Mon Apr 09 03:42pm EDT
NHL's Central Scouting Service released their final rankings for the 2012 draft class on Monday morning. And it was like Christmas for those who closely follow the burgeoning would-be NHL prospects.
Sarnia Sting winger Nail Yakupov topping the North American skaters wasn't much of a surprise to anyone. The dynamic sniper has clearly separated himself from the rest of pack. He has scored 80 goals and 170 points in 107 games in his two seasons in Sarnia.
Yakupov has elicited comparisons to several different NHL superstars. The most accurate of those would seem to be New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
"I would compare Yakupov to Kovalchuk as they both want the puck, can score and also know how to use their linemates better," says David Burstyn, former NHL scout and current head scout for Mckeen's Hockey.
Sarnia's other top draft prospect, Alex Galchenyuk, officially made his way onto Central Scouting's rankings. The 6-foot, 190-pound centre is ranked fourth. Galchenyuk went unlisted in their mid-term rankings because of limited viewings due to a long-term knee injury he suffered last year.
Since there are so many elite blueliners in this year's NHL draft crop it's hard to tell which one of them has the edge. However, after Everett Silvertips defenceman Ryan Murray bumped Quebec Remparts centre Mikhail Grigorenko out of the second spot, it now seems Murray is clearly leading the way on the back end.
Belleville Bulls' Malcolm Subban stayed put as the No. 1 ranked North American goaltender. Like Yakupov, this should come to no surprise to anyone. Subban has been one of the top goaltenders in the CHL this season, maintaining a 2.50 goals-against average and .923 save percentage throughout 39 showings.
On the European side of things: Swedish centre Filip Forsberg topped the skaters list; Russian goaltender Andrei Vasilevski is ranked the best puck-stopper.
Here's a look at some of the players who surprised, rose, or fell in Central Scouting's final 2012 draft rankings:
Henrik Samuelsson switched over to the North American list from the European list since he decided to leave Modo of the Swedish Elite League in late December to join the Edmonton Oil Kings. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound centre has had no problems finding back of the net in Edmonton, scoring seven goals and 23 points in 28 regular-season games. He has also lived up to his last name, playing an edgy style similar to how his father Ulf Samuelsson played. All that being said, it was quite surprising to see Samuelsson ranked as low as 75th, especially since some other scouting services touted him as a possible late first-round pick.
Despite being two years older than the majority of the prospects in this year's draft, Barrie Colts winger Tanner Pearson is being touted as a possible first-round pick. Central Scouting ranks him at 25. It's not surprising to see a player passed over in a draft or two later selected. It is, however, somewhat surprising to see an older player ranked this high. Then again, it is a rarity for an undrafted 19-year-old to suit up for Team Canada at the world juniors. So maybe one shouldn't be surprised to see Pearson stand out among the late bloomers of the past 10 years or so.
Cody Ceci, defence, Ottawa 67's (OHL) — Ceci's draft rankings spiked the most out of any prospects with potential of being a top-10 draft pick. He was bumped up 10 seeds from 16th to sixth.
The 6-foot-3, 206-pounder is the top ranked defenceman out of Ontario. Ceci's elite offensive instincts stand out about him the most. He quarterbacked the 67's power play this year, scoring an impressive 17 goals and 60 points throughout 64 games this season.
Tom Wilson, wing, Plymouth Whalers (OHL) — Wilson has blossomed this year as power-forward in Plymouth. He scored nine goals and 27 points in 49 games, while racking up 141 penalty minutes. He is one of the toughest players in this year's draft crop. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder plays a rugged style, similar to San Jose Sharks' Ryane Clowe. This truculent play is very appetizing to general managers who want to beef up their roster.
Wilson's draft rankings have steadily risen over the past two years. His most recent prospect stock improvement went from 33rd to 15th by Central Scouting.
Lukas Sutter, centre, Saskatoon Blades (WHL) — Sutter went from centering Saskatoon's fourth line a year ago, to becoming their top-scoring centre this season. He notched 28 goals and 59 points In 70 games. His role with the Blades coincides with his draft rankings. He jumped up from 86 to 39.
The 6-foot-1, 202-pounder is, well, a typical Sutter. The son of Rich Sutter hustles, plays tough, and likes to deal with altercations by dropping the mitts.
Branden Troock, wing, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) — The biggest obstacle for Troock has been his health. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound winger suffered a handful of upper-body and head injuries last season that limited him to nine games in Seattle. This year he was healthy for the most part. He suited up for 58 of Seattle's 72 games, scoring 14 goals and 26 points.
Troock, whose draft rankings rose from 90 or 65, caught the attention of scouts at the CHL's Top Prospects Game. He stood out as one of the top players for Team Orr and netted the game winning goal.
Gemel Smith, centre, Owen Sound Attack (OHL) — Smith struggled to find the back of the net in the latter half of the season. The 5-foot-11, 161-pound centre, who dropped from 20th to 37th, only scored a single goal in his last 21 games. He did, however, pick his play up in the post-season, notching one goal and three points in five games.
Jarrod Maidens, centre, Owen Sound Attack (OHL) — Maidens, who dropped from 21st to 35th, was on track for a breakout season. He scored 12 goals and 23 points in 28 games, topping his previous point total by two before the midway point of the season. Unfortunately, Maidens suffered a concussion in late November. This injury forced him to sit out the rest of the season.
Andreas Athanasiou, wing, London Knights (OHL) — It seems Athanasiou has a lot of untapped potential. The 6-foot-1, 174-pound forward only improved his point total by 15 this year, posting 22 goals and 37 points in 63 games. This underachievement appears to be precisely why Athanasiou's rankings fell from 24 to 40.
Coda Gordon, wing, Swift Current Broncos (WHL) — Gordon went from being one of Central Scouting's early risers in their mid-term rankings to falling in their final rankings. The 6-foot-1, 179-pounder dropped from 38 to 61-place.
Scouts have been skeptical of Gordon's skating and lack of raw skill. One aspect of Gordon's game they haven't questioned is his goal scoring abilities, though. He scored 30 goals and 53 points throughout 66 games in his rookie season with the Broncos.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen