FF On The Draft: All Eyes On Sarnia
The minute the final selection was made in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, all eyes turned towards Sarnia forward Nail Yakupov.
Before the season even began, Yakupov had separated himself from his peers and was generally considered an overwhelming lock for the number one overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
While he’s received quite a bit of competition since then, primarily stemming from the Quebec Rempart’s Mikhail Grigorenko, Yakupov is still showing that he’s capable of playing any kind of game the opposition wants to bring his way.
Yakupov suffered a knee injury leading up to the CHL top prospects game and was forced to miss the contest as a result. While he was ready to return shortly after, the superstar had to endure a 2 game suspension handed down by the CHL for missing the big prospects match.
Yakupov returned to the ice Sunday night as the Sarnia Sting visited Sault Ste. Marie in a 12 goal affair that saw Yakupov assume the forefront of every scouts mind once again.
With a goal already on the books and Sarnia trailing by one with less than two minutes left in the game while shorthanded, Yakupov stunned the Greyhounds with an impeccable drive to the net for a shorthanded tally.
The game went to a shootout, and Yakupov did it again, scoring the only goal in the shootout on a move that’s about a silky as it gets.
What separates a young star like Nail Yakupov from the rest of his recently drafted peers is a knack for getting under the skin of every opponent he faces.
Yakupov has the hands and shot of a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but he brings an additional element of anger that his peers never seemed to have. We’ve seen youngsters like Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall engage in scrums and battles around the net, Yakupov actively seeks those battles out. I’ve mentioned that his hands are already NHL-calibre, but the added bonus with this young player is the fact that his physicality level might be right there with his offensive capability.
The intangibles that exist there are enough to make any NHL scout drool with delight.
But, there’s an interesting story brewing in the rehab facilities in Sarnia, Ontario. It’s not all just about the fiesty Yakupov. He has a counterpart alongside him that is still garnering attention despite the fact that he hasn’t played a game in 2011-2012 thus far.
Alex Galchenyuk tore his ACL on September 16th when he fell awkwardly into the goal post. This is one of the more disgusting knee-injuries that you’ll ever see.
But, despite the fact that he has yet to play a game this season, the International Scouting Service still has Galchenyuk ranked at #18 overall. Craig Button has echoed that sentiment of support by retaining Galchenyuk at #5 overall in his current ranking.
When you can remain in the top 20 of the NHL entry draft based soley on what you did as a rookie in the OHL, you know that you’ve done something right.
Galchenyuk and Yakupov might play for the same team, but the comparisons end there. Galchenyuk does not possess the nasty attitude that Yakupov maintains, but his skating and shooting ability are arguably ahead of the skater that’s projected to go number one overall.
Galchenyuk’s game runs in the vein of a true goal scorer. His shot is accurate, powerful, and multi-faceted. His bag of offensive tricks is overwhelming. When it comes to shooting, Galchenyuk is a technician.
But the question remains, how will Galchenyuk rebound from this knee injury? And how will it affect his stock on draft day? Rankings are one thing, but when a general manager steps to the podium to make a first round selection that will vastly impact the future makeup of his team, can he make a selection for a player like Galchenyuk with such a limited viewing and such a large question mark over his future in the game?
It might be worth the gamble. The skills and statistics don’t lie. As a rookie in the OHL last season, Galchenyuk played in 68 games, netted 31 goals and 52 assists en route to an 83 point campaign. It certainly isn’t a stretch to imagine that Galchenyuk might have been able to reach the 100 point plateau with Nail Yakupov taking and dishing passes from the off wing position.
Pay particular attention to the :27 mark of the above video. Galchenyuk is on the power-play. The goaltender has him marked and has the post covered. Galchenyuk puts everything he has behind a wrist shot that somehow manages to make it top shelf over the goaltenders shoulder with seemingly no effort required.
If the Penguins are lucky, they’ll see Galchenyuk slip a bit come draft day. While Galchenyuk’s future is in question, his abilities are not. When you weight the risk versus the reward, it might make decision time on some NHL general managers more difficult than usual.