According to first-year Central Scouting director Dan Marr, "thisclose."
In fact, at this point in the season, Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting and Grigorenko of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Quebec Remparts could easily be considered exhibits 1-A and 1-B. At least that's what Marr said Wednesday afternoon, just hours after the release of the midterm report that had Yakupov and Grigorenko, teammates for the silver medal-winning Russian Junior National Team at the World Junior Championship, first and second, respectively.
2012 NHL DRAFT
D-men dominate top 10 in midterm ranksMike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
Teams needing to build their blue line in the upcoming NHL Draft will be in luck, as the midterm rankings from Central Scouting indicate plenty of the top prospects are defensemen. READ MORE ›
NHL.com: How close was the voting to have Nail Yakupov ahead of Mikhail Grigorenko on your midterm rankings?
Marr: I don't know if it came down to one particular thing, because we didn't dwell on what players can't do … we were dwelling on what the players bring to the table. 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. 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.
NHL.com: As this was your first big meeting as a group with you as director, how smoothly did everything run?
Marr: The nice thing for me is that there were no surprises. The experience and professionalism from the staff is what I was expecting from my many years of knowing them. They've developed, internally, Meeting Manager [software] which I was really impressed with. It does facilitate the process that you go through at the meetings when it comes to voting on which player you would have over the other.
NHL.com: Were there many disagreements among the scouts?
Marr: No, not really. I would expect there to be more as we head into the final meetings. I think every guy from his area was satisfied that those players from his area received the proper recognition and were placed in the proper spot. There were no battles to be fought at this point. When you're comparing one player to another, it sometimes gets more passionate than heated between two scouts.
NHL.com: Why were injured players Morgan Rielly and Slater Koekkoek, who could both be out for the remainder of the regular season, ranked, and Alex Galchenyuk, also out with a season-ending injury, not ranked?
Marr: Our rationale went to a point where we do have a history of the players who we're talking about and we did have summer coverage leading into the season. But we had views of [Rielly and Koekkoek] in the early part of the season prior to their injuries. We haven't had any games to evaluate Galchenyuk this year, so we didn't feel it would be fair to the process. I reached out to a lot of NHL clubs just to see what they would expect from us, and they were fine with us listing him as an LV [limited viewing] player. Everyone knows the player, and the team will make their choices come June as to where they would want to consider selecting him. For us, it just wasn't fair to slot him into a process when we haven't had the chance to see him play any games this season.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale