en route to a 3-2 championship verdict. He also assisted Tyler Whitney's goal a little over two minutes earlier to pull Lawrence into a 2-2 tie.

"It's crazy," Tringale, the team's captain, told ESPNBoston.com following the victory. "We got the coach with the bucket of water. We're all on top of the world right now. On top of New England."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 11:13 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Halifax forward Martin Frk has regained confidence

After sitting out the first 29 games of the regular season and missing the 2012 World Junior Championships with concussion-like symptoms, Halifax Mooseheads right wing Martin Frk has regained his confidence.

Frk, who has 10 goals and 17 points in 24 matches with the Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is ranked No. 25 on NHL Central Scouting's list of the top draft eligible North American skaters.

He had 22 goals and 50 points in 62 games as a QMJHL rookie last season and 4 goals and 2 assists in three pre-season games in August before his injury.

First-year Halifax coach Dominique Ducharme, who might very well have the best draft-eligible prospect for 2013 on his roster in rookie forward Nathan MacKinnon, said Frk has been symptom-free since his return to the lineup.  

"I think we should see the best of him in the playoffs," Ducharme told NHL.com. "That's where we're going to see him playing at 100 percent. I don't think his injury is playing any role in his head though.

"He's not tentative and not playing in a way not to get hit. He's 100 percent back from his concussion and he's showing no signs that it bothers him physically."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 10:03 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Nail Yakupov heating up for Sarnia

There's no question Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skater, has scored plenty of highlight-reel goals in his two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League.

But Sunday's marker in a 6-2 victory over the Canadian Hockey League's top team, the London Knights, may have surpassed all others.

With Sarnia holding a 4-2 lead midway through the third period, Yakupov collected the puck at his own blueline, curled London forward Andreas Athanasiou before speeding up ice and bringing a crowd of 5,100 to the edge of their seats in anticipation.

It was Yakupov's first home game since Dec. 11, as he had been sidelined by a knee and wrist injuries suffered at various points throughout the season.
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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 3:11 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Grigorenko compared to two big legends

The closer we get to the 2012 NHL Draft, the more fans will want to know which Russian forward will be the first off the board -- Sarnia's Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League or Quebec's Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

While the odds are squarely in the corner of Yakupov, NHL Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau wouldn't at all be surprised if Grigorenko gets the nod. Many draft pundits have compared Grigorenko with Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin, but Bordeleau offered another interesting take.

"Mikhail doesn't possess the speed of Malkin, but do you remember Alexander Yakushev, the big center on the Russian team from the 1972 Summit Series?" Bordeleau asked.

Yakushev, nicknamed 'The Big Yak', led the Soviets in scoring against Team Canada in the famous '72 Summit Series with 7 goals and 11 points. His goal total tied him with Canada's Phil Esposito and Paul Henderson for the tournament lead.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 11:12 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Kelowna's Colton Sissons suffers concussion

Might as well add Kelowna Rockets captain Colton Sissons to the long list of coveted 2012 draft prospects suffering from injury or illness this season.

According Dubnation Magazine, Sissons will be sidelined at least one month with a concussion.

The 6-foot-1, 189-pound forward, who is NHL Central Scouting's No. 14-ranked skater in North America, is first in goals (26) and second in points (41) for the Rockets this season. He also has a team-leading 13 power-play goals, and has produced two shorthanded goals.

Sissons was injured in the team's 3-2 loss to the Kamloops Blazers on Feb. 11 at Prospera Place in Kelowna.

There are some scouts who feel Sissons might just be the best two-way forward available in the upcoming draft.

"I definitely look up to a guy like Ryan Kesler," Sissons told NHL.com at the 2012 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Feb. 1. "I like watching Mike Richards also. I like those type of guys who are reliable in their own zone and put up numbers in the offensive zone. They're always working and they're always moving their feet. Kesler and Richards are definitely guys I look up to and want to be like one day in the NHL."

Sissons said he could be put in any situation on the ice.

"I could pretty much play any position … wing or center," he said. "I'd prefer center, no doubt about that, but I've been adjusting to wing a lot in my career."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 9:19 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov scores first shorthanded goal

The wrist injury that forced Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov from the third period on Saturday, didn't keep him sidelined very long.

Yakupov, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skater, scored two goals and was the only player of six to score in a shootout when the Sting earned a 7-6 victory over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on Sunday.

Yakupov returned to the Sting lineup on Saturday and scored a goal in a 5-3 loss to the Sudbury Wolves, but suffered a wrist injury in the third period that forced him to the dressing room.

Yakupov was given a two-game suspension for skipping the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Feb. 1 in Kelowna, B.C. He returned to the lineup on Saturday.

Despite playing with what the team deemed a "sore wrist" on Sunday, Yakupov appeared to be his usually effective self.

"Ryan [Spooner] and Nail took over in the third period and they couldn't be stopped [against the Greyhounds]," Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu told Dave Borody of sarniasting.com

Yakupov pulled Sarnia into a 6-6 tie at 18:29 of the third when he connected for his first shorthanded goal in two seasons with the Sting. Yakupov is 21st in the Ontario Hockey League with 59 points, including 25 goals this season, in 31 games.

Following a scoreless overtime, Yakupov scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Sting the win.

Sarnia will next visit Guelph on Friday before traveling to Saginaw on Saturday. The Sting will then return home to host London on Feb. 20 at RBC Centre.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 02.12.2012 / 7:29 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov suffers wrist injury in return to lineup

Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skater, returned to the lineup on Saturday after serving a two-game suspension but would ultimately return to the dressing room with a wrist injury.

Yakupov, who did score his 23rd goal of the season in a 5-3 loss to the Sudbury Wolves, apparently suffered his ailment in the third period.

 "He’s got a bad wrist and couldn’t finish the game," said Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. We don’t know if he can play in Sault Ste. Marie [on Sunday].”

Yakupov had been sidelined the previous two games for skipping the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Feb. 1 in Kelowna, B.C.

The extent of the injury to Yakupov, who has 23 goals and 33 assists in 30 games, was unknown after the Saturday's game.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 10:38 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Howson soon to focus on draft

PHILADELPHIA -- The first priority for Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson is determining how best to handle his roster heading into the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

After that, he said he'll turn his focus toward the 2012 NHL Draft.

"It's certainly started already," Howson told NHL.com prior to watching Saturday's Flyers-Rangers game in person at Wells Fargo Center. "We're getting multiple views (of top draft prospects). I think that will pick up in intensity as we get through the deadline and get into March. But our amateur scouts are all over, they're in Europe some of them. For the guys in the Ontario league, the Western league, the Quebec league, we'll have lots and lots of opportunities to see them over the next month, two months."

Howson said he's done some scouting already, and said he'll start doing even more once the trade deadline passes.

"I think I'll see a little bit more," he said. "(Senior Advisor) Craig Patrick is going to see a little bit. The scouts are the ones who are going to see these guys 10, 20 times this year."

Howson said Director of Amateur Scouting Tyler Wright and Director of Amateur Scouting and Development Coach Paul Castron will have the final decision on the team's selection.

"We'll let them make the decision (but) it's good for us to have a little bit of familiarity with the players," said Howson.

Howson wouldn't reveal much as far as personal favorites or which way the staff is leaning, but added he feels like many others that the strength of this year's draft lies in its deep pool of talent on defense.

"Throughout the first round there will be a lot of defensemen picked," he said. "Looks like we're going to be picking fairly early, so there's other things that will come into play with that. I think with this draft it's correct to say it's very strong in defense."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 12:42 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Subban solid in return from groin injury

Malcolm Subban, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American goalie, stopped 34 of 37 shots tonight, his first game in more than a month due to a groin injury.

The Belleville Bulls goaltender hadn't played since Dec. 17.

Subban leads the Ontario Hockey League with a 1.98 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. In 20 games, he's 14-6-0 with two shutouts.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 6:12 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov makes successful return to Sarnia lineup

Nail Yakupov appeared comfortable and confident in his return to the ice for the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting in three games this weekend.

The Russian right wing, ranked No. 1 according to NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters, finished with one goal, two points and a minus-2 rating in his first bit of game action with the Sting since Dec. 17.

Yakupov, who missed the previous nine games for the Sting, suffered a knee injury in the gold medal game at the 2012 World Junior Championship in Calgary, Alta. He scored his 22nd goal of the season en route to being named the game's second star in a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa 67's in Ottawa on Friday.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 5:19 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov could return Friday for Sarnia

It appears as though Nail Yakupov, the top-ranked skater on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North Americans, could rejoin the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League as early as this weekend.

According to The Observer, Yakupov, who has been sidelined since suffering a knee injury in the gold medal game of the 2012 World Junior Championship on Jan. 5, might play Friday against the Ottawa 67's.

Yakupov has certainly made the most of the time he's spent on the ice in Sarnia this season, connecting for 21 goals and 53 points in 26 OHL games. The 5-foot-10 1/2, 189-pound right wing won a silver medal for Russia at the WJC after producing 9 assists and a plus-4 rating in seven games. His teammate in Sarnia, Alex Galchenyuk, was believed to be out the entire regular season after undergoing ACL surgery. But, according to The London Free Press, he could return March 1.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.25.2012 / 4:17 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Craig Button's top 2012 draft prospects



Not soon after NHL Central Scouting released its midseason list of the top North American and European skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft, did NHL Network analyst Craig Button offer the top 10 prospects in his cross-hairs.

Not surprisingly, Button's list is chock full of talented defensemen and centers -- two areas of strength in this year's talented crops. The top player on his list is Nail Yakupov, the Russian flash from the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League.

Here is Button's personal top 10 with some commentary on each prospect. The number in parenthesis represents the ranking issued by NHL Central Scouting earlier this month.

10 (9) - Jacob Trouba, USA U18 NTDP (USHL), D -- "A real terrific two-way defenseman. As he grows into his body, I think he has a chance to be a real force in that area of the game."

9 (3) - Ryan Murray, Everett (WHL), D -- "Is one of those guys that winning teams have. He doesn't make mistakes, he's steady and coaches will put guys like this on the ice because they know that nothing bad will happen. He's smart, a good skater. He's maybe not that dynamic offensively, but a very consistent, reliable defenseman."

8 (15) - Matthew Finn, Guelph (OHL), D -- "I just love Matt Finn because I think he's developed so much from the beginning of the season until now. To me, he reminds me of my dear late friend, Brad McCrimmon. Brad was a guy who could control the game in so many different ways, and that's what I see when I watch Matt Finn."

7 (2) - Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec (QMJHL), C -- "Everybody needs centers, and the bigger the center, the better. Grigorenko qualifies under both traditions and he's a guy who might not have the greatest finishing ability, but he's a real strong playmaker who uses his size effectively. He's a strong skater and he has a lot of potential. He's one of the very few guys who could challenge the very top part of the draft, maybe even No. 1."

6 (8) - Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton (WHL), D -- "His brother was drafted by Calgary, and he has a younger brother up and coming. Griffin is different and the defensemen in the draft all have different qualities. They're big, strong and raw. But when he gets his confidence, size and physically matures, watch out, because he'll be a force."

5 (LV) - Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia (OHL), C -- "He's been out with the ACL, rehabbing and trying to get back to the ice before the end of the season. But he's another center, a dynamic playmaker. He makes others around him better and he's a really strong competitor."

4 (5) - Morgan Rielly, Moose Jaw (WHL), D -- "Another top player who had ACL surgery … he had it in November. When I think of Morgan Rielly, I think of a guy who completes plays. He's always puts the puck on your stick, creates scoring chances. He gets out of trouble and the way the game is played now at the NHL level, guys that are so dynamic and can transition from defense to offense, are very desirable."

3 (1 Euros) - Filip Forsberg, Leksand (SWE), C -- "He was a member of Team Sweden's gold medal team at the World Junior Championship, where he played a regular shift. He's big and strong, and loves to shoot the puck. He's got great hands and a great release and he's hungry to score. He gets the puck and gets directly to the net. I see some shades of Brendan Shanahan in terms of that release he possesses."

2 (7) - Mathew Dumba, Red Deer (WHL), D -- "Every time I watch him play, all I see is continued progress in his game. I watch and I don't see any area of his game that he cannot only play in, but can dominant and excel in. He reminds me of Chris Chelios, with a little bit of Scott Stevens."

1 (1) - Nail Yakupov, Sarnia (OHL), RW -- "Suffered a knee injury but that won't hold him out. He's dynamic, electric. Not only is he a competitor, but he has the great skills to finish and make plays. He pulls people out of their seats. Hey NHL fans, he'll be a treat to watch once he reaches the NHL."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.25.2012 / 10:02 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Grigorenko returns to form with Remparts

Top draft prospect Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has left little doubt that he remains an extremely viable draft option despite missing some time with an ankle injury this season.

Since returning to Remparts lineup two games ago on Jan. 21, Grigorenko has responded with two goals. On Tuesday, he scored in regulation and then connected for the decisive goal in the third round of a shootout to lead Quebec over the Chicoutimi Sagueneens at the Georges Centre in Chicoutimi.

Grigorenko scored both his goals against Chicoutimi's Christopher Gibson, a second-round (No. 49) draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings last June. A player many expect to be drafted among the top three choices at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh on June 22, Grigorenko took two shots on goal and won 7 of 18 face-offs in Tuesday's win.



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Posted On Friday, 01.20.2012 / 1:11 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Players to watch at USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

There's no question power-forward Zemgus Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints will be one player on the radar of NHL scouts and general managers during the inaugural USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game scheduled Tuesday at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, Mich.

For more on the big Latvian, who is ranked No. 12 among North American skaters according to NHL Central Scouting's midterm report, click here.

The USHL Top Prospects game will include 40 of the league's top young players. In addition Girgensons, there's Matthew DeBlouw of the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Robert Baillargeon of the Indian Ice, goalie Jon Gillies of Indiana and defensemen Jordan Schmaltz of the Green Bay Gamblers, Mike Matheson of Dubuque and Brian Cooper of the Fargo Force.

Here's a capsule look at a few other players considered to be first or second-round material when the NHL Draft is staged at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22-23.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 4:36 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Grigorenko could return to lineup on Tuesday

Top draft prospect Mikhail Grigorenko, who has missed the last four games for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League while recuperating from an ankle injury suffered at the 2012 World Junior Championship, is expected to make his anticipated return on Tuesday.

Remparts head coach Patrick Roy told local reporters that Grigorenko, who is ranked No. 2 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's midterm report, "seems fine."

"The goal has always been that he'll make his comeback [Jan. 24] in Chicoutimi," Roy said. Quebec has two more games on the schedule before meeting the Sagueneens on Jan. 24.

Grigorenko suffered his injury playing for silver medal-winning Team Russia at the WJC. During the second period of an eventual 14-0 victory over Latvia in the preliminary round, Grigorenko collided with Latvian defender Arturs Salija at the Russian blueline -- sending him to the ice in pain. He'd miss one game and finish the tournament with 2 goals, 5 points and a plus-2 rating in six appearances.

Despite not playing a period of hockey for the Remparts upon returning from the WJC, Grigorenko still stands 11th in scoring in the league with 58 points (25 goals) in 36 games.

Once he returns to the lineup, the 6-foot-3 1/4, 200-pound center will certainly command the attention of NHL scouts and general managers.

According to NHL Director of Central Scouting, Dan Marr, Grigorenko is not too far behind No. 1-ranked Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting in terms of natural talent. At the time of Central Scouting's midterm release, Marr told NHL.com that Yakupov and Grigorenko were 1-A and 1-B in his mind.

"Right now, Yakupov has shown, with the level that he's played, that he does have the ability to make a difference in the game," Marr told NHL.com at the time. "That's not saying that Grigorenko doesn't make a difference. Grigorenko controls the play, can dictate how the game is played when he's on the ice. But, right now, the consensus was Yakupov has the potential to be a difference-maker in a game. He can just turn a game around in a couple of shifts; he's that dynamic a player."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 12:33 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Kulak to replace Koekkoek at Top Prospects

Vancouver Giants defenseman Brett Kulak, ranked No. 67 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters, will replace injured Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes for the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna later this month.

Koekkoek suffered a shoulder injury midway through the third period of a 6-3 loss to the Windsor Spitfires on Nov. 27 after being hit along the boards while reaching for the puck. He's scheduled to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery on Jan. 20.

In 26 games his season, Koekkoek, who is No. 17 on Central Scouting's list of North American skaters, has 5 goals and 18 points with 17 penalty minutes.

