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Original Issue

Cold Draft On Tap

The best player won't necessarily be the first taken in this week's draft, where even the top prospects are receiving icy receptions

With regards to this week's NHL entry draft, the consensus among general managers and scouts is that Sarnia Sting (OHL) winger Nail Yakupov is the class's best player. The Oilers, owners of the top pick for the third straight year, however, do not need another swift-scoring forward as much as they need a defenseman. So if Edmonton keeps the pick, as G.M. Steve Tambellini has indicated, there is no guarantee that Yakupov would go No. 1.

While there are plenty of safe picks—serviceable players who may have decent NHL careers—even the most talented ones carry question marks that will give teams pause. Mikhail Grigorenko, for instance, a high-scoring center for the Quebec Remparts (QMJHL), has all-world skill, but scouts have questioned his consistency and work ethic (sidebar). Craig Button, a former general manager with the Flames and now an analyst for TSN, had Grigorenko sixth in his prospect rankings last December; by last week Grigorenko had dropped to 20th.

"If you look at every team's top 10," one G.M. says, "I'd venture to say you'll see 30 very different lists."


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