One of the most intriguing names near the top of the NHL Draft rankings is Sarnia Sting center Alex Galchenyuk, the Russian-American born in Milwaukee and who played alongside Nail Yakupov for a couple of seasons.
Galchenyuk seems to be the wild card among all the projected top picks, mainly due to a knee injury he suffered early in the 2011-12 season. He missed all but two regular-season games, but returned in time for the OHL playoffs. We've spoken to several people this week who said that had Galchenyuk played the entire season, he would stand a strong chance of being the No. 1 overall pick tonight at CONSOL Energy Center.
"Gally" and Yakupov are good friends and play off each other well, especially when the cameras are around. NHL Central Scouting has compared Galchenyuk's style of play to Blackhawks sniper Marian Hossa -- a strong, two-way player who can change a game in an instant.
We spent some time with Galchenyuk and had a pretty good conversation. Read his comments below, and check out the video courtesy of JacketsTV.
On the chances of him playing in the KHL:
"I'm not. There's not a chance I'll go there. I don't want to play there, I want to play in the NHL and have since I was a little kid. Everyone keeps asking me that question."
Have you had to deal with those questions because of your family name?
"A little bit. Obviously, a lot of people have asked me why I chose (to represent the U.S.) when my whole family is Russian. Like I said before, I just want to play for USA Hockey and I consider myself an American even if my parents are Russian. I was born in the States, I love the country and I want to play for them."
|Galchenyuk during a 2010-11 game with the Sarnia Sting (OHL).|
On assuring teams about the recovery from his knee injury:
"I did a lot of rehab and working hard in the gym. I just want to make sure the teams know that they're confident in drafting me. I think the teams that are (serious about drafting him) are confident in my knee. Whatever team I land with, when I go see the doctors they're going to say the knee looks great, and good job on the rehab."
What do you like to do away from the rink?
"I like to play XBox. Call of Duty. I'm pretty good. Sometimes go to movies...there's not a lot of things to do in Sarnia."
What part of your game is the best, in your mind?
"I think just my skillset. I see the ice and make plays in tough situations, and my passion for the game."
What do you need to work on to become an elite NHL player?
"I'm only 18 years old, and there are men playing (in the NHL). I want to become an overall, complete player and work on the small details like face-offs, and just stronger, faster, quicker...work on my strengths, too."
Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson spoke with the media shortly after acquiring goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from the Philadelphia Flyers. JacketsTV was on hand for his comments.
PITTSBURGH -- One of Scott Howson’s priorities heading into this offseason was to upgrade the goaltending position, and the Blue Jackets GM believes he has made a step in that direction today.
Columbus acquired goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from the Philadelphia Flyers this afternoon, mere hours before the start of the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh. The 23-year-old previously spent his NHL career as the No. 2 goaltender for the Flyers, and this past season, played 26 games behind free-agent signee Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Blue Jackets saw a young goaltender with loads of talent, and opted to move on it. And with the market for goaltenders becoming thin over the past week, Howson knew the time was right to capitalize on the opportunity.
“The market is drying up a bit, in terms of those (goalies) available for trade,” Howson said. “We’ve had our eye on Sergei for a while, so it was just time to step up and make the move.
“We did a lot of work on the goaltender market. (Goaltending coach Ian Clark) is convinced that this guy has a chance to be a No. 1 goalie. We checked out his character, how hard he works and how competitive he is.”
After seeing goaltenders like Anders Lindback get traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and potential free agents such as Josh Harding re-sign with their clubs, Howson knew that time was of the essence to check a significant item off his shopping list.
He and Flyers GM Paul Holmgren had been discussing a deal for Bobrovsky for about two weeks, Howson said. They decided that a deal based on draft pick compensation was best for both parties, then agreed to a deal on Friday morning.
“It was a top priority to get (a goalie) either through trade or free agency,” Howson said. “It became a very high priority for us.”
Bobrovsky was not drafted by the Flyers, but signed to an entry-level contract in 2006 after he played for Metallurg in Russia. He turned a lot of heads during his rookie season in Philadelphia, posting 28 wins in 54 appearances, while posting a 2.59 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.
With the arrival of Bryzgalov this season, playing time dipped for Bobrovsky, but he was still solid when given a chance in net. He’s regarded as a creative and athletic goaltender, who has the ability to make tough saves look easy and make saves he shouldn’t be able to.
More to come on this story as it develops.
UPDATE: #CBJ fans, don't forget -- our 2012 NHL Draft radio show begins tonight at 7 p.m. on 1460 ESPN. Tune in to get the scoop on what's happening on the draft floor. The show runs until 9 p.m. and will have wall-to-wall coverage of all things draft-related!
Happy Friday, live from Pittsburgh! Thanks for following along with our NHL Draft Central blog on BlueJackets.com - we've got a TON of coverage planned for tonight's first round of the draft, from interviews, videos, breaking news and much more.
Here's a brief rundown of what we have planned today:
-- Jeff Rimer chats with Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, to be aired on JacketsTV
-- Rob Mixer's Draft Central live blog, to be updated with news and interviews throughout the day
-- Interviews with Alex Galchenyuk and Ryan Murray
-- Tweets from @BlueJacketsNHL and @RobMixer live from the draft floor!
-- Our daily recap show with Rimer and Bob McElligott following tonight's first round
Keep it tuned to the blog for your #CBJ draft coverage!
Here are some photos from the NHL Draft week in Pittsburgh:
Top prospect Nail Yakupov takes a couple swings at batting practice today at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Mikhail Grigorenko and Yakupov take part in a fun game of ball hockey on the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
Yakupov, Grigorenko and Ryan Murray listen in during instructions at the prospects clinic.
American defense prospect Jacob Trouba hangs with the kids during the clinic at the Ice Castle.
Swedish center Filip Forsberg is the top-ranked European skater in this year's draft, based on the final rankings from NHL Central Scouting. He's an impressive kid; very honest and compelling with his answers to every question and seems to have a genuine enthusiasm for his draft week.
He admitted that he has no idea where he's going to go -- and that his mother has been back home in Sweden keeping tabs on teams that may be interested in selecting him. Scouts think Forsberg can be a player much like Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks -- a competitive, two-way player that can play center or wing and score a ton of goals.
We caught up with Forsberg during today's media session. Here's what he had to say:
On if he can play in the NHL right away:
"It's always my dream to play in the NHL, as with most of the players. I have one year left on my contract in Sweden, so that's where I will play next season and then we'll see, we'll take it (one day at a time)."
Asked what it would mean to take his Leksands club to the Elite level next year:
"That's one of my biggest goals this season -- to be a key player on that team to take the step up to the highest league. I think Leksands is one of the best teams historically in Sweden, and I think they should be in the highest league. That would be a huge honor."
On what he learned in last year's playoffs over in Sweden:
"We were pretty close to making the step up earlier this season. But hopefully we can take that experience playing against good teams that came down from Elites, and win those games next year. We have almost the same team, so hopefully we can make it."
Do you expect to have a bigger role on the team next year?
"That's what I'm aiming for. I think I have the qualities to play a bigger role."
What sports did you play back home in Sweden, other than hockey?
"I played baseball, but that was for only like two years (laughs). In the summer we played, and with hockey, we didn't work out that much. I tried to play both. Baseball isn't that big in Sweden, but Leksands had a team and I thought it was fun."
Is it a goal for you to go in the top three, or top five?
"No, I don't have any goals (with regard to draft order). There's so many good players here in the draft, and anything can happen. We'll see. I'll have a new favorite team after this weekend."
Will you sleep well tonight?
"Yeah, I think I will be pretty tired after this day."
Is this year's draft less nerve-wracking because of all the uncertainty?
"I don't know, actually. I try to put away the rankings. Most of my friends are telling me when I'm up or when I'm down in the rankings, so it's kind of hard to not think about it. I try to enjoy the week, and then we'll see what happens tomorrow night."
What's your thought process when you think about the teams that could potentially select you (in terms of fit, etc.)?
"It's hard to know, because right now I don't know much about the teams. Of course, I've been watching them on TV home in Sweden or I'm playing with them on NHL 12. We'll see; it's hard to think about. Maybe when it's time for me to go over, teams that weren't too good will be good."
More to come!
Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson met with the media this afternoon, and updated topics such as Rick Nash trade negotiations, the club's plans for the No. 2 overall pick, and more. The following is the transcript of Howson's comments to the media:
On his meeting with Joe Resnick, agent for Rick Nash:
“We just exchanged some information, and we prefer to keep what was said quiet. I think that’s the best way to operate. It was a good meeting, lasted almost an hour and we exchanged a lot ideas.”
Asked if he’s close to any deals:
Less optimistic of getting a deal done this weekend?
“Not at all. A lot of things can happen between now and when the draft is over. I’m not counting on anything. Obviously our goal is to do what’s best for our hockey club, and that’s how we’ll keep operating.”
Any concern that things don’t remain amicable the longer the process continues?
“No, I don’t sense that at all.”
Do you feel you’re in a better position now than you were at the deadline?
“I believe we are, yes. But we’re no closer to a deal than we were at the trade deadline.”
“I think there’s more legitimate possibilities out there right now.”
Did you speak to Resnick about what should happen if Rick isn’t moved this weekend, or beyond?
“No, we didn’t talk about that at all.”
Are you in on any trade offers to move up and acquire the first overall pick?
“We’re not interested in moving up. We’re going to stay at No. 2 or move back.”
Have you made your decision (on a player), or is there still work to be done?
“We’ll still be working at it tonight. I think there’s a few possibilities, in terms of us moving back, so we’re going to look at that and see if it’s something we want to do. If we stick at No. 2, we’re pretty confident with the player we’re going to take.”
If you do move back, how much is due to interest from other teams, or is it because you’ve identified a player you think you can get lower in the draft?
“Teams are interested in the second pick.”
How frustrating has this process been for you?
“It hasn’t been frustrating. It’s part of our job. We’re here to try to build a team that’s competitive, that’s exciting and can win the Stanley Cup. And we want to make our team better; that’s part of our job and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Have you moved past the possibility that Rick could stay with the Blue Jackets?
“I think anything’s possible in this game. No one knows how people are going to feel a week from now, or two weeks from now or how we’re going to feel. Rick’s a great guy, and he’s been a tremendous ambassador for our team, our city. And I wouldn’t want to put any certainty to anything right now.”
Do you have any idea who Edmonton is taking?
“I think I have a guess, but that’s all it is.”
Why no interest in moving up?
“The players that we have rated No. 1 and No. 2 are very close, and we would be delighted to get either one of them.”
Is there a player at No. 2 that’s ready to step in right away, or does that affect your decision?
“It doesn’t really affect our decision. But I do think there are one or two players in this draft that will be able to step in right away.”
Are you still in the mode of taking the best player available?
“Best player who we think is going to be the best player, not necessarily the player today. It’s going to be who we think who the best player is. Regardless of passport, regardless of position.”
The second day of the NHL Draft week here in Pittsburgh has been filled with activity -- for both the media and the 2012 top prospects. Thursday began with a media availability and luncheon on the Empress 2 riverboat. It was a gorgeous day (a little warm, but hey, it's summer!) and we had a nice meal before taking a cruise down the river.
Just don't ask me which river it was; there are three of them and two are almost impossible to spell (haha). We caught up with several of the prospects that were made available today and had some really entertaining conversations. The kids were relaxed, but each expressed a desire to get to tomorrow night's draft and get things going. There has been a lot of build-up and hype -- now they're ready to see how things unfold.
One of the biggest personalities of the week has easily been Nail Yakupov, this year's top-ranked North American skater. During the batting practice event over at PNC Park, Yakupov struggled to make solid contact -- but when he sent a chopper up the middle, he took off out of the batter's box...but ran to second base. We'll give him a pass, but he did show some good wheels.
Here's some highlights from Yakupov's conversation with the media during today's luncheon:
On the experience of draft week overall:
“I’m enjoying it here. I’m having fun with the guys, and I’m here with my family. I’m just waiting for the draft, and I don’t feel any pressure and I’m not nervous. We’ll just wait for tomorrow and see what happens.”
Have you started to think about going first overall?
“Not thinking about that. I’m just thinking about the draft, that’s it.”
When did you start to think that going No. 1 was realistic? “I think everyone wants to be first. You want to be first, too, right? I think it was my dream to play in the NHL and to make it here. First is first; I want to be the top player in the NHL.”
How nice is it to have a teammate/friend like Alex Galchenyuk here with you? “The first year (in North America) was tough because you don’t know the language, but Gally was with me always that year, helping to translate. He got tired of translating, so I tried to learn (English) and keep going, move forward and try to talk with the guys in the dressing room and on the bus. Gally helped me a lot, and his family. It’s great.”
Do you have any sense of what the Oilers might do with the No. 1 pick? Any ideas?
“We just talked about my life. Nothing about the draft, really. I don’t know what they’re going to do.”
NOTE: Stay tuned to the blog, as we'll have a lot more to come this afternoon and evening from Pittsburgh. Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson is scheduled to meet with the media around 5 p.m. (ET). JacketsTV will be there to film the media session, and we'll have highlights on Twitter (@BlueJacketsNHL) as well as a recap on the Draft Central blog.