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Posted On Monday, 03.07.2011 / 8:31 AM

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

Labate gives verbal to University of Wisconsin

Highly touted senior center Joseph LaBate of Holy Angels Academy in Minnesota gave a verbal commitment to continue his career at the University of Wisconsin next fall.

LaBate, who turned down scholarship offers from Nebraska-Omaha, Maine, RPI, Bemidji State and Minnesota State, made his decision on March 4. He produced 29 goals, 52 points and a plus-27 rating for the Stars this season and notched a pair of goals in a 4-3 loss to Prior Lake in the quarterfinal round of the Section AA state tournament last month. According to mnhockeyhub.com, Labate cancelled visits to North Dakota and Minnesota.

"I just loved my visit to (Wisconsin)," Labate told mnhockeyhub.com. "I had a really good feeling."

LaBate is NHL Central Scouting's fourth-rated scholastic player (No. 60 overall) among North American skaters, meaning he's projected to be drafted between the second and fourth round of the Entry Draft slated for St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25.

Labate, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound forward, is a finalist for the Mr. Hockey Award, which will be announced March 13 at the Grand Ballroom at RiverCentre.

"He's a big kid but he's not even peaked how strong he can be," Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "He has unbelievable skill, he's a great skater and good hands. He can shoot the puck and he's unselfish."

The next big scholastic name preparing to make his collegiate decision is the nation's top-rated high school player, Wayzata left wing Mario Lucia. Lucia, rated No. 30 by Central Scouting, is the son of current Minnesota U. hockey coach, Don. He told NHL.com that he has narrowed his choices to Notre Dame, Colorado and Minnesota.

The 6-2, 185-pound Lucia led the Trojans with 29 goals while finishing with 53 points this season.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 2:57 PM

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

Killian heads list of draft eligibles from New Jersey

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association ice hockey tournament has begun so now is as good a time as any to throw out a few names that NHL's Central Scouting has deemed players to watch.

In recent years, the Garden State has produced players such as James van Riemsdyk, Kyle Palmieri, George Parros and Bobby Ryan.

Matt Killian, a defenseman roaming the blue line for three-time and defending Non-Public champion Delbarton, is the first scholastic player from the Garden State to be rated on Central Scouting's mid-term report in January.

The 6-foot-1, 191-pound defenseman, ranked No. 77 on the list, is committed to Yale in the fall of 2011. He's projected to be a third- or fourth-round draft pick in June. Killian, who plays a part of a pretty formidable defensive corps for coach Bruce Shatel at the Morristown, N.J., prep school, was actually being courted by Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, the University of New Hampshire and Providence.

"I'm a good skater, and definitely a more offensive-minded D," Killian admitted. "I also take pride in being hard to play against. I think I see the ice pretty well, and move the puck quickly to join the rush."

Killian's favorite NHL player is Duncan Keith but the skater he would compare his style of play to most would be Kings' blue liner Drew Doughty. He played 12 games with the U.S. Under-18 team this season and produced 1 assist and 6 penalty minutes.

At Yale, Killian will join Delbarton graduate Kenny Agostino (Penguins, fifth round, 2010) and Charles Orzetti, who is rated No. 120 by Central Scouting on the mid-term rankings for North America skaters. Orzetti, a 6-foot-3 1/2, 208-pound forward, gave up his senior year at Delbarton to play for the Jersey Hitmen (EJHL).

Orzetti, who would compare himself to former NHL power-forward John LeClair, offers speed, quickness and puck control in tight spaces on the ice.

There are two other players from Delbarton on Central Scouting's mid-term release for North American skaters. Center Peter McMullen (6-2, 200), who is headed to Boston College in the fall, is rated 144th and defenseman Tommy Davis (6-0 3/4, 172) is 196th.

Davis would like to be compared to Flyers defenseman Matt Carle. His strongest assets are his skating, stickhandling and "hockey sense."

McMullen has produced 21 goals and 17 assist this season for the Green Wave. He's the prototypical power-forward.

It's quite possible that Delbarton, the No. 1-ranked team in New Jersey, will meet second-ranked St. Augustine Prep in the state Non-Public school final on March 13 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The teams were declared co-champions following a 2-2 tie in the 53rd Gordon Cup on Feb. 26.

Follow the NJSIAA tournament here.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 9:04 AM

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

Eden Prairie defeats Wayzata, Lucia, in section final

Top-seeded Eden Prairie won its second Section 6AA championship in three seasons on Wednesday when it scored a dramatic 4-3 double overtime decision over Wayzata High School at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

Senior Kyle Rau, a finalist for the Mr. Hockey Award and a University of Minnesota recruit, scored with 7:41 left in the 17-minute second OT after emerging from a pileup in front of the net and sweeping a shot into the cage. The game started several minutes after its scheduled 8 p.m. face-off and concluded approximately three hours later at 11 p.m.

Junior Mario Lucia, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated scholastic player who is ranked 30th overall among North American skaters, and senior Bryan Tabery scored in the third period to pull second-seeded Wayzata (20-6-2) into a 3-3 tie and send the game into OT.

The Rau vs. Lucia matchup was a good one. Rau (5-foot-9, 160 pounds), who committed to Minnesota in May 2010, leads Eden Prairie with 35 goals and 73 points. Lucia, the son of current Minnesota U. hockey coach, Don, is still considering his options. Boston College, Colorado College, Denver, Notre Dame, Michigan and, of course, Minnesota, have extended the 6-2, 185-pound Lucia scholarship offers. He led the Trojans with 29 goals and also dished 24 assists.

StarTribune.com blogger Roman Augustoviz was at the Section 2AA thriller and provided a nice recap of the double-overtime contest. Read it here.

Eden Prairie senior Andrew Ford made 34 saves to earn the victory. Wayzata sophomore Aaron Dingman made 29 saves.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.01.2011 / 1:11 PM

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

Mario Lucia leads Wayzata into state final

Wayzata High School junior forward Mario Lucia is one win from celebrating his school's first Minnesota State Section 6AA championship in seven years.

Lucia, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated scholastic player who is ranked 30th overall among North American skaters, has been on a line with Mr. Hockey Award finalist Tony Cameranesi, and Tyler Klein, in the playoffs. The trio combined for 5 goals and 10 points in a 6-3 victory over Benilde-St. Margaret's in the Section 6AA semifinal on Feb. 26.

Lucia and Cameranesi each had a goal and two assists and Klein struck for his second hat trick of the season.

"This is probably one of those games of the year," Klein told reporters after the game. "In the section semifinal, playoff hockey, it's always great to get a hat trick no matter what game you play in. To go along with that, I got a lot of help from Tony and Mario both this game."

The second-seeded Trojans will next face Lake Conference rival and top-seeded Eden Prairie, the 2009 champion, in the Class 2A, Section 6AA championship on Wednesday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. Wayzata has outscored the opposition, 19-3, in two playoff games and Eden Prairie holds a 12-1 advantage over its playoffs foes.

In two playoff games, Lucia, the son of Minnesota University head coach Don Lucia, has produced 4 goals, 6 points and 6 shots on goal.
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Posted On Friday, 02.25.2011 / 3:28 PM

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

Petes' Puempel might require season-ending surgery

Peterborough Petes left wing Matthew Puempel, who NHL Central Scouting rated 29th on its mid-term release of North American skaters, might require season-ending hip surgery.

Peterborough General Manager Dave Reid said an MRI on Thursday revealed a chip fracture in Puempel's hip that has caused a fluid build-up. Puempel will see a specialist next week to determine the next step. If surgery is required, it could mean the end of Puempel's season. Reid stressed that there's an outside chance surgery may not be required as the hip may be best to heal on its own. Either way, Puempel will sit out a minimum two weeks.

"We are in the process of setting up an appointment with a hip specialist to evaluate Matt's injury," Reid told NHL.com. "He has undergone three different MRI's and the last MRI revealed the injury. Surgery may be required but we will not know until after the hip specialists can evaluate Matt's injury. If surgery is required, only the specialist will know the type of surgery and the length of rehab."

With the injury, the question now is will Puempel still be considered a first or second-round pick at the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25. After becoming the youngest player in the history of the Petes to score 33 goals in a season in 2009-10, Puempel has followed up with 34 goals (15 power-play goals) and 69 points in 55 games this campaign.

"At this point, a season-ending injury won't effect our opinion (of Puempel)," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "We have more than enough viewings on him. I, myself, have 14 viewings. He will be checked over at the combine by the doctors and as long as it is not career-ending, it should not make much of a difference."

Puempel said doctors informed him that surgery was imminent.

"It will be my first surgery," Puempel told the Peterborough Examiner. "It's a lot to digest in such a little amount of time. I found out at five o'clock (Thursday). I can't believe I'm done for the year. I've never had a severe injury where I've been out more than one or two games. To have something like this is real upsetting and frustrating. The timing of it, too, adds to it all. The worst part about it is you can't really do anything about it. With the playoff run here and personal goals I wanted to achieve, it's all frustrating."

Puempel, a 6-foot, 198-pound pure goal-scorer, was first injured three weeks ago. He had produced 5 goals in as many games since his return from that ailment. He sat out Peterborough's 5-2 loss to Belleville on Thursday.

"I've always been known as an offensive guy," he said. "I like that, but I also don't want to be known as a one-dimensional player. I kind of want to work on from the goal line out. I think that's what gets you to the next level. Defense first and the offense will come off of that."

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Posted On Thursday, 02.24.2011 / 4:43 PM

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

Surging Sea Dogs

It's pretty amazing what the talent-laden Saint John Sea Dogs have been able to accomplish this season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Not that it's too surprising, but still, the Sea Dogs have won 49 of 57 games this year for 101 points -- quite impressive indeed.

The Sea Dogs have outscored the opposition, 273-140, this season.

Last year, the club totaled 109 points en route to the Jean Rougeau Trophy as the regular-season champion. Just six other teams in the history of the QMJHL had achieved back-to-back 100-point seasons.

Keep in mind that there could be as many as six players from the QMJHL taken in the first round of the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24. The last time the league produced as many as four first-round NHL draft picks was 2007 when forwards Jakub Voracek, Logan MacMillan, Angelo Esposito and David Perron were all taken among the top 26 selections.

Not only could there be as many as six players from the 'Q' drafted in the opening round, but four of the players might very well be from the surging Sea Dogs.

According to Central Scouting's mid-term rankings, No. 4 Jonathan Huberdeau, No. 9 Nathan Beaulieu, No. 12 Zack Phillips and No. 24 Tomas Jurco of Saint John are all among the top 30 skaters on the North American list.

Huberdeau has 36 goals and 87 points in 56 games, Phillips has 32 goals and 81 points in 56 games, Jurco has produced 28 goals and 51 points in 49 games and Beaulieu, the only defenseman of the group, has 11 goals, 39 points and a plus-39 rating in 56 contests.

The other two players from the QMJHL projected to go in the first round are No. 2 Sean Couturier of Drummondville and No. 23 Phillip Danault of Victoriaville.

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Posted On Monday, 02.21.2011 / 1:50 PM

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

Draft eligible prospect Lucia heads Minnesota HS tourney

The Minnesota State Playoffs commence this week and it appears as though the competition between the top four seeds in Class 2A, Section 6 will be unlike any other in recent tournament history.

Top seed Eden Prairie is followed by Wayzata and Benilde-St. Margaret's. Rounding out this collection of top-10 teams is defending section champion Minnetonka. If both teams advance, the semifinal showdown of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka will be a rematch of last season's section final.

All four teams boast some of the state's top players. In Eden Prairie, it's Mr. Hockey candidate Kyle Rau and defenseman Nick Seeler. In Wayzata, it is Mr. Hockey candidate Tony Cameranesi and Mario Lucia, the top-rated scholastic player on the board heading into the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.

Lucia enters the tournament with 25 goals, 47 points and a plus-26 rating in 24 games.

Benilde-St. Margaret's will count on a deep group of forwards and Wisconsin-bound defenseman Patrick Daly. Two-way forward Thomas Schutt will provide Minnetonka grit and experience.

"We know the ups and downs of these games," Minnetonka coach Brian Urick told the Star-Tribune. "We were the No. 1 seed last year, but none of our games were easy. Coming in No. 4 is nice because I think the higher-seeded teams tend to grip their sticks a little tighter."

Here's the bracket for Class 2A, Section 6: Click here.

Only two Class 2A sections have defending champions that earned No. 1 seeds: reigning state champion Edina (Section 2) and Hill-Murray (4). Both teams have injury concerns. Senior defenseman Max Everson of Edina should return from a wrist injury, and Hill-Murray sophomore Zach LaValle (leg) hopes to return to the second line and top power-play unit. Everson, by the way, is rated No. 81 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term report.
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Posted On Monday, 02.21.2011 / 12:55 PM

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

USHL All Star selections

The United States Hockey League announced its midseason CCM All-Star selections for the Eastern and Western Conference last week.

Four players were named USHL All-Stars for the second straight season, including Omaha Lancers forward and top draft prospect Seth Ambroz, Des Moines Buccaneers defenseman Austin Coldwell and Indian Ice defenseman Nick Mattson. Team USA forward Rocco Grimaldi was also named but unable to participate in the event.

The Green Bay Gamblers, who currently have the best record in the USHL (30-10-2), lead the way with five All-Star selections. The Indiana Ice and the Dubuque Fighting Saints placed five players among the selections. Keep in mind the USHL All-Star Game is absent from the schedule this season as the League is exploring options to develop a format that will build off the success of prior games and provide an improved experience for fans, scouts, and media.

Another top 2011 draft prospect, defenseman Scott Mayfield of the Youngstown Phantoms was also named to the Eastern Conference All-Star squad.

2011 USHL All-Star Rosters

EASTERN Conference

Defensemen: Nolan Zajac (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Aaron Harstad (Green Bay Gamblers), Nick Mattson (Indiana Ice), Alexx Privitera (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Jacob Trouba (Team USA), Andrew Panzarella (Waterloo Black Hawks), Scott Mayfield (Youngstown Phantoms)

Forwards: Cason Hohmann (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Jayson Megna (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Austin Czarnik (Green Bay Gamblers), William Kessel (Green Bay Gamblers), Jean-Paul LaFontaine (Green Bay Gamblers), Blake Coleman (Indiana Ice), Brian Ferlin (Indiana Ice), Peter Schneider (Indiana Ice), Daniil Tarasov (Indiana Ice), Matt Berry (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Ryan Misiak (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Rocco Grimaldi (Team USA), Cody Strang (Youngstown Phantoms)

Goaltenders: Brady Hjelle (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Ryan McKay (Green Bay Gamblers)

WESTERN Conference

Defensemen: Austin Coldwell (Des Moines Buccaneers), Joakim Ryan (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Brian Cooper (Fargo Force), Matt Prapavessis (Lincoln Stars), Ben Marshall (Omaha Lancers), Jordan Schmaltz (Sioux City Musketeers), Rick Pinkston (Tri-City Storm)

Forwards: Cal Decowski (Des Moines Buccaneers), John Gaudreau (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Zemgus Girgensons (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Vinny Saponari (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Tanner Kero (Fargo Force), Jimmy Mullin (Fargo Force), Ryan Dzingel (Lincoln Stars), John McCarron (Lincoln Stars), Seth Ambroz (Omaha Lancers), Nick Oddo (Omaha Lancers), Caleb Herbert (Sioux City Musketeers), Max McCormick (Sioux City Musketeers), Ryan Jacobson (Sioux Falls Stampede)

Goaltenders: Matt Morris (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Ryan Massa (Fargo Force)
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 12:53 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Carolina's Ian White rumored to be on the block

The rumors swirling around the potential deal of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ian White are just that -- rumors. At least for now.

Sure, defenseman Joni Pitkanen and forward Erik Cole will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, but it appears Carolina GM Jim Rutherford is getting inquiries about another pending UFA, the 26-year-old White. White has 2 goals, 16 points and a minus-6 rating in 55 games in his first season with the Hurricanes.

White is in his fifth NHL season.

"Something is in the works and it's pending … if it happens it'll happen within the next 24 hours I guess," Carolina coach Paul Maurice told the media following his team's morning practice at Prudential Center in Newark on Wednesday. "If it doesn't, he's with our hockey team."

Rutherford, who told NHL.com last week that he isn't outwardly seeking to make a deal, is fielding offers. He just might not be too quick to pull the trigger.

"There are deals out there and if you just played in a fantasy league and wanted to be a fantasy GM, you could make great hockey deals," Rutherford said. "But you can't because you have to factor the money in. Somebody has got to pay the bills."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.15.2011 / 4:34 PM

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

Larsson returns to Skelleftea lineup

Highly coveted European prospect, defenseman Adam Larsson of Skelleftea, made his anticipated return to the lineup on Tuesday against the top-seeded team in the Swedish Elite League, HV71.

Larsson, the No. 1-ranked player on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term list of the top draft-eligible European players, was paired with Fredrik Lindgren. Skelleftea entered the game in second place, 3 points behind HV71.

A groin injury, which has hampered Larsson all season, had kept the 6-foot-3, 200-pound blue liner sidelined since the completion of the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., on Jan. 5.

Larsson, who did play in the semifinals and bronze-medal game at the WJC, is in the midst of his second season playing for Skelleftea. He's projected to be a top five pick in the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24.

Larsson's produced 1 goal, 8 points and 37 penalty minutes in 28 games this season for Skelleftea. He represented Sweden at the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championship, finishing as the team's highest scoring defender at the tournament this past season with 1 goal and 4 points.
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Quote of the Day

Philadelphia is where I started my NHL career and this is where I want to be so I am really happy. This definitely gives me a lot of confidence by the Flyers showing that they have confidence in me. I know they want to see me get better as a player and this is the place to do it.

— Zac Rinaldo to the Flyers website on signing a two-year contract extension with Philadelphia