History tells us that a centre, D-man or goalie can have a bigger impact on winning than a winger. It’s not to say you don’t need solid wingers to win, but a dominant centre will usually have more of an impact than a dominant winger.
Last night I chatted with a scout who’s been around the NHL for over 20 years and asked him about the centre/winger debate and if the Oilers should/could take Nail Yakupov’s teammate Alex Galchenyuk instead.
"I’m a firm believer in taking the best player available. Yakupov is a hell of a talent, but Galchenyuk is just as good in my eyes. If he hadn’t been hurt I honestly believe it would be a huge debate. The fact Alex plays centre makes the debate even better, because centres have a bigger impact on the game.
"Alex is a dynamic centre. He skates exceptionally well, he’s got great hands and he’s committed to playing a strong two-way game. He’s 6’2" and 205 pounds, so he’ll be a load to handle for NHL defenceman."
Would his injury scare you? Should that be a concern, I asked.
"It is hard to say with certainty, but I was very impressed that he was able to return from his injury (ACL tear) for this year’s playoffs. He has a reputation of being a gym rat and has an excellent work ethic. You can’t teach that, and for him to work that hard during rehab really impressed me."
I’ve always wanted to do research on the accuracy of how an injury impacts a player long-term; especially if a player gets hurt when he is 17 or 18. We’ve seen it go both ways. Some players are always getting hurt, but guys who are injury-prone seem to suffer from various different injuries, rather than always hurting the same joint, tendon or ligament.
Marian Hossa suffered a serious knee injury in the Memorial Cup final v. Guelph in 1998. He was out for six months, before he made his debut with the Senators in December. Since that injury, he never played fewer than 70 games in a season until 2009/2010.
There is a long list of players who are constantly injured, but I wouldn’t shy away from Galchenyuk just because of one injury.
Many scouts feel Yakupov was the best player this year, but with every scout I’ve talked to in the past month, they all said, "If Galchenyuk had played he’d be in the conversation."
THE FINAL NAIL
I’ve said before I’d take Yakupov because he’s considered the best player, but the more I hear about Galchenyuk the more intrigued I am about him; mostly because he plays centre.
The Oilers desperately need another skilled centre, especially one with size. A few scouts have said Galchenyuk’s game is similar to Jonathan Toews, in that he plays hard/smart in both ends of the ice. I don’t like comparisons, because usually we are comparing a player to the "best-case scenario."
I find it interesting, and disappointing, that we compare these kids to great players, but recently many have said they are leery of drafting Russians because of the KHL and the actions of Radulov, Filatov, Zherdev and others. They bring up the worst-case scenario for what a Russian player might become rather than pointing to Datsyuk, Malkin, Ovechkin, Zubov or other elite Russians.
Galchenyuk was born in Wisconsin, but he spent time in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Russia because his father was a pro hockey player. Their family moved back to the States when Alex was 15 and he considers himself American. He played for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka U-18 in 2011.
The more I hear about Galchenyuk the more I wonder if he’d be the right player for the Oilers.
It is possible that Yakupov will put up more points, but would Galchenyuk be a better fit?
"Great question. The Oilers need size down the middle," the scout told me last night. "Yakupov and Eberle would be a great 1-2 punch on the right side for years, but I think now more than ever you need strength down the middle to win. I don’t think Stu (MacGregor) can go wrong with either pick, but I bet they will look long and hard at a centreman."
Two years ago when the Taylor v. Tyler debate was on, everyone had Hall listed as the best player, and the Oilers wisely took him. Two years later though, the Oilers have Hall and Eberle as dominant wingers, and I wonder if there is a slight temptation to look at Galchenyuk because he’s a centre.
It is clear that Yakupov is the best player, based on play this year, but Galchenyuk’s injury didn’t allow him to compete for that title.
Every scout I’ve ever spoken with has told me that they try to draft the player they feel will be the best in three to five years. Galchenyuk’s injury makes that assessment much harder, and when you factor in the Oilers need for a big, skilled centre I wonder how the Oilers feel he grades out five years from now?
I know Wanye and many of you will be saying "May the Fourth be with you today," so that was for all you Star Wars nerds.
- Danny Briere became only the 5th active NHLer to score 50 career playoff goals. The other four are Jagr (77) Lidstrom (54) Marleau (52) and Zetterberg (51). I think Marleau is the biggest surprise on the list, considering many incorrectly say he never produces in the playoffs.
- Another interesting trivia tidbit…Can you name the only player in NHL history who is top-ten all-time in playoff goals, assists, points, PIMs and +/-?***(answer at bottom)
- All those suggesting Dustin Penner will have to sign for $2-$2.5 million this summer. Keep in mind that Joel Ward had regular seasons of 17, 13 and 10 goals before potting seven in the playoffs last year. That earned him $9 million over three years. If Penner continues to play well he will get at least $3 million on the open market and maybe even $4 million/year for two or three years.
- I wonder if Peter Laviolette is regretting his post-series pot-shot at Sidney Crosby, when he referred to Claude Giroux as the best player in the world. Since that comment Giroux has one goal and is -3 in three games. Giroux is great, but he isn’t the best in the game.
- I can’t believe some media, bloggers and fans are looking at ways to change playoff OT. What is wrong with you? Because the game lasts too long, or some whiny eastern folks can’t stay up late? Give me a break. It is great TV watching players gut it out for two, three or more OT periods.
- The Oilers/Oil Kings haven’t done a great job advertising the Oil Kings playoff push. I haven’t seen/read/heard much advertising, and when the cheapest tickets is $31.50 it is hard for a family of four to pay that much for junior hockey. Why did they only have a two-hour window yesterday of $15/tickets? Why not make it all day long?
- That being said the Oil Kings are one hell of a team. They will beat Portland. Mark Pysyk and Keegan Lowe did an incredible job of shutting down Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi last night. Those two were invisible for most of the game, and their best chances came when they didn’t have to face the Lowe/Pysyk pairing.
*** Glenn Anderson is the only player in the top-ten in all five categories. He was 4th in pts, 5th in goals, 9th in assists, 7th in PIMs and 5th in +/-.**