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Posted On Wednesday, 09.28.2011 / 11:51 AM

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

Trouba intends to fulfill college commitment

Collegiate hockey was making headlines for all the wrong reasons this past summer when three players opted out of their previous commitments and another decided to part ways after one season in the NCAA ranks for the Canadian Hockey League.

Three players drafted in the first round of the 2011 Entry Draft, including Jamie Oleksiak (No. 14 overall, Dallas Stars), J.T. Miller (No. 15, New York Rangers) and Connor Murphy (No. 20, Phoenix Coyotes) and second round pick John Gibson (No. 39, Anaheim Ducks) all had college commitments but changed their minds and instead felt the Canadian junior level was a better fit. Oleksiak had just completed his first season at Northeastern.

Needless to say, when defenseman Jacob Trouba of the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program on Monday announced via Twitter he would continue his career at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2012, the first question on everyone's mind was just how committed he is to play for Red Berenson next season.

"I plan on fulfilling my commitment to the University of Michigan," Trouba told NHL.com. "My parents have taught me to follow through on all commitments I make in life. I'm excited to wear the maize and blue, but right now I'm focused on representing my country and working towards another successful season with my team at the NTDP."

There was speculation that the Rochester, Mich., native would make the jump to the Canadian Hockey League following his first season with the USNTDP U-18 team this campaign. Trouba was chosen in the third round of the Ontario Hockey League's priority selection by the Kitchener Rangers.

"I chose Michigan for a number of reasons, both on and off the ice," Trouba said. "After visiting the campus, I got a great sense of what the hockey program means to the school. It's a great fit for me and I know I'll get along great with my teammates.

"Having the opportunity to play in front of my family was also a big factor in my decision making as I'm very close to them."

In 2010-11, Trouba played 37 games for the U-17 NTDP team and registered 6 goals, 19 points and 35 penalty minutes before being promoted to the U-18 team for the final 21 games of the season.

"The (Michigan) facilities and coaching staff are known throughout the hockey community and I believe they are the best around," Trouba said. "Yost is an awesome rink to play in with a great atmosphere. School was also a big part of my decision. I know hockey will end one day and it was important to know I’d be receiving a great education in addition to playing hockey."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 10:49 AM

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

NTDP defenseman Trouba commits to Michigan

Jacob Trouba, one of the more highly touted draft-eligible players from the Under-18 U.S. National Team Development Program, has announced his destination in the fall of 2012.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound defenseman made it official on Monday via his Twitter account when he verbally committed to the University of Michigan. He was reportedly also considering the University of Notre Dame.

"Commited," Trouba tweeted. "It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine!"

Trouba won a silver medal for the U.S. at the 2011 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, producing 2 goals and 9 points in six games. He also scored a goal in the gold medal game of the 2011 U18 World Championships in a victory over Sweden.

Al Jensen of NHL Central Scouting paid close attention to Trouba during the USHL Fall Classic last week. He liked what he saw.

"I really liked the way he played in all three games I viewed; he's a very good size D man," Jensen told NHL.com. "He skates exceptionally well and likes to rush up ice with the puck and with good speed. He'll also join the rush himself, is very confident and has great agility. He's strong physically, can handle the puck and is always alert. He also did a good job with one-on-one rushes against ... he has great upside."

There was speculation that the Rochester, Mich., native would make the jump to the Canadian Hockey League following his first season with the USNTDP U-18 team this campaign. Trouba was chosen in the third round of the Ontario Hockey League's priority selection by the Kitchener Rangers.

The decision undoubtedly is music to the ears of veteran Wolverines coach Red Berenson, who will likely lose All-American sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill (New Jersey Devils) following this season, as well as senior goalie Shawn Hunwick. Michigan has made 21 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Minnesota-Duluth in the tournament final last year.

In 2010-11, Trouba played 37 games for the U-17 NTDP team and registered 6 goals, 19 points and 35 penalty minutes before being promoted to the U-18 team for the final 21 games of the season.

Former NTDP goalie John Gibson, who was committed to Michigan and was drafted in the second round by the Anaheim Ducks in June, pulled out of his commit over the summer to instead join the Kitchener Rangers for this season.

It seems as though Trouba has no interest in opting out of his commitment.

"I don't want to make a commitment and then back down from it," Trouba told the media during the NHL's Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 09.26.2011 / 5:21 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Classic chatter

Laviolette and Tortorella eager for Winter Classic

Just because Peter Laviolette has already experienced the spectacle that has become the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, don't think for a second he considers having the perfect recipe for success.
 
Laviolette, whose team dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Classic at Fenway Park, does feel that each player needs to enjoy the experience since, for some, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
 
"I think the Winter Classic presents itself a little differently than the Stanley Cup Final," Laviolette told NHL.com. "It's a tremendous event and there's always a focus
that goes into winning hockey games so that can't be lost in it. But you also need to enjoy it. It's not very often you get to play outside in front of 40,000 or 50,000
fans and those opportunities are rare. The day will be terrific and the days leading up to it. It's nice that family members get to be a part of something like this do, so the players will really enjoy it from both sides so the game.
 
"I don't think you'll have to worry about the game being competitive, but the thing is, you want to make sure you enjoy the event too."
 
Rangers coach John Tortorella can't wait to play hockey where the Phillies play baseball.
 
"I'm a huge baseball fan and I've run around this ballpark but never have been inside," Tortorella said. "There may even be some World Series' games here. I asked some people where the rink would be placed and they said they always put it behind the pitchers' mound because they don't want to take the mound out. I can't really envision it right now but to have this park packed … it'll be exciting for us all."
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Posted On Monday, 09.26.2011 / 5:06 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Classic chatter

Call him Mr. September

James van Riemsdyk has had quite the coming-out party at Citizens Bank Park.

A little over a week ago while taking batting practice with eight other Flyers' teammates at the ballpark, van Riemsdyk launched a pitch over the left field wall that was an estimated 350 feet. During a little shooting competition at the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic announcement at Citizens Bank on Monday, he was the only Flyers player to shoot a puck from home plate into the goal cage stationed at second base.

In addition to van Riemsdyk, Rangers captain Ryan Callahan and forward Marian Gaborik also scored.

The shot was impressive when you consider the fact each player had to lift the puck over a two-foot high wall just beyond the pitcher's mound before it entered the cage.

"I did what I normally do, I closed my eyes and just shot as far as I could," van Riemsdyk told NHL.com.

Van Riemsdyk, who is entering his third season with the Flyers in 2011-12, was a rookie when the Flyers dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Boston Bruins at the 2010 Bridgestone Winter Classic.

"I'm looking forward to the outdoor feel once again and how the fans kind of get up for it," van Riemsdyk said. "The whole event, in general, is great and family members get to skate with the players. I'm hoping for a little snow. I think that gives it that wintery feel and makes it intriguing."
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Posted On Friday, 09.23.2011 / 11:07 AM

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

USHL Fall Classic loaded with draft-eligible players

The United States Hockey League's annual Fall Classic has traditionally offered NCAA Division I and III coaches, along with NHL representatives, a tremendous opportunity to catch a glimpse of many of the top players in the country. Several of those standouts also happen to be eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

The four-day event, which includes each of the USHL's 16 teams and encompasses 24 games, also attracts many of the country's top scouts. NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee, who specializes in scouting the mid-West and those players in the USHL, is a loyal follower of the Fall Classic.

Prior to the tournament, Barzee took some time to talk to NHL.com about those players he will be paying particular attention to at this year's tournament. Following the tournament, which concludes Sept. 24, we'll reach out to Barzee to receive his post-tournament evaluations.

The player who might be getting the most attention this week at the Fall Classic is 6-foot-1, 182-pound forward Zemgus Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints.

"He's the most experienced player … already having a year in the league and is the most physically developed," Barzee said.

NHL Network analyst Craig Button likes the fact Girgensons gets another year under his belt with Dubuque head coach Jim Montgomery, who not only starred alongside Paul Kariya at the University of Maine but spent parts of six seasons in the NHL. He captained the 1992-93 Maine team to the school's first NCAA championship.

"It's early to say who will emerge out of the group of centermen eligible for the draft but Girgensons has Jim Montgomery as his coach and that is going to help him," Button told NHL.com. "Girgensons is too good to play in the junior leagues but he's not good enough to play in the KHL, so he has to find a place where he can develop his skills."

Committed to the University of Vermont in the fall of 2012, the Latvian center finished third on the team with 49 points (21 goals) in 51 games in 2010-11 and was selected to the mid-season Western Conference All-Star Team.

Girgensons received an automatic one-game suspension in a 3-1 victory over the Tri-City Storm on Thursday and will sit out Friday's contest against Muskegon. He received his suspension with 25 seconds remaining in the third period after being issused a game misconduct for checking from behind.

Another player starring in Dubuque is left-handed defenseman Michael Matheson (6-foot, 170 pounds), who recently won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2011 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.

Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (6-2, 175) of Sioux City is committed to the University of North Dakota. He finished his rookie season in the USHL as the league's highest-scoring defenseman with 44 points (13 goals) in 53 games. Schmaltz was named to the USHL's 2011 All-Rookie Team.

Barzee's USHL dark horse candidate for the 2012 draft is Sioux City defenseman Cliff Watson (6-2, 195), who is committed to Ohio State next September.

"He played with Appleton United last year and I like everything about him," Barzee said. "He's a bull. Secondly, he's a bull who can skate, can shoot the puck, moves the puck, knows the game and can put you in the nickel seats. That's a pretty good combination for me. Watson will be the second guy on the power-play to get a lot of assists, but he's also a dynamite defensive player."

