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Darryl's Dispatch: Midseason Draft Profiles

Darryl Houston Smith

Darryl Houston Smith

Darryl is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and in 2011-12 won the CBSSports.com Experts Fantasy Hockey League title. Find more of his work at ProHockeyWeekly.com or BlogTalkRadio. Follow him on Twitter at @dhoustonsmith.


Darryl's Dispatch
2012 MID-SEASON DRAFT RANKINGS AND PROSPECT PROFILES

The prospect class of 2011-12 has so far been defined by two main traits, one good and one bad. First off the bad news, this group of potential stars has suffered a surprising large number of injuries. Players such as Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray, Morgan Rielly, Pontus Aberg, Alex Galchenyuk, Slater Koekkoek and Martin Frk have all lost significant time this season due to injuries don't be surprised if a number of these players slide a bit in the upcoming draft because of it. The other much more pleasant characteristic is the large number of blue chip defensemen that will be available (seven of the top 10 North American skaters are defensemen).

Let's take a closer look at NHL Central Scouting's mid-season draft rankings of North American skaters.

RANK PLAYER TEAM LEAGUE HEIGHT WEIGHT POSITION
1 YAKUPOV, NAIL SARNIA OHL 5' 11" 189 RW
2 GRIGORENKO, MIKHAIL QUEBEC QMJHL 6' 3" 200 C
3 MURRAY, RYAN EVERETT WHL 6' 1" 201 D
4 FAKSA, RADEK KITCHENER OHL 6' 3" 202 C
5 RIELLY, MORGAN MOOSE JAW WHL 6' 0" 190 D
6 MAATTA, OLLI LONDON OHL 6' 2" 202 D
7 DUMBA, MATT RED DEER WHL 6' 0" 183 D
8 REINHART, GRIFFIN EDMONTON WHL 6' 4" 207 D
9 TROUBA, JACOB USA U-18 USHL 6' 2" 193 D
10 POULIOT, DERRICK PORTLAND WHL 5' 11" 186 D


The top two spots are held by Russian forwards who came to North America early to play their junior hockey. Both have benefited greatly by the extra exposure. Since Yakupov and Grigorenko will also be courted heavily by KHL teams it's doubtful that time in the AHL would be palatable to them. Still their willingness to come here is a strong signal that they are very likely to sign that initial NHL contract (as long as they are promised NHL minutes). If either is taken number one overall they would become the first Russian since Alexander Ovechkin was selected by Washington in 2004 to be taken that highly.

The quality of defensemen available in the upcoming draft is impressive. If you're looking for a defensive ace you have Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart and Olli Maatta to choose from. Need high end offensive skill? You can pick from Morgan Rielly, Matt Dumba or Derrick Pouliot. This is shaping up to be the best blueline class since 2003 (the year Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, and Brent Seabrook were drafted).

The following profiles represent some of the elite talent that will be available at the upcoming NHL Entry Draft this coming June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.

Nail Yakupov
Sarnia OHL
5'11" 189 lbs. Right Wing, shoots left
Born: Oct. 6, 1993 in Nizhnekamsk, Russia
Mid-Season Ranking: 1 North American Skater

Yakupov represented Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championships. He tied for the tournament lead in assists with nine (0-9-9) helping Russia win silver - he recorded four assists in the semifinal against Canada.

In 2010-11, he led his team and all Ontario Hockey League rookies in scoring with 101 points (49-52-101) in 65 games. It was the most points by a first-year player since Patrick Kane had 145 points in 2006-07. His scoring also surpassed Steven Stamkos' team records for goals (42) and points (92) by a Sarnia rookie. For his efforts he was named the OHL Rookie of the Year and the Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year.

Yakupov helped lead Russia to a bronze medal at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships recording 13 points (6-7-13) in seven games - including a hat trick in the bronze-medal game helping Russia defeat Canada 6-4.

His first name, Nail, is Arabic in origin and means "reaching, achieving or gaining success."

HOUSTON SMITH: "Yakupov can best be described in three words; explosive, dynamic and intense. He is simply the best prospect not currently in the NHL."

Post script: After playing three games in three nights, Yakupov was suspended by the CHL for skipping the annual CHL/NHL Top Prospects game.

STATISTICS

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM
2011-12 Sarnia OHL 29 22 33 55 24
2010-11 Sarnia OHL 65 49 52 101 71


FILIP FORSBERG
Leksand Allsvenskan
6'2" 181 lbs. Center, shoots right
Born: Aug 13, 1994 in Ostervala, Sweden
Mid-Season Ranking: 1 European Skater

The youngest player on Team Sweden at the 2012 World Junior Championships, Forsberg helped Sweden capture gold, their first World Junior gold medal since 1981. He also won a pair silver medals with Sweden at the 2011 Under-18 World Championships and the 2011 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.

This season, Forsberg was promoted by Leksand to play in the Allsvenskan (second division of Sweden's senior league).

He models his game after former NHL All-Star Peter Forsberg (no relation).

Forsberg's has a younger brother (Fredrik Forsberg) and a cousin (Linus Carlsson) who are both promising players in the Leksand farm system.

HOUSTON SMITH: "Flip is a very mature kid with great acceleration and balance. He is also a terrific passer and his overall game at this stage of his development reminds me most of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins."

STATISTICS

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM
2011-12 Leksand Allsvenskan 36 7 7 14 31
2010-11 Leksand Jr. Sweden-Jr. 36 21 19 40 22


ANDREI VASILEVSKI
Tolpar Ufa-2 Russia-Jr.
6'3" 204 lbs. Goaltender, catches right
Born: July 25, 1994 in Tyumen, Russia
Mid-Season Ranking: 1 European Goaltender

Vasilevski represented Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championships where he posted four wins, a 2.01 goals-against average, .953 save percentage and two shutouts, helping Russia to capture silver. He finished the tournament ranked second among goaltenders in saves, wins and save percentage.

He helped lead Russia to a bronze at the 2011 Under-18 World Championships posting a 4-2-0 record with a 2.62 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage - fellow 2012 Draft prospects Nail Yakupov (No. 1 ranked North American skater) and Mikhail Grigorenko (No. 2 ranked North American skater) were also on the team.

Vasilevski is following in the footsteps of his father (Andrei Sr.), who was also a goaltender in the old Russian Super League and is currently a coach with Tolpar Ufa-2.

HOUSTON SMITH: "He really impressed me at the World Junior Championships. Vasilevski has a knack for the big save, remains calm under intense pressure, and is very tough to beat up high due to his terrific body mechanics and advance technique." "He reminds me most of Boston's Tuukka Rask."

STATISTICS

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM
2011-12 Tolpar Ufa-2 MHL 22 2.15 1,174 3 .934
2010-11 Tolpar Ufa-2 MHL 14 1.81 730 3 .937


MALCOLM SUBBAN
Belleville OHL
6'1" 188 lbs. Goalie, catches left
Born: Dec. 21, 1993 in Toronto, Ontario
Mid-Season Ranking: 1 North American Goaltender

Subban currently leads the Ontario Hockey League with a 1.98 goals-against average and a.937 save percentage - in 20 games he has recorded 14 wins for the Bulls. Last season, he appeared in 32 games with Belleville posting 10 wins (10-17-0) and finishing second among OHL rookie goaltenders with a 3.16 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage.

He is one of three hockey playing brothers. His older brother, P.K., was drafted 43rd overall by Montreal in 2007 and is in his second full NHL season with the Montreal Canadiens. Younger brother, Jordan, was selected fifth overall by Belleville in the 2011 Ontario Hockey League Draft.

Subban played for Team Canada at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships earning a shutout in his first game. He finished the tournament with 2.98 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.

Subban started skating at 22 months and began playing hockey at age three. He played defense until he was 12 before becoming a goaltender. One year after changing positions he was playing AAA in the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

HOUSTON SMITH: "He missed the month of October with an ankle injury, but has made a strong comeback."Belleville is very poor offensively but Subban keeps them in every game. He seems to improve every time I see him."

STATISTICS

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM
2011-12 Belleville OHL 20 1.98 1,149 2 .937
2010-11 Belleville OHL 32 3.16 1,785 0 .900


Mikhail Grigorenko
Quebec QMJHL
6'3" 200 lbs. Left Wing, shoots left
Born: May 16, 1994 in Khabarovsk, Russia
Mid-Season Ranking: 2 North American Skater

He leads the Quebec Remparts and all Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rookies in scoring with 66 points (29-37-66) in 44 games this season. Grigorenko was selected second overall in the 2011 CHL Import Draft by Quebec behind fellow 2012 Draft prospect Olli Maatta (No. 6 ranked).

Grigorenko was selected to represent Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championships. He recorded five points (2-3-5) in six games helping Russia capture silver.

Grigorenko played for Russia at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships leading his team to a bronze medal. He finished second in tournament scoring with 18 points (4-14-18) in seven games and led the tournament in assists. He also represented Russia at the 2010 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge where he racked up ten points (6-4-10) in six games and was selected as the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

HOUSTON SMITH: "The only knock on Grigorenko and it's a big one is that without the puck he is a very lazy player despite his abundance of offensive skills and high ceiling his lack of intensity is disappointing."

STATISTICS

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM
2011-12 Quebec QMJHL 44 29 37 66 6
2010-11 CSKA-2 Russia-Jr. 38 13 17 30 22


RYAN MURRAY
Everett WHL
6'1" 201 lbs. Defense, shoots left
Born: Sept. 27, 1993 in Regina, Saskatchewan
Mid-Season Ranking: 3 North American Skater

Murray represented Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championships collecting two assists in five games as Canada captured bronze. He was one of two 2012 draft-eligible players(along with Tanner Pearson) selected to represent Canada at the tournament.

He has 20 points (8-12-20) in 27 games in 2011-12 after missing 19 games with an ankle injury. Murray began the season as the franchise's all-time plus-minus leader with a plus-51 rating.

At the start of the 2010-11 season, he was named captain of the Everett Silvertips becoming the youngest captain in franchise history. In 70 games, he led the team with a plus-18 rating and led all defensemen with 46 points (6-40-46). Over his final 36 games he tallied 33 points (4-29-33) helping the Silvertips qualify for the 2011 playoffs.

