Kyle Woodlief's Red Line Report is mandatory reading for any NHL Draft nut, and his mock draft for USA Today is always a conversation starter. We spoke with the scout earlier this week to get his take on the 2012 NHL Draft and some of the bigger names available in the first round.
Q. What's the quality of this draft in relation to drafts from recent years?
WOODLIEF: Poor. There's a marquee guy at the top in Nail Yakupov but the quality really drops off after about pick No. 22 on our draft board.
Where does Yakupov rate with recent No. 1s like John Tavares and Steven Stamkos?
For me, Stamkos is one of the best No. 1s in the last five years. I wouldn't put Yakupov quite with Stamkos or Ovechkin or Crosby in the last 10 years. But I would put him up there with Tavares and Taylor Hall.
He plays with a lot of intensity and fire. He's not a guy you have to worry about being a 1-way guy who's lazy, or strictly an offensive guy. And even though he's not a big guy, he's actually pretty reckless with his body and will go into the corners.
I think Edmonton's probably the first team to ever win the draft and be disappointed about it. They could have sat there at No. 2 and taken Ryan Murray or Griffin Reinhart or whoever they wanted to take. But it's more difficult to sell to the fan base taking a player that doesn't have the upside that Yakupov has.
I've said that I really think they've going to trade down two or three spots to either Montreal or the Islanders' pick and taking whoever they want.
You've mentioned Ryan Murray as a perfect pick for Columbus at No. 2, because he's a defenseman and he's NHL ready.
I don't think Columbus will move that pick, but I would say it's more likely in this year's draft than in previous drafts. If they're not sold on Murray, I can see them trading this pick. I don't think they're picking a Russia, having been burned by Zherdev and Filatov in recent years.
His upside is that he'll be a 35-40 point guy on the back end. I don't see Ryan Murray as the guy that's going to quarterback your power play. He's probably better off as your second unit guy. If he's your top power play guy, then you're still probably one of the bottom-rung teams.
He's more of a Kevin Lowe type. The glue. He's not going to be Paul Coffey, but Paul Coffey needs Kevin Lowe to do what he does.
What do you see Montreal doing at No. 3?
I see them trading up to get Yakupov. (Laughs)
And if they don't?
I think that Alex Galchenyuk would be the right pick for them. I know they also like Teuvo Teravainen too, and he might be the most skilled player in the draft next to Yakupov. But he's only 5-11, 165 pounds.
Teravainen doesn't play with a lot of passion for all his skill. Doesn't show a lot of fire on the ice. But he's also one of the youngest players in the draft.
Morgan Rielly to the Islanders at No. 4; any reason why he goes there before the other defensemen?
Honestly, if he hadn't been injured I think he'd be the No. 1 defenseman on the board and could have been right behind Yakupov on the Red Line Report. He's got the best offensive upside of anyone in the Draft.
Filip Forsberg at No. 5 to the Toronto Maple Leafs … you project him to be the impact power forward many feel he can be?
Absolutely. I've likened him to an Erik Cole-like player. Good skater, a lot of power off the wing, likes the physical game, has a tremendous shot. He can be a 35-goal scorer.
Mikhail Grigorenko has plummeted down draft boards in the last few months for a variety of reasons. What's your take on it? Is the bad buzz legit? And will the Washington Capitals take him at 11?
They're not scared off by that type of player.
He's a guy who'll at least start his career in the NHL, unlike Kuznetsov. But he's also the Russian player that's most likely, if he suffers some bumps earlier in this career, to take the money and go to the KHL.
But Yakupov's family is loaded. They are rich. The extra few million that he would make on an entry level contract in Russia means nothing to that family.
Who's the biggest mover right now in the draft?
Scott Laughton, the center from Oshawa, and Hampus Lindholm, the defenseman from Sweden. I think Laughton will go around 17 or 18, and won't drop much beyond that. I would think that Hampus Lindholm might be off the board at around No. 10 with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Who will be our Cam Fowler or Angelo Esposito this year, as far as players dropping down the board?
For me it would be Grigorenko. But it only takes one team in the top 10 that likes him [to avoid that]. I'm told by all the NHL teams that he interviewed well at the combines. If he interviewed well, and that was the final bit of the evaluation process, he could still go in the top five or six.
But I think he could still take a tumble.
What about another interesting name: Goalie Malcolm Subban?
I had Malcolm Subban going to New Jersey at No. 29, but he's not in our top 60.
We don't like him. He's got a terrible, terrible glove hand. As athletic and acrobatic as he is, there are a lot of holes in his game. He over-commits on every play, he's terrible handling the puck behind his net and confuses his defensemen.
But I think he'll get picked in the first round.
Finally: Which team's scouting operation impresses you the most?
I've always admired Gord Clark, who is now working for the Rangers. If you look at the drafts he orchestrated with the Islanders, that would have been a great team — if it hadn't been for Mike Milbury.
Detroit's machine … they're all on the same page, and that's the key with Detroit. They don't always have a first-round pick, but they always know what they're looking for and they don't waste any time on squabbling.
Montreal has a done a good job, too, in the time Trevor Timmins has been there.