The Fargo Force has two players in the fold, including 5-foot-10 defenseman Brian Cooper and 6-2 blueliner Justin Wade.

"Cooper is going to be one of those real controversial-type guys heading into the draft because he's another Gary Suter or Matt Carle type; he's not yet 6-foot, but is one of those offensive-type defensemen in the mold of Ryan Murphy (Carolina Hurricanes)."

Wade, who recently committed to the University of Notre Dame, played 35 games with the Force as a 16-year-old in 2010-11. He was also a member of the U.S. Under-18 Select Team in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament this past summer.

There are also several players starring for the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team, including forwards Cameron Darcy, Nicolas Kerdiles (Wisconsin), Brendan Silk (Boston College) and Stefan Matteau (North Dakota), defenseman Jacob Trouba and goalie Collin Olson (Ohio State).

Among that group of formidable players, Trouba, who hasn't committed to college but whose rights belong to the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers, would appear to be a first-round talent next June.

Trouba had 7 points in 21 games for the U-18 team last year and 6 goals, 19 points in 37 contests for the U-17 Team. The native of Rochester, Mich., scored the first goal in a 4-3 overtime gold-medal game triumph over Sweden in the 2011 U18 World Championship in Germany last April.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.21.2011 / 1:17 PM

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

Yakupov looks to be top choice ... for now

And so it begins.

Nail Yakupov, Sarnia Sting
The road to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is well under way and, not surprisingly, there are several players vying for top honors. At the head of the list is Russian Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League.

The Sting open the season on Friday against Erie at the RBC Centre. In six preseason games, Yakupov did nothing to disappoint, racking up 6 goals and 15 points. He closed out the preseason with a spectacular five-point outburst, including 4 goals, in a 6-1 victory over the Windsor Spitfires.

NHL Network analyst Craig Button feels Yakupov is the real deal.

"He's got an abundance of skills," Button told NHL.com. "When you're talking about the top eight guys (in the 2012 draft), you're talking about so many attributes and he fits right into that category as a player with multiple attributes."

The native of Nizhnekamsk, Russia, who was named Rookie of the Year in the Canadian Hockey League in 2010-11, led all first-year players and finished tied for fourth overall in OHL scoring with 101 points in 65 games (49 goals, 52 assists).  He became just the fifth OHL rookie to reach 100 points in a season in the last 15 years and established new team record for goals and points by a rookie -- surpassing the marks set by Steven Stamkos in 2006-07.

"When you watch Yakupov, you can see that explosive ability but you also that stealth ability, like Jari Kurri," Button said. "Kurri would wait, and before you knew it, not only was (Wayne) Gretzky moving in, but Kurri was moving into the right spot and it was too late. Yakupov has that ability, which is why I've compared him to Kurri. Jari was always one of those guys to say, 'I'm not going to go there yet because it's not time to go there.' Yakupov has that similar ability and patience."

Yakupov (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) represented Russia at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships, notching a hat trick in a 6-4 victory over Team Canada in the bronze medal game.

In addition to Yakupov, Button named three defensemen from the Western Hockey League who looked primed to go in relative early fashion next June -- Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, Matt Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels and Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Murray was named Everett's captain this past season by head coach Craig Hartsburg despite the fact his 6-foot-1/2, 190-pound blueliner 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. He'll serve as captain of the Silvertips this season as well. In 122 career games for the Silvertips, Murray has recorded 73 points (11-62-73) and is Everett's all-time plus-minus leader with a +51 rating.

"Murray is a real dependable, consistent defenseman," Button said. "He reminds me of a Kevin Lowe-type defender. He passes the puck very well and is the type of player you want on your team."

NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards feels Murray is the complete package.

"He's an excellent skater," Edwards said. "His mobility, agility and speed make him, at this point, one of the best skaters up for the draft. He possesses excellent puck handling and decision making and is a top two defenseman in Everett. I would expect him to be a top two at the pro level as well."

Dumba was the WHL's rookie of the year in 2010-11, connecting for 15 goals and 26 points for the Rebels in 62 games. He was also a plus-24 with 83 penalty minutes. At the 2011 U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg, Manitoba in January, Dumba led the tournament with 12 assists and 12 points.

"He's a kid who reminds me of P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens)," Button said of Dumba.

Rielly, meanwhile, led Moose Jaw in scoring as a rookie last season with 6 goals and 28 points in 65 games. He was also the second youngest player to represent Team Canada at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships.

"Rielly will lift you out of your seat," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com. "He's and exceptional skater; he skates as well as anyone that's ever played in the WHL. He twists and turns on a dime and is very exciting to watch."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 4:54 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Talbot ready to follow Pronger's lead

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Maxime Talbot doesn't anticipate a major change in how he must go about his usual business now that he'll follow the lead of Philadelphia Flyers captain Chris Pronger instead of captain Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.
 
