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Posted On Wednesday, 06.24.2015 / 8:01 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2015 NHL Draft blog

Top prospects smack balls, talk smack at Marlins Park

MIAMI -- London Knights center Mitchell Marner shook his head and smiled when asked about Kingstown Frontenacs left wing Lawson Crouse, who was the only player to hit a home run during batting practice Wednesday afternoon at Marlins Park.

Marner, Crouse and four other top 2015 NHL Draft prospects got the chance to take batting practice and shag fly balls prior to the Miami Marlins' game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"It was luck, that's what it was," Marner said of Crouse's big shot, which cleared the fence in right field, about 335 feet from home plate.

Marner was joking, of course, but kept piling on the sarcasm with the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Crouse within an earshot. After a pressure-packed season that included highs, lows and plenty of media scrutiny, Wednesday provided a chance for the players to have some fun before the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft begins Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports) at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Posted On Wednesday, 06.17.2015 / 11:00 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2015 NHL Draft blog

Blue Jackets prepare for busy 2015 NHL Draft

It's been nearly 10 years since the Columbus Blue Jackets had as many as the 10 selections they have at the 2015 NHL Draft, which will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.  

But it's a good year to have that many selections, considering the deep potential of the 2015 class.

"I think it's one of the deeper drafts since I've been scouting," Blue Jackets director of amateur scouting Paul Castron said. "There's obviously the top two guys at the top [Erie center Connor McDavid and Boston University center Jack Eichel] who are potential franchise players. But I think it's pretty wide open after them.

"It's going to be a fun draft that way because people think guys are going here or there and you just never know. I remember when Cam Fowler fell that one year to Anaheim and everyone thought he would go a lot higher."

Posted On Saturday, 06.06.2015 / 6:32 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Buffalo native enjoys Combine in hometown

BUFFALO -- Buffalo native Dennis Gilbert had the experience of a lifetime this week at the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine. 

Gilbert, a defenseman for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League, was somewhat of an ambassador during the week.

He often found himself escorting fellow prospects to First Niagara Center for the interviewing phase with NHL teams earlier in the week, and to HarborCenter for the fitness testing on Friday and Saturday.

Posted On Saturday, 06.06.2015 / 9:41 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Czech goalie Vladar happy with Combine performance

BUFFALO -- Goaltender Daniel Vladar had the unenviable task of being the first top prospect at his position to complete the nine fitness tests on the final day of the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine at HarborCenter on Saturday.

In the end, the 6-foot-5, 185-pound native of Praha, Czech Republic, was all smiles with the realization that he survived the grueling Wingate Cycle Ergometer peak power output test to measure the explosiveness of a skater.

Posted On Saturday, 06.06.2015 / 9:07 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Fitness testing gets started at NHL Scouting Combine

BUFFALO -- The final day of the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine officially kicked off here at HarborCenter on Saturday morning with a dozen top prospects testing on the nine events.

There were three prospects medically exempt from testing on Saturday, Oshawa Generals defenseman Mitchell Vande Sompel, Omaha Lancers center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies defenseman Jeremy Lauzon. Niagara IceDogs defenseman Vince Dunn was medically exempt from lower-body testing; Everett Silvertips defenseman Noah Juulsen did not test since he had to return home for high school graduation.

Goaltender Ilya Samsonov of Magnitogorsk in Russia was unable to attend the Combine; no reason was provided. Samsonov is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international goalies.

Posted On Friday, 06.05.2015 / 4:20 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Players smaller in stature attracting attention

BUFFALO -- The smaller forwards of today's game are taking advantage of the NHL rule changes in 2005 that helped facilitate more of an offensive style of play.

They also are changing the way scouts think when it comes to the NHL draft.

A quick glance at the scoring leaders in the Stanley Cup Playoffs shows Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson (5-foot-8, 183 pounds) with a League-best 21 points, one point more than Chicago Blackhawksforward Patrick Kane (5-11, 177).

Posted On Friday, 06.05.2015 / 1:57 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2015 NHL Draft blog

Matthews likely to play in Europe before '16 NHL Draft

BUFFALO -- Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, is leaning toward continuing his hockey career in Switzerland, agent Pat Brisson told on Friday.

Brisson said playing for ZSC in Switzerland's top professional league or for the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League are the two destinations. Brisson said Matthews has ruled out going the NCAA route. 

"It's been discussed and we have been exploring Europe and have narrowed it down to Switzerland and the WHL," Brisson said. "It's looking at the moment that the scale is leaning towards Europe." ZSC is coached by former NHL coach Marc Crawford.

Posted On Friday, 06.05.2015 / 12:17 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Blackhawks scouting staff watching hard work pay off

BUFFALO -- The scouting team for the Chicago Blackhawks has had the best of both worlds during the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine.

Blackhawks senior director of amateur scouting Mark Kelley and his staff not only are enjoying their time here during the interviewing phase of the Combine, but watching their diligence from previous years pay off during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"This year has been special," Kelley said Friday. "In addition to trying to target players for the Chicago Blackhawks down the road, it's been nice to get a little bit of the reward by watching the Stanley Cup Final [against the Tampa Bay Lightning] and seeing all that hard work pay off."

Posted On Thursday, 06.04.2015 / 7:55 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Blue Jackets' scout hopes Reilly stays with team

BUFFALO -- Columbus Blue Jackets director of amateur scouting Paul Castron remembers that when they selected defenseman Mike Reilly in the fourth round (No. 98) of the 2011 NHL Draft, it was with the hope that he could develop into a big piece of their future.

Though Reilly may become an effective NHL player, it's unclear if it will be with the Blue Jackets, who on Wednesday granted Reilly permission to speak to other teams after failing to agree on a contract with him.

Reilly is speaking with teams this week at the NHL Scouting Combine at First Niagara Center. He told on Wednesday that Columbus remains under consideration as he mulls his options. TSN reported Thursday that Reilly and his representatives planned to meet with eight other teams: the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Posted On Thursday, 06.04.2015 / 7:36 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Combing the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine

Sabres choose not to interview Connor McDavid

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres determined it was not necessary to interview Erie Otters center Connor McDavid this week during the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine.

McDavid, No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters for the 2015 NHL Draft, is expected to go No. 1 to the Edmonton Oilers when the draft is held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

"We haven't interviewed McDavid and we probably won't," Buffalo director of amateur scouting Greg Royce said Thursday. "If he slips to No. 2 and Edmonton takes Jack Eichel … we have met McDavid before and we know he's a fantastic player and person.

"We just thought maybe it was wasting his time [to schedule an interview]. We'd love to meet him and bring him in. But at the same time, we know him, he's a great kid, smart kid and we have no issues with him."

The Sabres interviewed Eichel, the Boston University center ranked No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, on Tuesday. If the Oilers draft McDavid, many anticipate the Sabres will select Eichel No. 2 in the draft.

"We did the full interview process with [Eichel] like we do any other player," Royce said. "He was great, very confident and personable. He's an intelligent person off the ice, and the on the ice his talent speaks for itself."

McDavid had four interviews this week and Eichel had six.


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It's cool when you think about how many great American players have played the game and the two players that were at that 18-game point streak and what they've done in their careers. It's pretty cool right now, but it was kind of overshadowed by the loss.

— Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after breaking the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Kings
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