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Posted On Monday, 06.02.2014 / 4:03 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2014 NHL Draft blog

New president praises USHL as development model

Bob Fallen, the newly appointed president and commissioner of the United States Hockey League, knows the importance of having players in the crosshairs of scouts and general managers at the NHL draft.

He has every intention of keeping it that way too, Fallen said Monday during a conference call to introduce him to national media.

"Those of us who watch a lot of hockey need to look no further than what we saw [in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final] when people like [Los Angeles Kings defenseman] Alec Martinez and [Chicago Blackhawks left wing] Patrick Sharp were battling for the right to play in the Stanley Cup [Final]," Fallen said. "Both played in the USHL; Alec at Cedar Rapids and Patrick at Thunder Bay.

"It's all about the American developmental model, and we consider the USHL to be an absolute lynchpin step in that path for developing players."

The 2013 NHL Draft marked the ninth straight year at least one player from the USHL was among the top 30 picks. In total a record 32 players competing in the league in 2012-13 were selected last June.

"I cannot in any way, shape or form disparage any other alternatives for developing hockey players; if people have another path to follow to the NHL, more power to them," Fallen said. "We just consider the USHL a really excellent opportunity for people and players developing not only for the NHL but college hockey before they reach the NHL."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.31.2014 / 6:23 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Portland center De Leo happy with Combine tests

TORONTO -- Center Chase De Leo of the Portland Winterhawks didn't have much time to prepare for the 2014 NHL Scouting Combine after his season came to an end May 12.

But De Leo ripped through the fitness portion of Combine in good time on Saturday at The International Centre.

He said he enjoyed the motivation provided by the personnel at York University while on the bikes.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.31.2014 / 12:01 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Devils' Conte sees value in unpredictable draft

TORONTO -- The 2014 NHL Draft might be impossible to predict, but that doesn't necessarily mean scouts thirsting for new blood in their farm systems aren't chomping at the bit.

Take for instance New Jersey Devils veteran director of scouting David Conte, who has been projecting prospects for the organization for the past 30 years.

"I think there are some very unique and special players who will have long successful careers coming out of this draft class," Conte said. "I'm excited. Because there's not a consensus pick, there is a chance of getting players that you greatly value at a reduced price compared to years where there is a consensus."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.31.2014 / 11:01 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Stars' McDonnell looking forward to new chapter

TORONTO -- The 2014 NHL Draft signals the start of a new era in the life of Dallas Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell.

McDonnell spent a decade aiding Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland at the draft table. This year, he will be sharing his insight with Stars GM Jim Nill, who hired him in July 2013.

The timing is impeccable too, as the 2014 Draft class poses a unique challenge.

"This is the toughest draft to gauge that I've ever been involved in," McDonnell told "Guys that maybe are tenth on your list, could go No. 30 or vice versa. It's not a big gap, like some years where it drops off. It's pretty close all the way through and I think it's just going to sort itself out at the draft table once teams start taking different players. You just hope something you have falls to you."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.31.2014 / 10:23 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

DeAngelo hopes to show he's learned from mistakes

TORONTO -- Sarnia Sting defenseman Anthony DeAngelo knew the 2014 NHL Combine was going to be his chance to set the record straight.

Considered by many to be one of the more dynamic point-producing defensemen available in the 2014 NHL Draft, DeAngelo found himself making headlines for all the wrong reasons this season when he was twice suspended for violating the Ontario Hockey League's harassment, abuse and diversity policy.

"At the Combine, I had a chance to tell everyone the type of person I am because I think there might have been some misconceptions out there," DeAngelo said. "I just tried to be honest with every team [during the interview stage] and talked to them and let them get to know me. It was great getting some tips on the hockey side of things; a lot of good people were trying to help."

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Posted On Friday, 05.30.2014 / 6:26 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Functional Movement Screen test a hit with prospects

TORONTO -- The newest element incorporated into the NHL Scouting Combine, the Functional Movement Screen, introduced last year, was again a big hit with the top prospects.

The exam requires players to perform seven specific joint tests that ultimately could reveal imbalances and symmetry deficiencies in movements of the body.

Each movement in the seven tests is scored on a scale of 0-3, meaning that the highest possible total score is 21. According to research provided by NHL Central Scouting, a score of less than 14 might indicate a 75 percent likelihood of a future muscular or joint injury.

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Posted On Friday, 05.30.2014 / 11:42 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Bike tests loom for 2014 NHL Draft hopefuls

TORONTO -- The words "bike test" are enough to make any top draft prospect uneasy in the hours leading up to the fitness portion of the NHL Scouting Combine.

The bike tests are daunting but important for any of the prospects looking to make an impression on NHL scouts and general managers. The heart starts beating faster the moment technicians duct tape the players' feet to the pedals in preparation for those two infamous tests -- the Wingate Cycle Ergometer and VO2 Max.

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Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 2:54 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

USNTDP's Milano the man with the 'magic hands'

"He probably has as much skill and puck skills as anyone I've coached in 15 years," USNTDP U-18 coachDanton Cole said. "He does some amazing things with the puck."

As a freshman at Portledge School (N.Y.) in 2011, Milano was awestruck by an video showcasing the magical hands and creativity of then-Saint John Sea Dogs right wing Tomas Jurco. Jurco went on to be selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round (No. 35) of the 2011 draft.

"Me and my friend, Brandon Fortunato, watched Jurco do those tricks during a lunch break," Milano said. "We saw that and said let's try doing that in the lunch room at school. We started stickhandling and doing those tricks the whole year. It was a little private school so we went outside in the parking lot to do them whenever we could."

Milano got pretty good at it.

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Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 9:46 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Lowest-ranked invitee Middleton has high aspirations

TORONTO -- Defenseman Jacob Middleton of the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League has nothing to lose and everything to gain as a participant at the 2014 NHL Scouting Combine.

Middleton is No. 172 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia next month. Despite being the lowest-rated player of the 119 prospects invited to the Combine this week, his spirits are at an all-time high.

"Knowing where I stand in the rankings, this gives me an opportunity to talk to teams and have them get to know me, because from the sounds of it a couple teams wanted to meet with me, which is an honor," Middleton told "To get this opportunity is exciting and I'm going to make the most of it."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 9:34 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Indiana Ice discuss thrill of victory, agony of dispersal

TORONTO -- It was a bittersweet ending for defensemen Joshua Jacobs and Ryan Mantha of the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League this season.

Three days after helping lead the organization to its second Clark Cup championship in 10 seasons after beating the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL championship series, the league completed a dispersal draft of those players that were on Indiana's season-ending roster and affiliate list.

"It was very strange," Jacobs said. "A lot of guys were heading to college but some of the younger guys were staying and needed more time, but we celebrated like it was our last hurrah. Seeing the players getting drafted was kind of bittersweet, but it was also a good thing for them and they'll get a new insight into next year and more options, more intelligence from other coaches."

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Quote of the Day

I was surprised. I knew I got it. It's tough. You never know how hard it is until it registers on the gun. I got pretty much all I could into and you just hope for the best.

— Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber after winning the AMP NHL Hardest Shot event at the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition