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Posted On Tuesday, 05.31.2011 / 9:55 PM

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

What's the Flyers' plan?

The Philadelphia Flyers won't make their first selection at the 2011 Entry Draft until late in the third round, but that hasn't stopped GM Paul Holmgren from taking the time to interview some of the top prospects here in Toronto at the NHL Scouting Combine.

"We've been spending time talking to guys that are going to go high in the first round because you never know," Holmgren told "We're here, all these players are here, might as well get to know them a little bit. You never know. Even if you don't draft a guy or move up, you never know what might come down the road, in a trade, maybe it's two or three years from now. Any time you get a chance to interact with these young players it's good."

Holmgren referenced the 2002 Entry Draft as an example of the unpredictability of the draft. That year, he was the club's assistant GM when the team didn't have a first-round pick but did have a pair of second-round choices. On draft day, they sent those choices along with forward Ruslan Fedotenko to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the fourth pick of the draft and selected Joni Pitkanen.

"You have to approach it like anything can happen," said Holmgren. "That's the way we've always done it. You never really do know what might happen. We went into the draft in 2002 and we ended up with the fourth pick. You have to know the players. Scouts have their jobs to do. They continue to do them, look at all the players and prepare for any scenario that might come up."

Holmgren said he didn't know how possible it would be for him to move up. He traded first- and third-round picks to Toronto in the Kris Versteeg deal, and their second-round pick was sent to Phoenix in 2009 as part of the Daniel Carcillo trade.

"You never know what might happen," said Holmgren. "It varies. Certain teams are in different spots. I just think you need to be open-minded about these things. Are first-round picks coveted? I would say sometimes yes, sometimes no."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Posted On Monday, 05.30.2011 / 6:23 PM

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

Time with Tallon

TORONTO -- Dale Tallon wore No. 19 for most of his NHL career, but he's come to be more associated with the number 3.

That's because for the second straight year, Tallon, the general manager of the Florida Panthers, holds the No. 3 pick of the Draft.

And before that, when he was the GM of the Chicago Blackhawks, he had the third pick of the 2007 Entry Draft. That worked out pretty well, when he chose Jonathan Toews. And the early returns on last year's third pick, defenseman Erik Gudbranson, look pretty good.

Will he have the same success with the third pick this year? Tallon is confident he will.

"I think it's a very good position to be in this year," Tallon told on Monday, the first day of the NHL Scouting Combine. "We're going to get a good player there."

The third pick isn't the only one the Panthers have. For the second straight year, Florida has double-digit picks. After making 13 selections last year, they have 10 picks this year -- besides their first-round choice, they have two picks in the second round and four in the third.

And if Tallon has his way, they'll have even more choices when the teams convene at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25.

"If we can achieve that and get a couple more picks this year, that would give us 24, 25 picks in a year -- that's like four drafts," he said. "That really can set us up or the future and give us a strong foundation. That's what we're doing."

Building from the draft up is part of Tallon's rebuilding plan in Florida, which started a year ago when he was hired. It's the same philosophy he used to rebuild the Blackhawks when he was hired as that team's GM in 2005. In his tenure in Chicago, the Hawks added such key components as Toews, Patrick Kane and Niklas Hjalmarsson, to go along with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien, who were drafted while Tallon was assistant GM in Chicago.

His work in Florida started last year with Gudbranson, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound defenseman with a powerful shot and a nasty edge to his game. Gudbranson had a strong training camp, but was sent back to Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League when he and the team couldn't agree on a contract. He totaled 34 points and 105 penalty minutes in 44 games, and 5 points in seven games for Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship.

Tallon said he expects Gudbranson to be in South Florida to start 2011-12.

"We're happy with this development and we'll get him taken care of in the next little while, get him signed up," Tallon said. "He's a big part of our future. He's a core guy for us. He's got captaincy-type material as far as character on and off the ice. We think he's going to be a great player for us."

He has high hopes for his two other first-round picks, centers Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden.

