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.
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.
A nagging shoulder injury will likely keep Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Griffin Reinhart from taking part in the bench press during his fitness portion of the NHL Scouting Combine schedule on Friday.
Reinhart, ranked No. 10 by NHL Central Scouting among draft-eligible North American skaters, on Wednesday was making his rounds to those teams that scheduled interviews with him over the next two days.
"I don't think I'm going to do the bench press because I have a bit of a hurt shoulder," Reinhart told NHL.com. "It's fine to play with … I just haven't been able to rehab it yet. It's something I've been dealing with all season."
Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Morgan Rielly is pretty excited to be back in the mix after missing five-plus months of playing time after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament earlier this season.
Rielly played five playoff games for the Warriors and produced three assists but the simple fact he was back on the ice was certainly a positive sign. Now he's going through the rigors that is the NHL Scouting Combine this week in an attempt to show NHL scouts and general managers that he is 100 percent.
"I think it's important just to prove that you're healthy and you're here and you have a pretty good attitude," Rielly told NHL.com. "I don't think this week will make or break anybody, but it's important to come and have a positive attitude."
Really, a positive attitude is all that the 5-foot-11 1/2, 190-pound left-hander has exhibited throughout the most trying season of his hockey career.
TORONTO -- Defenseman Patrick Sieloff of the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program on Monday turned down a scholarship offer to Miami University of Ohio and instead will play for the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires in 2012-13.
"It came down to the fact I wanted to play in the NHL and I feel like this is the fastest route," Sieloff told NHL.com. "I feel like the school part would get in the way a little bit because school is a little hard for me. I felt like school will always be there but hockey won't. There's going to be a point in time when hockey ends, whether we like it or not. I feel like I want to make the best of this for as long as I can go, and am looking forward and really excited to play in Windsor."
TORONTO -- Many of the top draft-eligible prospects were still filing into NHL Central Scouting headquarters here late on Monday night following their arrival at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.
At one point in the evening, Sarnia Sting teammates Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk decided to take a late-night tour of the mini-Reebok store set up in the hotel ballroom. Yakupov is rated the No. 1 prospect in North America by NHL Central Scouting. Galchenyuk, who appears to be fully recovered from ACL surgery in October, is No. 4 on the list.
After the Memorial Cup final is staged at Centre Bionest in Shawinigan on Sunday (May 27), it's off to Toronto for the start of the NHL Scouting Combine!
The first day of the Combine should be a relatively slow one while players are interviewed by NHL teams within the Bristol Westin Hotel near Pearson Airport. NHL.com will be here all week, with daily stories and video to be accessed off the site. This event is a great appetizer for the draft, which is just over a month away.
The NHL Scouting Combine, which gives NHL clubs a chance to evaluate 105 of the top North American and European hockey prospects in the world, will be held May 28 through June 2 in Toronto, Ont. The NHL Draft is slated June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
He also had this response following his team's 40-minute practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Wednesday.
"How do I describe Zubie?" Parise asked, tongue in cheek. "How about, dead weight."
Obviously, Parise and Zubrus are having a little fun at a time when the tension heading into a critical Game 5 at Madison Square Garden can be cut with a knife. But keeping it loose and fun is important this time of the season.
Still, it's hard to ignore the impact that Parise had alongside center Travis Zajac and Zubrus in Game 4. In addition to generating nine of the team's 30 shots, the trio produced three goals, five points and a combined plus-1 rating in a 4-1 victory.
As expected, the line will remain intact for Game 5.
"You know how [Zubrus] will play every game, you know he'll play hard and know he will protect the puck down low," Parise said. "You know he's not going to do anything fancy, but that's a good thing. He's going to play up and down and play smart. He's low-risk, and I think that's an easy guy to play with. You know what you're going to get, and you can predict what he's going to do with the puck."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
NEWARK, N.J. --New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer and his players were back on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Wednesday, making final preparations prior to boarding the team bus for Game 5 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Devils scored a 4-1 victory in Game 4 on Monday to even this best-of-seven, 2-2. New Jersey's final home game of the series will be Game 6 on Friday at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The team hopes to be up by a game with a chance to move on against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final by that time.
DeBoer told the media after practice that the Devils will not make any lineup adjustments from Game 4, after outshooting (30-29), blocking more shots (13-12) and generating more takeaways (10-4) than their Atlantic Division rivals. The Devils were the first team in the playoffs to score more than three goals against the Rangers in a game this postseason.
It was the first time, in fact, where it appeared the Devils actually drained the will right out of the Rangers. Devils captain Zach Parise was asked how they were able to do that and if it's something that can be repeated in Game 5.
"We just have to score," Parise said. "We were able to get some pucks past [Henrik] Lundqvist and we did a good job in our D-zone … didn't give them a lot of time. They had a couple good attacks and a couple good rushes, but for the most part our defense and forwards did a good job of coming back.
"That's frustrating, as an offensive guy, when every time you have the puck you feel like you have five guys in front of you and there's always someone getting a stick on a pass. We did a good job of that. Whether or not that kind of built up and frustrated them, I don't know, but collectively we did a good job defensively."
DeBoer said that he can sense, at times, when one team is really beginning dictate momentum. It's something he hopes can continue.
"You definitely feel that momentum, and you thrive off that momentum," he said. "You're also very aware that the teams that are left in the playoffs here are very resilient, including the one we're playing, and capable of turning that momentum very quickly. We want to push the pace and dictate and play our game and, when we are, that's when we're at our best. We're also very aware that these teams can turn that on you very quickly."
Here are the probable line combinations for Wednesday:
He was asked if it's difficult to ask this year's defensive corps to live up to the standards set by retired standouts Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko.
All three players, who had their jerseys retired by the organization, played a part in three Stanley Cup titles in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
The three-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie does believe that this year's defense is, indeed, unnecessarily living in the shadows of those former stars in the Garden State.
"Definitely," Brodeur told the media on Tuesday. "And I don't think you can do it. I think these guys are … one is in the Hall of Fame [Stevens], one will be in the Hall of Fame soon [Niedermayer], and Dano is in his own Hall of Fame. It's tough to compare other defensemen, and even for the fan's point of view also to see how solid we were before."
"We have guys that are into it, are living something that they never lived before, and I think they're taking up the challenge as good as anybody could have done," Brodeur said. "I had my best confidence [in Game 4 on Monday]. I'm glad these guys are having success, and it's well-deserved because they've been working really hard at it and paying attention to a lot of small details that makes them successful."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.
— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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