Pronger was named the 18th captain in Flyers history on Friday. Crosby has worn the 'C' in Pittsburgh since the start of the 2007-08 season.
 
"I guess yes and no," Talbot said. "Sid was a young leader, but such a mature leader. From the first day he put a shirt on with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was the leader of the team. It's been six years and he's not only been a young leader, he's a pretty mature leader. And Chris has been playing forever. It's going to be great to have a new captain."
 
Talbot, who signed a five-year deal worth $9 million with the Flyers in July, agrees with Pronger that leaders don't all have to wear a letters on their jersey.
 
"Yeah, it's just a letter," Talbot said. "You need leadership on this team even though some guys don't have letters. In this room, you need everybody pushing in the same direction. Chris doesn’t need to be captain to be a leader. He'd be the same guy if he didn't have the captain, so everybody's pushing in the right direction. That's how we’re going to win some games."






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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 4:14 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Flyers Camp: Jagr talks Flyers-Penguins rivalry

VOORHEES, N.J. -- So what does Jaromir Jagr remember most about the Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry when he played for 11 seasons in the Steel City?

"I remember I always had a tough time to play," Jagr told the media following the opening day of Flyers training camp at the Virtua Flyers Skate Zone on Saturday. "Nobody wanted to play the Flyers back then. You knew it was going to hurt to play against them -- that's what I remember. They had the big guys and they always drafted strong guys who played physical."

Jagr was asked if he feels he betrayed the fans of Pittsburgh by signing a one-year contract with the rival Flyers.

"First of all, when I was making the decision, I never thought the Pittsburgh fans would want me back," he said. "Every time I played there and touched the puck, they were booing me … I didn't think it was going to be such a big deal if I'm not going to sign with Pittsburgh.

"On the other side, it was my decision. I've only been a free agent twice and I had to do what is best for me. If I hurt somebody, I apologize because I didn't want to, but I don't understand why people can be that mad about my decision."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 3:14 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Flyers Camp: Giroux enjoys time with Jagr

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Claude Giroux doesn't consider there to be any added pressure despite the fact Mike Richards and Jeff Carter -- two of the team's offensive staples -- were traded in the offseason.

"There's not a lot of pressure, but more excitement and a challenge and there's a lot of ice time to be taken," Giroux said following the opening day of training camp at the Virtua Flyers Skate Zone.

"When you see something like that, it kind of makes you push more and play harder and better. Guys are pretty excited for the preseason games. We have a lot of new players and Mike and Jeff are gone, but there's another spot open for ice time and power-play time. The young guys have a chance, so it's an opportunity."

Giroux, who led the Flyers with eight power-play goals, 51 assists and 76 points last season, centered a line with 39-year-old right wing Jaromir Jagr and left wing James van Riemsdyk on the opening day of training camp on Saturday.

"When I was a kid, I looked up to (Jagr) because he was obviously one of the best young players to ever play," Giroux said. "So, anytime you have a guy like that on your line, it's pretty exciting. He's that kind of player who knows how to score goals and is always in good position to get open. He's been in the league for a long time, so anytime you have a player like that on your line it's good. I'll be playing with JVR too, so I was playing with two strong guys."

Only time will tell if the JVR-Giroux-Jagr line remains intact throughout training camp since coach Peter Laviolette has stressed that no line is safe at this stage in the preseason.
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 2:50 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Flyers Camp: Who will replace Ville Leino?

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is making no promises. In other words, just because Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell have played together the last two season, doesn't necessarily mean they'll be together to start the 2011-12 campaign.

Briere and Hartnell had much success on a line with Ville Leino the past two seasons in Philadelphia. Leino signed with the Buffalo Sabres in the offseason, however, leaving a hole on one of the team's most prolific units. Laviolette was asked who has the best shot at replacing Leino.

"I wouldn't assume that Briere and Hartnell will be together to open the season and I truly believe that everything is open and Hartnell may be a fit with somebody else," Laviolette said following the opening day of training camp Saturday. "I think Paul Holmgren said it best to the players, nobody should really assume anything. It's wide open with regard to what we're looking at and that's why to ask about one person (Jakub Voracek) being with two guys who have been together … it's going to shake up.

"We're going to take a look at different options and see what we see out here."

Briere and Hartnell actually opened the first day of camp on a line with offseason acquisition Voracek.
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Quote of the Day

The biggest part for us is that it's a home game. We know how special the fans here are and how much the fan base has grown in the last decade, and how passionate they are. I don't think a lot of people around the hockey world know that or appreciate that yet, and I think that it's great that this city is getting recognition for how passionate they are about hockey.

— Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic