After Yakupov, who goes No. 2?
The life of an NHL scout is one of perpetual motion. Last week, many of the league's top talent evaluators were in Kelowna, British Colombia, about 200 miles east of Vancouver, for Canadian major junior hockey's annual CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. This week, some of the same men are on the other side of the globe assessing Europe's brightest young talent at tournaments in Switzerland, Finland and Slovakia.
Wherever a scout happens to be at a given moment, just about all of them are busy compiling as much information as possible on the 2012 draft class. It's a process that will continue right up until Gary Bettman climbs the dais at Pittsburgh's Consol Engery center on June 22. "There's still a lot of hockey to see," says New York Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark. "We've had our meetings [with the club's scouts], but we don't get carried away. I don't think we should be sitting around arguing about guys that are going that early."
Of course, with the Rangers sitting atop the Eastern Conference, it's unlikely that Clark and his staff will have the opportunity to select any of the biggest names. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have an opinion on who'll be the player chosen first overall. "[Nail] Yakupov is going to be the No. 1 guy," Clark said.
No shocker there. The Sarnia Sting's Russian winger has been the consensus No. 1 overall pick for 2012 since his breakout season (101 points in 65 games) as a 17-year-old OHL rookie last year. Yakupov's status is so secure that he skipped the prospects game last week, earning a two-match suspension.
But after Yakupov, all bets are off.
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