Kulak, a 6-foot-0.25, 174-pound native of Stony Plain, Alta., is in his second season with the Western Hockey League's Giants. He has 4 goals, 11 points and a plus-22 rating in 42 games for Vancouver this season. Kulak will replace Koekkoek on Team Cherry at the Top Prospects Game, scheduled Feb. 1 in Kelowna.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 12:04 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Kitchener's Matia Marcantuoni suffers injury

Kitchener Rangers forward Matia Marcantuoni, who was ranked No. 42 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's midterm report, will be sidelined indefinitely after suffering an upper body injury in a victory over the Erie Otters on Jan. 7.

"He's dealing with injury problems right now which may cost him the rest of this year," Kitchener coach and general manager Steve Spott told NHL.com. "We'll know more this week."

The injury shouldn't affect Marcantuoni's draft status -- he is projected to be selected in the second or third round. It remains to be seen whether or not Marcantuoni will attend the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, scheduled Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in Kelowna, as a spectator.

Marcantuoni was invited to the Top Prospects Game along with Kitchener teammate and No. 4-ranked North American, Radek Faksa. Both players were placed on Team Orr.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 11:52 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Stefan Matteau opts for QMJHL instead of UND

Stefan Matteau, who currently leads the Under-18 National Team Development Program in scoring, has decided to play for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League next season instead of suiting up for the University of North Dakota.

Matteau's father, a 13-year NHL veteran, was hired as an assistant coach for Blainville-Boisbriand prior to the start of the 2011-12 campaign. The Quebec team acquired Stefan's rights on Jan. 7 via a trade. While he signed his letter of intent in November, it didn't keep him from exploring other options, particularly when it included having an opportunity to play for his father.

Matteau, who models his game after Eric and Jordan Staal, used his Twitter account on Tuesday morning to announce his decision.

"My decision is final," he wrote.

Matteau, who turns 18 on Feb. 23, was one of four players from the U.S. U18 Team to be ranked by NHL Central Scouting among the top 30 skaters eligible for the 2012 Draft in Pittsburgh in June.

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Posted On Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 12:51 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Murray and Pearson earn spots for Team Canada

It's interesting to note that two players eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft will play a part for Canadian National Junior Team coach Don Hay in the anticipated 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta., later this month.

             Tanner Pearson, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Not surprisingly, defenseman Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League will be looked upon to stabilize the back end. Meanwhile, forward Tanner Pearson of the Barrie Colts had really been ripping up the Ontario Hockey League prior to attending Canada's three-day selection camp. His inclusion on this team, particularly since he has quite the chemistry with Barrie teammate and Canada's likely top-line center Mark Scheifele, isn't a surprise either.

Both players on Thursday were also invited to participate in the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game scheduled Feb. 1 in Kelowna, B.C. Pearson will play for Team Orr and Murray will dress for Team Cherry.

"Tanner has made a steady improvement each season," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "This season he has broken out and has led the league in scoring almost from the start of the season."

Pearson leads the OHL with 66 points, including 26 goals and 40 assists, through 30 games with the Colts this campaign.

"He's become a skilled forward with lots of finish around the net," Edwards said. "He has very good hands and can handle the puck very well in traffic. He also has very good play-making ability and sees the ice and passes the puck as well as anyone. He is creative and highly skilled."

No wonder Hockey Canada's managerial team opted to keep the 6-foot, 198-pound Pearson.

Three other players considered to be blue chip prospects were sent home, including defensemen Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels (WHL), Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67's (OHL) and forward Philliip Di Giuseppe of the University of Michigan. Dumba is rated No. 3 according to NHL Central Scouting's preliminary WHL list. Ceci is rated No. 10 in the OHL and Di Giuseppe is the lone 'A Watch Player' in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

Murray is the second member of the Silvertips to represent Canada at the World Juniors. Goaltender Leland Irving, currently in the Calgary Flames organization, was a member of Canada's gold-medal squad in 2007. He has three goals and 7 points in 11 games this season for Everett.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 9:18 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov returns after seven-game absence

After sitting out the previous seven games with a sore back, Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov returned to the lineup on Sunday and was one major pain in the neck for the Peterborough Petes.

Yakupov chipped in with a goal and two assists to help lead the Sting to a 4-2 victory over the Petes in an Ontario Hockey League matchup at the RBC Centre in Sarnia. It was just the contribution the Sting needed in snapping a two-game losing streak and improving to 18-9-1-4 on the season.

"He's a very special player," Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu told Dave Borody of sarniasting.com. "Star players have that knack of being game breakers and changing the momentum of the game. He came back today and had three points. Not bad for a guy who missed the past two weeks."

Yakupov, who was named the game's second star, is projected by many to be the No. 1 overall pick at the 2012 Draft in Pittsburgh on June 22. Despite missing nearly two weeks, Yakupov would score the first of four Sarnia Sting goals in second period.

He leads the team with 19 goals, 11 power-play goals, 49 points and a plus-17 rating in 24 matches. Last year, Yakupov led his team and all OHL rookies in scoring with 101 points, including 49 goals, in 65 games.

There's a good chance Yakupov will be selected for the Russian National Junior Team that will play in the 2012 World Junior Championship in Calgary beginning Dec. 26. The Russians are the defending WJC gold medalist.

According to NHL Central Scouting, Yakupov's agent, Igor Larionov has advised Russian coach Valeri Bragin that Yakupov will travel to the team's camp in Calgary on Dec. 18. Russia will have two exhibition games prior to the start of the tournament -- on Dec. 20 against Team USA in Red Deer and Dec. 22 against Czech Republic in Lethbridge.

Earlier this season, Yakupov's linemate and fellow Russian countryman, Alex Galchenyuk, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and underwent surgery. He is still at least four months away from returning to the lineup. Galchenyuk suffered his injury on Sept. 16 in a preseason game against the Windsor Spitfires.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 12.10.2011 / 12:28 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Martin Frk returns to lineup for Halifax Mooseheads

One of the top prospects eligible for the 2012 Draft, Martin Frk of the Halifax Mooseheads, made his season debut on Friday against P.E.I. Rocket after sitting out the first 29 games with a concussion.

Frk, who hadn't played since suffering his head injury in August, was medically cleared to return to the lineup on Tuesday according to Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell.

Frk, who is rated No. 2 among skaters in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League by NHL Central Scouting, had 22 goals and 50 points in 62 games as a QMJHL rookie last season and 4 goals and 2 assists in three pre-season games in August before his injury. His return wasn't memorable, however, as the Rocket came away with a 6-1 victory.

Frk didn't register a point but took two shots and even delivered one hit.

According to Willy Palov, who covers the Mooseheads for The Chronicle Herald, Frk played approximately 15-to-17 minutes and looked good for a skater who hadn't played in three months. Palov also felt Frk's timing wasn't quite "there" and he needed at least two periods to get his bearings. That's expected though. Read Palov's recap of Friday's game right here.

First-year coach Dominique Ducharme had his 18-year-old Czech Republic sniper on a line with Nathan MacKinnon and Alex Grenier on the team's top line to open the game. MacKinnon, a rookie center, would leave the game with an injury in the third period after suffering an apparent shoulder injury. He was scheduled to be re-examined on Saturday.

It remains to be seen if Frk will join the Czech Republic at the 2012 World Junior Championship. As the youngest player to represent the Czech Republic at the 2011 WJC, the 6-foot, 203-pound right wing led the team with 3 goals and 6 points in six games. Frk also competed in the 2010 and '11 Under-18 World Championships, tying for the team lead in scoring in 2010 (2 goals, 7 points) and in 2011 (4 assists, 5 points).

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 2:34 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Subban named CHL goalie of the week

Top 2012 draft prospect Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League on Tuesday was named the Vaughn Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Week.

Subban, whose older brother is Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, earned the honor after posting a 3-0-0-0 record, including a shutout, with a 0.67 goals-against average and .978 save percentage for games ending Nov. 27.

Subban, who participated in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August, went 10-17-0 in 32 appearances and finished second among OHL rookie goalies with a 3.16 GAA and .900 save percentage in 2010-11.

Since being taken off injured reserve earlier this month, Subban is 9-3-0 with a 1.89 GAA and .938 save percentage in 12 starts. He has also posted two shutouts.

"Malcolm is very strong and has excellent net coverage," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He has exceptional flexibility and quickness, great strength in his leg pushes needed for lateral ability and recovery. He's got a quick glove hand and excellent work ethic. He'll always give himself a chance to stop the puck and is capable of making the big saves."

