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."
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