It seems like the top of the 2012 NHL Draft has been set for some time. Nail Yakupov is the clear #1 and Mikhail Grigorenko is cemented at #2. The troika of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Murray and Matthew Dumba are well back of #2, but so closely bunched at this point it's impossible to separate them.
But as is often the case, a late season interloper has joined the fray. Alex Galchenyuk, the silky-smooth Russian/American centre playing for the Sarnia Sting now sits 6th in the consensus Top 100, and if we were to toss out ISS' 16th ranking (8 spots lower than anyone else and a real outlier), Galchenyuk moves up to a tie for 4th. Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman has been consistent in his ranking of Galchenyuk (3rd) for the season, and The Scouting Report's mid-season rankings had Galcheyuk in the same spot. Pronman believes Galchenyuk can go anywhere from 2nd to 7th.
While Pronman has been high on Galchenyuk all along, Future Considerations has him on the rise. I spoke with Future Consideration's Scouting Director Dan Stewart about Galchenyuk.
Copper & Blue: Galchenyuk moved up two spots to #3 in your latest rankings. What is behind that move?
Dan Stewart, Future Considerations: The move was due to our guys comparing Alex against the Grigorenko’s, Forsberg’s and Dumba’s with regards to their NHL potential in three to five years. In our opinion Galchenyuk has the better NHL upside than all three of those other high end prospects.
C & B: He's playing in the middle in the OHL, does he project as a professional centre or will he need to move to the wing?
FC: In my opinion the skilled game Alex plays coupled with his drive, size and his two-way abilities make him a very enticing centre prospect. He would also excel on the wing but his game in my opinion is taylor made for the middle.
C & B: What is the strongest part of his game? Does he have any NHL-level skills yet?
FC: Absolutely! He is creative with the puck, has very good hands, maybe some of the best in the entire draft. He has the size, skating ability and hunger you want in a No.1 NHL Centre. His Vision is elite as is his passing skills. He shoots the puck hard and get himself into prime scoring position.
C & B: What skill or trait is he going to struggle with, or what will hold him back?
FC: I do not see much holding Galchenyuk back at all.
C & B: He's not huge, but at 6'1", 195 pounds, he should have the requisite size to play in the NHL - is he a physical player and does that project well?
FC: At the OHL level he is considered big, at the NHL level he is just above average. If he can add another inch and 15 pounds he will be considered good sized.
C & B: Are there any fears that his success is based on [Consensus #1} Nail Yakupov's presence in the lineup?
FC: Absolutely not. It is evident that each of these prospects has their own set of high end skills. The difference is Yakupov is a natural finisher while Alex leans more to the playmaking side of the spectrum. They were a dynamic tandem during their time together in Sarnia.
C & B: When he's on his game, who can you compare him to?
FC: I would say a similarity between Marion Hossa and Alex Galchenyuk both personality wise and skill set wise would be most accurate. Now, I do not think that a team that selects Alex should expect a Hossa clone to step right into the lineup as Hossa himself took time to get his game and consistency level up to the NHL star status we see now.
C & B: Can he jump to the NHL right now, or will he need one more year in the OHL?
FC: He would be best served both physically and mentally to dominate Major Junior one last season but if a bottom feeding team needed him immediately I could see him excelling in a second or third line role. Being forced into top line minutes and a pressure packed role next fall could have damaging affects on his psyche, especially after just coming off such a large injury just this past season.
C & B: If he's a top five talent, which of those bottom 7-8 teams in the NHL would be the best fit for Galchenyuk?
FC: Montreal or Toronto in my opinion would be the best fit for both sides at this point.
C & B: Thanks for your time, Dan. We'll talk again soon.
FC: Enjoy the draft!