Yakupov, Seth Jones shine bright
After 12 games in 10 days, all but two of them featuring potential top round prospects for the next NHL entry draft, a number of things are clear. For starters, I'm glad to be home. Second, there is a clear cut No. 1 prospect in the 2012 draft class. Third, there is a 2013 draft-eligible who would certainly be in the conversation for June's No. 1 pick if he was made available. And that's who I want to start with.
Most impressive 2013 player: Seth Jones
The U.S. National Development Team has a number of impressive draft prospects, but the one that caught my eye the most was underager Seth Jones. Jones is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. The genes clearly show, as the younger Jones already stands at 6-foot-4, making him a daunting presence on the blue line. His heritage has made him a talked-about prospect, but if he was eligible for this year's draft I think he would be very much in the conversation for the No. 1 pick. Simply put, he is one of the most gifted big defensemen I have seen in a long time.
Based on his skating alone, if you put him in an NHL practice jersey tomorrow, you wouldn't be able to tell him apart from many of the league's current blueliners. Remember this name.
Most impressive 2012 player: Nail Yakupov
Nail Yakupov is the No. 1 prospect out there for this season's draft.
This much was apparent even after the loss at home to Sault St. Marie 5-2, Oct. 20. This Russian-born star has so many NHL qualities it will be hard to pass him over regardless of his passport and some team's philosophical aversions to taking Russians.
He possesses phenomenal skating and skill and he delivers the goods, producing 29 points in the first 13 games of 2011-12. He is dynamic and fun to watch, taking you out of your seat with high quality plays throughout the game. His future is bright and he has to be the early leader for the top pick in June's draft.
To see the rest of Sonier's notes from his scouting trip, including evaluations of the U.S. National Team in Ann Arbor, the London Knights and more, you must be an ESPN Insider