Hard to believe we’ve been doing this for six years! This will be the first of five segments as we rank the top 50 eligible players for the 2012 NHL entry draft hosted by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!

1. Nail Yakupov – LW – Sarnia (OHL) – 5’10 – 189lbs – Shoots L – Oct. 6, 1993

The thing that separates Nail Yakupov from the rest of his most recent first overall peers is toughness and true sense of tenacity. Yakupov features all the offensive thrill of an NHL superstar with the attitude of a third line grinder. Yakupov’s offensive abilities are a stand alone in this class. His one on one abilities, whether that be against a defenseman or a goaltender, are top flight. His hands are quick, he can get the puck on net with a high velocity and little effort. He commands the play offensively and has the vision to be a scoring threat mixed with a dynamic playmaker. Yakupov plays the game in an intense and violent fashion. His physicality resembles Alex Ovechkin at the same age. He’s capable of winning the battles in the boards and creating play with his nifty hands and his body. He sets the tempo in the game regardless of the score and is quick to initiate confrontation, unlike many of his aforementioned peers. His skating will continue to improve as he gets older and bigger. The team that drafts this young forward will certainly reap the benefit of having a star player with a dangerous offensive ability mixed with the personality of someone other teams will certainly hate playing against.

2011-12 Statistics: 42GP – 31G – 38A – 69PTS – 71PIM – +15

2. Ryan Murray – D – Everett (WHL) – 6’0 – 205lbs – Shoots L – September 27, 1993

Ryan Murray exhibits all the traits of a current star NHL defenseman. Perhaps the best word to describe this youngster would be unflappable; Murray is calm and composed in all situations, has captained several teams, and has a two-way skill set that might be a stand alone in this 2012 draft class. Murray’s skating is nearly effortless, he’s excellent in lateral situations and is fantastic in situations that call for him to get back up ice in a hurry. Murray’s hockey sense is top notch, he’s able to effectively read plays and handle top assignments. He was able to battle back nicely after a high ankle sprain rendered him to the bench for two months this season. Murray’s puck moving makes him a deadly two-way threat, his vision in both moving the puck and finding a lane up ice is a hallmark of his game. Murray has a bit of untapped offensive potential with him as well. He could be better served to exemplify that on a regular basis. Overall, Ryan Murray is an extremely safe bet to provide a reliable presence at both ends of the ice and benefit any team that takes him with the ability to skate the puck, a trait that any coach will surely love.

2011-12 Statistics: 46GP – 9G – 22A – 31PTS – 31PIM – E

3. Mathew Dumba – D – Red Deer (WHL) – 5’11 – 183lbs – Shoots R – July 25, 1994

Mathew Dumba is an interesting threat because of his explosive skating ability and his knack for wreaking havoc in a physical sense. Dumba’s skating is effortless and powerful, he’s able to get into the play quickly and recover from the occasional gamble he’ll take to make a hit or get into the play offensively. Dumba plays the game bigger than his size would generally indicate, he is capable of devastating bigger opponents and is fantastic in battles along the boards and hits at open ice. Dumba’s skating makes him an extremely mobile threat and his puck moving ability is top notch. His offensive game features a very patient defenseman that is willing to wait for a lane to the net and distribute the puck effectively. Dumba also features a powerful shot from the point that finds the net with regularity and a wrist shot that is very crisp. Dumba’s skill set is difficult to predict when translating to the NHL, but his mobility and attitude allow him to quickly cover for the chances he’ll take on the ice.

2011-12 Statistics: 69GP – 20G – 37A – 57P – 67PIM – -6

4. Alex Galchenyuk – C – Sarnia (OHL) – 6’1 – 197lbs – Shoots L – February 12, 1994

Alex Galchenyuk is an elite, multi-talented offensive threat. An ACL injury in the 2011-12 pre-season sidelined him for the all but a small part of the season, but his reputation was made as a first year OHL player in 2010-11. Galchenyuk’s big frame allows him to showcase his top notch vision and offensive skills. While not overtly physical, Galchenyuk plays well within his frame and does not get shoved around. A decent skater who has an ever-improving first stride, Galchenyuk’s impact is found in the offensive zone, where he uses his command of the game and excellent vision to distribute the puck effectively. Galchenyuk’s dish skills are great, but his shot is generally underrated. Galchenyuk has a strong, accurate release and is able to get the puck on net with velocity and fool opposing goaltenders. His command of his wrister is perhaps the most impressive facet of his shooting ability. Galchenyuk is also responsible in his own end and quick to get back into the play. His understanding of the game makes him a solid player at both ends of the ice. While the ACL injury might make his stock fall a bit, the team that drafts Galchenyuk will be getting an extremely powerful offensive specimen.

2010-11 Statistics: 61G – 31G -52A – 83PTS – 52PIM – -8

5. Filip Forsberg – LW – Leksands (SWE) – 6’2 – 181lbs – Shoots R – August 13, 1994

Filip Forsberg has a solid all around game that features a great frame, solid two way play, and a general poise with the puck. Forsberg has a great offensive game, solid vision, and an understanding of the game that allows him to utilize his teammates to a great effect. His frame enables him to take a beating with the puck, he’s excellent in traffic and still has a ways to go to bulk up. Forsberg’s initial step could use improvement but his overall skating ability is there and he’s able to get into each zone with ease. Forsberg is defensively responsible and is generally effective in all three zones. Forsberg is able to score goals in the dirty areas and in high percentage areas away from the net courtesy of his crisp wrist shot. Forsberg’s understanding of the game and willingness to play the right way make him an attractive option early in this draft class.

2011-12 Statistics: 43GP – 8G – 9A – 17PTS – 33PIM – +3

6. Morgan Rielly – D – Moose Jaw (WHL) – 6’0 – 190lbs – Shoots L – March 9, 1994

Morgan Rielly blew his ACL in game 18 of the season and missed the majority of the regular season. An extremely explosive element on defense, Rielly has a high offensive potential and is an elite skater. Rielly has tricky hands, great vision, and is able to get through tight spaces with the puck. As a puck mover, he is elite at carrying the play up ice and is excellent at creating offense with his feet and passing ability. His mobility allows him to become available on offense and his shot is solid in all aspects. Rielly’s defensive game is sound, again a tribute to his mobility, but he does need to grow into his size and develop a steady physical presence. His stickwork is above average and he can work his way out of trouble easily. While the knee injury may cause his stock to take a hit, Rielly’s footwork and offensive instincts have already shown what he could potentially do at the next level.

2011-12 Statistics: 18GP – 3G -15A – 18PTS – 2PIM – +6

7. Mikhail Grigorenko – C – Quebec (QMJHL) – 6’3 – 200lbs – Shoots L – May 16, 1994

Mikhail Grigorenko might be the most polarizing player in this draft class. His consistent fall throughout the year ended with a sour note in the QMJHL playoffs as his performance and compete level on a consistent shift to shift basis did not seem to elevate at the right times. Grigorenko has a great frame, an effortless stride, and is very methodical with the puck. His game almost appears slow at times. Grigorenko has an nifty set of hands and is very technical in tight spaces and in his dekes. His shot is accurate and powerful. His vision enables him to distribute the puck with a high rate of success. His physical game could use a bit of a boost, but he’s able to shield the puck and battle through tough situations. Perhaps the biggest philosophical question of the draft is whether or not Grigorenko truly has a work ethic issue, or rather does his methodical and patient approach to surveying the game simply make him seem uninterested? Whatever the case may be, as Grigorenko continues to put the pieces together, it’s clear that he has a solid set of both size, skill, and power that could make him a deadly threat at the next level.

2011-12 Statistics: 59GP – 40G – 45A – 85PTS – 12PIM – +35

8. Teuvo Teravainen – LW – Jokerit (FIN) – 5’11 – 165lbs – Shoots L – Sept. 11, 1994

One of the youngest players in this draft, Teuvo Teravainen is a highly-skilled and quick footed Finnish forward that did a great job on plenty of big stages this year. A shifty forward with light, quick footwork, Teravainen is an explosive offensive talent with a decent shot and above-average distribution ability. Teravainen has quick and innovative hands, top notch vision, and a relentless approach to the offensive game. While his size and defensive presence are a concern, Teravainen has the ability to make his teammates better with his vision, hands, and passing ability. Teravainen’s footwork and determination make it difficult to separate him from the puck. While his physical game needs fine-tuning, Teravainen’s offensive instincts are among the highest in this class.

2011-12 Statistics: 40GP – 11G – 7A – 18PTS – 6PIM – -6

9. Cody Ceci – D – Ottawa (OHL) – 6’2 – 207lbs – Shoots R – Dec. 21, 1993

Cody Ceci brings a ton of experience to the table. This young defenseman has played three full years of CHL hockey, a feat that’s generally rare for a first round selection. Ceci is an extremely reliable two-way threat on defense. His skating is top-notch, his shot is powerful, and he’s capable of playing in all situations. Ceci has a great command of his offensive prowess and is extremely adept defensively, partially thanks to his fleet-footed approach to the game. Ceci’s stock was generally on the upswing throughout the year, but he solidified an already fantastic season by making a large impact in the endurance and physicality tests at the NHL combine, a testament to his ability to eat big minutes. Ceci’s physical prowess could be a bit more present at times, but his smarts, methodical approach to the game, elite skating, and offensive tools make him a safe bet for whichever team should take him.

2011-12 Statistics: 64GP – 17G – 43A – 60PTS – 14PIM – +21

10. Olli Maatta – D – London (OHL) – 6’1 – 202lbs – Shoots L – Aug. 22, 1994

If it’s flair you’re looking for with Olli Maatta’s game, look elsewhere. Maatta is an extremely reliable defensive presence with a practical and safe approach to playing in his own zone. While he’s not a traditional bruiser, Maatta will sacrifice his body to make a play and keeps an excellent gap when one on one. Maatta can play big minutes in all situations and is a key piece to the London penalty kill. Maatta’s offensive instincts need to develop a bit more as he is slightly reserved with the puck and doesn’t take as many chances as he could offensively. He did blossom quite a bit offensively in the OHL playoffs, showcasing what he could possibly be capable of in the future. His first step needs improvement but overall he’s a solid skater that has no issue getting from one point to another. Maatta’s style of play can make him invisible on some nights, but his ability to safely move the puck and provide a steady presence on defense will make him a safe pick in the draft. A pro year of hockey in Finland last year makes him a very refined and intelligent defenseman.

2011-12 Statistics: 58GP – 5G – 27A – 32PTS – 25PIM – +25

Coming this weekend: 11-20.