NHL notes: Yakupov stays No. 1 in final NHL draft rankings

Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting (QMI AGENCY)

Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting (QMI AGENCY)

QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 7:28 PM ET

Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting hung on to top spot among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final draft rankings of the year.

Despite missing time due to injuries this year, Yakupov was able to maintain his season-long grip atop the rankings, the final version of which were released Monday. He had 31 goals and 38 assists in just 42 games with the Sting.

"His first step and ability to control bouncing pucks, knock them down and make a play are the best of any of the guys in the draft," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said on NHL.com. "He really gets up to top speed very quickly and his hands are outstanding. You have to be aware where he is on the ice all the time."

Defenceman Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips is ranked No. 2 in North America, followed by forward Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts. Forward Alex Galchenyuk of Sarnia, who missed most of the season after having knee surgery in September, rocketed to fourth after being listed as a "limited viewing" player in the midseason rankings.

Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman Morgan Rielly rounded out the top five North American skaters. Eight of the top 12 are defencemen.

Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls remained the top-ranked goalie playing in North America, followed by Brandon Whitney of the Victoriaville Tigres and Jake Paterson of the Saginaw Spirit.

The top three skaters in the European rankings are Leksand centre Filip Forsberg, Jokerit winger Teuvo Teravainen and Frolunda winger Sebastian Collberg.

HOLTBY ONLY OPTION

The Washington Capitals aren't going to worry about handing the starting gig to rookie goalie Braden Holtby in their first-round playoff series with the Boston Bruins.

With two other goaltenders hurt -- Michael Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun both missed practice Monday and Dany Sabourin was called up from Hershey of the AHL -- the Caps are running out of options in net. Looks like it will be the 22-year-old Holtby by default.

"We have no choice,"Caps general manager George McPhee told the Washington Times. "If the other guys aren't ready to go, he's playing. (Holtby) can handle it. We've had other goalies do it that were at the same age or younger."

Holtby has played just 21 games in the NHL but went 10-2-2 during the 2010-11 season. He was 4-2-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .922 save percentage this season with the Caps.

STARS STAYING COURSE

Even though the Dallas Stars missed the playoffs, general manager Joe Nieuwendyk and coach Glen Gulutzan will keep their jobs, according to team owner Tom Gaglardi.

"There is absolutely no chance that Joe and Gully aren't back," Gaglardi told the Dallas Morning News. "Joe has his mandate, and he needs time to make it work, and I don't think he's had that time yet. I agree with Joe's strategy and vision, so there is harmony there "¦ It's Joe's decision on Gully, but I like what Gully has done too, and I believe there is support there for him."

The Stars finished 10th in the Western Conference with a 42-35-5 record in Gulutzan's first season with the Stars. But unlike previous ownership, Gaglardi isn't going to blow things up and start again.

"I think if you look at the entire season, there is a lot there to like," he said. "Stability is everything to me. I think we have good people in place and we need to let them do their jobs."

NO CANADA FOR STAMKOS?

A shoulder injury could keep Tampa Bay Lightning 60-goal scorer Steven Stamkos out of the Canada lineup for the world hockey championship.

Stamkos had an MRI done on a left shoulder injury that bothered him the final month of the NHL regular season, he revealved Monday. He had the test done as a precaution, according to Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, but the injury could be enough to keep him from playing for Canada at the worlds.

"It's nothing major, we just want to make sure that nothing is wrong and we don't want it to happen again," Stamkos told the Tampa Tribune.

Stamkos will wait until doctors look at the MRI results before deciding if he will play for Canada.

This season, the 22-year-old became the 20th player in NHL history to hit the 60-goal plateau. He scored 10 goals in Tampa's final nine games to reach 60.

HITCHCOCK WAITING

If St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock knows who will start in goal against the San Jose Sharks, he's not saying.

Hitchcock says he will wait until Thursday before announcing his Game 1 starter. Not even the two goalies, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, have been told who's playing against the Sharks.

"I wish I knew," Halak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's (Hitchcock's) decision. I did my best all season. I think Ells did the same thing and right now, it's up to (Hitchcock). Obviously I would love to play and Ells would love to play and only one can play. We'll see what happens. If it's going to be me or Ells, either way, we need to play as a team."

Halak and Elliott combined to win the Jennings Trophy (lowest team GAA in the NHL) this season so it's a tough call for Hitchcock. Elliott led the league with a 1.56 GAA and .940 save percentage while Halak, who has more playoff experience, had a 1.97 GAA and .926 save percentage.

BRIEFLY

Concussed Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews could play in the opening game of the series with the Phoenix Coyotes. Toews has already been cleared for contact and skated on a line with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa at practice Monday ... Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask could be ready to return to his backup role by the time Thursday's series opener against Washington rolls around. If Rask's groin/ab injury hasn't healed enough, the Bruins will go with Anton Khudobin behind Tim Thomas ... Phoenix goalie Mike Smith was named the NHL's first star of the week after going 3-0-0 with a shutout, his third straight. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos (four goals, one assist) and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (three goals, three assists) were the second and third stars, respectively ... Detroit Red Wings forward Darren Helm is eyeing Game 2 of the series with Nashville as a possible return date. Helm has missed a month with a sprained MCL ... Injured Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Briere was coy about his availability for Game 1 of the series with Pittsburgh. But it sounds like he'll be in the lineup Wednesday ... As expected, Pittsburgh sent tough-guy Steve MacIntyre back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. He played in the Pens' season finale against the Flyers Saturday ... The Winnipeg Jets sent forwards Patrice Cormier and Spencer Machacek to St. John's of the AHL ... Forward Cody Bass re-signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets despite missing half the season following shoulder surgery. Bass had one assist in 14 games with the Jackets.


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