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Posted On Tuesday, 06.26.2012 / 11:48 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - NHL Free Agency 2012 blog

Avs elect not to extend qualifying offer to Mueller

When Peter Mueller has been healthy, he's shown himself to be a highly-skilled NHL forward.

Staying healthy, however, has been a major issue the last three seasons, and likely was part of the reason the Colorado Avalanche on Monday declined to give the restricted free agent a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Taken by the Phoenix Coyotes with the eighth pick of the 2006 Draft, Mueller broke into the NHL the following season. His 22 goals as a rookie were second only to Chicago's Jonathan Toews, and his 54 points trailed only Chicago's Patrick Kane and Washington's Nicklas Backstrom.

He slumped to just 13 goals the following season, and after a slow start to the 2009-10 season, the Coyotes traded him to the Colorado Avalanche on March 3, 2010.

The change of scenery lit a fire under Mueller, who had nine goals and 11 assists in 20 games. That hot run ended April 4, 2010, when he suffered a concussion on a hit by the San Jose Sharks' Rob Blake.

He was close to returning when the 2010-11 season started, but he suffered another concussion in his first preseason game -- Mueller said he was hit by a stick in the left temple, the same place he was injured on the Blake hit -- and that led to him sitting out the entire 2010-11 season.

Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 11:13 AM

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

New favorite team for Stolarz

PITTSBURGH -- Corpus Christi IceRays goalie Anthony Stolarz grew up in Jackson, N.J. -- about an hour north of Philadelphia -- rooting for Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.

But after being selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft, the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder said, "It looks like I'm a Flyers fan now."

Stolarz does have a connection to the Flyers, as growing up in central New Jersey, he played with and against Philadelphia forward James van Riemsdyk.

"I played against Trevor in high school when I was a freshman [at St. John Vianney], he was a senior at Christian Brothers [Academy]. There were a few times playing open hockey I'd play with James, Trevor and the youngest brother, Brandon."

Stolarz has taken a circuitous route to his NHL draft day. He played in the Atlantic Youth Hockey League and was recommended for an open camp Corpus Christi was having in Albany, N.Y. From there he was invited to the IceRays' main camp and posted a 2.84 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 50 games.

He admits he had no idea what hockey in Texas would be like.

"It was right on the beach," he said. "I figured it'll be a good spot."

However, playing in Texas made it a bit hard for NHL scouts to find him, which made his selection in the second round a bit of a surprise.

"To start the year I really wasn't focused on the NHL," he said. "I was focused more on getting a college scholarship. Anything after that was an added bonus."

He'll play at the University of Nebraska-Omaha next season, but said he's already looking forward to meeting Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

"He looks like an interesting character," Stolarz said. "He's a good goalie. Watching him in Phoenix and now Philly, hopefully I'll be able to pick up a few things from him."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 10:46 AM

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

Awkward reunion

PITTSBURGH -- Back in February at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, Red Deer defenseman Matt Dumba and Baie-Comeau left wing Raphael Bussieres and engaged in a pretty spirited fight.

When Bussieres was picked by the Wild in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft on Saturday, the first person he saw at the team's table on the draft floor was the team's first-round pick -- Dumba.

"I shook his hand," Bussieres told "It was a little awkward, but just funny. We both laughed."

Bussieres said there's no hard feelings or about what happened, saying it was just part of that game.

"I have nothing against Dumba," Bussieres said. "The game is intense. He hit one of the players I played with and I just fight him."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 12:40 AM

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

Ceci staying home -- again

PITTSBURGH -- Cody Ceci knows for sure he'll be playing his home games in Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. Whether he's doing it as a member of the Ottawa Senators, however, is another story.

Ceci, taken by the Senators with the 15th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, plays his junior hockey for the Ottawa 67s. With their home arena, the Ottawa Civic Center, under renovations, the 67s will play their home games next season at Scotiabank Place, home of the Senators.

And if he does eventually play for the Senators, it'll be easy for his family to see the games -- Ceci was born and raised in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, Ont.

"It's a crazy feeling for me," he told "I never thought it would happen. To stay at home for major junior was crazy enough. Now doing it at the [NHL] level is indescribable. My mom's really happy."

Ceci said he met with the Senators in May at the NHL Scouting Combine, and said he was told then that if he were still available when the Sens' turn came at the draft -- he was No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters -- he would be a player they would consider.

"When it got to be closer to them I was hoping that everything would work out," he said. "Just having everything work out is special. I'm really fortunate and I feel lucky that it did work out."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 12:25 AM

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

Laughton gets first taste of rivalry

PITTSBURGH -- Oshawa Generals forward Scott Laughton got a rough introduction to the bitter Flyers-Penguins rivalry.

Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren nearly was drowned out by the Consol Energy Center crowd, and Laughton said he never really heard his name called with the 20th pick.

"It definitely was loud, and I really couldn't hear my name being called," he told "But I heard Oshawa Generals and I knew it was me. We know the rivalry is alive and well. Pretty excited about it."

A 6-foot, 177-pound center, Laughton had 21 goals, 32 assists and 101 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Generals. He also had seven points in seven games for Canada at the 2012 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He was No. 28 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft.

"He came on strong at the end [of the season]," Holmgren said. "We had four or five guys over there at the Under-18 World Championships, and they all thought Scott was Canada's best player."

Laughton said he didn't mind getting booed by the Penguins fans on Friday -- but also said he wouldn't forget it when he gets to Philadelphia.

"I think I will try and pay them back," he said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Posted On Friday, 06.22.2012 / 11:58 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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

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 Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Posted On Thursday, 06.21.2012 / 4:34 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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 "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 "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 Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Posted On Thursday, 06.21.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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 "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 Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 7:00 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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 Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 6:10 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 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 Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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