Bjugstad, a 6-foot-4, 188-pound center taken with the 19th pick, had 8 goals and 12 assists in 29 games as a freshman at the University of Minnesota, and had 2 goals and 2 assists in six games in helping the U.S. win the bronze medal at the 2011 World Junior Championship.

Howden, a 6-2, 182-pound center taken with the 29th pick, had a team-best 40 goals in 60 games for the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors and he had 2 goals and 3 assists to help Canada win the silver medal at the 2011 WJC.

They weren't the only successes.

"(John) McFarland had a good second half in Saginaw and (Alex) Petrovic had good numbers in Red Deer. … We're happy with all of them. Every one of those kids we drafted had good years last year in their respective leagues and their development has come along nicely. (Director of Player Development) Brian Skrudland has done a real nice job for us in that regard, keeping an eye on those kids and giving them information and mentoring them and helping them along so they've all had a better understanding of what's expected of them. We're happy. We kept a close eye on them. It's important. We don't want them to get astray and get some bad habits. We want them to get a pro and a Panther state of mind. That's what we're trying to instill in our people. And change the whole perception and culture that we have in Florida."

One of the common factors in last year's draft was a combination of size and skill. Eight of their 13 picks were taller than 6-2 and six weigh at least 190 pounds. This year, however, Tallon said the accent might be placed more on skill.

"Probably going to go for more speed and skill," said Tallon. "That's one thing we don't have a lot of, offense yet. We're going to look at probably the same character and same traits but probably go with more speed and skill to offset the size we drafted last year. But it won't preclude us from drafting some big, strong guys this year.

Tallon sees his renovation work in Florida on same path as the one that ended with Stanley Cup glory in Chicago.

"I think it's very similar," Tallon said. "I think the difference moving forward (in Florida) is the flexibility we have contract-wise. We have, depending on what the (salary cap) floor is, just to get to the floor we'll have to spend anywhere from $28 to $30 million -- that's the difference. That can afford us to get some good 27-, 28-, 29-year-old free agents that can be leaders of our team."

In Chicago he added free agents Nikolai Khabibulin, Cristobal Huet, Brian Campbell and Antti Niemi to his home-grown group. Tallon said he plans on being just as active with the Panthers. One of the positions he'll look at closest is in goal. Veteran starter Tomas Vokoun can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, but the team's top prospect is goalie Jacob Markstrom. Also, backup Scott Clemmensen has one year left on his contract.

"We're going to look at Tomas, we're going to look at everything available," said Tallon. "Free agency, trade, those are the ways we're going to see what best suits our situation with young goaltenders with Markstrom, (Sam) Brittain and (Brian) Foster in our system. We have some good young goaltenders. And Scott Clemmensen is a very good backup goaltender, had a good year for us. We're going to get a top goalie. If it's Tomas, great, but we don't know. We're going to talk to him as well."

Beside the player side, Tallon also needs to find a coach. Since firing Peter DeBoer following last season's 14th place finish in the Eastern Conference, Tallon said it's "been an exhaustive search," but hoped to have a new coach in place prior to next month's draft.

"We've talked to and interviewed a tremendous number of quality candidates," said Tallon. "The good thing is we have a lot of guys that want to come to Florida and see us turn this around. That's the good news."

While he might have a young team for the 2011-12 season, he said he doesn't necessarily need a young coach to grow with his players.

"We need a good teacher and a good communicator," he said. "It doesn't matter, the age. I don't look at age as a factor. … I want to have somebody that can relate to young guys and have respect of elder players."

Once he has that in place, Tallon can work on finding a new number to be associated with.

"I don't want to be picking there (No. 3) ever again, unless we get it in a trade," said Tallon. "We need to start moving up the ladder. Been at the front row enough; it was nice being in the back row. That's the goal."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Posted On Monday, 05.30.2011 / 3:02 PM

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

Which prospects are staying busy?

The interview process at the NHL Scouting Combine gives teams a chance to meet as many of the top prospects for the 2011 Entry Draft as possible. Some teams see lots of kids, while others have specific targets in mind.

