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NHL Draft Day Thread II: A Look at the Top Forwards and Defensemen

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Speculation abounds, and mock drafts burst out your ears, and our morning LHH thread was filled with scenarios and jokes about how Isles fans will kvetch no matter what happens. But whether the Islanders stay at #4, trade up or trade down in today's NHL Draft, they're likely to end the day with one of these prospects.

The first round begins Friday night at 7 p.m. EDT (or thereabouts). Those picks go by slowly. Then on Saturday at 10 a.m. rounds two through seven happen in a flash, with names being read off within minutes of one another.

Below is a quick primer on the top forwards and defensemen consistently ranked in the top 10, as well as another open thread for the day/evening's draft news:


Nail Yakupov, Sarnia (OHL): Dynamic right winger and star of this draft. If Edmonton passes on him -- as they're rumored to do since they've added high-profile forwards in their other lottery days -- then they're passing on the surest thing in the draft.

Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec (QMJHL): With several high-regarded skills from passing to skating to his shot, Grigorenko has fallen in several rankings and mock drafts only due to "the Russian Factor" (which can be read as a mix of concern about work ethic and KHL temptation). If he falls, someone is getting a steal. An immensely talented 6'3" center, what's not to like?

Filip Forsberg, Leksand (Sweden): The Swedish left wing is a combination of high-end offensive skills and "power forward" behavior, with scouts praising his "will" and "motor" and such. A slow riser throughout the year, the way top-end Swede teenagers who get promoted to the the SEL often do.

Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia (OHL): Yakupov's linemate before missing most of this season with a serious knee injury, Galchenyuk rehabbed in time to play a couple of regular season games and playoffs. At times people weren't sure which linemate helped the other more. Galchenyuk, the center, is a solid player at both ends with plenty of skills to boot. The injury might have been the only thing keeping him out of the top four -- if he's not selected there. "Russian Factor" concerns surround him too, but not nearly as much so since he was born in Milwaukee and isn't as tied to the other side of the pond.

Teuvo Teravainen, Jokerit (Finland): A great name to go with a great game. Teravainen is a swift-skating agile left winger with magical hands. The only question about his high end potential is how his small frame (5'11", 165 lbs.) will adjust to the NHL. Scouts differ over whether he'll be one of those diminutive stars for whom size is no matter, or whether he'll be a great talent who couldn't enter the top tier in the NHL. The answer to the question is huge ... and elusive.


Like 2008 -- except without the same high end -- this draft will be known for its defensemen. There are several on the table who could go anywhere in the top 15, and every team that selects one of these kids will have legitimate reason to be pleased:

Ryan Murray, Everett (WHL): Murray has been the blueline darling most of the year, and he's seen as the most "NHL-ready" (as if that should be applied to any 18-year-old defenseman) of the group. The package: Poise, puck skills, agile skating, physical ability, smart decision-making on both sides of the puck. He may not be a star, but he should be an outstanding two-way anchor for an NHL blueline.

Morgan Rielly, Moose Jaw (WHL): Like Galchenyuk, Rielly's stock is limited by an injury that took out much of his draft year season. But some argue he's the most talented blueliner of the bunch. Scouts love his skating, passing, vision and smarts.

Matthew Dumba, Red Deer (WHL): Yet another WHL defenseman, Dumba loves to hit -- but can he keep up that hitting pace at the NHL level? At just over 6'0", his frame isn't imposing to NHLers, but his desire and ability to skate into hits might be. A nice mix of all-around skills entices the scouts and fans who covet him most.

Jacob Trouba, USNTDP: Another good-skating, skilled defenseman who likes to hit, the question with Trouba is whether he looks better against the weaker competition in the USHL. He's 6'2" and above average in every area -- so you're getting a solid defenseman if perhaps not a standout at the NHL level.

Cody Ceci, Ottawa (OHL): To quote Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus here: "Ceci is a very sound all-around defenseman who doesn't have a standout skill other than his hockey sense, but he does everything else at a fine level which in the big picture makes for a very good defenseman. Ceci is an above-average skater who skates very well for a bigger player."

Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton (WHL): Reinhart, the son of former NHLer Paul, is 6'4" -- so of course a rounded set of skills with that bigger frame gains notice from scouts and fans.

Reinhart is generally rated lower in the top 10, as none of his hockey tools blows away the other defensemen ranked above him. But all of these defensemen have good all-around tools and any has the potential to evolve into the best one taken. Given that context, of course a team would prefer it come in a 6'4" package.

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Assuming the Islanders stay in the top four or at least don't trade down far, one of the above players should be wearing an Islanders hat this evening. There are a couple of other names that come up in top 10 discussions -- Czech import center Radek Faksa (Kitchener) and Swedish wingers Pontus Aberg and Sebastian Collberg among them -- but if you're just tuning in rather than poring over draft lists day after day, you should feel comfortable with the above names.

Because of the Yakupov-Murray dynamic around Edmonton's pick, this draft is more likely than most to see a move near the top. That's still less than a 50/50 chance, but it just might make tonight's pomp and circumstance a little more interesting.

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