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POSTED ON Monday, 04.11.2011 / 11:30 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin advises top prospects

Boston Bruins rookie forward Tyler Seguin knows what it's like to play the waiting game following the release of NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top draft-eligible North American and European players.

Seguin experienced it just last year. He moved from No. 2 to No. 1 on the final list and was later selected second overall by the Bruins at the Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

Seguin was asked on Sunday that if he could sit down all the top prospects in one room to offer some advice, what would it be?

"I'd tell them to just relax, take it all in and have fun with it," he said. "That's all you can do. Obviously, you're going to get a little nervous before the Draft. I obviously was, but the overall experience comes and goes so quickly that you just need to take it all in and have fun with it. It's going to be a life-changing experience for all of them."

It's pretty hard to fathom that last year at this time, Seguin was playing for the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers in the playoffs. Now, he's with the Bruins, preparing for the rival Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"There are so many positives I've taken from this season," Seguin said. "I have grown as a player and matured as a person. I came in here and found new best friends and it's been a whirlwind and a great experience. I'm happy to get the playoffs going and to see how far we can go.

"As far as the NHL play … the physical grind, the speed, all that stuff is so much better," he added.

That being said, those draft eligible stars certainly have a lot to look forward to, and obviously prepare for.
POSTED ON Monday, 04.11.2011 / 9:05 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

CSS set to release final rankings with heavy hearts

The NHL's Central Scouting bureau will release their final rankings of draft-eligible North American and European players at high noon on Monday and while a season's worth of work is now in the books, this year's decision-making process will never be forgotten.

It would turn out to be EJ McGuire's last. And for that reason, it is tremendously sad.

Still, the mission was accomplished -- just as McGuire demanded -- and now the 30 NHL clubs will have the necessary information needed to make those split-second decisions when the NHL Entry Draft is in full swing at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25.

McGuire, 58, was the architect of many of the innovations Central Scouting pioneered in the past decade to achieve its mandate of providing the League's clubs with the most comprehensive list of NHL Entry Draft-eligible prospects each season.

Diagnosed this past December with Leiomyoscarcoma, an incurable, rare form of cancer that aggressively attacks the cells that make up the involuntary muscles within the body, McGuire waged a brave five-month battle with the disease.

"I want you to do the job you were paid to do," he'd tell the scouts via speakerphone prior to their meeting on April 2 inside the Conn Smythe Boardroom in Toronto. It was his final inspiring message to the group.

The scouts offered to speak with NHL.com following McGuire's passing on Thursday morning in an effort to relive the life of the man they honored and respected. And they did. They conjured up a few funny moments and plenty of meaningful ones. There's no question McGuire will certainly be on the minds of everyone at this year's Draft.

It's also no secret that McGuire would want to see those hot prospects such as Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sean Couturier, Adam Larsson, Ryan Murphy, John Gibson and Mika Zibanejad heating up the airwaves today -- they were all talking points following Central Scouting's mid-term release in January.

But on Tuesday, we remember the life of McGuire as he's laid to rest following a funeral at Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Oakville, Ont., in the afternoon.

POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.05.2011 / 2:08 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Craig Button reveals Top 5 draft-eligible prospects

Now that NHL Central Scouting is completing its final draft list of the top 210 skaters and 30 goalies in North America this week, no better time than for NHL Network analyst Craig Button to unveil his top five overall 2011 draft-eligible prospects.

Button released his updated list on Monday during 'NHL On the Fly'. While his top two players remained unchanged in center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer in the Western Hockey League and left wing Gabriel Landeskog of Kitchener in the Ontario Hockey League, there was some movement among the bottom three.

Back in March, Button had Kitchener defenseman Ryan Murphy rated fifth, Saint John center Jonathan Huberdeau fourth and Swedish defender Adam Larsson of Skelleftea third. Murphy was left off Button's most recent list and replaced with Niagara IceDogs center Ryan Strome of the Ontario Hockey League. Larsson was moved to fourth overall and Huberdeau to third.

When NHL Central Scouting released its top five North American skaters in January, Landeskog was considered the No. 1 prospect, followed by No. 2 Sean Couturier of Drummondville, No. 3 Nugent-Hopkins, No. 4 Huberdeau and No. 5 Tyler Biggs of the United States National Team Development Program. Larsson was the top-ranked international skater, following by No. 2 Joel Armia of Finland's Assat in Finland and Mika Zibanejad of Sweden's Djurgarden. Zibanejad, who is moving up the ranks following his promotion to the Elite League, has been said to have better upside than current Devils forward Jacob Josefson.

Central Scouting will release its final draft list on April 12 and NHL.com will have complete coverage. The 2011 Entry Draft will be held in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24.

Here's what Button had to say about each of his top five prospects.
Ryan Strome, Niagara IceDogs

5-Ryan Strome, Niagara (OHL), center: "He's one of those guys who needs some time to physically mature and that will come. He's a guy who's smart, instinctive and can skate and handle the puck. It looks like he has all the ability to take those skills and be a real productive offensive player in the NHL."

4-Adam Larsson, Skelleftea (Swedish Elite League), defenseman: "Is there one area where he's really dominant or flashy, probably not. But he does everything so well. He can get the puck out of the zone, he can shoot the puck from the point, he has size and range and those types of defenseman are extremely rare. When you can get that type of a player who can play a lot of minutes and play all the different situations in the game, they are much coveted."

3-Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John (QMJHL), center: "He has a chance to wind up being the best player in this draft and that's saying a lot. Huberdeau, to me, has it all. He has the determination, he has the skill and I'm going to go back to physical maturity; when he physically matures and is able to carry his weight with confidence and strength, he is going to be a force because he has the combination of skill and will. There has never been a great player in the League who didn't possess that combination.

2-Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener (OHL), left wing: "He's a force with skill. He is a hungry player. If they made the rink smaller, he would have no problem because he loves to play in those tight areas and in those areas around the net. He loves physical contract and initiates it. With his skill, he can make a difference as well. He's a real complete player and if there's one guy who might be closest to being NHL-ready, it might be Landeskog."

1-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer (WHL), center: "He makes everyone around him better. I say this in the most complimentary way, and not as a comparison to make unrealistic or unfair expectations on this young man, but he reminds me of Joe Sakic in this thinking and ability. Sakic was one of those guys where it didn't matter what type of game you were playing. You always knew you could count on Joe Sakic and you knew he'd made a play and make a difference, and I feel exactly the same way about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If the Edmonton Oilers have the first pick in the draft, and they want a player who can make Hall an even better player, then Nugent-Hopkins is that guy. It will take an enormous effort by another prospect to unseat Nugent-Hopkins in my mind because I think he's a star in the making."
POSTED ON Monday, 04.04.2011 / 2:14 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

Signing off from the Conn Smythe Board Room

Well, it was another tremendous success joining the boys at NHL Central Scouting in Toronto this weekend as they put the finishing touches on the final North American list for the top 2011 draft-eligible prospects.

At the time I left the Conn Smythe Board Room, the scouts had dissected and debated the top 123 skaters from North America. I think they feel pretty strongly about the list they put together. David Gregory asked me to speak to the group to provide some idea how important their work is to not only the NHL scouts and GMs, but our hockey fans world-wide. He'd need to look no further than Twitter, actually!

Their efforts are certainly appreciated. The respect I have for these traveling bloodhounds is tremendous, not only from the standpoint of the amount of hockey they see per week during the season in order to "get it right" come June, but the fact just about all of them have families they must leave in order to do so.

That's called dedication. And I was fortunate they welcomed me in with open arms. Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire once told me, "First round picks can only underachieve but those picked from the second round on can only overachieve."

I firmly believe that to be the case this year as there seems to be great talent available right on through the second round this year. Now, I'm not saying these players are NHL ready, but a majority might claim to be ready to roll in two-to-three years. It's going to be very interesting.

And, really, that's what NHL Central Scouting thrives at … finding those diamonds in the rough in the later rounds to make life a tad easier for those NHL scouts and general managers making the big decisions.

Make sure to check back to NHL.com next week when myself, Adam Kimelman and Steve Hoffner will offer our mock drafts. On April 12, Central Scouting's final release becomes official and we'll have every angle covered at the announcement.

