The decision is never an easy one—and it might be even tougher this year.
With the first round of the NHL draft set for Friday night at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center, there is very little consensus among scouts about how things will unfold once teams start taking the podium.
Here’s a closer look at some of the top prospects, as ranked by NHL Central Scouting:
Nail Yakupov, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
Hometown: Nizhnekamsk, Russia.
Size: Five foot 10, 189 pounds.
Snapshots: Ranked first among North American-based skaters … Spent two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 101 points as a rookie for the Sting before putting up 69 this year … Elite offensive player … Suffered a concussion this season … Vying to become the third Russian to be taken first overall in the NHL draft following Ilya Kovalchuk (2001) and Alex Ovechkin (2004).
In his own words: “I’m not like Bure or like Semin or Ovechkin. All players in this world play different. I want to be Nail and that’s it.”
Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL)
Hometown: White City, Sask.
Size: Six foot, 201 pounds.
Snapshots: Ranked second among North American-based skaters … Arguably the most NHL-ready player in the draft … Solid all-around blue-liner … He had 31 points in 46 points during a season where missed time with a high ankle sprain … Represented Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in Finland, becoming the second-youngest player ever to wear the Maple Leaf at that tournament … One of five kids in his family.
In his own words: “I’m a two-way defenceman—I think I can be effective at both ends of the ice. I just try and work hard and lead by example every single night”
Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
Hometown: Khabarovsk, Russia.
Size: Six foot three, 200 pounds.
Snapshots: Ranked third among North American-based skaters … Appears to be a potential high-risk, high-reward player as opinions vary wildly on how high he should be selected … Suffered an ankle injury at the world junior championship and battled mononucleosis late in the season … Scored 40 goals and 85 points in 59 games … Was hurt by a poor performance in the playoffs … Showed his sense of humour by wearing a Maple Leaf polo shirt to the draft combine.
In his own words: “I think I have a lot of talent and I can be a lot better than I am right now.”
Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia (OHL)
Size: Six foot, 198 pounds.
Snapshots: Ranked fourth among North American-based skaters … Was limited to just eight game this season because of a torn ACL … Centred Yakupov’s line in Sarnia when both were healthy … Big and skilled with an excellent shot … Some believe he could have been a potential No. 1 pick had he played the entire season … Born in Wisconsin and holds American citizenship … His father, Alex Sr., played for Belarus at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.
In his own words: “I want to be a great player in the NHL and play against the best players. I’m not saying anything bad about KHL—I think it’s just a different league.”
Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Size: Six foot, 190 pounds.
Snapshots: Ranked fifth among North American-based skaters … Creative player who is comfortable leading the rush … Missed over five months this season with a torn ACL … Finished regular season with 18 points in 18 games … Spent a year as captain of the Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox, Sask. … Wore No. 4 in junior in honour of Bobby Orr.
In his own words: “I like to play the power play a little bit. I’m pretty offensive.”
Filip Forsberg, C, Leksands (Swe2)
Hometown: Ostervala, Sweden.
Size: Six foot two, 181 pounds.
Snapshots: Ranked first among European-based skaters … Still needs to fill out his frame, but held his own against men this season … Likely to spend another year playing pro in Sweden … An excellent skater … Won a gold medal with Sweden at the world junior championship this year … Grew up idolizing Peter Forsberg, but is not related to the former Swedish NHL star.
In his own words: “I started playing pretty early because my dad was a hockey player. I have to thank my dad who brought me into the hockey world.”
Teuvo Teravainen, C/RW, Jokerit (Fin)
Size: Five foot 11, 169 pounds.
Snapshots: Ranked second among European-based skaters … Appeared in 40 games for Jokerit and was named rookie of the year in the Finnish league … Biggest strength is passing and his ability to see the ice … Size will be a question mark … Had eight points in six games for Finland at the world under-18 tournament … Idol is Teemu Selanne.
Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville (OHL)
Size: Six foot one, 188 pounds.
Snapshots: Ranked first among North American goalies … Younger brother of Habs defenceman P.K. Subban … Heralded for his athletic abilities … Expected to be selected in the first round of the draft … Started playing hockey as a defenceman before becoming a goalie at the age of 12—just six years ago.
In his own words: “As I was being a player, I used to always watch the goalie for some reason. … I finally decided to ask my dad if I could switch and he let me.”
Andre Vasilevski, G, Ufa2 (KHL-Jr.)
Size: Six foot three, 204 pounds.
Snapshots: Ranked first among European goalies … Had a breakout performance at the world junior tournament, where he helped Russia capture silver … Spent the last two seasons in Russia’s junior league … Represented his country at the 2010 under-18 world championship as a 15 year old … Some scouts believe he might be the first goalie picked in this draft … His father was a goalie in Russia.