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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres

In a draft crop that is rich with top tier defensemen, a pair of Ontario Hockey League forwards – and teammates – are expected to hear their names called very early at the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.

Russian-born forwards Nail (pronounced Nah-eel) Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk of the Sarnia Sting are projected to be among the top players picked when the draft gets underway on June 22. The offensively-gifted Yakupov is unanimously considered to be the best player available this season despite only playing 42 games due to injuries. However he was able to score 69 points in those games, following up a rookie campaign where he set franchise records with 101 points and 49 goals. Galchenyuk was held pointless in just two regular season contests after tearing his ACL in the preseason, but was able to collect four points (2+2) in six playoff games. Both players appear to be fully recovered from their injuries, and acquitted themselves well in the fitness testing portion of last weekend’s Scouting Combine in Toronto.

Mikhail Grigorenko is another Russian-born skater that should be selected early, after scoring 85 points (40+45) in 59 games with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts. He’s a big body (6’3”, 200 lbs.) who is more physically imposing than Yakupov and Galchenyuk, but his work ethic has been called into question by several scouts. Grigorenko attended the Scouting Combine but did not take part in the fitness testing because he’s been hampered by a bout of mononucleosis. Several mock drafts have him going anywhere from third overall (The Hockey News) to ninth (McKeen’s Hockey).


  • Wednesday – Top 10 European Forwards
  • Monday, June 11 – Top 10 North American Defensemen
  • Wednesday, June 13 – Top 10 European Defensemen
  • Monday, June 20 – Top 10 North American Goalies
  • Wednesday, June 22 – Top 10 European Goalies

Nail Yakupov

North American Skater - Sarnia, OHL
Final Rank: 1 Midterm Rank: 1
Position: Right Wing Shoots: Left
Height: 5' 10" Weight: 189
Born: October 6, 1993 Hometown: Nizhnekamsk, RUS
Born in: Nizhnekamsk, RUS

Mikhail Grigorenko

North American Skater - Quebec, QMJHL
Final Rank: 3 Midterm Rank: 2
Position: Center Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 3" Weight: 200
Born: May 16, 1994
Born in: Khabarovsk, RUS

Alex Galchenyuk

North American Skater - Sarnia, OHL
Final Rank: 4 Midterm Rank:
Position: Center Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 0" Weight: 198
Born: February 12, 1994
Born in: Milwaukee, WI, USA

Radek Faksa

North American Skater - Kitchener, OHL
Final Rank: 7 Midterm Rank: 4
Position: Center Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 3" Weight: 202
Born: January 9, 1994
Born in: Vitkov, CZE

Brendan Gaunce

North American Skater - Belleville, OHL
Final Rank: 13 Midterm Rank: 11
Position: Center Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 215
Born: March 25, 1994
Born in: Sudbury, ON, CAN

Colton Sissons

North American Skater - Kelowna, WHL
Final Rank: 14 Midterm Rank: 14
Position: Center Shoots: Right
Height: 6' 1" Weight: 189
Born: November 5, 1993
Born in: North Vancouver, BC, CAN

Thomas Wilson

North American Skater - Plymouth, OHL
Final Rank: 15 Midterm Rank: 33
Position: Right Wing Shoots: Right
Height: 6' 4" Weight: 203
Born: March 29, 1994
Born in: Toronto, ON, CAN

Stefan Matteau

North American Skater - USA U-18, USHL
Final Rank: 17 Midterm Rank: 13
Position: Center Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 210
Born: February 23, 1994
Born in: Chicago, IL, USA

Zemgus Girgensons

North American Skater - Dubuque, USHL
Final Rank: 18 Midterm Rank: 12
Position: Center Shoots: Left
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 198
Born: January 5, 1994
Born in: Riga, LVA

Martin Frk

North American Skater - Halifax, QMJHL
Final Rank: 20 Midterm Rank: 25
Position: Right Wing Shoots: Right
Height: 6' 0" Weight: 204
Born: October 5, 1993
Born in: Pelhrimov, CZE

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