Murray captained Team Canada at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships, finishing second on the team in scoring with 10 points (3-7-10) in seven games and was selected as a First Team All-Star for the tournament. He was also the youngest player and the only 2012 NHL Draft eligible prospect that competed for Canada at the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.

HOUSTON SMITH: "There is a reason he was named a captain at 17. Murray is very poised and a terrific defender. He makes his teammates better and can really control the pace of a game at this level."

STATISTICS

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM
2011-12 Everett WHL 27 8 12 20 25
2010-11 Everett WHL 70 6 40 46 45


RADEK FAKSA
Kitchener OHL
6'3" 202 lbs. Center, shoots left
Born: Jan. 9, 1994 in Vitkov, Czech Republic
Mid-Season Ranking: 4 North American Skater

This season, Faksa leads all Ontario Hockey League rookies in scoring with 34 points (22-26-48) in 44 games for the Kitchener Rangers - he was selected the OHL Rookie of the Month for November.

He represented the Czech Republic at the 2012 World Junior Championships recording two goals in six games and helping the Czech Republic to a fifth place finish - he lists making the team as his most memorable hockey moment. He also played for the Czech Republic at the 2011 Under-18 World Championships with fellow 2012 Draft prospect Martin Frk.

HOUSTON SMITH: "Uses his size well and combines top notch speed and skill. Faksa excelled at the World Junior's as a penalty-killer and really impressed me with his determination and grit.""He has the makings of a solid two-way forward but No. 4 is way too high."

STATISTICS

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM
2011-12 Kitchener OHL 44 22 26 48 33
2010-11 Trinec Jr. Czech Jr. 24 9 6 15 12


MORGAN RIELLY
Moose Jaw WHL
6'0" 190 lbs. Defense, shoots left
Born: Mar. 9, 1994 in Vancouver, British Columbia
Mid-Season Ranking: 5 North American Skater

Rielly recorded 18 points (3-15-18) in 18 games this season before suffering a knee injury. In 2010-11, he led the Moose Jaw Warriors in rookie scoring and was second among defensemen with 28 points (6-22-28) in 65 games.

He helped Canada capture gold at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and was the second youngest player to represent Team Canada at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. He helped Team Pacific win a bronze medal alongside fellow 2012 Draft prospects Matthew Dumba (No. 7 ranked) and Griffin Reinhart (No. 8 ranked).

HOUSTON SMITH: "Rielly is a high quality puck mover. It's easy to see him running a top power play unit someday. Technically very sound and might be the best all-around defenseman available in the draft. It's a real shame his knee injury (torn ACL) has likely cost him the rest of the 2011-12 season."

STATISTICS

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM
2011-12 Moose Jaw WHL 18 3 25 18 2
2010-11 Moose Jaw WHL 65 6 22 28 21


OLLI MAATTA
London OHL
6'2" 202 lbs. Defense, shoots left
Born: Aug. 22, 1994 in Jyvaskyla, Finland
Mid-Season Ranking: 6 North American Skater

Maatta was selected to play for Finland at the 2012 World Junior Championships - he was injured during the tournament opening game against Canada and was unable to participate in the remainder of the tournament. He played in six games for Finland at the 2011 World Junior Championships - he competed just three months after turning 16, becoming the youngest player to represent Finland at the World Junior Championships.

In his first Ontario Hockey League season, he ranks second among all rookie defensemen with 21 points (2-19-21) in 40 games.

Maatta also played for Finland at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships recording four points (1-3-4) in eight games - he was voted one of Finland's top three players at the tournament.

HOUSTON SMITH: "The makings of a very solid defensive game are already there. On the downside Maatta is a little tentative offensively and lacks creativity with the puck."

STATISTICS

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM
2011-12 London OHL 40 2 19 21 19
2010-11 JYP Jr. Finland-Jr. 19 2 6 8 8


MATHEW DUMBA
Red Deer WHL
6'0" 183 lbs. Defense, shoots right
Born: July 25, 1994 in Regina, Saskatchewan
Mid-Season Ranking: 7 North American Skater

This season, Dumba is tied for second among WHL defensemen (behind Pouliot) with 16 goals (16-22-38) in 49 games. In December, he was the youngest player, and one of five draft-eligible players, invited to Canada's 2012 World Junior Championship selection camp.

He was selected as the Western Hockey League's Rookie of the Year in 2010-11 after he led the Rebels in rookie scoring with 26 points (15-11-26). His 15 goals ranked first among rookie defensemen and tied for seventh overall among WHL defensemen.

Dumba captained Canada at the 2011 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial recording three points (2-1-3) in five games helping Canada capture gold. His previous international experience was at the 2011 World Under-17 Challenge where he helped Team Pacific win a bronze medal and led the tournament in scoring with 12 points (0-12-12) in six games.

HOUSTON SMITH: "Electrifying blend of speed and power but don't sell his overall game short. Dumba is a pretty smart cookie and a huge hitter."

STATISTICS

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM
2011-12 Red Deer WHL 49 16 22 38 53
2010-11 Red Deer WHL 62 15 11 26 83