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First great debate of 2012 draft

7/1/2011

Here are some notes adding to our preliminary list for the NHL's 2012 entry draft, and other prospect news:

• We've seen positional bias play out in the draft order the last few years, with lottery teams more inclined to draft centers than wingers, and forwards than defensemen, all things being equal. One of the more interesting calls will feature Sarnia teammates Nail Yakupov and Alexander Galchenyuk. Yakupov, a right winger, was the CHL rookie of the year, and Galchenyuk, a center, had 31 goals, an impressive number for a 16-year-old but 18 fewer than Yakupov.

Just as it was with the Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin debate, opinions are divided, at least for now. If Yakupov had been eligible for this year's draft, some scouts would have taken him ahead of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but others think that Galchenyuk will turn out to be a better pro than his winger.

Said one scout: "Galchenyuk has off-the-charts hockey intelligence and vision. He's more of a complete player at both ends of the rink than Yakupov." That motion was seconded by one OHL opponent: "If it comes down to who's harder to play against, I'd go with Galchenyuk. Yakupov is a better skater and he might have some better skills, but he doesn't control the game the way Galchenyuk does."

If you talk to defensemen who face Yakupov in one-on-one situations, you hear another story entirely. One described him as "the most dangerous guy in the whole Ontario league."

• Everett defenseman Ryan Murray, a late 1993 birthday, gets a strong endorsement from Mark Scheifele, the Winnipeg Jets' 2011 first-rounder. Scheifele played with Murray on the Canadian team that finished fourth at the world under-18s in April.

"He's the best all-around defenseman I've played with or against," Scheifele said. "He can play in all situations -- powerplay, short-handed, ahead by a goal, down by a goal. He's skilled and he's physical -- he's already a big boy but you can see that he's going to grow more. In the big game against the U.S. [at the under-18s] he set up two goals, including the one that tied it up.

"The thing that stands out in my memory is a pass that he made to me from the point -- it had to go through three defenders and it hit the tape of my stick. Nine out of 10 guys don't even see that pass, never mind make it. If there's a better defenseman in next year's draft, I haven't seen him."

Side note: I felt for Scheifele and other Jets 2011 draftees. Some said it was weak that they had to don generic NHL sweaters for their profile shots. I couldn't care less about that. No, what is really bad is that the team isn't staging a summer development camp for its prospects.

Yeah, it's tough getting everything together on short notice, but this still sends a bad message to the future Jets -- that the franchise is being held together with duct tape and string. The new owners of the franchise have to understand that Winnipeg has an image problem -- historically, other than the hardy homegrowns, few pros or prospects considered the Manitoba capital a destination.

You want to give the impression that you're pulling out all the stops to support the players. Ottawa barely gave its draftees a day to clear their heads before opening their summer camp last week. Other outfits are working on a little more forgiving timeline, opening camps next week.

• July 1 is the opening of the NHL's version of Black Friday, the league's free-agent feeding frenzy. August 1 might turn out to be that way in the QMJHL, with just one name dominating the conversation: Nathan MacKinnon, the talented forward who has played the last couple of seasons at Sidney Crosby's alma mater, Shattuck-St Mary's in Minnesota.

The Baie-Comeau Drakkar drafted MacKinnon with the first overall pick in the QMJHL draft, even though it was well-known that the team on the north shore of the St. Lawrence (take the last exit on the road to nowhere) wouldn't be able to convince him to report. And as noted by TSN's Bob McKenzie and others, MacKinnon was skating in Omaha on the Q's draft day.

Message to Baie-Comeau's GM Barry Ahern: Draft at your own risk, because the USHL and, down the line, the NCAA, are viable options. Well, so far there's no negotiated settlement between the Drakkar and the MacKinnon camp, which is working on the advice of Pat Brisson.

As noted in this report, you wouldn't want to be standing in Ahern's souliers. Right now, it's looking like two principal contenders are emerging in the bidding for services of the 95-birthday and 2013 draft-eligible skater: the Rimouski Oceanic, the former junior team of Crosby and Brad Richards, and the Halifax Mooseheads, who play about 10 minutes from the MacKinnons' home in Cole Harbour. The window for trading MacKinnon's rights opens on August 1, and it's unclear whether waiting will give Ahern more leverage or less.