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Posted On Saturday, 06.06.2015 / 6:31 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Barzal used Combine to show knee was fully healed

BUFFALO -- The 2015 NHL Scouting Combine might have been more important for Seattle Thunderbirds center Mathew Barzal than for other prospects.

Barzal was limited to 44 games during the regular season because of a knee injury that sidelined him for nearly three months.

"I obviously wanted to prove the knee isn't affecting me in strength areas, jumping, that kind of stuff," Barzal said Saturday. "Thought I did a pretty good job with that. I've been training hard for this. My knee felt great this week. Felt good the whole time."

Posted On Saturday, 06.06.2015 / 4:27 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2015 NHL Draft blog

Sharks' work for 2015 NHL Draft is years in making

BUFFALO -- The San Jose Sharks have been preparing for the 2015 NHL Draft for a while now, according to general manager Doug Wilson.

"Our staff, led by [director of scouting] Tim Burke told us this would be a strong draft and that's why we acquired all the picks we did the last few years," Wilson said. "We see it as a very good draft. It was forecast as a good draft and it's playing out that way."

The Sharks have the ninth pick of the first round. But Wilson said long before knowing where their first pick would be, the decision was made that this year's top pick would not be available to other teams.

"The strength of this draft year, it impacted some of our decisions this season," Wilson said. "We were not going to move our first-round pick regardless. The chance to add a high-end quality player [in the draft] was not something we were going to compromise on."

The Sharks generally have worked under the philosophy of taking the best player available regardless of position, especially in the first round. If they elect to look at forwards, players that could be available at No. 9 include Sarnia Sting center Pavel Zacha, Halifax Mooseheads right wing Timo Meier, Seattle Thunderbirds center Matthew Barzal and Youngstown Phantoms left wing Kyle Connor. If they elect to use the pick on a defenseman, among those available could be Zachary Werenski of the University of Michigan and Saint John Sea Dogs teammates Jakub Zboril and Thomas Chabot.

Wilson said the depth of the draft his him believing the Sharks will find a number of good players at different positions.

"We always have been very fortunate with our staff to add some very good players later in the draft," he said. "We'll go in with eight or nine picks this year and we expect to come out with some really quality players."


Posted On Saturday, 06.06.2015 / 4:00 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Caleb Jones working to move out of brother's shadow

BUFFALO -- Defenseman Caleb Jones will follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Nashville Predators defenseman Seth Jones, next season by playing with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

But Caleb, 18, said he's a lot more than Seth's younger brother.

"I just try to be my own player, work hard every day," he said. "I'm not Seth's brother, I'm Caleb, my own person and I'm trying to be my own person."

Posted On Saturday, 06.06.2015 / 10:44 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2015 NHL Draft blog

Blue Jackets could opt for defenseman in first round

BUFFALO -- Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has always believed that taking the best player available at the NHL draft is the best plan, and that won't change at the 2015 NHL Draft, where the Blue Jackets have the eighth pick of the first round.

But if there's a tie between two players of different positions, Kekalainen said the Blue Jackets could lean toward selecting a defenseman in the first round.

The Blue Jackets chose Ryan Murray with the second pick of the 2012 draft but he's played 78 games in two NHL seasons because of injuries. Mike Reilly, an offensive-minded defenseman picked in the fourth round (No. 98) in the 2011 draft, is unsigned and can become an unrestricted free agent June 15. He's spent this week in Buffalo during the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine meeting with other teams. Six of the 12 defensemen to play for the Blue Jackets last season were 25 or under. But of those six, David Savard (82) and Dalton Prout (63) were the only ones to play more than 60 games.

Posted On Saturday, 06.06.2015 / 9:30 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Wingate, balance test offer challenges for prospects

BUFFALO -- The 2015 NHL Scouting Combine has a new look and a new location, but the Wingate bike test remains the one challenge most draft prospects anticipate the most.

