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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 1:09 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Nugent-Hopkins excited to get Yakupov

PITTSBURGH -- Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins never skated with Nail Yakupov. He's excited about getting that chance -- and it could happen sooner rather than later.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Center - EDM
Goals: 18 | Assists: 34 | Pts: 52
Shots: 134 | +/-: -2
Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini drafted Yakupov, NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked North American player, with the first pick Friday in the opening round of the 2012 NHL Draft at Consol Energy Center.

Nugent-Hopkins, who accompanied the team on the stage when Tambellini announced the pick, was chosen No. 1 last year at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

"It's kind of neat to see things from this side of the spectrum and there's no pressure or nerves," Nugent-Hopkins said. "You just kind of watch all these things unfold.

"There's always talks and stuff going on before the Draft but ultimately it comes down to what the staff decides on draft day and we picked up a great player."

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 11:41 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Jackets' associate coach Hartsburg knows Murray

The hiring of Craig Hartsburg as associate coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets by general manager Scott Howson on Wednesday might have confirmed one thing entering the NHL Draft.

That 2012 draft-eligible defenseman Ryan Murray of the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips might not last beyond the No. 2 pick in Friday's opening round at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

The Blue Jackets currently hold the No. 2 choice in the Draft. The Edmonton Oilers have the first overall selection.

Hartsburg, who spent last season as associate coach of the Calgary Flames, served as the head coach of the Silvertips from 2009 through 2011. He coached Murray for two seasons in Everett, including his rookie season in 2009-10.

Murray was named captain of the Silvertips in 2010-11 by Hartsburg despite the fact his 6-foot-1/2, 195-pound blue liner had just turned 17-years-old. The move was made when regular captain Landon Ferraro, a second-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, was sidelined due to sports hernia surgery and a bum shoulder.

"I really didn't expect it at all but I got more comfortable with it as the year went on," Murray said at the time. "Coach called me into his office one day and said that I would take over captaincy while Ferraro was out and I took the responsibility and it was a great honor to represent my team like that.

"I just kind of stayed the same way. I acted the same way towards my teammates and played the same way."

Hartsburg never wavered in naming Murray the youngest captain in franchise history.

"To me there never was a question," Hartsburg told the Everett Herald. "He's the most mature kid on our team. He exemplified what we want to be. He works hard every day, competes hard every day, cares about the team and his teammates. It's a reward for what he brings to the table."

Murray would reward his coach by leading all Everett defenders in scoring with 46 points, including 40 assists, while leading the team with a plus-18 rating.

Murray is currently NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American defenseman eligible for the Draft. He's ranked No. 2 overall behind Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Saturday, 06.02.2012 / 3:46 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Lukas Sutter learned from watching Brayden Schenn

Saskatoon Blades center Lukas Sutter certainly picked a good time to have a career-season with so much attention on him during his draft year.

In addition to being a feisty and agitating player to go up against, Sutter, the son of former Philadelphia Flyers forward Rich Sutter, also proved to be an extremely valuable asset on the score sheet. He connected for career highs in goals (28), assists (31) and points (59). He also tied for second on the team with nine power-play goals and sported an impressive plus-15 rating.

Why all the success in his sophomore campaign with the Blades?

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Posted On Saturday, 06.02.2012 / 6:49 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Young Russian goalie Vasilevski is the great unknown

It's amazing to think how much differently Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevski might have been viewed had he not pulled himself from the semifinal round game of the 2012 World Junior Championship in Calgary with just six minutes remaining in the third period.

Some may look at Vasilevski's decision to take himself out of the game at the 14:17 mark, and his country clinging to a 6-5 lead over Canada, as a move to help a seemingly winded Russian squad.

Others may view it as a sign of giving up or quitting. Either way, Vasilevski, who made 44 saves in the game, was replaced by Andrei Makarov, who closed out the victory in splendid fashion with seven saves.

Both Vasilevski and Makarov are eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft in June. But Vasilevski is the one viewed by many as a potential first-round selection.
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Posted On Friday, 06.01.2012 / 10:07 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Red Wings prepared to find that diamond in the rough

Just because the Detroit Red Wings aren't making a pick in the first round of the NHL Draft for the second straight season, doesn't mean Director of Amateur Scouting Joe McDonnell can take the weekend off.

McDonnell and part of his scouting staff were front and center at the fitness-testing portion of the NHL Scouting Combine this weekend at the Toronto International Centre. The objective is simple -- find a diamond in the rough in the later rounds.

"We don't have a first round pick this year, so we're picking No. 49 [overall]," McDonnell told NHL.com. "You still want to check the kids out but for us, most of the kids that are here and are high-end guys that had injuries, we're never going to get a shot at anyway. So there's no one particular guy we're looking at."
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Posted On Friday, 06.01.2012 / 6:31 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Tampa Bay will be very busy at NHL Draft

The Tampa Bay Lightning might just be the busiest team at the 2012 NHL Draft.

It's easy to see why with possibly six picks over the opening two rounds. Entering this year's Draft, slated June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman will have two first-round picks and three, possibly four, in the second.

With this many picks at his disposal, Tampa Bay Director of Amateur Scouting, Al Murray, certainly has his work cut out.

"Steve has put us in a position with two first-round picks and three seconds, maybe a fourth, so we're going to be able to get a little bit of everything if we want," Murray told NHL.com. "We can go for a defenseman, a goalie, a center or wing or just load up at a certain position. We're entering the Draft pretty open-minded and trying to rank the best 40 players of the group."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.31.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Kelowna's Sissons is ready for testing

Kelowna Rockets captain Colton Sissons appears fully recovered from a concussion he suffered in February and is looking forward to joining the initial group through the fitness tests at Toronto International Centre on Friday.

The 6-foot-1, 187-pound forward, who is NHL Central Scouting's No. 14-ranked skater in North America, finished second on the team with 26 goals, including a team-leading 13 power play markers, in 58 games as the Rockets finished in sixth place in the Western Conference of the Western Hockey League.

Sissons was injured in the team's 3-2 loss to the Kamloops Blazers on Feb. 11 at Prospera Place in Kelowna.


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Posted On Thursday, 05.31.2012 / 1:21 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Top prospect Jacob Trouba admired Lidstrom

As a native of Michigan, draft-eligible defenseman and top prospect Jacob Trouba of the U.S. National Team Development Program rarely missed an opportunity to watch Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom at work.

When Trouba got word that Lidstrom was calling it a career after 20 seasons in the League on Thursday, he expressed much respect and admiration for one of the greatest defensemen to ever lace on the skates.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.31.2012 / 8:15 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Top Euro prospect popular with fans at NHL Combine

It's become apparent that even NHL Central Scouting's top European prospect, Filip Forsberg, isn't safe from those rabid hockey fans waiting outside the hotel during lunch break at the 2012 Scouting Combine.

The Swedish sensation, Central Scouting's No. 1-rated skater from Europe, was seen signing autographs on several occasions when he wondered outside during a break between interviews the past few days. For a 17-year-old kid playing in Sweden's second-highest division for Leksand, it's quite overwhelming to be bombarded by people with pens and pictures.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.31.2012 / 7:43 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2012 NHL Combine

Koekkoek looks to re-establish confidence in scouts

Of all the players attending this year's NHL Scouting Combine coming off serious injury, perhaps no one will be more scrutinized than Peterborough Petes defenseman Slater Koekkoek.

Let's face it, Koekkoek possesses as much raw skill as any other draft-eligible defenseman in the 2012 Draft. But a torn labrum suffered in the third period of a 6-3 loss to the Windsor Spitfires on Nov. 27 limited him to just 26 games this season, forcing scouts to rely on year-old projections.

At the time of the injury, Peterborough coach Mike Pelino told reporters, "Slater may be the most impressive defenseman I've seen in the [Ontario Hockey League] this year. If he's out for one day, we'll miss him, let alone if he's out for an extended period."

Koekkoek logged a ton of minutes and has a knack for playing in any part of the ice, capable of transitioning with a quick pass.


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Quote of the Day

I mean, hockey had to change the rules because of Marty, and that's impressive. I got two Stanley Cup rings because of the guy. Look at the banners of [Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko] and Marty is right up there when you think about the New Jersey Devils; he was part of the core group and he'll go down as one of the greatest goalies ever.

— New Jersey Devils center Scott Gomez on former teammate Martin Brodeur, who will announce his retirement Thursday