Finally, I was able to catch up with each scout and get their opinion of those potential gems for 2012. Some great stuff, as always. Here is Central Scouting's preview of the 2012 Draft class.
POSTED ON Monday, 04.04.2011 / 11:44 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

Who's your goalie?

Central Scouting goalie scout Al Jensen finally received his moment in the spotlight just prior to lunch. The overhead projector was switched over to Jensen's side of the room and the boys got a lesson on the goalie prospects around North America.

Keep in mind, the top 8 goalies on the final list will be invited to the NHL Combine in May.

Here are the numbers for the top 5 goaltenders that Central Scouting had listed on their mid-term rankings.

1-John Gibson, USNTDP, 2.60 GAA, .920 save percentage
2-Christopher Gibson, Chicoutimi, 2.42, .920
3-Matej Machovsky, Brampton, 2.90, .904
4-Liam Liston, Brandon, 3.77, .880
5-Matt McNeely, USNTDP, 3.82, .893

Jensen went one by one, starting from the top. Many of the scouts, who obviously were involved with keeping tabs on skaters for much of the year, also watched a few of the top goalies. Opinions were raised, but Jensen, of course, had the final vote.

Jensen presented a detailed and statistically sound report -- he didn't hold back anything and, as expected, is regarded as the goaltending guru of the group. Amazingly, he had a spreadsheet consisting of 51 goalie prospects!

POSTED ON Monday, 04.04.2011 / 9:00 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

It's never too early to start thinking 2012

The boys are back at it here in the Conn Smythe Board Room in Toronto -- only this time the building is a tad busier being a work day.

No matter, the draft lists must be completed.

Prior to calling it a day on Sunday -- and pondering the incredible life of Yale University senior Mandi Schwartz who succumbed to cancer in the afternoon -- I was able to catch up with most of the scouts for a quick breakdown of what appears to be another star-studded cast for the 2012 Entry Draft. A site has yet to be determined.

The player in everyone's cross-hairs right now is Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray of the Western Hockey League. In fact, Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told me Murray probably could have been drafted this year -- he's that mature and that good right now.

"He's more a lead by example but, obviously, he must have a little influence because he got the 'C' in Everett so that speaks about his character and the confidence his coach, Craig Hartsburg, has in him," MacDonald told NHL.com. "Craig's been through the NHL wars and junior wars, so he must recognize the fact he has a leader there and he had no hesitation giving him the 'C'."

Peter Sullivan also informed me of a defenseman from the Moose Jaw Warriors who "skates as well as anyone who has ever played in the WHL."

I'll have a story on those players to look for out for within the WHL, OHL, QMJHL, Hockey East and West in 2012 prior to departing Toronto later today…
POSTED ON Sunday, 04.03.2011 / 2:47 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

CSS satisfied with their Top 5 overall

I was able to catch up with basically all the scouts prior to breaking for lunch and they all agree that the top 5 of the 2011 rankings of North American skaters is as solid as it can get at this stage in the season.

"I think you really have to go through this process having that debate and seeing the names up on the list and have everybody talk it out … I think we've done a great job with that and I think we do have it right," scout David Gregory told NHL.com. "I think we used every resource to get it there. Everybody who has seen guys and that type of crossover, I think helped us get it right."

Keep in mind that Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers, Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels, Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs and Tyler Biggs of the U.S. National Team Development Program entered Central Scouting's final meetings this week as the top five North American prospects on the board.

Were changes made? You'll find out April 12.

"Out of midterm, not everyone has seen all the players so we don't have as much crossover comparisons, but once the guys have seen everybody, you can formulate your own opinion in the end," Gregory said.
POSTED ON Sunday, 04.03.2011 / 11:50 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

CSS checklist rating scale under way

NHL Central Scouting is starting its in-depth evaluating process right now via its checklist rating scale.

The process is tedious and time consuming as each scout -- Chris Edwards (OHL), Jack Barzee (U.S.), Gary Eggleston (U.S.), Al Jensen (U.S./Canada), B.J. MacDonald (WHL), Peter Sullivan (WHL), Chris Bordeleau (QMJHL), David Gregory (U.S.) and Nathan Ogilvie-Harris (Canada) -- rate EVERY player ranked. I'm told Jensen, who is also Central Scouting's goalie guru, will get his chance to discuss the masked men Monday morning.

E.J. McGuire oversees the entire operation.

Also working hard in the background but extremely important to this arduous process are NHL senior director Jack Gerien, coordinator at Central Scouting Luke McGoey and manager Brandon Pridham.

Also in attendance, "virtually", is IT system architect is Bob Obringer. Obringer participates in the meetings remotely for the entire duration of the meeting -- working online from start to finish.

Here are the categories that each scout must ponder during this process. If anything else, this is proof how detailed and perfection-ridden the scouts are. The starting point was at the top of the draft board. Scouts must submit a vote for every sub-category of each section via one of the following six options: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Average, Poor or Not Applicable (needed for scouts who have limited viewing of a particular player).

Acceleration - First few strides, ability to pull away from or catch other players.
Speed - When in motion at full stride.
Balance - Is he strong on his skates.
Mobility - Agility, footwork, pivots, stops and starts.
Backward Skating - Overall backward skating ability.

Puck skills
Shot accuracy - Does he hit the net, force the goalie to make a save.
Shot strength - Does he have a heavy shot.
Shot release - Ability to shoot without getting set, off of the stickhandle.
Possess multiple shot types - Quality of wrist, slap, snap and backhand.
Stickhandling ability - Can he handle the puck at top speed, controls the puck in tight quarters, corners, along the boards.
Puck protection - Ability to adjust body position & balance to keep or acquire the puck.
Faceoffs - Gets his team puck possession off the draw, used in all zones and all situations.
Giving A Pass - Delivers puck for easy handling, leads his man.
Receiving A Pass - Gets puck under control quickly, can receive puck backhand, forehand, off skates.
Scoring touch - Can he score several ways, smart around the net, has a nose for the net.

Scoring drive - Willing to battle, go to the net, pay the price to score.
Work ethic - Overall effort, works and competes every shift regardless of score & venue.
Attitude - Level of maturity; well developed or 'has a ways to go.'
Consistency - How consistent has his play been over the course of the season or in a game, score 5-1/1-5.
Forechecking - Puck pursuit, fights through checks.

Physical Play
Board & Corner play - Battles for loose pucks, willing to pay the price.
Physical presence - Size and strength are used as an asset; tough to play against; punishes opponents every chance.
Conditioning - Overall physical conditioning, build, strength, stamina and durability, seldom misses games.
Hitting - Takes the body, effectively separates opposition from the puck, willing to take a hit to make a play.
Fighting - Willing to fight and is capable.

Hockey Sense
Playmaking - Vision, offensive imagination, sets teammates up for scoring chances.
Anticipation - Reads and reacts to the play, gets himself in position before the play develops, sees opening for transition play.
Discipline - Avoids bad penalties, accepts a bad call, not drawn in to retaliation.
Decision Making - Ability to sort out options and make the right choices
Play under pressure - Ability to make the right decisions above when forechecked or in a key situation.
Versatility - Ability to play various positions, roles, special teams.

Defensive Play
Defensive Anticipation - Reads the play, gap control.
Positioning - Angles opponents, active away from the puck.
Backchecking - Picks up man, returns hard to the defensive zone.
Defensive Reliability - Is he used in critical situations

Psychological Factors
Leadership - Takes charge, displays on-ice leadership
Communication - Witnessed in-game examples of constructive discussions w/ teammates and coaches.
Confidence - Displays a noticeable 'air of confidence' in his on-ice activities.

Player Summary: What type of overall player is he
Power Forward
Skilled/Offensive Defenseman
Skilled Forward
Reliable Stay at Home Defenseman
Role Player/Checker

POSTED ON Sunday, 04.03.2011 / 10:00 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

NHL Combine invitees are discussed

There was a pretty intense discussion that just took place regarding the breakdown of invitees to the NHL Combine held in Toronto from May 29 through June 4.

Central Scouting coordinator Nathan Ogilvie-Harris told the group that, in addition to the 75 North American skaters likely to attend, there will be 18 international skaters. Head goalie scout Al Jensen then mentioned that eight goalies would likely attend the Combine at the Westin Bristol Place Hotel.

Keep in mind, every player invited to the Combine "should" be a legitimate prospect that every NHL club has a concerted interest in obtaining come Draft day at Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota. NHL Central Scouting obviously knows this and just wants to make sure the players on the board have created that type of interest.

The staff at York University will  be carrying out the fitness testing portion on June 3-4 at a venue out by the airport.

We're still at the bottom of Round 3 and preparing for Round 4. The scouts are now checking over the list of their top 101 players currently on the board. Before they move on to Round 4, they just want to make sure no one is missed or if players are in a position they shouldn't be. That being said, the boys consider potential pick No. 1 just as important as pick No. 101.

Right now, midwestern scout Jack Barzee and eastern scout Gary Eggleston are making some points for players within their regions.
POSTED ON Sunday, 04.03.2011 / 9:30 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

NHL.com exclusive: CSS lists revealed

Good morning prospect junkies!

Does it get any better than this? Saturday night, I learned my 16-year-old daughter, who has her learner's permit, traversed and survived the New Jersey Turnpike en route to Port Elizabeth -- not easy. Then again, I learned a long time ago that any female en route to a mall will find a way to get there somehow, even if it meant walking in 8-feet of snow some 5 miles.

And here I am on Sunday, back at the Conn Smythe Board Room at the NHL offices. The scouts are currently 80 players deep and into the heart of the third round. Time to find those diamonds in the rough boys!

Now, as promised, the lists you've been waiting for.

All the players within each league were voted into the top 10 of that particular league and, according to Central Scouting, were exceptional among their peers. In an effort to keep these lists somewhat confidential, I have listed the players in alphabetical order instead of in the numeric fashion they were assigned by Central Scouting. Keep in mind, this is the closest thing you'll get to a finalized list until the actual 'Big Chart' is released April 12. The numeral in (parenthesis) beside each league represents the number of potential first-round picks within that league's top 10.

Have some fun with this kids. Try and predict what the actual top 10 for each league might look like.

Western Hockey League (6 potential first-rounders)
Of note: Four players from Portland Winterhawks among top 10
Sven Baertschi, Portland
Myles Bell, Regina
Joel Edmundson, Moose Jaw
Mark McNeill, Prince Albert
Joe Morrow, Portland
David Musil, Vancouver
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer
Ty Rattie, Portland
Duncan Siemens, Saskatoon
Tyler Wotherspoon, Portland

Ontario Hockey League (10)
Of note: Kitchener, Niagara and Oshawa each have two players in the top 10
Dougie Hamilton, Niagara
Boone Jenner, Oshawa
Nicklas Jensen, Oshawa
Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener
Ryan Murphy, Kitchener
Vladislav Namestnikov, London
Shane Prince, Ottawa
Brandon Saad, Saginaw
Mark Scheifele, Barrie
Ryan Strome, Niagara
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (6)
Of note: Six players from high-powered Saint John are in the top 10
Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John
Sean Couturier, Drummondville
Phillip Danault, Victoriaville
Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John
Tomas Jurco, Saint John
Scott Oke, Saint John
Xavier Ouellet, Montreal
Zack Phillips, Saint John
Logan Shaw, Cape Breton
Ryan Tesink, Saint John

USA East (1)
Of note: Six high school players are in the top 10
Adam Clendening, Boston University
Philippe Hudon, Choate-Rosemary
Matt Killian, Delbarton
Patrick Koudys, RPI
Stephen Miller, Noble High School
Matt Nieto, Boston University
Rob O'Gara, Milton Academy
Jamieson Oleksiak, Northeastern
Petr Placek, Hotchkiss Academy
Colin Sullivan, Avon Old Farms

USA West (7)
Of note: Two players (Ambroz and Lucia) were born in 2011 Draft state host Minnesota
Seth Ambroz, Omaha
Tyler Biggs, USNTDP
Rocco Grimaldi, USNTDP
Sean Kuraly, Indiana
Joe Labate, Holy Angels
Mario Lucia, Wayzata
Scott Mayfield, Youngstown
J.T. Miller, USNTDP
Connor Murphy, USNTDP
Andy Welinski, Green Bay

Canadian Juniors/Midgets (0)
Joey Baker
Brian Bunnett
Michael King
Joel Lowry
Mark Luzar
Sam Mellor
Ryan Renz
Brennan Serville
Destry Straight
Kevin Tansey

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Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild