Mikhail Grigorenko is your new top-ranked 2012 NHL draft prospect, according to International Scouting Services.
The 17-year-old Russian forward leapfrogs another Russian forward, 18-year-old Nail Yakupov, who fell to No. 2 on the list.
Grigorenko, a playmaker that ISS compares to Joe Thornton, is currently plying his trade with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL.
Yakupov, reportedly more of a Pavel Bure/Taylor Hall-type, plays for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL.
So why Grigorenko over Yakupov?
“(Grigorenko’s) ability to amplify the skill sets of those around him is what sets him apart from the rest of the pack,” said ISS Director of Scouting Dennis MacInnis, as per TSN.ca. “And while the incredible offensive talents of Yakupov are nothing to take lightly, Grigorenko has shown better as of late and this isn’t the first time.”
The Mikhail-versus-Nail debate probably won’t reach Taylor-versus-Tyler levels of hysteria, but it must be encouraging for Russian hockey fans that two of their own could be the first and second picks this summer. The last Russian to go first overall was Alex Ovechkin, in 2004.
The top American player on the ISS list is defenseman Jacob Trouba (No. 6) of the U.S. National U18 Team.
The top Canadian is defenseman Ryan Murray (No. 4) of the Everett Silvertips.
The 2012 NHL draft is considered especially rich in defensemen. Good news for the Washington Capitals, who own Colorado’s first-round pick thanks to the Semyon Varlamov trade.
You can read the full list here.
It’s likely that plenty of hockey fans cringe whenever they hear the name Ulf Samuelsson. For many, the former NHL defenseman will be remembered for his over-the-line hits (most notably his notorious knee-to-knee on Cam Neely) more than winning two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins or anything else he accomplished during in his 16-year career.
Hockey fans might want to get used to the name Samuelsson, though, as it seems like his progeny have a solid future in the NHL. The Penguins took Ulf’s son – and fellow blueliner – Philip (with Ulf in this post’s main image) in the second round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and USA Today’s Kevin Allen listed right winger Henrik as the fifth best U.S.-born player eligible for the 2012 draft today.
Henrik scored 11 points and tallied (an Ulf-inspired?) 74 penalty minutes in 27 games with the USHL. While his dad will coach the top Modo team next season, Allen reports that Henrik will play for Modo Jr.
One other interesting name on that list is Allen’s top ranked American-born player Alex Galchenyuk. The center plays alongside probable top overall pick Nail Yakupov for the Sarnia Sting and his more well-rounded style spurs some to wonder if he might actually end up being a better fit for the NHL than the dazzling Russian winger.
Three defensemen round out the 2-4 spots on Allen’s list: James Trouba, Nick Ebert (whose last name seems like a natural fit for awful “two thumbs up/down” type jokes) and Jordan Schmaltz. From everything I’ve heard, the 2012 draft features a deep and talented group of players, so there’s no guarantee that being a top American prospect will mean that all five of these players will become first round picks.
Still, those of you who are more interested in prospects might want to keep an eye out for those five players. Opposing players would probably be wise to keep an eye out for Henrik Samuelsson in particular, at least if that on-ice nastiness runs in the family.