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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

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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.
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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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Posted On Sunday, 04.03.2011 / 8:45 AM

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

Linking up with Central Scouting in Toronto

While the scouts are flocking to the office kitchen for some early-morning coffee and scouring the internet for possible player updates, thought I'd drop you a few morning features to get you started for Day 2 of NHL Central Scouting's meet to determine the final list of North American skaters and goaltenders.

** When NHL Central Scouting unveiled its midterm report in January, there were three defensemen ranked among the top dozen North American skaters. Are those same three the frontrunners entering the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.? Read it here.

** Prior to the start of every season, NHL Central Scouting is usually making its rounds to not only to catch a glimpse of the top prospects in the world but to have them fill out some necessary paperwork.
So, long before Gabriel Landeskog of Kitchener, Sean Couturier of Drummondville, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer, Jonathan Huberdeau of Saint John and Tyler Biggs of the U.S. National Team Development Program are beginning a new season, they've encountered "the questionnaire." Read about how the prospects dissect their strengths here.

** Also, in case you missed it, and as we await Central Scouting's release of the final ratings on April 12, NHL.com reached out to two anonymous NHL scouts -- one employed by an Eastern Conference team, one from a Western Conference team -- to ask their first-round projections.
Check those out right here.

Well, we're about 15 minutes away from picking up where we left off Saturday evening. The boys are 80 players deep at this point - well into the third round. I'll update the blog as often as humanly possible; to get instantaneous snippets out of the CSS meetings, please follow me on Twitter at: @mike_morreale.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.02.2011 / 2:00 PM

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

The Moment of Truth - First Round projections

Just a quick break in the prospect action to admit that U.S. scout David Gregory and OHL scout Chris Edwards are doing a fabulous job in keeping the opening day of Central Scouting's meeting going in a nice, solid pace. Too many men behind-the-scenes, as well, to mention at this time.

Gregory just announced that league rankings have been established and now it's on to projecting the First Round -- The Moment of Truth has arrived. A vote was just taken between two players for the No. 1 slot ... sorry I cannot reveal at this time. I know, you hate me!

"This year's draft has a lot of quality players beyond pick No. 15 and some say well into round three," Gregory told NHL.com. "As in every season, there is a sleeper pick, who years later proves to be a dominant player in the NHL. This draft will be no different and the depth in the early rounds almost makes it a certainty. These players are spread out across junior leagues and high schools, making it difficult to decipher between them at times.

"But the quality of play has been very good throughout the season," he continued. "Each year there seems to be more and more players whose hockey skills are very strong as training and coaching improves at all levels. It occasionally takes a few years for this type of player to be playing regularly in the NHL but as indicated above it wouldn't be a surprise for someone outside of Round 1 to be playing within a year or two as well."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.02.2011 / 1:54 PM

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

QMJHL and OHL players discussed after lunch break

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League are almost in the books. Once completed, the  boys will begin making their first-round projections - this should be good.

Chris Bordeleau, who spends most of his time viewing players in the 'Q', opened discussions with a solid evaluation of centers Jonathan Huberdeau and Sean Couturier. He spoke of Huberdeau's great hands around the net and Couturier's two-way acumen. Saint John defenseman Nathan Beaulieu has also been on the radar of every scout and his play was worthy of a lengthy discussion by those boys within the Conn Smythe Board Room.

Interesting comments made about Victoriaville's Phillip Danault, as well. Will he be able to withstand the physicality of the NHL?

The OHL discussion, headed by scout Chris Edwards, included some familiar names like Kitchener's Gabriel Landeskog (not much debate needed and for good reason). Additionally, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Murphy, Brandon Saad and Ryan Strome were hot topics.

Another interesting topic debated was which Russian would you take -- Vladislav Namestnikov of the London Knights or Alexander Khokhlachev of the Windsor Spitfires?

It's always interesting to learn where the group will project injured players who were regarded highly on the mid-term report. In 2010, Prince George Cougars forward Brett Connolly was limited to just 16 games in his draft year due to nagging hip flexor injury, but Central Scouting thought so highly of the Western Hockey League prospect that they still boosted him one rung in the final ranking to third overall among North American skaters.

Tampa Bay would ultimately select him with the sixth overall pick in the Draft.

When NHL Central Scouting released its mid-term rankings this past January, OHL forward Matt Puempel of Peterborough was No. 29 among North American skaters. His season would end 11 days before the start of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs after sustaining a hip injury that required surgery. Word is the injury shouldn't hurt Puempel's draft value. The 6-foot, 196-pound left wing had a team-leading 34 goals (15 power-play goals) and 69 points in 55 games for Peterborough this season.

"At this point, a season-ending injury won't affect our opinion (of Puempel)," Edwards told NHL.com in late February. "We have more than enough viewings on him. I have 14 viewings. He will be checked over at the (NHL Scouting) Combine (May 29-June 4) by the doctors and as long as it is not career-ending, it should not make much of a difference."