Subban, 17, began the week making 23 saves on Thursday as part of a 3-1 win over the Erie Otters. He followed that with his second shutout of the season on Friday stopping all 34 shots faced, including 19 in the second period, in a 6-0 triumph over the Guelph Storm. He then led the Bulls win their third straight game on Sunday with 30 saves in a 4-1 win over the Oshawa Generals.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Friday, 11.25.2011 / 11:11 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov returns to lineup for Sarnia Sting

After missing his first game of the season due to injury five days earlier, top 2012 draft prospect Nail Yakupov returned to the lineup for the Sarnia Sting on Thursday in a 4-3 loss to the Barrie Colts.

Yakupov, who took a check to the head in the third period of last Friday's victory over the Saginaw Spirit, appeared to be his normal productive self when he connected for 2 goals and 3 points. But his club suffered their second loss in the last five games.

Despite the loss, Sarnia assistant coach Trevor Letowski told The Sarnia Observer after the game that "Yakky was one of our best guys tonight."

Yakupov woke up Saturday morning experiencing a headache and a sore back and was held out of the lineup that evening. At the time, Sarnia coach and general manager Jacques Beaulieu said he was taking a "wait and see" approach with regard to Yakupov's soreness.

Yakupov, who suffered his injury after taking a hit from Saginaw's Garret Ross early in the third period, is second in Ontario Hockey League in scoring with 46 points, including 18 goals in 23 games.

According to Sarnia's assistant general manager, Mark Glavin, Yakupov was on the ice Friday morning at practice. Glavin said he was sore but wasn't suffering from any major setbacks. Glavin also informed NHL.com that Yakupov "never had a concussion and was just pretty banged up and too sore to play" last Saturday.

Ross received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the infraction. The Sting will next play host to the Niagara IceDogs on Saturday.

Earlier this season, Yakupov's linemate and fellow Russian countryman, Alex Galchenyuk, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and underwent surgery. He is still at least four months away from returning to the lineup. Galchenyuk suffered his injury on Sept. 16 in a preseason game against the Windsor Spitfires.

The injuries to Yakupov and Galchenyuk certainly aren't isolated incidents this season in the Canadian Hockey League. There are several other top blue chip players watching from the stands. In the Western Hockey League, Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray (high ankle sprain), Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Griffin Reinhart (shoulder) and Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Morgan Rielly (season-ending knee surgery) have been shelved, although Murray resumed skated on Tuesday.

In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Halifax Mooseheads right wing Martin Frk hasn't played a game this season due to a concussion.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Friday, 11.18.2011 / 7:58 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Morgan Rielly could miss season with knee injury

MOOSE JAW, Sask. -- Unfortunately for the rabid hockey fans that flooded Mosaic Place on Thursday to catch the final game of the 2011 Subway Super Series, highly touted and local prospect Morgan Rielly would be unavailable to participate.

The mobile defenseman, rated second on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary list for 2012 NHL Draft eligible players from the Western Hockey League, will have surgery within the next two weeks to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered Nov. 6.

"Morgan went to the University of Saskatchewan and had an MRI done, which showed that his ACL was indeed torn," Rielly's father, Andy, told NHL.com via e-mail. "At this point, we are confident that he will be 100 percent by mid-April. The doctor has not ruled out a return as early as mid to late March but that will be a decision made at the time."

While it is a major blow for Rielly, who was in his second season with the Moose Jaw Warriors, it really shouldn't affect his draft status at this time.

The 5-foot-11.5, 190-pound Rielly led Moose Jaw in rookie scoring last season and was second among defensemen with 28 points, including 22 assists, in 65 games. He was the second youngest player to represent Team Canada at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships and he competed at the 2011 U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.

"Morgan is in pretty good spirits all considered, and very determined to get fully healed ahead of schedule," Andy Rielly wrote.

Rielly was injured on a play against the Calgary Hitmen after skating hard to the net at top speed before being knocked to the ice by former teammate Joe Kornelsen.

"It's unfortunate for our hockey club and obviously it's unfortunate for Morgan," Warriors director of hockey operations Alan Millar told the Moose Jaw Times-Herald. "The way we look at it, if he was to be back with our hockey team this year you're talking late in the season, playoff time or possibly not at all."

Rielly will have his surgery performed back home in Vancouver.

Rielly is the second top 2012 NHL Draft prospect to undergo major knee surgery this season. Sarnia Sting center Alex Galchenyuk had surgery to repair a torn ACL on Oct. 27 and likely will miss the rest of the season. Still, he was ranked second on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary ranking of the top Ontario Hockey League skaters for this year's draft.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 11.07.2011 / 11:04 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Top USHL prospect Schmaltz part of six-player trade

A blockbuster trade was finalized in the United States Hockey League on Monday when the Sioux City Musketeers dealt highly touted defensive prospect Jordan Schmaltz to the Green Bay Gamblers as part of a six-player deal.

Schmaltz, committed to the University of North Dakota next fall, is regarded by many to be a first-round choice for the upcoming 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh. Schmaltz finished his rookie season in the USHL last year as the highest scoring defenseman in the league with 44 points, including 13 goals, in 53 games.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Schmaltz has 3 goals and 6 points in nine games this season.

"He's got a good shot from the top of the point," NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "The thing is, I don't think he'll be drafted as a defensive guy -- he'll be drafted for his high-end offense."

In fact, many believe Schmaltz offers the type of offensive skills that made Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy (Carolina Hurricanes) so attractive last June.

Schmaltz of Verona, Wis., is currently in Langley, B.C., with Team USA for the 2011 World Junior A Challenge. Schmaltz is actually one of two returnees on the team, which captured a third straight World Junior A Challenge title in 2010. Team USA opens the tournament on Nov. 7 against Sweden.

Schmaltz was dealt to Green Bay in exchange for forward David Goodwin, defensemen Andy Ryan and Dan Molenaar and affiliate list player forward Jacob Montgomery. The Gamblers also acquired forward Peter Maric as compensation for an earlier trade involving forward Nikita Sirotkin.

Schmaltz, a member of the 2011 All-USHL First team and All-Rookie team, was also a member of the United States team that captured the gold medal in the 2010 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.  

"The trade was made with mixed emotions," Green Bay coach Derek Lalonde told the team's website. "David, Andy and Dan our great people and were valuable players to our team. But at the same time you rarely have an opportunity to acquire a player the caliber of Jordan Schmaltz. He is a projected a first round NHL draft pick and will be a tremendous addition to our team."

Additionally, the Gamblers added Jordan's younger brother, forward Nick Schmaltz. Nick Schmaltz, a member of the Chicago Mission Under-16 Team, is one of the top players among the 1996 birth years.

According to the Gamblers website, Jordan Schmaltz is expected to make his Green Bay debut on Nov. 18 against the U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program.  The team is currently 8-3 in the Eastern Conference.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 11.04.2011 / 11:21 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

A few more OHL players to watch

There are certainly more than seven players NHL scouts are keeping an eye on from the OHL for the 2012 NHL Draft. NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards, who specializes in OHL prospects, and Central Scouting goaltending guru Al Jensen have been keeping close tabs on a few other top prospects.

Dylan Blujus, D, Brampton -- In his second OHL season, the 6-2.75, 193-pound blueliner is developing into a star.

After totaling 26 points and a minus-14 rating in 67 games this season, Blujus has 10 points in his first 15 games, and is a plus-9.

"He's getting better every time I see him," said Edwards. "He's a real solid guy, and every viewing I've had he's gotten better. He's starting to show real good decision-making and puck movement. … His playmaking is good, his play in his own end. He's being used in a top-two role with Brampton, on the power-play and penalty-killing units."

Edwards also has been impressed not just by Blujus' shot, but his accuracy with it.

"He's got a real good shot and it hits the net," said Edwards. "He's getting it on net, making the goalie make a save," unlike another player he recently watched, who he said, "took eight shots and missed the net on all eight."

Trevor Carrick, D, Mississauga St. Michael's -- He hasn't produced much offensively yet, but the 6-1.5, 172-pound blueliner is earning attention for his smart play on the ice.

"He's a very poised guy," said Edwards. "He's got good mobility, and he picks it apart on the back end with good outlet passes. At times you look at him and he might be high-risk, but he makes it work. He's a real smart, heady type of defenseman."

Edwards said in the games he's seen Carrick play, it's been a slow build to his game.

"Early in the game he's on the third defense pair, in the first period he takes a regular shift," said Edwards, "but by the end of the night he's logging all the ice and playing against the other team's top line. He's a really reliable guy. Not many mistakes."

