Alex Galchenyuk could be the Cadillac of hybrids.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. All opinions expressed by Mike Ulmer are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Toronto Maple Leafs or its Hockey Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Maple Leafs and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NHL accredited member of the media.

I’d take the guy on the left.

I think Alex Galchenyuk is the guy.

If he is there at five, I think the Maple Leafs draft him.

As one hockey guy put it, just because Nail Yakupov was bestowed the title as the number one guy doesn’t necessarily means he deserves it.

Wish I could say I gleaned this intel from the Leafs brass. Seems they have more important things to do than tell me their plans.

But had the Sarnia Stings centreman not torn the MCL in his left knee and missed all but two regular season and six playoff games, he could have been the consensus number one.

The comparison between Galchenyuk and Yakupov is irresistible, in part because Yakupov should go number one, in part because they played (sometimes) side by each in lovely Sarnia.

Alex Galchenyuk offers a compelling blend of skills and styles.

“We’re way different players,” Galchenyuk said as the prospects took one more turn with the media via a riverboat cruise in Pittsburgh, Thursday afternoon. “It’s tough to compare us to each other. He does some things better than me and I do some things better than him.”

In his rookie OHL season, Galchenyuk put up 83 points, 31 goals and 52 assists in 68 games. That trailed Yakupov’s 49 goals and 101 points the same year. Still, Galchenyuk had to be considered largely responsible for his linemate’s success.

Galchenyuk is a little taller although at six-feet he remains reed think. Yakupov is dramatically stronger and faster.  Galchenyuk is a better playmaker and his two-way game is significantly more evolved. With Yakupov, the challenge would be to season his offensive flair with a touch of defensive awareness. With Galchenyuk, you’d want to keep him doing what he’s doing now only in a slightly larger suit size.

They are different people. Galchenyuk’s dad Alex was a Belarussian pro who moved his family to stops in Europe and North America. His English is accented but little Alex was born in Milwaukee and would pay for Team USA if asked. He is, in short, a nice hybrid, maybe an ideal combination of many of the traits both continents have to offer.

“It was a great experience to travel and to be in all the countries like Italy, Switzerland and Germany,” he said. “I think it got me farther as a person. I know what the world is like around me and trying all the food and the culture was an unbelievable experience.”

Yakupov, meanwhile, is from Tatarstan, a traditionally tolerant and isolated mostly-Muslim republic roughly 800 miles East of Moscow. You don’t get there by accident. Nor do you get out.

The kid with the Rocket’s red glare.

There is a compelling roughness in Yakupov. Take a look at any photo. He has a Richardian gaze and his game is explosive and raw.  Yakupov’s grasp of English is naturally embryonic. Put beside his linemate Galchenyuk seems positively urbane.

Yakupov has often said Galchenyuk has comparable skills.

“He’s a great player. It was easy playing with Gally on the same line because he’s smart. Great shot, great hands. ”

Circumstances have cast this draft as a particularly chancy Friday night. Filip Forsberg, an intriguing Swedish player has a growth curve that should put him among the top three but he is a 17-year-old cursed with a teenager’s physique. It will take him years before big kids aren’t kicking sand in his face even though he possesses excellent puck protection skills.

Mikhail Grigorenko is gifted with an unholy skill set but his stock seems to be plummeting despite his excellent size, six-foot-three and 200 pounds. Critics fear he is easily distracted.

Everett defenceman Ryan Murray is very skilled but a tad small at six-feet. Red Deer rearguard Matt Dumba is a heavy hitter who managed 20 goals and 57 points.  Griffin Reinhart projects as a very solid but not jaw-dropping all around defenceman.

Complicating matters even further is the urgency felt by the Leafs and many others to make a hefty cut in the trade market. Bobby Ryan and Jordan Stall are names that won’t go away while Rick Nash and Roberto Luongo sleep like pregnant women: their bags are by the door.

Edmonton, the traditional number one team in the draft line needs help on the blue line and could be tempted by Murray. Columbus has a history of bad dates with Russian players. Montreal and the New York Islanders are wild cards who might be tempted by Grigorenko who could even fall into double digits.

To me,Galchenyuk comes with fewer question marks. He rehabbed furiously from his knee injury. He is enormously skilled with terrific vision and he plays the game the right way.

He’d be my guy at five if he was around. It’ll be interesting to see if he will be or if the Leafs feel strongly enough about him to try deal up.

Thanks to all the readers who corrected me on Galchenyuk vs Grigorenko. Thank God the world is so full of critics.

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About Mike Ulmer

Mike Ulmer has written 207 post in this blog.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. All opinions expressed by Mike Ulmer are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Toronto Maple Leafs or its Hockey Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Maple Leafs and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NHL accredited member of the media.



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