June 20 2012 09:07AM
A lot of people believe that if Sarnia Sting centre Alex Galchenyuk hadn't missed most of the 2011-2012 season with a knee injury he'd be neck and neck with teammate Nail Yakupov as the top-ranked prospect going into the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.
After seeing Galchenyuk blaze through fitness testing at the NHL Combine, putting to rest any fears the knee is a problem, more than a few hockey people think he still belongs in the same sentence as the dynamic Yakupov. My guess is you can count the Edmonton Oilers among them.
While that shouldn't be taken as meaning Oilers chief scout Stu MacGregor and his staff have Galchenyuk rated above or dead-even with Yakupov on their prospect list, you've got to think Edmonton's brain trust is looking long and hard at the possibility of taking a pivot to complement 2011 first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
I've gone as far as to suggest the Oilers should swing for the fences and take Yakupov with the first overall pick and then do whatever it takes -- short of moving Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle – to acquire another top-five pick and use it to select Galchenyuk. That, obviously, would take a lot of maneuvering by GM Steve Tambellini. Suffice to say, it's a long shot, at best.
More than likely, then, it's going to be an either-or situation with Yakupov and Galchenyuk when it comes to Tambellini's trip to the podium. Is Yakupov the obvious choice or might Galchenyuk get the call? My sense is it's closer than many people think.
HOW HE RATES
NHL Central Scouting: No. 4 among North American skaters
The Hockey News: No. 7
International Scouting Services: No. 16
McKeen’s Hockey: No. 2
Red Line Report: No. 6
TSN: No. 4
THE SKINNY FROM CSS
A knee injury suffered in a 2011-12 OHL preseason game limited Galchenyuk to all but the last two regular season games and six games playoff games -- he recorded four points (2-2-4) during Sarnia’s first round loss to Saginaw.
In 2010-11, Galchenyuk finished second among Ontario Hockey League rookies with 83 points (31-52-83), behind only his teammate and good friend Nail Yakupov (49-52-101).
He was the fourth U.S.-born player to be selected first overall in the OHL priority draft (2010), joining Pat Peake (1990), Patrick O'Sullivan (2001) and Rob Schremp (2002).
Prior to being drafted, Galchenyuk competed for the Chicago Young Americans of the Midwest Elite League for the 2009-10 season -- he led the league in scoring (by 33 points) totaling 87 points (44-43-87) in 38 games.
WHAT THEY SAY
David O'Connor, NHLDraft.com
"Galchenyuk is a big, play-making center who can skate very well, especially for his size. He has outstanding vision, hockey sense and is a great passer. He’s always very aware of where everyone is and will be on the ice, and he uses that to his advantage.
"Galchenyuk uses his big body well to create space for himself in the slot and on the boards. He has a very underrated shot, exceptional release and is very accurate. He can not only produce offensively night-in night-out, but he’s also very good defensively and understands that taking care of things in his own end is as important as producing at the other end of the ice. He also has outstanding hands and can often be found stick-handling in phone booths."
Scouting Report: "He's an intense and highly skilled big centre. He's not going to bang you off the puck, but he'll use leverage. He's high-end."
Projection: "A tremendous No. 2 centre."
Weaknesses: "He has to add come consistency to his game. His problem is he missed so much of the year with his injury. He's missed some development time, so we haven't seen all of the package yet."
NHL Comparable: "Well, who's a great second-line NHL centre? He's not really like a Jordan Staal. He kind of reminds of (winger) Milan Hejduk, actually. In tight, he's pretty quick."
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.