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by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Every year, there are NHL prospects who head to the Scouting Combine in Toronto with a chip on their shoulder or a determination to show their worth. Whether that comes from negative attention in the media, a tough season due to injury, or underperformance, the Combine is one place the player can start to solidify his draft stock.

The 2012 draft class features a handful of players in that situation. Top-ranked North American skater Nail Yakupov battled through a back injury and a concussion during the 2011-12 season, but was still able to post 69 points in 42 games (31 goals, 38 assists) and led the Sarnia Sting in power-play goals (15). Does he have something to prove? Sure, but his outstanding rookie season in 2010-11 (101 points) and stellar performance in the 2011 World Junior Championship vaulted him into the top-pick conversation for 2012.

Which players at this week’s Combine have a lot to play for? Here are three guys to keep an eye on.



2011-12 STATS: 2 GP, 0-0-0 (4 POINTS IN PLAYOFFS)

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the 18-year-old center, who finished fourth in NHL Central Scouting’s final pre-draft rankings. He’s a second-generation NHL prospect: father Alex, Sr. traveled the globe playing pro hockey, and Alex Jr. was born in Madison, Wis.

A serious ACL injury during the OHL preseason forced Galchenyuk to miss most of the regular season, but he was able to return for the first round of the playoffs where Sarnia was eliminated by Saginaw. Does this kid have top-end talent? That’s the word, but his injury trouble could have some teams on the fence. In 2010-11, he was the OHL’s second-leading rookie scorer with 83 points in 68 games – finishing second only to Yakupov.

As the Combine weekend gets under way, it will be worth keeping an eye on Galchenyuk and how he responds to the physical fitness testing. This is an important step for him in the pre-draft process.



2011-12 STATS: 59 GP, 40-45-85

Grigorenko’s name has been in the news recently, for reasons he probably isn’t fond of. His character has been called into question by some in the hockey media and as a result, he slipped down some mock draft boards despite being named the BMO Rookie of the Year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Mikhail Grigorenko in action during the 2011-12 season with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. 
Patrick Roy, his head coach with the Remparts, came to his defense and supported Grigorenko (via’s Arpon Basu):

"This is a well-deserved award for a hard-working athlete," Roy said. "Mikhail Grigorenko is an impactful player with a grade-A attitude. The Remparts organization is quite proud of his accomplishment."

Why has Grigorenko fallen down some draft boards? Some say he wasn’t as visible during the playoffs as he was in the regular season and appeared to fade in and out of some games down the stretch. But Grigorenko was diagnosed with mononucleosis in the playoffs and he said it caused his regular eating routine to be disrupted.

Scouts think this player has all the tools to be a dynamic center in the NHL. It’s up to Grigorenko to prove the believers right, and the doubters wrong.



2011-12 STATS: 64 GP, 17-43-60

This year’s draft class is considered to be strong in skilled defensemen, and while names like Morgan Rielly, Griffin Reinhart and Matthew Dumba permeated the news throughout the junior hockey season, Ceci flew under the radar- until the final Central Scouting Rankings were released.

Ceci has “something to prove” not because he rocketed up the final ranking, but because he leapfrogged a number of prominent names who were high on several prognosticator’s lists throughout the year. The only OHL defenseman who had more points than Ceci at the conclusion of the season was Boston Bruins draft pick Dougie Hamilton – widely believed to be the most NHL-ready defenseman not playing in the NHL. Ceci checked in at 16th in the midterm ranking but went on an absolute tear in the second half of the season.

But the one memory likely to stick with Ceci is being left off the 2012 Canadian World Junior team. He was invited to the pre-tournament camp, but did not make the final roster. Imagine if he’s a top-five pick in the upcoming draft? What a story that would become.


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