Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a series of stories highlighting and profiling the top available prospects in this year’s NHL Draft, to be held at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22-23. BlueJackets.com will bring you insight from the club’s hockey operations staff, and around the hockey world as we get set for the draft weekend.
“STEADY AND FLASHY”
These are two of the most fitting adjectives to describe the players in this draft spotlight, Ryan Murray and Alex Galchenyuk. The “steady” moniker goes to the cold-blooded Murray, a standout defenseman with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League. The 18-year-old from White City, Saskatchewan has had the eye of NHL scouting departments since his first season in the WHL, and has risen to what many consider as the “can’t miss” prospect in this year’s draft.
What is he? For starters, he’s considered a multi-tool defenseman who plays in all situations, and is an underrated skater and mover of the puck. Positioning – both with his body and stick – is a strength and he always seems to be on what coaches call “the right side of the puck.” He served as the Silvertips’ captain for two seasons and led the team in defense scoring (31 points in 46 games) in 2011-12 despite missing time due to injury.
The other player in this week’s spotlight is Galchenyuk, the American center who could be one of the more dynamic players in the draft. He may have something to prove, as well: Galchenyuk battled through an injury-filled season in 2011-12 and returned in time for the OHL playoffs, but his Sarnia Sting was eliminated early on by the Saginaw Spirit. Galchenyuk and fellow top prospect Nail Yakupov were an electric 1-2 punch for Sarnia, and finished 1-2 in OHL rookie scoring back in 2010-11.
Galchenyuk was born in Milwaukee and is the son of Alex, Sr. (a native of Belarus), who played professional hockey across North America in the 1980s. He has elected to compete for the United States in international competition and, in the final ranking for NHL Central Scouting, finished fourth – one spot behind Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts. Galchenyuk was not included in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings because of his injury. What’s the ceiling for Galchenyuk? It’s hard to say, but on the surface, he’s an explosive center that skates well and is a threat to make something happen whenever he has the puck. His position, skills, and speed are a tantalizing trio for any interested general manager.
NHL Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald (via NHL.com), on Murray: "I think Murray is more like a [Scott] Niedermayer; he just does everything under the radar and so smooth you hardly notice it. His skating is probably the best in the [WHL], but you don't really notice that so much because you almost take it for granted he's been there for three years. He never gets out of position and I've never seen him lose a one-on-one battle. He's always, defensively, in the right spots. He just does everything so seamlessly that he reminds me of Niedermayer only because he does everything so well at such a high level and after a while, you don't even notice it."
Former NHL scout Grant McCagg of TSN.ca, on Galchenyuk: He had scouts drooling last season with 83 points as an OHL rookie at 16. He’s a big, power-forward type winger with soft hands who is good along the wall, has soft hands and can shoot the puck. He has missed his entire draft year with a knee injury, so there has been a decided lack of exposure. Teams may be concerned with how he bounces back from the injury. NHL upside: has the size and skill to be a top two center if he recovers fully from missing an entire season.
These are two completely different players, but each stands a strong chance of having a major impact on the team that drafts them. Murray could be the more “NHL-ready” of the two, but Galchenyuk proved to scouts and NHL clubs at the Scouting Combine in Toronto that he has fully recovered from his knee injury and is ready to begin training for the upcoming season. Galchenyuk is clearly the dynamic, “must-see” player in this case, but Murray has drawn several comparisons to one of the best defensemen of all time: Scott Neidermayer.
In an NHL.com mock draft, Galchenyuk was projected to go 19th overall by one scout who said the risk would pay off. While most of the concern about Galchenyuk surrounds his knee injury, he maintained at the Combine that he has no issues with the knee. That’s good news for interested teams, because his OHL rookie season opened a lot of eyes -- and he is going to have the same opportunity once selected at the NHL draft.
TALE OF THE TAPE
ALEX GALCHENYUK | CENTER
SARNIA STING (OHL)
STATS: 0-0-0 IN 2 GP (did play in OHL playoffs)
2011-12 CS FINAL RANKING: 4
RYAN MURRAY | DEFENSE
EVERETT SILVERTIPS (WHL)
STATS: 9-22-31 in 46 GP
2011-12 CS FINAL RANKING: 2
Follow @BlueJacketsNHL on Twitter, and use the hashtag #CBJLIKE Columbus Blue Jackets on Facebook