Michael Clarke, C, Windsor -- The 5-11.25, 184-pound center is tied for the lead among all first-year OHL players with 8 goals, but it's his work ethic that has impressed scouts.

"He's going to get his goals by going to the net and knocking in rebounds," said Edwards. "I'm not sure you'll see him go end-to-end and dangle people. He's going to get his points in setting up plays, scoring dirty goals, ugly goals."

Edwards said Clarke reminds him of a top player from last year's draft, Blue Jackets second-round pick Boone Jenner.

"He'll do anything you have to do to win," said Edwards. "He's great in the faceoff circle, he's a great competitor, he'll block shots. He's used in all situations, he's on the second line, killing penalties. He might be a little better skater than Jenner was. … This guy is a competitor. So far from what I've seen, he might be best competitor in the draft."

Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville -- The hard-working forward is scoring at a near point-per-game clip this season and is showing improved skill in the offensive zone.

But like Clarke, it's Gaunce's work ethic that is earning positive reviews from scouts.

"He's a hard-working, up-and-down guy," said Edwards. "On the power play he really handled it well, creating good scoring chances. Five-on-five he's also solid. He'll get involved and win battles for pucks. He's tough. He'll separate guys from the puck and knock people down. To go along with his good skill set, he can be a pretty dangerous player."

Matthew Murray, G, Sault Ste. Marie -- The 6-4 netminder is tied for third in the OHL with nine wins, to go with a 3.29 goals-against average and .891 save percentage.

Jensen told NHL.com what impresses him most is Murray's technical skill.

"He's got that NHL presence of a goalie," said Jensen. "He just looks like a goalie in there. He's big, his net coverage is very good, he's very controlled in the net. He plays the bulk of the games and is very consistent. His technical part of the game is very good. He's very controlled in his movements. He gives himself a chance to stop the puck because he's always in the proper position. He doesn't have to come all the way out all the time. He plays mostly in the paint because he covers all the holes."

Jake Paterson, G, Saginaw -- Jensen said the three times he's seen Patterson in action, "all three were 'A' games."

The numbers the 6-1.5, 183-pound goalie has posted so far -- 5-6-0, 3.95 GAA, .893 save percentage -- don't look all that great, but Saginaw is ninth in the 10-team Western Conference and has allowed the second-most goals in the league.

"He's got a great feel for the game," said Jensen. "He challenges when he has to, he battles, he's quick, he's strong, he's smart. … He's given his team a chance to win every night.

"I like his size in there. He's got great quickness and a great glove hand. He moves very well technically. He really reads the play well."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 3:59 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov named OHL Player of the Month

Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov, who many consider will be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22, was named the Ontario Hockey League's player of the month for October.

Yakupov led the league in scoring with 29 points in 13 games for Sarnia, including 11 goals and a league-leading 18 assists in October.

"Yakupov is a dynamic exciting player … he's one of the few players that you can say this guy is worth the price of admission," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "He can put on that type of a show, he's that skilled."

Yakupov, who began skating when he was 3-years-old in Nizhnekamsk, Russia, had a point in 12 of his 13 games in the month. He produced nine multi-point games and finished with the second highest plus-minus rating in the League (plus-13).

In the upcoming six-game 2011 Subway Super Series, featuring the top junior-aged players of the Canadian Hockey League against those from the Russian National Junior Team, Yakupov will represent his country against Team OHL on Nov. 10 in Ottawa.

"When you watch him, I don't think there's one singular player that you would say, 'Wow, that's a guy he could be just like,'" said NHL Network analyst Craig Button. "But his ability to maneuver out of traffic and out of the corners from tight areas reminds you a Pavel Datsyuk. When you watch him explode in his skating, he reminds you of Pavel Bure."

Yakupov was one of 36 top 2012 prospects on the ice for the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in Etobicoke, Ont., in August. Yakupov (6-foot, 190 pounds), selected second by the Sting during the 2010 CHL import draft, had the fourth-highest total in the OHL and most by a first-year player when he struck for 101 points in 2010-11. He won the OHL's Rookie of the Year award and his point total, which included 49 goals, shattered Steven Stamkos' team record for a rookie (92 points in 2006-07).

Yakupov claimed OHL and CHL Player of the Week honors for the week ending Oct. 16 when he matched a career-high with 4 assists on Oct. 14 in a 7-2 win over the Saginaw Spirit. During a stretch of three straight games from Oct. 22-29, he scored 7 points in three games. Yakupov was also named the game's first star in a 7-2 win over the Sudbury Wolves after notching 2 goals and 2 assists on Oct. 1.

Yakupov, 18, currently leads the OHL in scoring with 34 points in 16 games with 12 goals and a league-high 22 assists. He's looking to become the first Russian-born player since Alex Ovechkin in 2004 to go first overall.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 1:08 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Reinhart replaces injured Ryan Murray in Super Series

The Canadian Hockey League on Thursday announced a roster replacement and additions for the Western Hockey League team that will play the Russians in the 2011 Subway Super Series on Nov. 16 in Regina and Nov. 17 in Moose Jaw.

Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman
Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray, originally scheduled to participate with Team WHL on Nov. 16, will be sidelined the next five weeks with a sprained ankle suffered in an 8-2 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings on Oct. 19. Prior to the injury, he had 3 goals and 6 points in 10 games.

Murray will be replaced in the lineup by fellow 2012 draft-eligible prospect Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Also added to the Team WHL roster to compete in Regina is the Kelowna Rockets' Brett Bulmer and Zach Franko, along with Kamloops Blazers' Colin Smith. For the final game of the series on Nov. 17, the WHL added the Oil Kings' Michael St. Croix and Cody Beach of the Moose Jaw Warriors.

While the team loses an extremely reliable defensive-defenseman in Murray, Reinhart will bring a bit of an edge along the blueline.

He's already earning comparisons to Nashville's Shea Weber with his hulking size (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and tremendous mobility in the back end. His father is former NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart, who scored 560 points over 11 seasons and 648 games with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. His older brother, Max, a third-round pick (No. 64 overall) of the Calgary Flames in 2010, began his fourth season with the WHL's Kootenay Ice in 2011-12.

Reinhardt will no doubt receive much more ice time in his second full season with the Oil Kings after notching six goals, 25 points, 36 penalty minutes and a plus-7 rating in 46 games as a rookie last year. He has produced 2 goals, 6 points, 9 penalty minutes and a plus-2 rating in 11 games for the Oil Kings this season.

"He's a big package and knows how to use it," MacDonald said. "He's very strong in the corners and battles in front of his own net. He's solid one-on-one, can eliminate opposing forwards convincingly and is physically strong in all areas of the ice.

"He'll develop into a rock solid, big presence for an NHL team … he has huge upside."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.01.2011 / 10:17 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Girgensons talks future plans ... in Vermont

If there was any question of the future plans for 2012 top draft eligible prospect Zemgus Girgensons, the 6-foot-1 Latvian did his best to answer them this week.

In an interview with hockey blogger Ryan S. Clark of 'Slightly Chilled', Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League said he doesn't see himself playing in the Canadian Hockey League.

Girgensons, committed to the University of Vermont for the fall of 2012, was also drafted 45th overall by the Kelowna Rockets during the CHL Import Draft and was taken in the second round of the KHL Junior Draft by CSKA Moscow.

"You know, first of all I don't see my future in the CHL," Girgensons told Clark. "I talked with other CHL teams that were interested in me. I thought about the (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and the Quebec Remparts (where fellow blue chip prospect Mikhail Grigorenko stars), but Kelowna drafted me and didn't say anything to me about it. After that, I felt they disrespected me a little bit. They pushed it a little bit onto my adviser and I don't think he really liked it."

Girgensons finished third overall on Dubuque with 49 points, including 21 goals, in 51 games last season and was selected to the mid-season Western Conference All-Stars. Through nine games this season, Girgensons has 6 goals, including 3 game-winners, 13 points and a plus-2 rating.

Adding coal to the fire was a blog that Clark pointed to which specializes in news out of the Western Hockey League. The outlet, 'DubNation', quoted Rockets owner and general manager Bruce Hamilton when asked about Girgensons.

"His agents think (Dubuque) is where he should be playing and he's very loyal to that program but I know as soon as he's drafted, the NHL team is not going to want him in Dubuque and they're not going to want him going to the University of Vermont, either," Hamilton told DubNation. "We'll have a real good opportunity to have him here for sure next year, and potentially after Christmas this year. When the Latvian team plays in the world juniors, we'll be very aggressive again there."

Girgensons represented Latvia at the 2010 World Under-18 Championships, notching two assists in six games.

Dubuque coach Jim Montgomery, a collegiate standout at the University of Maine, responded this way:

"First of all, I was wondering how he could be tampering with a player that plays with another junior team in the middle of the season. I was also wondering about his ethics and why would you want to try and approach someone trying to win a gold medal for his nation," Montgomery told 'Slightly Chilled'. "Being a Canadian, he should know how important it is to win a gold medal. If junior hockey is coming to this type of level where you're going to bother someone while they’re trying to win a gold medal for his country speaks volumes about the integrity of some of the people in junior hockey. I know for a fact that (Girgensons) hasn't spoken to an adviser and (Girgensons' adviser) hasn'’t spoken to the kid either. He's defending his draft pick and that's why he's putting a positive spin on it as possible. Really, he's making himself look like he's unethical."

Girgensons was also perturbed by Hamilton's comments, according to 'Slightly Chilled.'

"I don't think it was a great move by them," Girgensons said. "If they had said 'We support his decision to go to Vermont', that would have been fine but they said I should not go there. They disrespected my thoughts and I felt like they didn't even trust me."

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Posted On Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 4:23 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Pens hope All-Star Game follows draft to Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- The Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and 2009, the 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic, now the 2012 Draft. Obviously, Pittsburgh has been a busy port of call for the NHL over the past few seasons.
 
According to Penguins CEO David Morehouse, not quite busy enough.
 
Now that the much-praised Consol Energy Center is their home, the Penguins are making a major push to also play host to the NHL All-Star Game. The All-Star game was last played in Pittsburgh in 1990, when Mario Lemieux scored four goals in his one and only all-star appearance on home ice. A season later, he would lead the Penguins to the first of two successive Stanley Cups.
 
That 1990 All-Star Game was notable for being the first to stage a Heroes of Hockey Game and an All-Star skills competition.
 
Morehouse promised the Penguins will remain aggressive in pursuing the All-Star Game, which will be played this season on Jan. 29 in Ottawa.
 
"I know we're going to ask an awful lot," Morehouse said. "We're going to see if we can wear them down. In a few years, I think it's a great place to host an All-Star game. It's one of the premier facilities, if not the premier facility, in the NHL. And Pittsburgh has proven itself a great hockey town -- we continue to lead U.S. teams in television ratings and merchandise sales and almost every other category. We're very excited about the growth of hockey in Pittsburgh, and how it continues to grow."
 
The Penguins will play before their 216th consecutive sellout crowd Thursday night when they meet the Islanders, a streak that began when they played in the Civic Arena. The 18,387-seat Consol Energy Center opened last season.
 
At least one more major hockey event will be played in Pittsburgh in the near future -- the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four. Morehouse also wants to bring the world junior championships to Consol, but has been told there is a waiting list for that popular, holiday-time tournament.
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Posted On Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 2:39 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

J. Staal has fond draft memories

PITTSBURGH—Jordan Staal said Pittsburgh is in for a treat.
 
Staal, one of the NHL's best two-way centers, said being drafted No. 2 by the Penguins in Vancouver in 2006 remains one of the biggest thrills of his life. He has watched other drafts since then, and he said it's always entertaining to watch a young player learn where he is going to begin his professional career.
 
"The draft was pretty cool for me," Staal said. "It's your first step into your new dream and it's a pretty fun experience that I'm sure a lot of players will never forget. I'm excited that it’s going to be in Pittsburgh, and I'm sure it’s going to be a lot of fun."
 
When the Entry Draft was last held in Pittsburgh in 1997 -- at the now-closed Civic Arena -- Joe Thornton was the No. 1 pick by Boston, followed by forward  Patrick Marleau, San Jose; forward Olli Jokinen, Los Angeles; goalie Roberto Luongo, the New York Islanders; and defenseman Eric Brewer, the Islanders. Other first-round picks included Sergei Samsonov, Marian Hossa and Brenden Morrow.
 
Thornton became only the second 17-year-old to be selected No. 1, joining Pierre Turgeon. Luongo was the first goaltender drafted as high as No. 4 since the draft began in 1969.
 
The Penguins' top pick, forward Robert Dome at No. 17, turned out to be one of their less-successful first-rounders. Dome, who wore his hair long to mimic then-Penguins star Jaromir Jagr, had 7 goals and 7 assists in 53 career NHL games, all but one with Pittsburgh.
 
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Posted On Wednesday, 10.19.2011 / 10:40 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli praises talent in USHL

In addition to the Stanley Cup ring he earned last season as general manager of the Boston Bruins, Peter Chiarelli also had a successful debut as part-owner of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League last season.

Dubuque captured the Clark Cup as USHL champion by winning Game 4 of its best-of-five series against the Green Bay Gamblers, 6-1, before 3,480 fans at Mystique Ice Center. Don't think for a second Chiarelli didn't know that it was also the largest crowd to see a game in the history of Dubuque hockey, which earned its first USHL crown since the 1984-85 campaign. Dubuque became the first expansion team to win the Clark Cup since the Lincoln Stars won it all during their inaugural season of 1996-97.

For Chiarelli, getting involved in the USHL has certainly turned out to be an exciting business venture.

"I've seen a lot of games in the USHL and our scouting staff sees a lot of games, so we have a good grasp on the league," Chiarelli told radio station 'Super Hits 106.1 FM' in Dubuque during intermission of a recent game. "I feel strongly about the league and I communicated that to those in the organization. The games I saw, the attendance was strong in every arena and the games were entertaining. The depth of the lines and defensive pairs were deeper than people expected, which speaks to the quality of the league."

In defense of their league title this season, Chiarelli is also delighted with the fact the Fighting Saints have two players considered top prospects for the 2012 Entry Draft, including forward Zemgus Girgensons and defenseman Mike Matheson.

"My schedule is all over the place so I like to see a team at home with good prospects, and on the road, and we have two in Girgensons and Matheson," Chiarelli said. "Zemgus has a lot of pro qualities and he's a real solid two-way player. I really like the way he protects the puck.

"You can tell Matheson is still growing into the league (as a first-year player), but he's a terrific talent and terrific skater. He can move the puck … he moves it to places where it's hard to move it, so you have two good players here."

Chiarelli was asked how impressed he's been with the caliber of talent in the USHL.

"I can tell you what we've done in our scouting staff reflects the value and the increasing improvement of the quality of players in the USHL," he said. "We've redirected a lot of our scouting schedules, so to speak, to make sure we have increased coverage in the USHL.

"You have to know the league very well," he continued. "It's a tough league to cover from a scouting perspective because it's spread across such a wide area. There are a lot of hidden gems in the USHL and, as time goes on, it won't be because it'll be heavily scouted. But I've redirected a lot of our scouts to make sure we get increased coverage here."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 11:34 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

NHL Director of Euro Scouting Goran Stubb offers overseas insight

There's no question the closer we get to the 2012 Entry Draft, the hot topic not only will be Russian forwards Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting and Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Quebec Remparts, but that incredibly talented crop of defensive prospects starring in the Western Hockey League.

However, there's also a fine group of prospects starring overseas who also might capture the fancy of NHL scouts and general managers.

Recently, NHL.com caught up with NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb to find who he thought were the most talented players outside North America. For starters, Stubb didn't hide the fact that Sweden will present a hockey haven for most scouts this season, with Finland coming in second.

"At present, there are some prospects from Russia, but no superstars," Stubb told NHL.com. "The Czechs, Slovaks, Swiss and Germans don't have anyone in the top 10 (among European skaters overseas) … right now."

Here are Stubb's top five European standouts eligible for the 2012 draft:

1. Filip Forsberg, F, Leksand (Sweden) - The 6-foot-1, 180-pound left wing (no relation to former NHL All-Star Peter Forsberg) was spectacular for his country at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August, totaling 4 goals and 10 points in six games for the silver medal-winning Swedes. His ability with the puck has been compared to fellow Swede Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators.

Swedish standout Filip Forsberg
"I think my offensive game is my biggest strength," Forsberg told reporters in July. "I like to shoot the puck, but I think I can play a complete game in terms of scoring, playmaking and defensive play."

Said Stubb: "He's a talented, speedy, two-way forward who can score the big goals. He also has a good selection of shots."

2. Sebastian Collberg, F, Frolunda (Sweden) - With decent size (5-11, 180) and sniper-like mentality off the right wing, Collberg is a player who might be off the radar at this point, but he won't stay there long. Collberg had 21 goals and 44 points in 35 games with Frolunda HC in 2010-11. In addition to a great wrist shot, scouts love the fact he isn't afraid to initiate contact in the corners.

"He has a great first step … is so quick," Stubb said. "He rushes down the wing and shoots a lot; he's got soft hands and a quick shot. He's a player with great offensive instincts."

3. Pontus Aberg, F, Djurgarden (Sweden) - The 5-11, 187-pound left wing, who missed being eligible for the 2011 draft by eight days, offers a right-handed shot. He produced 13 goals and 30 points in 41 games with Djurgarden's junior club in the J20 SuperElit league last season and already has 4 goals and 6 points in nine games playing in the Elitserien this season. Aberg's contract with Djurgarden runs through the 2013-14 season.

"He's played great to open up the fall season," Stubb said. "He's a speedy, hard-working winger with a nose for the net … a sniper with a very good overall skill level."

4. Teuvo Teravainen, F, Jokerit (Finland) - The left-handed Teravainen is being touted as Finland's top performer. NHL Network analyst and prospect guru Craig Button labeled Teravainen as a potential sleeper for the 2012 draft. The 5-11, 187-pound right wing had 16 goals and 35 points through 11 games for his Jokerit U-16 club in 2009-10. Last season, he had 5 goals and 17 points in 11 games for Finland's Under-17 Team. He has compared his style of play to Patrick Kane and Pavel Datsyuk.

"Talk about a dynamic skater ... Teravainen is a guy who can make things happen so quickly," Button said. "He's really smart and able to draw defenders to him and make really good plays. Right now he's a little slight, but when you watch him on the ice, he's a real dynamic player. Right now, for me, he's a guy who is a first-round pick. By springtime, he could be mentioned among the top guys."

Stubb agreed: "He speedy, quick and talented … an offensive-minded winger who, with quick, surprising moves creates scoring chances for linemates and himself around the net. He's a bit inconsistent from game to game and will need to improve in that area."

5. Henrik Samuelsson, F, MoDo (Sweden) - If the name sounds familiar it should -- Samuelsson is the son of former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, who spent 16 seasons in the NHL. Henrik left the U.S. National Team Development Program when his father was hired as MoDo's coach and has 2 assists and eight penalty minutes in eight games so far this season.

His older brother, defenseman Philip Samuelsson, was selected in the second round (No. 61) by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2009 draft.

Henrik, a 6-foot-2, 193-pound right wing was born in Scottsdale, Ariz., and had 28 points and 98 penalty minutes for the U.S. National Team Development Program's under-17 squad last season.

"He's got good size, works hard and plays with grit," Stubb said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 1:36 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Red Deer coach keeping close tabs on Nugent-Hopkins

Just because Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has secured a roster spot for at least nine regular season games with the Edmonton Oilers to open the 2011-12 campaign, doesn't mean his coach in Red Deer, Jesse Wallin, has lost contact with him.

"I talked to him quite a bit early on in camp just to see how he was doing," Wallin told NHL.com. "But I haven't been in touch with him a whole lot lately; just a text here and there to see how he's doing. It was his first camp and he enjoyed himself. It's all new and exciting and a great experience for him and he handled it really well."

Wallin was asked if he's torn between seeing Nugent-Hopkins make the Oilers roster or having him return to Red Deer for his third full season.

"You want the best for him and, selfishly, we'd love to have him back here," Wallin said. "So from that end of things, we'd absolutely want to have him back in Red Deer. But having said that, if he makes the Oilers, then that's what it's all about as well. We're here to develop guys for the NHL and that's our No. 1 goal and if he's prepared to make that step this year, than we've done our job and that's good for our program."

Nugent-Hopkins entered the 2011 draft as the No. 1-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting's final list in April. He led the Rebels and finished tied for third in the WHL scoring race with 106 points in 69 games during the 2010-11 regular season while his 75 assists led all WHL players. He was also named Player of the Game for Team Orr at the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

"Ultimately, at the end of the day, what I want to see happen is what's best for Ryan and for him as a player," Wallin said. "It's about what's going to be best for him this year and not just for this season but for long term as well. I just think he's a very special talent and I think he's going to be a big time NHL player. I say that not only because of his ability but because of his personality traits … he's just got a real level head on his shoulders and has that type of personality that you see in real elite hockey players."

During Canada's National Junior Team development camp in August, Nugent-Hopkins was in the spotlight since the event was held in Edmonton. At the time, Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said that Nugent-Hopkins had a better than 50 percent chance of making the Oilers. He also said it would be up to the player to convince Renney he's ready to take that next step -- but it won't be easy.

"If playing for the Edmonton Oilers benefits him long-term, than that's great and good for hockey and that's his dream and I'm sure that's what he's trying to accomplish and what he should be trying to accomplish," Wallin said. "But if benefitting him long-term requires he return to Red Deer, we'll certainly welcome him with open arms and continue working with him to get him prepared to make that step when he's ready."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.28.2011 / 11:51 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Trouba intends to fulfill college commitment

Collegiate hockey was making headlines for all the wrong reasons this past summer when three players opted out of their previous commitments and another decided to part ways after one season in the NCAA ranks for the Canadian Hockey League.

Three players drafted in the first round of the 2011 Entry Draft, including Jamie Oleksiak (No. 14 overall, Dallas Stars), J.T. Miller (No. 15, New York Rangers) and Connor Murphy (No. 20, Phoenix Coyotes) and second round pick John Gibson (No. 39, Anaheim Ducks) all had college commitments but changed their minds and instead felt the Canadian junior level was a better fit. Oleksiak had just completed his first season at Northeastern.

Needless to say, when defenseman Jacob Trouba of the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program on Monday announced via Twitter he would continue his career at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2012, the first question on everyone's mind was just how committed he is to play for Red Berenson next season.

"I plan on fulfilling my commitment to the University of Michigan," Trouba told NHL.com. "My parents have taught me to follow through on all commitments I make in life. I'm excited to wear the maize and blue, but right now I'm focused on representing my country and working towards another successful season with my team at the NTDP."

There was speculation that the Rochester, Mich., native would make the jump to the Canadian Hockey League following his first season with the USNTDP U-18 team this campaign. Trouba was chosen in the third round of the Ontario Hockey League's priority selection by the Kitchener Rangers.

"I chose Michigan for a number of reasons, both on and off the ice," Trouba said. "After visiting the campus, I got a great sense of what the hockey program means to the school. It's a great fit for me and I know I'll get along great with my teammates.

"Having the opportunity to play in front of my family was also a big factor in my decision making as I'm very close to them."

In 2010-11, Trouba played 37 games for the U-17 NTDP team and registered 6 goals, 19 points and 35 penalty minutes before being promoted to the U-18 team for the final 21 games of the season.

"The (Michigan) facilities and coaching staff are known throughout the hockey community and I believe they are the best around," Trouba said. "Yost is an awesome rink to play in with a great atmosphere. School was also a big part of my decision. I know hockey will end one day and it was important to know I’d be receiving a great education in addition to playing hockey."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 10:49 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

NTDP defenseman Trouba commits to Michigan

Jacob Trouba, one of the more highly touted draft-eligible players from the Under-18 U.S. National Team Development Program, has announced his destination in the fall of 2012.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound defenseman made it official on Monday via his Twitter account when he verbally committed to the University of Michigan. He was reportedly also considering the University of Notre Dame.

"Commited," Trouba tweeted. "It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine!"

Trouba won a silver medal for the U.S. at the 2011 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, producing 2 goals and 9 points in six games. He also scored a goal in the gold medal game of the 2011 U18 World Championships in a victory over Sweden.

Al Jensen of NHL Central Scouting paid close attention to Trouba during the USHL Fall Classic last week. He liked what he saw.

"I really liked the way he played in all three games I viewed; he's a very good size D man," Jensen told NHL.com. "He skates exceptionally well and likes to rush up ice with the puck and with good speed. He'll also join the rush himself, is very confident and has great agility. He's strong physically, can handle the puck and is always alert. He also did a good job with one-on-one rushes against ... he has great upside."

There was speculation that the Rochester, Mich., native would make the jump to the Canadian Hockey League following his first season with the USNTDP U-18 team this campaign. Trouba was chosen in the third round of the Ontario Hockey League's priority selection by the Kitchener Rangers.

The decision undoubtedly is music to the ears of veteran Wolverines coach Red Berenson, who will likely lose All-American sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill (New Jersey Devils) following this season, as well as senior goalie Shawn Hunwick. Michigan has made 21 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Minnesota-Duluth in the tournament final last year.

In 2010-11, Trouba played 37 games for the U-17 NTDP team and registered 6 goals, 19 points and 35 penalty minutes before being promoted to the U-18 team for the final 21 games of the season.

Former NTDP goalie John Gibson, who was committed to Michigan and was drafted in the second round by the Anaheim Ducks in June, pulled out of his commit over the summer to instead join the Kitchener Rangers for this season.

It seems as though Trouba has no interest in opting out of his commitment.

"I don't want to make a commitment and then back down from it," Trouba told the media during the NHL's Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Friday, 09.23.2011 / 11:07 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

USHL Fall Classic loaded with draft-eligible players

The United States Hockey League's annual Fall Classic has traditionally offered NCAA Division I and III coaches, along with NHL representatives, a tremendous opportunity to catch a glimpse of many of the top players in the country. Several of those standouts also happen to be eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

The four-day event, which includes each of the USHL's 16 teams and encompasses 24 games, also attracts many of the country's top scouts. NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee, who specializes in scouting the mid-West and those players in the USHL, is a loyal follower of the Fall Classic.

Prior to the tournament, Barzee took some time to talk to NHL.com about those players he will be paying particular attention to at this year's tournament. Following the tournament, which concludes Sept. 24, we'll reach out to Barzee to receive his post-tournament evaluations.

The player who might be getting the most attention this week at the Fall Classic is 6-foot-1, 182-pound forward Zemgus Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints.

"He's the most experienced player … already having a year in the league and is the most physically developed," Barzee said.

NHL Network analyst Craig Button likes the fact Girgensons gets another year under his belt with Dubuque head coach Jim Montgomery, who not only starred alongside Paul Kariya at the University of Maine but spent parts of six seasons in the NHL. He captained the 1992-93 Maine team to the school's first NCAA championship.

"It's early to say who will emerge out of the group of centermen eligible for the draft but Girgensons has Jim Montgomery as his coach and that is going to help him," Button told NHL.com. "Girgensons is too good to play in the junior leagues but he's not good enough to play in the KHL, so he has to find a place where he can develop his skills."

Committed to the University of Vermont in the fall of 2012, the Latvian center finished third on the team with 49 points (21 goals) in 51 games in 2010-11 and was selected to the mid-season Western Conference All-Star Team.

Girgensons received an automatic one-game suspension in a 3-1 victory over the Tri-City Storm on Thursday and will sit out Friday's contest against Muskegon. He received his suspension with 25 seconds remaining in the third period after being issused a game misconduct for checking from behind.

Another player starring in Dubuque is left-handed defenseman Michael Matheson (6-foot, 170 pounds), who recently won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2011 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.

Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (6-2, 175) of Sioux City is committed to the University of North Dakota. He finished his rookie season in the USHL as the league's highest-scoring defenseman with 44 points (13 goals) in 53 games. Schmaltz was named to the USHL's 2011 All-Rookie Team.

Barzee's USHL dark horse candidate for the 2012 draft is Sioux City defenseman Cliff Watson (6-2, 195), who is committed to Ohio State next September.

"He played with Appleton United last year and I like everything about him," Barzee said. "He's a bull. Secondly, he's a bull who can skate, can shoot the puck, moves the puck, knows the game and can put you in the nickel seats. That's a pretty good combination for me. Watson will be the second guy on the power-play to get a lot of assists, but he's also a dynamite defensive player."

The Fargo Force has two players in the fold, including 5-foot-10 defenseman Brian Cooper and 6-2 blueliner Justin Wade.

"Cooper is going to be one of those real controversial-type guys heading into the draft because he's another Gary Suter or Matt Carle type; he's not yet 6-foot, but is one of those offensive-type defensemen in the mold of Ryan Murphy (Carolina Hurricanes)."

Wade, who recently committed to the University of Notre Dame, played 35 games with the Force as a 16-year-old in 2010-11. He was also a member of the U.S. Under-18 Select Team in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament this past summer.

There are also several players starring for the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team, including forwards Cameron Darcy, Nicolas Kerdiles (Wisconsin), Brendan Silk (Boston College) and Stefan Matteau (North Dakota), defenseman Jacob Trouba and goalie Collin Olson (Ohio State).

Among that group of formidable players, Trouba, who hasn't committed to college but whose rights belong to the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers, would appear to be a first-round talent next June.

Trouba had 7 points in 21 games for the U-18 team last year and 6 goals, 19 points in 37 contests for the U-17 Team. The native of Rochester, Mich., scored the first goal in a 4-3 overtime gold-medal game triumph over Sweden in the 2011 U18 World Championship in Germany last April.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.21.2011 / 1:17 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov looks to be top choice ... for now

And so it begins.

Nail Yakupov, Sarnia Sting
The road to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is well under way and, not surprisingly, there are several players vying for top honors. At the head of the list is Russian Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League.

The Sting open the season on Friday against Erie at the RBC Centre. In six preseason games, Yakupov did nothing to disappoint, racking up 6 goals and 15 points. He closed out the preseason with a spectacular five-point outburst, including 4 goals, in a 6-1 victory over the Windsor Spitfires.

NHL Network analyst Craig Button feels Yakupov is the real deal.

"He's got an abundance of skills," Button told NHL.com. "When you're talking about the top eight guys (in the 2012 draft), you're talking about so many attributes and he fits right into that category as a player with multiple attributes."

The native of Nizhnekamsk, Russia, who was named Rookie of the Year in the Canadian Hockey League in 2010-11, led all first-year players and finished tied for fourth overall in OHL scoring with 101 points in 65 games (49 goals, 52 assists).  He became just the fifth OHL rookie to reach 100 points in a season in the last 15 years and established new team record for goals and points by a rookie -- surpassing the marks set by Steven Stamkos in 2006-07.

"When you watch Yakupov, you can see that explosive ability but you also that stealth ability, like Jari Kurri," Button said. "Kurri would wait, and before you knew it, not only was (Wayne) Gretzky moving in, but Kurri was moving into the right spot and it was too late. Yakupov has that ability, which is why I've compared him to Kurri. Jari was always one of those guys to say, 'I'm not going to go there yet because it's not time to go there.' Yakupov has that similar ability and patience."

Yakupov (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) represented Russia at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships, notching a hat trick in a 6-4 victory over Team Canada in the bronze medal game.

In addition to Yakupov, Button named three defensemen from the Western Hockey League who looked primed to go in relative early fashion next June -- Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, Matt Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels and Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Murray was named Everett's captain this past season by head coach Craig Hartsburg despite the fact his 6-foot-1/2, 190-pound blueliner had just turned 17-years-old. The move was made when regular captain Landon Ferraro, a second-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, was sidelined due to sports hernia surgery and a bum shoulder. He'll serve as captain of the Silvertips this season as well. In 122 career games for the Silvertips, Murray has recorded 73 points (11-62-73) and is Everett's all-time plus-minus leader with a +51 rating.

"Murray is a real dependable, consistent defenseman," Button said. "He reminds me of a Kevin Lowe-type defender. He passes the puck very well and is the type of player you want on your team."

NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards feels Murray is the complete package.

"He's an excellent skater," Edwards said. "His mobility, agility and speed make him, at this point, one of the best skaters up for the draft. He possesses excellent puck handling and decision making and is a top two defenseman in Everett. I would expect him to be a top two at the pro level as well."

Dumba was the WHL's rookie of the year in 2010-11, connecting for 15 goals and 26 points for the Rebels in 62 games. He was also a plus-24 with 83 penalty minutes. At the 2011 U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg, Manitoba in January, Dumba led the tournament with 12 assists and 12 points.

"He's a kid who reminds me of P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens)," Button said of Dumba.

Rielly, meanwhile, led Moose Jaw in scoring as a rookie last season with 6 goals and 28 points in 65 games. He was also the second youngest player to represent Team Canada at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships.

"Rielly will lift you out of your seat," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com. "He's and exceptional skater; he skates as well as anyone that's ever played in the WHL. He twists and turns on a dime and is very exciting to watch."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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2012 NHL Draft