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.
"I'm going a long ways back, but he has that same demeanor as Yakushev," Bordeleau said. "He's in that mold of those bigger guys like a Jean Beliveau. Sometimes it looked like Beliveau wasn't doing anything but he would really move and there's a lot of little things that he did. I've watched Grigorenko closely, and he's done some great things defensively too.
"His defensive part of the game is solid; he pays attention to where he is on the ice and, of course, his offensive skills are solid. Of course, Yakupov is so explosive. It's going to be an interesting first round of the draft."
One reason Bordeleau could see Grigorenko going ahead of Yakupov in the draft is the fact he possesses a bigger frame.
"When you're a kid that size (6-foot-3 1/4, 200 pounds) … everyone is looking for a guy like that," Bordeleau said. "He has the size and can play and can skate and he's talented and he can endure the wear and tear easier than the smaller guy."
Yakupov is listed at 5-10 1/2, 189 pounds.
"They are two different players and it'll come down to a team's needs I guess," he continued. "We didn't have to push him [to No. 2 overall among North American skaters behind Yakupov]. He's recognized as a talented player. Now, there will be some discussions among scouts between these two guys up until draft day. There's a lot of hockey being played, and it's been demanding on these kids."
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