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Top draft prospects, CSS talk NHL comparisons

by Mike G. Morreale
VAUGHAN, Ont. -- Prior to every season, NHL Central Scouting already has evaluated hundreds of the top prospects available that year's upcoming NHL Draft.
In addition to meticulous reports that detail a player's good and bad points, and then sharing them with their colleagues, it's also helpful to have those prospects share what they think of themselves.
So long before Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting, Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts, Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, Radek Faksa of the Kitchener Rangers and Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors begin a new season, they've already completed Central Scouting's "questionnaire."
There's a good chance one of the aforementioned players, all among the top five North American skaters on Central Scouting's mid-term ranking in January, will earn the No. 1 rating when the final release is unveilied publicly in two weeks.
One of the more intriguing responses on the questionnaire happens to be in the section that asks each prospect for their strongest asset, weakest area and the NHL player he feels his style of play most resembles. The self-assessments, for the most part, usually are pretty accurate. The two defensemen among the top five North American skaters, Murray and Rielly, compared their styles to Chicago blueliner Duncan Keith. Not surprisingly, the top two Russians on the board, Yakupov and Grigorenko, compared themselves to a fellow Russian.
The scouts seemed to think each player wasn't too far off in their responses.
Here's a summary of what each of the top five North American prospects, the top North American goalie and the top European skater at the time of the mid-term rankings in January provided on their questionnaire.
As Yakupov, the top-ranked skater in North America, had not yet completed his questionnaire at the time of this feature, responses to questions were acquired during past interviews. The top European prospect at the midterm release, Filip Forsberg of Sweden, did not list a comparable NHL player. He did, however, list Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf as his favorite player. Yakupov didn't like comparing himself with an NHL player, either, but wears jersey No. 10 in honor of Pavel Bure.

Players are listed in the order they were rated in the mid-term rankings in January.
1. (North America) Nail Yakupov, RW, Sarnia Sting, OHL
2011-12: 42 games, 31 goals, 38 assists, 69 points, plus-15, 12 power-play goals
Comparison: "I want to be my own player; I don't compare my style to an NHL player."
Best asset: "My bread is my legs, and I have good hands, just not as good as [teammate Alex Galchenyuk]."
Where do you need improvement: "Can never do enough to become all-round better player."
NHL Central Scouting: "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, in my opinion," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "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."


Who are the Scouts' selections?
NHL scouts make their 2012 Draft first-round predictions. WEST SCOUT › | EAST SCOUT ›
2. Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec Remparts, QMJHL
2011-12: 59 games, 40 goals, 45 assists, 85 points, plus-35, 8 power-play goals
Comparison: Evgeni Malkin
Best asset: "My hands."
Where do you need improvement: "Play in the defensive zone."
NHL Central Scouting: "He's the type of player that controls the whole pace of the game. He can play with the puck at the same pace he plays without the puck," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "He sees the ice and opportunities really well. He can hang onto it longer than most players; some players might feel that they have to move it quickly, but Mikhail has the patience and the ability to see opportunities and let them develop, which is a special skill. He's got a big, long reach and an ability to move in traffic with his size (6-foot-3.25, 200). He's the kind of forward who will control the play and make things happen."
3. Ryan Murray, D, Everett Silvertips, WHL
2011-12: 46 games, 9 goals, 22 assists, 31 points, 31 penalty minutes
Comparison: Duncan Keith
Best asset: "Skating, passing."
Where do you need improvement: "Skating, shooting, vision and strength."
NHL Central Scouting: "I think Murray is more like a [Scott] Niedermayer; he just does everything under the radar and so smooth you hardly notice it," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald said. "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."
4. Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener Rangers, OHL
2011-12: 62 games, 29 goals, 37 assists, 66 points, plus-19, 8 power-play goals, 3 shorthanded goals
Comparison: Martin Havlat
Best asset: "Strongest asset as a player is my hockey sense."
Where do you need improvement: "To maintain the puck for longer times."
NHL Central Scouting: "He has great quickness right out of the gate and can create openings for himself, moves the puck well and can really shoot it," Gregory said. "If the goalie is going to give him a spot to shoot, he better be able to cover it up, because he's going to be able to get the puck there. He's really dynamic that way … coming through the neutral zone and the attacking zone. It's almost like the eyes get big and he's going to attack the net. I think that dynamic to his game, that ability to really create with speed and going hard to the net, make him a force and such an attractive player."
5. Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL
2011-12: 18 games, 3 goals, 15 assists, 18 points, plus-6 (ACL surgery)
Comparison: Duncan Keith
Best asset: "Skating and passing."
Where do you need improvement: "Physical play."
NHL Central Scouting: "I've seen Rielly do things on the ice that nobody else was doing," MacDonald said. "I saw him make those little passes to guys who weren't expecting the puck to get there. He's the type of player who can lead the rush and he'll be the first guy back. I think his creativity makes him one of the top players in the league.
"He's like a chess player; he's thinking one or two moves ahead. He sees stuff coming that a lot of players don't see."
1. (Europe) - Filip Forsberg, C, Leksand, Sweden-2
2011-12: 43 games, 8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points, plus-3, 33 penalty minutes
Comparison: Didn't respond.
Best asset: "My skating, speed and mobility."
Where do you need improvement: "The offensive part … I have a good shot and good skill level."
NHL Central Scouting: "A leader who shows by example -- I would compare him to Anaheim's Corey Perry a little bit," NHL Director of European Scouting, Goran Stubb, told "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."
1. (Goalie) - Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville Bulls, OHL
2011-12: 39 games, 25-14-0, 2.50 goals-against average, 3 shutouts, .923 save percentage
Comparison: Marc-Andre Fleury
Best asset: "Lateral ability, using my size and flexibility."
Where do you need improvement: "Rebound control, playing the puck."
NHL Central Scouting: "I see Malcolm as Carey Price," Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "He's calm and poised. I find Fleury as more of an acrobatic goalie and getting out there, but Malcolm is very good with his positioning with outstanding lateral ability and quickness. He can make the big save to turn a game around, but he covers post-to-post so well with his butterfly. His leg extension is incredible and he has a very quick glove hand."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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