The fact Puempel was able to produce another 30-plus goal season was quite impressive, according to many of the scouts.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.02.2011 / 11:08 AM

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

US-East players under the microscope

Those top prospects along the East are now up for debate.

That means scout Gary Eggleston is up. It seems towering 6-foot-7, 244-pound defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak was a favorite of all the evaluators present at the meeting. Oleksiak was rated No. 27 on Central Scouting's mid-term report. He played in every game at defense for Northeastern this season and finished with a team-best plus-13 rating. He was also the second-highest scoring defenseman with 4 goals and 9 assists.

There was also discussion of Philippe Hudon of Choate-Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. Hudon was rated No. 31 on the mid-term report. One player discussed in detail from the high school ranks was Exeter's Eric Neiley, a 5-10, 190-pound center. Neiley, committed to the University of Dartmouth next fall, was drafted by the Ontario Hockey League's Kingston Frontenacs in 2009 in the sixth round.

The focus has now shifted to the Quebec Major Hockey League -- a league that is chock-full of talent, including Drummondville's Sean Couturier and Saint John's Johathan Huberdeau, Nathan Beaulieu, Zack Phillips and Tomas Jurco and Victoriaville's Phillip Danault.

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Posted On Saturday, 04.02.2011 / 9:52 AM

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

US-West players now being discussed

Central Scouting's Jack Barzee, who works the Midwest covering many of the US high schools in Minnesota and the United States Hockey League, is now stating his case for many of the players within that area.

Among the players under discussion are Mario Lucia of Wayzata High School and Seth Ambroz of the USHL's Omaha Lancers. The scouts are actually debating over which player should be ranked ahead of the other but, keep in mind, they both think highly of each player.

U.S. National Team Development Program standouts Tyler Biggs, Jonathan Miller, Rocco Grimaldi and Conner Murphy were discussed in detail. Biggs was rated No. 5 on Central Scouting's mid-term report.

It's great when scouts cross over into other regions other than their own because it makes for even better discussion and debate. That's what I'm noticing with those players in the U.S.-West region. Most of the scouts have seen those players from the USNTDP and have had discussions with coach Ron Rolston.

Lucia was rated No. 30 on Central Scouting's mid-term report and Ambroz was No. 28, so the players are certainly comparable when projecting pro prospects 3-4 years down the road. Youngstown Phantoms' defenseman Scott Mayfield, who, like Ambroz, has maintained a blog all season for NHL.com, was also evaluated.

Read Mayfield's blog here.

Read Ambroz blog here.

Many of the scouts had high praise for University of Denver forward Nicholas Shore, who was rated No. 38 on Central Scouting's mid-term report. In 33 games this year, Shore had 7 goals, 18 points and 91 shots on net. He also fired home 2 game-winners.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.02.2011 / 9:20 AM

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

Western Hockey League opens CSS meeting

So, the meeting has begun here at the Conn Smythe Board Room at NHL Offices and the major topic right now are those Western Hockey League players just below the top-tiers performers within the league. Scouts B.J. MacDonald and Peter Sullivan, who each specialize in the 'Dub', are providing much of the commentary on the players.

The big names, of course, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer, Ty Rattie, Joe Morrow and Sven Baertschi of Portland, Duncan Siemens of Saskatoon, Mark McNeill of Prince Albert and David Musil of Vancouver. All the aformentioned were projected as possible first-round prospects at Central Scouting's mid-term release.

There is some heated discussion right now on players Joel Edmundson of Moose Jaw, Adam Lowry of Swift Current, Shane McColgan of Kelowna, Keegan Lowe of Edmonton, Sam Grist of Tri-City and Dylan Wruck of Edmonton.
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Posted On Friday, 04.01.2011 / 9:00 AM

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

Gurus of NHL Central Scouting meet again

NHL Central Scouting is ready to rock at the Conn Smythe Board Room in Toronto this weekend to determine its final rankings of the top draft-eligible players on the board this June at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

On Saturday, the pro scouts will have a go at it to determine this year's final list of the top 210 draft-eligible skaters and 30 goalies from North America for the 2011 Entry Draft.

NHL.com will also be present for the opening three days of the meetings, providing exclusive coverage. The scouts will no doubt be in heated debate, unveiling the pros and cons of every player from all the major junior leagues throughout North America.

Discussions will heat up almost immediately on Saturday morning as the scouts debate over who should receive the No. 1 overall placement among North American skaters. The top five candidates expected to vie for that position will be Kitchener's Gabriel Landeskog, Red Deer's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Saint John's Jonathan Huberdeau and Drummondville's Sean Couturier. All were rated among the top four on Central Scouting's mid-term list.

"This meeting will be intense as are all our meetings," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "I expect that the discussion we have for the first round will go on longer than normal. There are three or four guys who could be considered for the top spot. All of these players are excellent prospects and will get all of the attention and consideration they deserve."

Keep checking the "Prospecting with Central Scouting" blog, which will be updated every few hours, beginning Saturday and concluding Monday, for up-to-the-minute developments as they happen.
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Quote of the Day

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