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Posted On Friday, 06.24.2011 / 11:30 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Entry Draft blog

USA Hockey ADM clinic huge hit with youngsters

As part of this year's NHL Entry Draft extravaganza in St. Paul, Minn., USA Hockey offered many of the area's children a chance to participate in an American Development Model clinic with a few NHL players and seven of the top draft-eligible prospects at St. Thomas Ice Arena on Thursday.

Top prospects Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer, Gabriel Landeskog of Kitchener, Jonathan Huberdeau of Saint John, Dougie Hamilton of Niagara, Adam Larsson of Skelleftea, Sean Couturier of Drummondville and Seth Ambroz of Omaha offered their assistance to about 50 children aged 6-8.

Several representatives from the Minnesota Wild, including players Cal Clutterbuck and Brad Staubitz, and Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke were also on hand.

With USA Hockey's Red, White and Blue initiative, coaches can promote creativity among players, increase player involvement and create a positive environment to learn and play.
Brian Burke, Toronto Maple Leafs GM

"The ADM is going to revolutionize how we develop hockey players in America," Burke told NHL.com. "I think people feel this system is geared toward developing players for us and that's not the case. The elite athletes will find their way to us and we'll find them. We want the program to develop hockey players for life. We want people to become proficient at the game, have fun at the game and play it for life.

"Those are the people who'll put their sons and daughters in hockey, watch it on TV," Burke continued. "We're trying to make the sport bigger and better."

The ADM includes shrinking the ice surface during practices during which players split up and rotate throughout six different stations to hone a specific set of skills -- forward/backward transition, partner pass with movement, acceleration puck toss, tight space and agility skate. It enables everyone to be involved and the more participating there is, the more likely those children will develop a passion for the game. Focusing on smaller areas allow kids more time with the puck and less time worrying about the technical aspects of the game such as positioning, staying in lanes or skating offsides.

Mike Snee, the executive director at Minnesota Hockey, undoubtedly takes great pride in the type of players the state has produced via the ADM model.

"Minnesota prides itself as being the state of hockey; we have more kids playing hockey than any other kids in the country," Snee told NHL.com. "We've had a lot of success with some of our higher end players being drafted in all rounds. It's inspiring for our young players to see neighbors and kids that went through the same association as them of being drafted in the NHL."

There were 18 Minnesotans, including first-round picks Derek Forbort of Duluth, Nick Bjugstad of Blaine and Brock Nelson of Warroad, who were selected in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. There are 18 Minnesota natives rated by NHL Central Scouting for this year's draft.

"We think USA Hockey based a little bit, or a lot, of the ADM off what Minnesota has been doing for a long time," Snee said. "A number of our 160 associations have been implementing some sort of ADM program into their development models. The motion of having many kids on the ice at once and keeping them moving and having a multiple station practice that is not only fun, but better for development, has kind of been a part of Minnesota hockey and part of our community-based associations for quite a while. To see it being promoted nationwide as the official development model in the county is pretty special."

The top-rated Minnesotan at this year's draft is Ambroz, who just completed his third season with the Lancers in the United States Hockey League. According to NHL Central Scouting, Ambroz is rated No. 31 among North American skaters.

"Doing this ADM clinic is a lot of fun; anytime you get to help out kids, it's special," he said.

Landeskog and Larsson, who both trained in Sweden during the early stages of their career, saw many similarities between the ADM model and the instruction back home.

"I think there's a lot of skill development in Sweden, and they work on that a lot with the ADM clinic," Landeskog said. "Obviously, skating is a big part of the game and you need to be good at that. I think what USA Hockey is doing, is great. They mix in a lot of fun games and some fun drills so it makes it a lot easier to play.

"The (ADM) is a great program and it has a very bright future if they keep going like this; having the kids involved and NHL players and prospects out there helping out. It's nice to see the smiles on the kids' faces."

Said Larsson: "It was pretty much the same like we did back in Sweden, the same stuff on ice and off ice. It's good to start practicing at a young age; it's what you need to do to be a better hockey player."

Burke also had one final message to those parents of children wanting to give the sport a shot.

"They should have as much fun as their kids have and a lot of them don't," he told NHL.com. "Parents have to intercede if you see a crazy parent yelling at his kid, yelling at the referee. You have a duty to intervene and say 'OK enough, that's not how we do it here.'

"I coached my son, Patrick, in hockey and we had great experiences with the parents. We talked about it the first day of practice. I'd kick the kids out of practice and have the parents sit down and I'd tell them this is how we're going to it - no one is ever going to yell at their son, no one is ever going to yell at an official. We're going to have fun and we did it."

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Posted On Friday, 06.10.2011 / 12:04 PM

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

Grimaldi keeps the faith

Following what he hopes will be a long and prosperous NHL career, Rocco Grimaldi of the U.S. National Team Development Program has every intention of giving back.

"I've always wanted to be a pastor since I was about 10-years-old," admitted the 18-year-old Grimaldi. "I have a real good sense of the Bible and can see things and stuff that most other people don't see."

Grimaldi routinely speaks in front of 10-18 people in his youth ministry group.


"I read (the Bible) every day and study it," he said. "A lot of people come to me for advice so I already got a jump-start to being a pastor. I think I'm a pretty good speaker and I'll hopefully become more comfortable with it in front of thousands instead of just tens and hundreds."

Interestingly, Grimaldi has two favorite "life verses" taken from the Bible that are actually customized on his Nike ID shoes -- one on each shoe. Not surprisingly, each passage deals with overcoming adversity and, in Grimaldi's case, his 5-foot-6, 163-pound frame that many thought would hinder his ability to reach the NHL.

The first is from Samuel 16:7: "But the Lord said to Samuel, do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

The second is taken from Corinthians 1:27: "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty."

"Foolish things of the world would be things that the world looks down upon; my size for example," Grimaldi said.

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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 11:53 AM

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

Tampa scout Al Murray talks Draft, Brett Connolly

After serving for three years with Hockey Canada as the head scout of men's national teams, Al Murray will enter his first NHL Entry Draft with the Tampa Bay Lightning as the director of amateur scouting later this month.

"You always want to help try and make a statement for the organization and we've got great direction from the top," Murray told NHL.com. "Steve (Yzerman) has given us really good direction into the type of team he wants to put together and the attributes he wants us to look for in the player.

"We had a whole season to try and find those types of players and we have a group of them we'd like to get. We just hope everybody else in the League cooperates and leaves them there for us."

The Lighting own the No. 27 pick in the opening round of the 2011 Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24.

Murray was asked how well he felt last year's first-round draft choice, Brett Connolly, had improved and if he could be in the Lightning lineup next season.
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning

"Steve's philosophy throughout the organization is to never rush anyone, but not to hold anyone back," Murray said. "Brett's made a big commitment this year. He's from Prince George, B.C., but he's in Toronto and has been here for a couple of weeks training with a personal trainer.

"He'll stay here for the summer; he's made a significant commitment to put himself in every position to try and make the team and to try and do as well as he can, so with added strength and confidence, we're anxious to see what he looks like in the fall training camp, but there will be no urgency to push Brett into a roster spot."

Murray confirmed that Connolly's hip issues, which limited him for much of the 2009-10 campaign, are ancient history.

"That really wasn't an issue all through last season," Murray said.

In his third season with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League, Connolly produced 46 goals and 73 points in 59 games.

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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 7:53 AM

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

Right on the 'Button'

When asked to comment on the life of the late E.J. McGuire, NHL Network analyst Craig Button found just the right words.

"E.J. had foresight and he had vision," Button told NHL.com. "But more than that, he had a love for the future of the game and the future of the game is these young players. We spend too much time picking apart players; E.J. celebrated their gifts and qualities that were going to make them special in the NHL."
              Craig Button, NHL Network analyst

Button was working for both the NHL Network and TSN on Friday during the fitness-testing portion of the NHL Scouting Combine at the Toronto Congress Centre.

"This Combine was his vision," Button continued. "It was about making it more thorough, more complete, and giving the teams the information they needed. We talk about the interviewing and fitness testing portion of the Combine, but E.J. was one person who always considered the medical testing equally important. We don't have to go back very far to remember David Carle and how a medical test saved that young boy's life."

An abnormality in Carle's heart that put him at risk for sudden cardiac death if he exerted too much energy was first detected by doctors at the Combine in June, 2008, prompting a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

NHL Central Scouting had Carle rated No. 60 among North American skaters that year, setting him up to go as high as the second round.

Thanks to McGuire's foresight, the young defenseman was properly diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy -- a thickening of the heart that had previously been cited in the sudden death of young athletes.

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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 8:08 PM

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

Top HS prospect gets schooled at Combine

Mario Lucia got his first real taste of what it will take to earn a roster spot with an NHL team.

Lucia, projected to be the first high school player off the board at the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., was one of six scholastic standouts invited to the NHL Scouting Combine this week.

As expected, the Combine experience was something the Wayzata (Minn.) High School junior won't soon forget.

"I'm going to get some rest and a nice hot shower," Lucia told the media following the completion of his fitness testing at the spacious Toronto Congress Centre.


"It was an honor to be here, fun and a dream come true," Lucia continued. "There are hundreds and thousands of players that would like to be here in my position, and I'm just living it up and soaking it all in right now."

The son of University of Minnesota coach Don Lucia offers an incredible release, smarts and knack for putting the puck in the net. He said the bike tests were the most strenuous.

"The VO2 test was easily the hardest; that combination of the Wingate and then getting little rest in between is just a deadly combination," Mario Lucia said. "The Wingate wasn't too bad since it was 30 seconds but that VO2 is intimidating … you just have to go as hard as you can and it's the mental part of it. It's not just going as hard as you can, it's trying to stay focused and not giving up."

Since the 2000 Draft, 156 high school players have been plucked from prep schools throughout the U.S. Since 2003, 135 players have been tabbed.

Lucia, a left wing rated No. 34 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, had 25 goals and 47 points in 24 games at Wayzata. His team finished the season 20-6-2 following a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Eden Prairie in the Section 6AA championship at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis on March 2.

"I mean, everyone wants to be drafted in the first round and it would be a dream to go in the first round but my expectations are, hopefully, early second," Lucia said. "Either way, being drafted is an honor. It doesn't really mean anything at this point since you still have to work your way up there."

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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 7:03 PM

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

Bike tests drain Combine prospects

They refer to themselves as the "Dukes of Hurl."
 
In reality, Peter Becker and Sheldon Bonadie are certified exercise physiologists who just so happen to stick out like sore thumbs whenever the top hockey prospects in North America are forced to take the Wingate anaerobic bike measurement during the NHL Scouting Combine.
 
"It's a 30-second test and you go all out," Becker told NHL.com. "We motor with 9 percent of the player's body weight and we want to see how much power they can generate, how well they can sustain it over 30 seconds."

Becker and Bonadie aren't hard to find. They're the ones screaming at the top of their lungs at those prospects taking the Wingate test -- urging them to keep pushing, keep pedaling.
NHL hokcey draft prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins undergoes a physical test on a stationary bike at the NHL Scouting combine in Toronto on Friday, June 3 , 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Chris Young)
 
"Scouts will use it to see their motivation, how well they're able to push themselves. They will also look to see what kind of power they can generate. In other words, how efficiently they're going to be in a 30-second shift, which is average."
 
Following the first day of testing here at the Toronto Congress Center, linemates Jonathan Huberdeau and Zack Phillips of the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League earned the lowest fatigue index scores in the Wingate test. That's quite an accomplishment considering both players went the distance in capturing the Memorial Cup championship on Sunday against the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors.
 
Bonadie doesn't believe scouts take into account whether Wingate participants might get sick, which is how Becker came up with the name, "Dukes of Hurl." In fact, a large garbage can is strategically placed nearby to both Wingate testing bikes.
 
"It all depends on what the scouts want to take away from it because one scout may say 'that guy is weak for getting sick' and the other may think 'that's the kind of effort I want to get '… I want my guys to give it their all, so they may think of that as somebody who is going all out. Whether you get sick or not, it doesn't affect how the test is scored or how it's determined."
 
Northeastern University defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, the tallest draft-eligible player at 6-foot-7 and 244 pounds, was pretty proud of the fact he didn't lose his composure after the bike tests. 
 
"I was kind of knocked out after Wingate and a lot of guys were getting sick a couple of times and I thought I might have to do it but I was able to hold it in and I'm pretty proud of that I think," Oleksiak said.
 
Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson of Skelleftea in the Elitserien and David Musil of the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League each lasted 14 minutes on the other strenuous bike exam -- the aerobic-max VO2 bike test, which measures the endurance capability of a player's heart, lungs and muscles.
 
"The VO2 test is terminated in one of two ways," said A.J. Rampersad, a graduate student at the York University Human performance Lab. "If they can't keep up with the speed or physically aren't able to continue and they just stop. This test proves to a scout the endurance of a player; how much they can last throughout the game, can withstand those overtimes and how quickly they can recover."

Kitchener Rangers forward Gabriel Landeskog seemed glad the fitness portion of the Scouting Combine had come to an end.
 
"It was fun, I tried to have a smile on my face as long as I could and obviously the bike tests are real killers, but other than that it was a good experience," Landeskog said.
 
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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 6:59 AM

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

Infamous bike tests loom for young prospects

In the summer before the 2010 NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto, Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin opted to give the aerobic-max VO2 bike test a shot "just for fun" with his agency.

Those familiar with the test, which measures the endurance capability of a player's heart, lungs and muscles, knows it happens to be the most grueling of all the endurance tests conducted by York University for the benefit of the 30 NHL teams.

"I ended up throwing up after the VO2 (during the practice run)," Seguin said. "It's very difficult. You try to stay positive. I talked to guys who did it the year before my draft year and talked to guys who did it for practice. They said the bike tests are pretty hard. You have casual stuff, like bench press, push-ups, sit-ups, which you've done before. But the bikes are quite tough."

Seguin survived the Combine phase of the bike test and would ultimately be chosen second overall by the Boston Bruins at the 2010 Entry Draft at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Last year, six players lasted more than 14 minutes on the VO2, led by Slovakian defenseman Martin Marcincin, (14:15), who was drafted by the Oilers in the second round (No. 46 overall). Halifax Mooseheads goaltender Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault, taken by Columbus in the fourth round (No. 102 overall), went 14:03.

Four players went exactly 14 minutes -- South Shore forward Charlie Coyle (San Jose, first round, No. 28 overall), AIK defenseman Patrik Nemeth (Dallas, second round, No. 41 overall), Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Dylan McIlrath (New York Rangers, first round, No. 10 overall) and Medicine Hat Tigers right wing Emerson Etem (Anaheim Ducks, first round, No. 29 overall).

NHL Central Scouting's No. 1-rated North American skater, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer, is looking forward to the bike tests. Nugent-Hopkins is actually one of eight prospects ready to hit the fitness testing portion of the Combine first on Friday. Included in that group are Tyler Biggs, Mark McNeill, Logan Shaw, Rocco Grimaldi, Nicholas Shore, Scott Mayfield and Jamieson Oleksiak.

"I've heard about the bike tests (Wingate anaerobic measure and aerobic-max VO2) and I know they'll be pretty tough, but I think my cardio is pretty good so I should be OK on the VO2," Nugent-Hopkins told NHL.com. "But the Wingate is pretty tough. I'm trying to prepare myself for that, but I guess you never can prepare yourself enough for it."

It isn't too uncommon to see a few players cradling a trash can following the Wingate test, an obvious indication that their body has had enough.

"I've heard stories (regarding the bike tests) that haven't been too positive," said No. 31-ranked North American skater Seth Ambroz of the USHL's Omaha Lancers. "But it'll be fun to see what happens. I'm not too worried about it. I'm just going to go there and give them all I've got."

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Posted On Thursday, 06.02.2011 / 4:13 PM

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

RPI's Patrick Koudys: Last but not least

Defenseman Patrick Koudys of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute might have been the last North American skater invited to the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto this week, but don't expect him to settle for anything less than his finest effort.

"I'm excited to be here," Koudys told NHL.com. "It wasn't guaranteed that I'd come here so for the tests, hopefully I'll perform well. The interviews are also a big part of this. I'm just hoping to be myself and hopefully a team will like me for me and that's all I could ask for right now."

As a freshman, Koudys had a goal and a pair of assists in 31 games with RPI in 2010-11 -- all his points came in 19 ECAC contests. In addition participating in the Scouting Combine, Koudys was also a participant in the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp last summer.

Koudys, a civil engineering major, has every intention of continuing his career at RPI in the fall despite the fact he was drafted 124th overall by the Oshawa Generals in the 2009 OHL draft. He chose to follow the same path as his father's cousin, Randy Koudys, and attend RPI.

"Personally, it was good year, we had a great team, great coaching staff, and we made it to the NCAA tournament, which is a big thing," he said. "I learned a lot, the coaching staff was great to me. They taught me a lot and the guys were great. I'm looking forward to going back and winning a national championship next year."

Before going to RPI, he spent a season with the Burlington Cougars and transformed into one of the team's best players, scoring 5 goals and 33 points. He was also the Cougars' most reliable defenseman, evidenced by the fact he was named the club's Most Promising Player, Top Defenseman and Rookie of the Year. Koudys, who is sometimes compared to Boston blueliner Dennis Seidenberg, was also named the Ontario Hockey Association Top Prospect, that season.

Koudys isn't concerned with the fact he dropped five slots to No. 76 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters.

"With a college kid like that, you have to like his potential as much as anything because he's a first year college guy and he's in the lineup regularly but doesn't always get in on every shift," Central Scouting's Gary Eggleston told NHL.com. "He's going to be a strong player in college next year as he gets a little more time to develop. He has really good upside, a really strong skater, good defensively. He was a little bit restrained offensively but I think he can still go with the puck and contribute to the offense. He's a pretty physical kid, strong in the corners and capable of moving to the puck quickly. He played with a lot of poise for a freshman."

His father, Jim, was drafted in the 12th round (No. 252 overall) by the New York Islanders in 1982 and played hockey for the OHL's Sudbury Wolves for three seasons (1981-84).

"I know I'm the last North American to be invited to this, so there's still lots of room for me to grow," he said. "I learned a lot at RPI this year and, hopefully , I'll go back and learn a lot more. I think teams will see that in the next couple of years when I'm able to step up and be a more of a big-name person."

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Posted On Thursday, 06.02.2011 / 8:19 AM

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

Saint John salutes their boys

It began with unexpected anticipation. It ended up being a memory that would last a lifetime.

An estimated 10,000 fans of the Saint John Sea Dogs flooded King's Square, the Market Square boardwalk and lined King and Charlotte streets in downtown Saint John Tuesday afternoon to pay tribute to their boys for bringing home the President's Cup and the Memorial Cup.

Local reports had police blocking off parts of 10 streets for the parade that, according to Sgt. Rick Caswell of the Saint John Police Force, was the largest gathering of people on the city streets since 2001 when a parade was held for the Calder Cup-winning Saint John Flames.
Sea Dogs Steven Anthony, Mike Thomas enjoy Parade

"It was unbelievable," forward Ryan Tesink told NHL.com. "We felt like Gods. We had about six vehicles, including a fire truck, and three or four of us each were on one. We're not the biggest city and in the middle of the day on a Tuesday … I was impressed. I grew up (in Saint John) my whole life."

Tesink, the fourth-line forward who struck for 35 points in 59 regular-season games for the Sea Dogs, was also the focus of one of the more noticeable signs amidst the sea of blue and white colors.

"One sign out there read, "Tesink for Mayor", said the 5-foot-11, 157 pound Tesink. "I thought that was funny and the boys loved that one. I was so proud to be a St. Johner during that parade. I couldn't believe the support. We had about 500 fans come to the final (in Mississauga) and everyone flew or some drove and spent a lot of money to watch us win that (Memorial Cup). That means the world to me."

Three men dressed in blue spandex suits, perhaps descendants of the green men milling around at Vancouver Canucks hockey games, ran along the parade route prior to the players making their presence.

"It was incredible," defenseman Nathan Beaulieu said. "It was good to get back to all of the fans for all their support all year and it was nice to just bring the Cup home. I was on the top of a fire truck looking over the whole city, so that was pretty cool. You see people and then see more people and you just feel like the parade went on forever. It's a moment I'll never forget."

"I didn't really know what to expect because sometimes some of those things can be a little bit boring," Zack Phillips said. "But that was anything but boring. It was a beautiful day and we're all in shorts and T-shirts and sunglasses, on top of fire trucks, honking horns and sitting on convertibles or in the backs of SUV's just having an unbelievable time. The support they showed was amazing … we were taking videos of the crowd and ourselves. It was fantastic."

Jonathan Huberdeau, who was named the tournament's MVP after collecting 3 goals and 6 points in 4 games, was overwhelmed.

The 18-year-old from St-Jerome, Quebec, ranked No. 3 by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters, had a goal and one assist in the 3-1 Championship Final victory over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on May 29.

"It was nice to see all the fans in Saint John," Huberdeau said. " It was nice to share the Cup. The people were waving at you and congratulating you and that they care about you. Our fans deserved that and to share it with them was nice."

Six players, including Huberdeau, Beaulieu, Phillips, Tesink, Tomas Jurco and Scott Oke, arrived in Toronto for the NHL Scouting Combine on Wednesday. Each had several interviews scheduled Wednesday and Thursday.

Phillips (upper body injury) said he wouldn't be participating in the bench press portion of the fitness testing on Friday, but admitted there's a good chance he and his teammates will be taking part in the bike tests. Unlike most other players participating at the Combine, the Sea Dogs and Majors went the distance this season -- finishing up on the last possible day (May 29) before the start of the Combine (on May 30).

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.01.2011 / 8:06 AM

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

Mayfield reflects on tragedy in home state Missouri

In addition to thinking about what the NHL Scouting Combine has in store for him this week, Youngstown Phantoms defenseman Scott Mayfield has also been pondering issues much closer to home these days.

The St. Louis native, rated No. 24 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, resides just three hours East of Joplin, Mo., where the tragic EF-5 tornado resulted in the death of at least 125 persons, over 750 injuries, and major damage to countless homes and businesses.

"I didn't have any family or friends affected by the tornado but it was just horrible … I was watching all day on television," Mayfield told NHL.com. "The strange thing is, a lot of tornadoes have come through Missouri this year. A guy right down the street from us had shingles ripped off his roof that are still in my yard from a tornado that hit weeks ago, but the one that hit Joplin was a lot more serious."


Mayfield has been hard at work over the last month preparing his body for the rigors of the Combine, which is slated May 30 through June 4 in Toronto. He arrived in Toronto on Tuesday evening, all smiles, in obvious anticipation of the big week ahead.

The trip to the Combine is not Mayfield's first trip to an NHL event held in Toronto. At the start of the season, he took part in the NHL's Research, Development and Orientation Camp.

"The VO2 max (bike test) is probably the most important one so that's something I've been training for," he said. "It's kind of different training when you know the exercise you're training for. It's fun at the same time doing the different exercises. We're at the bike a lot during the season, but we never do a Wingate or VO2 max, so I'm having fun doing it with my trainer."

Mayfield explained his training regimen in his monthly blog for NHL.com. Read it here!

"While you want to make sure you're ready the best you can be, I'm not looking at not trying to get stronger while doing 100 pushups for the sake of the Combine," Mayfield said. "I'm actually still trying to get stronger and put on weight so I think I'm ready and excited for it."

Mayfield dressed in 52 games and tallied 7 goals and 16 points in his second season with the Phantoms. He connected for 3 goals and 8 points on the power-play. A skilled, intelligent defender with good size (6-3 1/2, 197 pounds), Mayfield was named MVP for Team USA at the 2010 World Jr. A Challenge after the team claimed its third straight gold medal in November.

He'll likely attend the University of Denver next fall, where he hopes to earn a role along the blueline. He admitted he might look to major or concentrate on hotel and restaurant management.

"I found that school pretty interesting and pretty cool," Mayfield said. "It's something I could use as a backup to professional hockey."

In addition to Mayfield, Denver's coaching staff might also be high on another incoming recruit on defense in Joey Laleggia of the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League. Laleggia, who had 20 goals and 82 points in 58 games this season, has racked up 147 points in 114 career games in three seasons with the Vees.

"I know (Denver), of course, is waiting to see how everything turns out," Mayfield said. "I know there's another recruit who's highly offensive in Joey Laleggia. I don't think they're looking at me too hard as an offensive-type defender … just kind of an all-around game like I've been the last two years. I'm not all a stay-at-home type of player, I play offensive as well. But I play defense too."

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We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff