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Posted On Friday, 06.22.2012 / 11:58 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Fairy-tale ending for Pearson

PITTSBURGH -- Barrie Colts forward Tanner Pearson was passed over in two drafts, but had a dominant season in the Ontario Hockey League, finishing third with 91 points and helping Canada win the bronze medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

He culminated his fairy-tale season by being selected by the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings with the final pick of the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

"I think it puts the icing on the cake, for sure," Pearson told NHL.com.

Pearson said as the final picks of the first round came off the board, he wasn't sure if he would have to wait until Saturday to hear his name called.

"It goes through everyone's head," he said. "If I didn't get picked today I don't think it would have been the end of the world for myself. I would have come in tomorrow with the exact same attitude I had today and hopefully get picked up. But I was fortunate to get picked up today. Last but not least, but it's going to be fun."

Pearson said he's already put his 2011-12 season behind him and shifted his focus to doing what he can to play for the Kings in 2012-13.

"Something new is starting," he said. "It was a great year, it happened, and now I have to focus on making the Kings. … I know it's going to be a hard team to make. I want to do everything I can to do that."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 06.21.2012 / 4:34 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Upholding the pride of the WHL

PITTSBURGH -- The last time NHL draft prospects took batting practice was two years ago at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, and the only player to reach the outfield seats was current Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Connolly, an alum of the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League.

Two prospects from the WHL -- Everett's Ryan Murray and Moose Jaw's Moran Rielly -- were among the seven taking batting practice Wednesday at PNC Park, but neither was able to equal Connolly's feat.

"I'm extremely disappointed," a laughing Rielly told NHL.com. "I was hoping to come out here and just rake it, but I didn't. It's a lot harder than I thought."

Only Jacob Trouba of the U.S. National Team Development Program came close to reaching the outfield fence.

"I was clearing the infield by the end of it, which I was happy about," Rielly said. "It was pretty impressive he could hit a home run. That's good for him."

"I didn't even hit it out of the infield," Murray told NHL.com. "I don't think I got one airborne outside of there. I definitely did not keep up to his reputation."

Despite not living up their WHL predecessor, the players still enjoyed themselves.

"It was a good time," Murray said. "It was fun coming out here. I hadn't touched a bat in a long time -- since I was a little kid. It was fun to come out here. You really appreciate the game a lot more."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 06.21.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Twins manager a big hockey fan

PITTSBURGH -- Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and his team were on the road when the 2011 NHL Draft came to Minnesota, so he wasn't going to miss a chance to watch the top prospects in action this year.

Gardenhire met the prospects and watched some of their batting practice session at PNC Park prior to his team's game Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"These guys slap a ball around pretty good," he told NHL.com. "We've seen some pretty good hockey players come through and whack the baseball. I've thrown a lot of BP to them."

Gardenhire also is a hockey fan, and owns a pair of goalie pads. He's even stepped into a net to take shots from Wild players.

"I got the pads," he said. "I was wearing my ice boots because there's no way I can skate -- I can't stand up on skates. I got in there and had Darby Hendrickson shoot some pucks at me. It was a blast. I didn't realize how fast the pucks came until they started hitting it at me, and that probably wasn't even fast. It is an amazing thing. I love hockey."

And like any smart baseball man, he's always keeping his eyes open for extra talent.

"Any of them pitch?" he asked.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 7:00 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Prospects on high

PITTSBURGH -- The full day of events for a few of the top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft concluded with a drive up to the top of Mount Washington for a scenic view of the Pittsburgh skyline.

The players went to the same spot Mario Lemieux visited just after he was drafted by the Penguins with the first pick of the 1984 draft. In a well-known picture, Lemieux posed in his Penguins jersey with his stick and skates over his shoulder.

On Wednesday, Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk, Ryan Murray and Jacob Trouba went to that same spot and posed for a similar picture.

Prior to posing, the players were shown the famed Lemieux picture. Then they were told by Penguins vice-president of communicates Tom McMillan that as a gift from the team, they would get a custom-made frame of that famed photo of Lemieux as well as their own photo from that same scenic mountain-side spot with a personalized Lemieux autograph.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 6:10 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Special location for ball-hockey game

PITTSBURGH -- The top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft didn't just to skate indoors Wednesday. They got to play ball hockey. In the middle of the famed Roberto Clemente Bridge.

Nope, not your usual location for a pick-up hockey game.

