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NHL DRAFT: The Top Two

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Editor’s note: This is the first 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. will bring you insight from the club’s hockey operations team, and around the hockey world as we get set for the draft weekend.


One is from Sweden, the other is Russian. But they have at least one thing in common: both are headed for bright NHL futures, and the journey begins in a few short weeks. Nail Yakupov, the top-ranked North American prospect in 2012 by NHL Central Scouting, is the most dynamic player available in the draft according to many draft experts and forecasters. Filip Forsberg is the top-ranked European skater, and the young Swedish center has all the tools to make an impact at hockey’s highest level.

The next big question, of course, is where do they fit? And what can they bring to the team that selects them? Let’s take a look at some of the buzz surrounding these exciting young players.


NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards on Yakupov (via "His first step and ability to control bouncing pucks, knock them down and make a play are the best of any of the guys in the draft," said Central Scouting's Chris Edwards. "He really gets up to top speed very quickly and his hands are outstanding. Like Pavel Bure, Yakupov is dangerous every shift. He may not have been dominant on every shift like Bure was, but he created something every shift … you have to be aware where he is on the ice all the time."

NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb, on Forsberg (via “A leader who shows by example -- I would compare him to Anaheim's Corey Perry a little bit. Has a nose for the net, and often scores the big goals. He's a creative playmaker, good skater with fine straight-ahead speed. He's a right-handed forward with an excellent shot and an effective two-way player with a great winning attitude. Filip's a solid puck carrier with very good puck-handling skills; mature, good size and physically strong. On top of that, he'll sacrifice himself to make the play.”


These two players sit atop the final rankings for good reason. Forsberg is the younger of the two (will turn 18 in August), but played both junior hockey and professional hockey in Sweden during 2011-12. He played 43 games for Leksand, a second-division team in the Swedish senior league, registering eight goals and 17 total points – but the hockey world really took note at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Forsberg was a key cog in Sweden’s first World Junior gold medal victory since 1981, and played big minutes in all situations.

The fact he’s a center should help his draft stock, too. For example, take the two teams competing in the Stanley Cup final: the Los Angeles Kings (Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards) and New Jersey Devils (Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique) have multi-tool players down the middle who help them control the game and start shifts with puck possession. The aforementioned players have the ability to put up points, too, and many scouts believe Forsberg has the same kind of potential. And though his 6-foot-2 frame has yet to fill out, Forsberg has the physical tools necessary to make a difference at the pivot position.



HEIGHT: 5-foot-10

WEIGHT: 189 lbs.

AGE: 18

2011-12 STATS: 31-38-69 in 42 GP

CS FINAL RANKING: 1 (North American skaters)


HEIGHT: 6-foot-2

WEIGHT: 181 lbs.

AGE: 17

2011-12 STATS: 8-9-17 in 43 GP

CS FINAL RANKING: 1 (European skaters)


Tyler Wright, Blue Jackets director of amateur scouting, on the draft process:

“As our organization goes forward, we have to draft right and we have to develop right. That all starts at the draft table – we have to make the right pick. And this is part of the process we go through as an organization. We’ve cornered every inch of the globe over the last 8-10 months, and you pool all the information together…the concerns you have, trying to resolve those, and if you can’t, go back and dig deeper. It’s our job as a scouting staff to know everything we possibly can about these kids – especially those that we’re targeting going into the draft. It’s extremely important for our franchise, and we’re doing everything in our power to ensure that we get this right.”


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