Apparently, lots of teams are interested in four particular players.

Sarnia Sting forward Brett Ritchie is one of four players that will meet with 29 of the 30 teams during the Combine. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound right wing had 21 goals and 20 assists in just 49 OHL games this season, but broke out in a big way for Canada at the World Under-18 Championships, finishing with 4 goals and 3 assists in seven games as Canada finished fourth. He's No. 36 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the Draft.

Three Swedish players also will meet with 29 of the 30 teams -- Djurgarden center Mika Zibanejad, Central Scouting's No. 2-ranked European forward; and Farjestad defensemen Jonas Brodin (No. 3 on Central Scouting's list) and Oscar Klefbom (No. 6).
Posted On Monday, 05.30.2011 / 2:49 PM

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

NCAA help for Combine

There are 23 players at this year's Scouting Combine either playing NCAA hockey or considering going there. In years past, those players would be rushed through the Combine in 48 hours, taking all their interviews in one day, their fitness testing the next and then out the door.

NCAA rules allowed the NHL to bring the players to the Combine for no more than 48 hours -- any time longer would be considered an impermissible benefit and cost the player his eligibility. One of the more vivid images of recent Combines was in 2008, when Colin Wilson had to sprint through the Bristol Westin hotel in Toronto immediately after his fitness testing to get back to his room, change into clean clothes, grab his bag and hustle to the airport.

However, the NCAA gave the NHL a waiver just before last year's Combine, exempting the League from that 48-hour rule, and now NHL Central Scouting can plan for NCAA-eligible players to stay for the duration of the Combine.

"It allows us to spread the interviews over the course of the three days (of the interview sessions)," Central Scouting Manager Nathan Ogilvie-Harris, who coordinates scheduling for the Combine, told "The NCAA kids used to do close to 25 to 30 interviews over the two days. Their schedules were hectic. They would finish the fitness testing and we'd be pushing them out the door and scrambling to get them to the airport on time so they wouldn't miss their flights.

"It's made everything more flowing. It's fair to the kids and leads to a more balanced schedule."
Posted On Monday, 05.30.2011 / 12:32 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - at the Memorial Cup Final blog

Cameron's finale?

Dave Cameron has had a tremendous run of success the last four seasons with the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, capped by this year's run to the Ontario Hockey League finals and the Memorial Cup title game.

But could this be his last game as a junior coach? His name has been tied to the Ottawa Senators coaching job, due to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk also owning the Majors.

Cameron was asked about his feelings if this was his final game as a junior coach:

"I love junior hockey," he said. "I love coaching in the OHL. I consider myself very lucky. I have an unbelievable owner who's allowed me to assemble an unbelievable staff. I have a ton of fun every day; there's not a bad day too often. You get to spend your time around a bunch of young gentlemen who are going to be very successful, it energizes you."

If he does leave, however, Cameron would have liked to go out with a bit of a different ending -- he was the losing coach for Canada in the gold-medal game at the 2011 World Junior Championship; lost in overtime at home in Game 7 of the OHL finals; and lost the Memorial Cup title game in his home rink.

"You never get used to the losing," he said. "They say the losing toughens you; right now I feel like a 10-cent steak."
Posted On Monday, 05.30.2011 / 12:19 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - at the Memorial Cup Final blog

History denied

Justin Shugg had won Memorial Cups the last two years with the Windsor Spitfires. An early-season trade sent him to Mississauga and gave him a chance to do something only one other player in the 93-year history of the tournament has done -- win three straight titles.

Shugg came up a bit short Sunday night, as his Majors fell to the Saint John Sea Dogs 3-1. It's the first time in three seasons he's lost the last game he's played in.

"The other side of the spectrum is not very fun," he said.

It might not seem like it in the moment, but Shugg, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, said at some point in the future he'll look back and realize just how amazing his run through junior hockey has been.

"Right now it's obviously not a good feeling," he said. "When I look back on it, maybe next year, maybe five years, 10 years down the road, I know it should have been a once in a lifetime opportunity -- and I had a chance to come three times."

Posted On Monday, 05.30.2011 / 12:13 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - at the Memorial Cup Final blog

Anderson was a Major star

If tonight's game was how Mississauga St. Michael's Majors goalie J.P. Anderson can play going forward, the San Jose Sharks will be very, very happy. Anderson signed with the Sharks during training camp, and despite allowing three goals in the Memorial Cup championship game, he might have been the Majors' best player Sunday at the Hershey Centre.

"J.P., the whole season, has just been unbelievable for us," teammate Brett Flemming told "Even today. He was making some spectacular saves. He's a big part of why we're here."

Anderson stopped 22 shots and blanked a high-octane Saint John power play on four chances.

"You can't talk bad about J.P.," said Majors captain Casey Cizikas. "He's been our best player all year long. … He's the best goalie in the CHL. He carried our team to the point we're at now."
Posted On Tuesday, 05.03.2011 / 11:37 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2011 ECSF: Philadelphia-Boston Live Blog

Jeff Carter on the ice

Flyers forward Jeff Carter was on the ice early Tuesday morning, skating on his own for about 10 minutes.

It was Carter's first time on the ice since he was injured April 20, during Game 4 of the Flyers' first-round series against the Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers have classified Carter's malady as a lower-body injury, but has reported the injury is a sprained ligament in his right knee.

In four games before getting hurt, Carter had a goal and an assist. He was seventh in the League during the regular season with 36 goals.

As a team, the Flyers will not practice Tuesday, instead working out off the ice prior to departing for Boston this afternoon.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Posted On Tuesday, 05.03.2011 / 9:48 AM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2011 ECSF: Philadelphia-Boston Live Blog

A thank you to Claude Julien

I'm not a fan of making things personal in my work, but I feel I have to give some credit to Bruins coach Claude Julien for something he did last night following Boston's 3-2 overtime win. During the post-game press conference I asked him a question regarding his team being up 2-0 in a series after winning both games on the road, similar to what happened in the first round when Montreal won the first two games in Boston.

He misheard what I said and assumed I meant last year's series with the Flyers, and while I could tell he was agitated -- can't blame him, I'm sure he's pretty sick of hearing about losing to Philadelphia after being up 3-0 -- he gave the same thoughtful answer he always seems to give every question.

After he answered I clarified and said I meant the last series, not last year's series. He apologized, then gave another nice answer, which you can read in this story.

But after the Q&A session ended, he walked up to me, and very quickly and quietly apologized for mishearing my question, and shook my hand. I told him not to worry about it, that I wasn't in the least offended. But he apologized again and then was on his way back to the locker room.

The encounter lasted all of maybe 10 seconds, but it's just one more reason why I say hockey people -- be they players, coaches, managers or owners -- are some of the best people in sports.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Posted On Monday, 05.02.2011 / 10:19 PM

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2011 ECSF: Philadelphia-Boston Live Blog

End of regulation: Flyers 2, Bruins 2

Brian Boucher was back in net for the Flyers to start the third. A bit of a surprise after Sergei Bobrovsky stopped all six shots he saw in the final 8:59 of the second.

However, he didn't have to do much in the third, as the Flyers out-shot the Bruins 22-7. The 22 shots are a Flyers record for shots on goal at home in a single period of a playoff game.

Boston's best chance came with 5:47 left when Nathan Horton got the puck on the right post, but Boucher slid over and stacked the pads to stop him.

The Flyers got a late power play after a Zdeno Chara roughing penalty with 2:39 left, but they managed just three shots.

They had another chance with 4.2 seconds left in regulation on an icing call on the Bruins. Mike Richards beat Chris Kelly on a faceoff, winning the puck to James van Riemsdyk. His shot bounced off Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and went right to Danny Briere. With Tim Thomas coming out to stop van Riemsdyk, Briere had an open net and about a second to shoot it, but fanned on the shot.

We're heading to overtime in Philadelphia.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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