The last test of the day, it's a 30-second all-out sprint on a stationary bike that measures a player's explosiveness.

It's not just the difficulty of the test, which includes trainers inches away yelling motivation. It's performing it in front of NHL strength coaches, scouts and general managers, as well as members of the media.

"It draws a lot of attention," said defenseman Ethan Bear of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. "It was pretty hard, especially when they're screaming at you."

Posted On Friday, 06.05.2015 / 6:19 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Top defense prospects poised to steal spotlight

BUFFALO -- There is the potential for some breakout stars to emerge from a group of defense prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft that has been overshadowed by the top-end forwards who have dominated the attention during the buildup to the draft.

The top three in that group of defensemen are Noah Hanifin of Boston College, No. 3 on NHL Central Skating's final ranking of North American skaters for the draft; Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League (No. 7); and Zachary Werenski of the University of Michigan (No. 9).

Though six spots in the rankings separate the three players, there's little difference in talent level.

"To separate these guys a few years down the road is going to be very difficult," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said Friday.

Posted On Friday, 06.05.2015 / 11:55 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Maple Leafs impressed with depth of draft

BUFFALO -- Toronto Maple Leafs director of player personnel Mark Hunter is confident that when the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft is over, the Maple Leafs will have added two very good players.

The Maple Leafs have the fourth pick and the 24th, which they acquired from the Nashville Predators for defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli.

"We're pretty happy where we're sitting," Hunter said between prospect interviews Friday at the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine. "We really believe we're going to get a top-end kid, a top-end player [at No. 4]. It's a good spot. I think there's good depth in the draft. We even believe with the 24th hole there's going to be a good player sitting there at that time."

Posted On Thursday, 06.04.2015 / 5:45 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Oshawa's Cirelli still enjoying Memorial Cup moment

BUFFALO -- It's been four days since Oshawa Generals forward Anthony Cirelli scored in overtime of the championship game at the 2015 Memorial Cup and he's still smiling.

With the score tied 1-1 early in the extra period, Cirelli set a screen in front of Kelowna Rockets goaltender Jackson Whistle as Oshawa defenseman Chris Carlisle fired a shot from the top of the right circle. Whistle stopped Carlisle's shot, but Cirelli had strong position at the edge of the crease, boxed out Whistle and cleaned up the rebound to start the celebration.

Cirelli also scored the Generals' goal in regulation, finishing a 2-on-1 to tie the game at 13:50 of the second period. They were Cirelli's only two goals of the tournament.

"It was kind of a blur," Cirelli said Thursday of the seconds after he scored in overtime. "I remember it going in. Then we were hoisting the cup."

Posted On Thursday, 06.04.2015 / 4:28 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Saint John's Chabot not thrown by offbeat question

BUFFALO -- Thomas Chabot said the NHL Scouting Combine this week has been an interesting, and at times surprising, experience.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound defenseman from Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, No. 16 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2015 NHL Draft, said by the end of the week he'll have interviewed with 26 teams.

"It's been pretty good so far," Chabot said Thursday. "Nice to see that some teams want to talk to you and you can prove and show what type of guy you are off the ice. Just to answer the questions is pretty nice."

Posted On Thursday, 06.04.2015 / 1:48 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Erie's Strome ready to help younger brother in OHL

BUFFALO -- Erie Otters forward Dylan Strome had some help in his adjustment to the Ontario Hockey League from his older brother Ryan Strome, who spent four seasons in the OHL with the Barrie Colts and Niagara IceDogs.

Now Strome can do the same for the third brother in the family, Matthew, who was drafted by the Hamilton Bulldogs with the eighth pick of the 2015 OHL draft.

"We're talking," Dylan said. "It's really early, he just got drafted. Throughout the summer we'll talk."

It's likely they'll be similar conversations to the ones he and Ryan have had during the past few seasons as Dylan developed into a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft and Ryan into a top-six forward with the New York Islanders.

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