STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - MAY 12: Gabriel Landeskog (#92) of Sweden celebrate with his team mates after he scores his team's 3rd goal during the IIHF World Championship group S match between Italy and Sweden at Ericsson Globe on May 12, 2012 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
A preview of what to expect this upcoming draft.
Steven Stamkos was the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NHL draft. Four years later, what really stands out from that draft is the number of top-quality defencemen who were selected immediately after.
Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty (second overall) and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson (15th) have each been Norris Trophy finalists; Buffalo’s Tyler Myers (12th) won the Calder Trophy; and Winnipeg’s Zach Bogosian (third), St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo (fourth), Toronto’s Luke Schenn (fifth) and Jake Gardiner (17th), New York’s Michael Del Zotto (20th) and Washington’s John Carlson (27th) round out what is considered to be the strongest class of rearguards in the history of the draft.
That is, until now.
Nail Yakupov already knows how to handle the media circuit.
"You know, every player has his [own]way," said Yakupov, an ethnic Tatar from the Tatarstan region in Russia. "I’m Muslim, I’m not Russian. If you [ask] what happens with the Russian factor, it’s [Zherdev’s]life and I have my life.
"I’ve got to work. It doesn’t matter what team is going to [take me]in the draft... My new team is my first favourite team in the NHL. I’m going to play and do everything for this."
Yakupov burst onto the North American hockey scene in 2010-11 with a 101-point rookie season with the Sarnia Sting in the OHL and followed that up with 69 points in 42 games in an injury shortened campaign this past season.
Six draft prospects got to hang out at Game 2 of the Cup finals.
Top 2012 NHL Draft prospects Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray, Mikhail Grigorenko, Alex Galchenyuk, Morgan Rielly and Filip Forsberg got a taste of the NHL life, as they paid a visit to the dressing rooms of the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings on Saturday morning at Prudential Center as the teams prepared for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
It was an especially exciting morning for Yakupov and Grigorenko, who could be the top two picks at the 2012 NHL Draft on June 22. The two Russian-born prospects had a chance to meet Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
When he is told he can’t do something — and with the way his hockey career is developing, that’s not happening much anymore — Gemel Smith glances at his chest.
"I’ve got a tattoo that says ‘Only God can judge me,’ just to show that I don’t care what anyone says," Smith said on Saturday at the NHL 2012 draft combine at the Toronto International Centre. "Every time someone says I can’t, I just look down and know that this is all that really matters."
The Owen Sound Attack forward and Toronto native was slotted No. 37 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its final rankings for the entry draft, June 22-23 in Pittsburgh. Smith projects to be picked late in the second round or somewhere in the third, but like just about every prospect who will be selected in three weeks, there will be no guarantee that the 18-year-old will have one shift in the NHL. If Smith never does play in the NHL, however, it will not be for lack of resilience or determination.