The iconic bridge was the setting for a game of 4-on-4 between the prospects and players from the Pittsburgh Ice hockey program. The program is affiliated with the NHL's Hockey is For Everyone initiative.

Ryan Murray thought the level of competition among the kids -- average age was 8 years old -- was pretty good.

"We tied them," he said. "They had some skill over there, some good shots, some good speed. Goalies were good. They had good positioning out there. It was tough to score."

Another reason the prospects had trouble scoring could have been their choice of footwear. Mikhail Grigorenko wore black dress shoes, while Nail Yakupov wore flip flops.

"Guys didn't know it was casual," Alex Galchenyuk said. "Mikhail was trying to look good and Yaki [Yakupov] just came from the showers. Guess they didn't know they were playing hockey."

There also was the usual good-natured ribbing. Jacob Trouba started the game on the bench, and when the Pittsburgh Ice team scored the game's first goal, he looked at Murray and yelled, "minus-1."

Murray heard him, and had a response: "I told him he should change his curve because every ball he was shooting was going down the bridge. The coach down there was getting a workout running up and down trying to get the ball."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 5:25 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Murray: Goal to be in NHL next season

CASTLE SHANNON, Pa. -- Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray already has played three full seasons in the Western Hockey League, and if he has it his way, there won't be a fourth.

Murray, ranked second on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft, said he hopes to be in the NHL when the 2012-13 season starts.

"That's what I want to do, that's my goal," he said. "That's what I want to do next year. … I want to make the jump. Obviously it's a big one. I know I have a lot of work to do, but that's definitely my goal for next year."

Murray was born about two weeks past the cutoff date for the 2011 draft, making him one of the oldest players among the first-timers for this year's draft. He said he believes having a late birthday when it comes to the hockey season has helped him.

"I got an extra year than the other guys," he said. "I've got a pretty big head start on the other guys. I guess the scouts keep that in mind, too. I try to relate myself to the [1993-born prospects from the 2011 draft] a lot, as well."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 5:08 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

'Babysitter' Gibson remembers back to last year

CASTLE SHANNON, Pa. -- One of the more interested observers at the clinic on Wednesday was Pittsburgh-area resident John Gibson, who was drafted in the second round last year by the Anaheim Ducks.

He helped on the ice at Tuesday's session, but was a spectator Wednesday.

"My brother is out there," Gibson told NHL.com. "I came to pick him up. … I'm on babysitting duty today."

Nine-year-old Justin Gibson is a burgeoning defenseman who got the treat of skating with a few of the top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft.

Gibson said watching the clinic brought him back to last year in Minnesota.

"It definitely was an exciting time," he said. "I know I enjoyed it with my family. It goes by fast. The main thing is just enjoy it."

Gibson, who spent last season with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, said that was the advice he was giving his friends who were up for the draft this year.

"They ask a little bit of what to expect and stuff," he said. "I just say enjoy it, it goes by fast."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 4:46 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Murray happy for Hartsburg

CASTLE SHANNON, Pa. -- Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray was happy to hear Craig Hartsburg, dismissed as an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames, had been hired to the same post with the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week.

Hartsburg spent two seasons (2009-11) as coach with Everett, which happened to be Murray's first two seasons in the Western Hockey League.

"That's great for him," Murray told NHL.com. "He's one of the best coaches I ever had. He did a great job with our team in Everett for two years. He got a tough break from Calgary, but it's great that he's back in the NHL again. He really deserves it."

Murray said Hartsburg -- who spent 10 seasons as an NHL defenseman with the Minnesota North Stars -- taught him what he needed to get to the next level.

"He's just a really intense guy," Murray told NHL.com. "Every day he teaches you to work hard. You can't take a shift off when he's your coach or you're going to hear about it. He really taught me that you have to play consistent if you're going to play at a high level. He taught me that if you're going to play at a high level you have to play hard every night and you have to show up every single day."

And with the Blue Jackets currently holding the second pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, there's a chance they pair could be reunited next season.

Murray, however, would only say, "I guess there's a chance."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.12.2012 / 10:15 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Order of first round of 2012 NHL Draft set

With the Stanley Cup Final settled, it's time to take a look at how the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft will look.

The first 14 picks were set by the results of the NHL Draft Lottery held in April. The 12 teams eliminated in the first two rounds of the playoffs come next. Non-division winners are placed in inverse order of points, followed by division winners through the same process. That's why the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had the fourth-most points in the League, have a better draft spot than the Florida Panthers, finished with nine fewer points but won the Southeast Division.

The next two spots go to the losing teams in the conference finals, again in inverse order of regular-season points, meaning Phoenix will pick 27th and the Rangers 28th. New Jersey, which lost in Game 6 of the Cup Final, will pick No. 29, while the Cup champion Kings will take No. 30.

Three teams have multiple first-round picks: Tampa Bay will pick 10th and 19th; Washington has the Nos. 11 and 16 picks; and Buffalo will pick 12th and 21st.

Columbus also could have two first-round picks. They currently have the No. 2 pick and hold an option to take Los Angeles' pick. The Blue Jackets acquired the rights to the pick in the Jeff Carter trade, and can take the Kings' first pick this year or next, or trade the option.

Three teams currently will sit out the first round: Colorado, which sent it's pick to Washington in the Semyon Varlamov deal; Detroit, which traded it's pick to Tampa Bay as part of the Kyle Quincey trade; and Nashville, which dealt its pick to Buffalo in exchange for Paul Gaustad.

The New Jersey Devils will hold onto the 29th pick. They had the option of forfeiting the pick as part of the NHL-imposed penalty for circumventing the salary cap to sign Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010. They now must surrender their first-round pick in 2013 or 2014

1. Edmonton

2. Columbus

3. Montreal

4. N.Y. Islanders

5. Toronto

6. Anaheim

7. Minnesota

8. Carolina

9. Winnipeg

10. Tampa Bay

11. Washington (from Colorado)

12. Buffalo

13. Dallas

14. Calgary

15. Ottawa

16. Washington

17. San Jose

18. Chicago

19. Tampa Bay (from Detroit)

20. Philadelphia

21. Buffalo (from Nashville)

22. Pittsburgh

23. Florida

24. Boston

25. St. Louis

26. Vancouver

27. Phoenix

28. N.Y. Rangers

29. New Jersey

30. Los Angeles

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Saturday, 06.02.2012 / 4:10 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Top marks for goalies during Combine fitness test

TORONTO -- With the fitness testing portion of the 2012 NHL Scouting Combine over, one of the things the results show is the next wave of goaltenders that come into the NHL will be big and very well-conditioned.

Goalies took the top six spots in the wing-span measurement, topped by 6-foot-5 Anthony Stolarz of Corpus Christi in the NAHL. His 81-inch wing span was three-quarters of an inch longer than Jon Gillies of Indiana (USHL), who measured 80.25 inches. Malcolm Subban of Belleville, NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked North American goalie, was third at 79.5 inches. Andrey Vasilevskiy of Ufa in Russia, Central Scouting's top-ranked European goalie, was sixth at 78 inches.

Matt Tomkins of Sherwood Park (AJHL) tied Calgary Hitmen defenseman Kenton Helgesen for the lowest percentage of body fat at 7.0. Kitchener goalie Frank Palazzese was third at 7.3 percent.

Subban and Jake Paterson of Saginaw (OHL) tied for third in the vertical jump at 30.5 inches, just behind leader Chris Calnan of the Nobles School (Mass.) at 32.5 inches, and London's Andreas Athanasiou (32.0). Tomkins was sixth at 29.8 inches.

Here is how the prospects fared in some of the other tests held Friday and Saturday at the Toronto International Centre:

Anaerobic fitness, peak power output: Sarnia forward Alex Galchenyuk -- who missed all but one regular-season game after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in October -- showcased how well he was healed by leading this category, which measures how explosive a skater he is. His high peak output could be the difference in gaining 2-3 strides on a defenseman on a breakaway. Kitchener forward Matia Marcantuoni and Muskegon center Matthew DeBlouw finished second, with Plymouth forward Thomas Wilson and Calnan rounding out the top five.

VO2 Max test duration: Rogle defenseman Hampus Lindholm lasted longest in the toughest endurance test at the Combine, staying on the bike for 14:40. The Swedish blueliner is No. 4 on Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters. That time was more than a minute longer than Everett defenseman Ryan Murray (13:32), Central Scouting's No. 2-ranked North American skater. Edmonton forward Henrik Samuelsson (13:25), Wilson (13:11) and Exeter School right wing Brian Hart (13:11).
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