Central Scouting to release final rankings Monday

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

So which Russian-born skater would you choose with the top pick of the 2012 NHL Draft -- Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting or Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts?

Maybe solidifying the defensive zone is much more important. If so, which high-end defenseman is capable of manning your blue line for the next 15-plus years?

After all, there are several available in this draft class.

NHL Central Scouting will shed some light on the subject Monday with the release of its final rankings of the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders in North America as well as the top 150 skaters and 10 goaltenders from Europe. The final list, full analysis and coverage will be available on NHL.com and announced on NHL Live and the NHL Network.

The 2012 NHL Draft will take place at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, June 22-23.

At January's mid-term release, Central Scouting had Yakupov as the top-rated prospect and Grigorenko, second. Yakupov finished third on his team with 69 points, including 31 goals and a plus-15 rating, in 42 games for the Sting in the Ontario Hockey League. Grigorenko had 40 goals, 85 points and a plus-35 rating in 59 games for Quebec in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.


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Is it possible that no matter what Central Scouting projects, Grigorenko has an advantage with his 6-foot-3 1/4, 200-pound frame? Yakupov is 5-10 1/2, 189 pounds.

"That will be something teams might consider," Central Scouting's David Gregory told NHL.com. "The first time I saw Yakupov, I thought of Pavel Bure. But Yakupov and Grigorenko are different types of players. There's that sniper, finisher, get-to-the-net type of guy in Yakupov. Then there's that patient make-the-play-come-to-him type of guy in Grigorenko. It's going to be interesting talk and, if you need a defenseman, there are lots of those, too."

The last time as many as five defensemen were among the top 10 players selected in the opening round of the draft was 1996, when six were chosen. That could be equaled in Round 1 this June. At least that's what Central Scouting believed based on its mid-term rankings release, when seven of the top 10 North American players listed starred along the blue line.

The laundry list of defensemen among the top 10 at the mid-term included No. 3 Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League, No. 5 Morgan Rielly of the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors, No. 6 Olli Maatta of the OHL's London Knights, No. 7 Mathew Dumba of the WHL's Red Deer Rebels, No. 8 Griffin Reinhart of the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings, No. 9 Jacob Trouba of the United States Hockey League's National Team Development Program and No. 10 Derrick Pouliot of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.

"What stands out with this group of D-men is their composure and presence on the ice," Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "They can handle pressure well and they don't get rattled. A majority of them are strong skaters, so they have those puck-moving skills of guys have who are successful in the NHL. For their age, they are as complete in development as you'll see."

One of the more intriguing storylines to follow come draft day is which goalie is selected first.

At the start of the season, Malcolm Subban of the OHL's Belleville Bulls appeared to be the clear frontrunner, but Andrei Vasilevski of Ufa 2 in Russia's Minor Hockey League may have closed the gap since Central Scouting's mid-term rankings.

Log on to NHL.com Monday to get all the answers.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale