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Posted On Wednesday, 01.19.2011 / 8:51 PM

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

Team Orr holds 3-1 lead in Top Prospects Game

Sven Baertschi and Jonathan Huberdeau connected for second-period goals and Team Orr holds a 3-1 victory over Team Cherry after 40 minutes in the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Air Canada Centre.

Team Orr opened a 2-0 lead 5:28 into the second when Baertschi of the Portland Winterhawks snapped home a shot from the left circle off a picturesque pass from Red Deer's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from the opposite wing. Zack Phillips of the Saint John Sea Dogs also notched an assist on the play.

The goal came on Team Orr's fifth shot of the game. Team Cherry goalie Christopher Gibson would finish with 8 saves on 11 shots before he and Team Orr goalie Liam Liston (18 saves) were relieved at the 9:30 mark. Huberdeau (Saint John) knocked home a shot off a rebound to give Team Orr a 3-0 lead just before Gibson was pulled. Kitchener's David Musil took the initial shot from the point that Huberdeau picked up before moving to his left and sweeping his shot home.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.19.2011 / 7:57 PM

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

Catenacci gives Team Orr 1-0 lead

Team Orr's Daniel Catenacci of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds didn't win the fastest skater event for nothing.

The 5-foot-10, 181-pound center exploded into the offensive end on a shorthanded breakaway off a quick transition, broke in on goalie Christopher Gibson of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and ripped a shot home at 11:56 to give his team a 1-0 lead over Team Cherry in the CHL/NHL Home Hardware Top Prospects Game at Air Canada Centre. Defenseman Reece Scarlett (Swift Current Broncos) sprung Catenacci with a nice outlet pass from his own end.

Catenacci, who won the fastest-skater competition in 14.017 on Tuesday night, broke in and went backhand-forehand before sliding a shot into the right-hand corner with just four seconds left in the Team Cherry power-play.

Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Liam Liston, who leads all Western Hockey League rookie goalies with 11 victories this season, stopped 13 shots to post a shutout in the opening 20 minutes for Team Orr. He had several big stops, including one off Team Cherry sniper Ryan Strome (Niagara IceDogs) with his left blocker off a slap shot from between the circles and another off the stick of highly-touted Drummondville Voltigeurs forward Sean Couturier off a left-circle whistler.

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.19.2011 / 6:41 PM

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

Top prospect skills and thrills

As you might expect, the hot topic during the morning practice at Air Canada Centre and the afternoon interview sessions at the Westin Harbour Castle was on Tuesday night's Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Skills Competition.
 
Between Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer, Sven Baertschi of Portland and Tomas Jurco of Saint John, the Showdown Breakaway Challenge was something to behold.
 
There were headers, one-handed shots, and lacrosse-style whips into the cage.
 
Jurco won the event with his dazzling lacrosse-style scoop from between the circles that was followed by some twisting and twirling of the puck before unleashing a wicked backhand off a spin-o-rama. Nugent-Hopkins skated down the middle of the ice while maintaining control of the puck with a left-footed toe drag. At the last second, he'd do a 180 turn, kick the puck to his backhand and deposit a shot.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.18.2011 / 7:42 PM

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

Top prospects skills competition results

So we're under way here at the Air Canada Centre with the Top Prospects skills competition.

It took all eight skaters to finally determine the fastest skater. Each of the eight skaters were required to take one lap around the rink. Daniel Catenacci of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds clocked in at 14.017 to overtake Tobias Rieder (14.068) of the Kitchener Rangers. Rieder had held the lead as the fifth skater before Catenacci overtook him three skaters later.

Kitchener's Ryan Murphy started the event with a time of 14.197 before Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara IceDogs slipped and fell on the back end. Shane McColgan of the Kelowna Rockets also slippped while rounding the net but still finished with a respectable 15.729.

In the second event, Myles Bell of the Regina Pats earned the hardest shot on his second attempt -- 98.4 mph. Bell was the first shooter in the event.

Matthew Puempel of the Peterborough Petes won the shooting accuracy event -- hitting all 4 targets on five attempts. Zack Phillips of the the Saint John Sea Dogs finished a close second, smashing all 4 targets on six tries. Shane Prince of of the Ottawa 67's and Colin Jacobs of the Seattle Thunderbirds each hit four targets on 7 attempts.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.18.2011 / 12:32 PM

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

Prospects undergo rigorous on-ice testing

Long before those top players from the Canadian Hockey League will hear their names at the NHL Entry Draft, they'll undergo a series of on- and off-ice tests that will provide scouts and general managers an instant user profile of each player.

On Tuesday morning, those 2011 draft-eligible stars of the CHL were put through those tests at the Toronto Maple Leafs practice facility in Etobicoke, Ont.

The on-ice component, which has 70 individual measurements extracted from 14 on-ice tests that break each player's game down into the essentials of skating, puck handling and reaction time, was conducted by Ward Hillegas of Next Testing. Next Testing, a provider of testing and reporting services for understanding athletic performance, has served as the testing provider for the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game since 2008.

"You're dealing with the cream of the crop out here in the CHL, so the skill level is phenomenal," Hillegas told NHL.com. "It's neat to watch them because it's like a game situation. They become competitive out here. A big screen TV shows their times and scores as soon as they finish so the leading time stays on top. If you get beat, it's gone."

Hillegas said each NHL general manager will be given a binder with statistical data on all 40 players competing in the Prospects Game prior to the opening faceoff on Wednesday. It is done this way so that the scouts have yet another tool at their disposal to assist in their evaluation during the course of the game.

"We have what's called a Next Testing Index (NTI)," he said. "That ranges anywhere from 0-to-1,000 points and is based on four main categories -- forward skating, backward skating, puck control and reaction time. There are four sub-categories in each of those main categories."

Next Testing, based out of Madison, Wis., but which also has offices in Canada, is a scientifically based, standardized, elite testing service designed to evaluate hockey-specific skills and athletic traits.

"At this level, the kids are probably somewhere in the mid-600's to low 700-range," Hillegas said. "The top NHL players are closer to your 820-830-point range."

Hillegas, 53, did admit some of the better-conditioned prospects in the past have finished in the high 700's, which is quite a feat.  

"Let's face it, some of these guys are at a pretty high level," he said.

Hillegas feels the Top Prospects Game has grown each and every season.

"It brings a lot of people together at one location to take a look at the players," he said. "The scouts are traveling all over the place, so to bring them to one venue to watch players, not just once, but multiple times, is great. This is Next Testing's fourth year of doing the CHL top prospects game and I'm noticing more and more scouts coming out to watch not only the game but the testing. When they view it, the data we retrieve makes more sense."
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Posted On Monday, 01.17.2011 / 11:05 PM

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

Top prospects ready for skills competition

When told he'd be competing in the breakaway contest during the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Skills Competition on Tuesday, Sven Baertschi of the Ontario Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks smiled and pointed to his cell phone.

"I'll be phoning a friend," he said.

That friend, of course, is Portland teammate and fellow Switzerland native Nino Niederreiter. After all, it was only last year Niederreiter wowed those in attendance during the same event when he scored a one-handed backhand goal after throwing off his glove to distract the goalie. Niederreiter, a fifth-round draft pick of the New York Islanders last June, lost out to Carolina Hurricanes rookie Jeff Skinner, however.

"I'll have to find a move … and pretty quick," Baertschi said. "I'm probably going to ask Nino for a move. I know a couple, but I'm still going to call him."

There will no doubt be plenty of players seeking advice when the skills competition takes center stage at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday beginning 7 p.m. ET. It's simply a tune-up to the annual Top Prospects Game slated for 7 p.m. ET Wednesday at Air Canada.

The skills competition will include 40 of the Canadian Hockey League's top prospects eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. They'll be divided into four different events including the fastest skater, hardest shot, shooting accuracy, and the breakaway. Following the four events, all participants will have the ability to showcase their skills in a 3-on-3 game.

The competition will open with the top two ranked OHL defensemen in the fastest skater event including Team Orr's Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara IceDogs, ranked seventh by NHL Central Scouting, and Team Cherry's Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers, who is ranked 10th. The hardest shot contest will include a pair of Western Hockey League defensemen in Team Orr's David Musil of the Vancouver Giants, who is ranked 26th, and Team Cherry's Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades, No. 14 on the mid-term ratings. Second-ranked forward Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Team Cherry will compete in the shooting accuracy along with Saint John Sea Dogs' sniper Zack Phillips of Team Orr.  

Phillips was ecstatic when informed he'd be included in the shooting accuracy.

"Of any of the things I was doing here, that's the one I would have picked," Phillips said. "If you've ever seen me play, I'm not the best skater, so I really didn't want to be in the fastest skater event. I don't have that hard of a shot, so if it's going to be anything, it would have to be my accuracy. I'm happy I was put in that, so hopefully I'll be able to do alright."

When told Couturier would also be competing in the event, Phillips turned serious.

"You're kidding," he said.

"I think this is going to be a lot of fun," Couturier said. "For the scouts and fans, I'm just going to try and leave a good impression. It's a great opportunity to showcase and compare yourself to the best in North America."

The competition opens with the top two ranked OHL defencemen in the Fastest Skater event including Team Orr’s Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara IceDogs who is ranked seventh by NHL Central Scouting and Team Cherry’s Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers who is ranked 10th. The Hardest Shot contest features a pair of WHL defencemen including Team Orr’s David Musil of the Vancouver Giants who is ranked 26th, and Team Cherry’s Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades. Siemens is No. 14 on the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings.

"I've never done (hardest shot) in a competition before so it'll be different," said Team Cherry defenseman Scott Harrington of the London Knights. "Growing up and shooting pucks in my backyard, I had a radar, but I don't know how accurate that was. It was always nice to compete against yourself and get your shot up there, but it'll be interesting to see how my shot matches up against the rest of the guys. That's what I'm looking forward to the most."

The breakaway competitors include Team Orr's No. 3-rated Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels and No. 4 Bartschi of the Winterhawks. They will try and outperform Team Cherry's No. 24-rated player Tomas Jurco of Saint John and No. 19 Ryan Strome of Niagara. Both Jurco and Strome had highlight-reel breakaway goals this season for their respective clubs.

The showdown breakaway made its debut last season in Windsor.

The best individual score in each event receives a goal for their team, with another goal awarded for the best team average from each event for a total of eight available goals. The 3-on-3 game consists of two 15-minute periods with running time with all goals scored counting towards the overall competition score.

CHL/NHL Top Prospects Skills Competition

Fastest Skater

Team Orr:
Dougie Hamilton, Niagara IceDogs
Shane McColgan, Kelowna Rockets
Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John Sea Dogs
Daniel Catenacci, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Team Cherry:
Ryan Murphy, Kitchener Rangers
Mark McNeill, Prince Albert Raiders
Tobias Rieder, Kitchener Rangers
Rickard Rakell, Plymouth Whalers

Hardest Shot

Team Orr:
David Musil, Vancouver Giants
Stuart Percy, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Vincent Trocheck, Saginaw Spirit
Reece Scarlett, Swift Current Broncos

Team Cherry:
Myles Bell, Regina Pats
Scott Harrington, London Knights
Duncan Siemens, Saskatoon Blades
Tyler Wotherspoon, Portland Winterhawks

Shooting Accuracy

Team Orr:
Lucas Lessio, Oshawa Generals
Zack Phillips, Saint John Sea Dogs
Boone Jenner, Oshawa Generals
Colin Jacobs, Seattle Thunderbirds

Team Cherry:
Sean Couturier, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Matthew Puempel, Peterborough Petes
Shane Prince, Ottawa 67’s
Phillip Danault, Victoriaville Tigres

Showdown Breakaway

Team Orr:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer Rebels
Brandon Saad, Saginaw Spirit
Sven Bartschi, Portland Winterhawks
Vladislav Namestnikov, London Knights
Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs
Xavier Ouellet, Montreal Juniors

Team Cherry:
Ty Rattie, Portland Winterhawks
Tomas Jurco, Saint John Sea Dogs
Nicklas Jensen, Oshawa Generals
Ryan Strome, Niagara IceDogs
Mark Scheifele, Barrie Colts
Joe Morrow, Portland Winterhawks

Goaltenders

Team Orr:
Jordan Binnington, Owen Sound Attack
Liam Liston, Brandon Wheat Kings

Team Cherry:
Christopher Gibson, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
David Honzik, Victoriaville Tigres

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Posted On Monday, 01.10.2011 / 1:10 PM

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

NHL Central Scouting releases mid-term rankings

The tireless hours spent by NHL Central Scouting the last three months culminated in the mid-term release of the top North American and international skaters and best North American and international goaltenders on Monday afternoon.

Interestingly, a couple of Swedes, forward Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Adam Larsson, top their respective lists. Both players were recent teammates for Sweden during the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., although Landeskog was limited to just one game after re-aggravating an ankle sprain.

Landeskog, the power-forward who is in his second season with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, heads the North American group. Larsson, who has spent his career building an impressive resume in the Swedish Elite league, tops the international list.

NHL.com has all the details and lists available on its home page, so check them out if you haven't already done so. In case you missed an earlier feature on Landeskog, check it out right here.

Another interesting note is the fact, unlike previous draft lists, no North American defenseman is rated among the top five. In fact, you'd have to go to No. 7 on the list, Dougie Hamilton of the OHL's Niagara IceDogs, before you find a blue liner. He is followed by No. 9 Nathan Beaulieu of Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and No. 10 Ryan Murphy of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers.

Another interesting tidbit is the fact the last time the QMJHL 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.

There's a good chance that mark will be equaled, if not surpassed, on June 24 when the opening round of the 2011 Entry Draft is held at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. According to Central Scouting's mid-term ratings, there's a chance as many as four players will be selected in the first round from the Sea Dogs. They include No. 4 Jonathan Huberdeau, No. 9 Nathan Beaulieu, No. 12 Zack Phillips and No. 24 Tomas Jurco.

There's little doubt center Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs will be the first player plucked from the QMJHL in the opening round. He's collected 57 goals and 149 points in 101 games in Drummondville over two seasons and is considered the can't-miss prospect from the league. He also sports a plus-85 rating.

"I think this year is going to be an outstanding year for the 'Q'," Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant told NHL.com. "Couturier is obviously a big guy in there, but just from seeing some of the teams already, there's real good young talent in the league. Last year, we weren't to happy with the talent in the Q that went in the draft, but from what I'm seeing, it's going to be a good draft year for the Q in the NHL. We'll have more high-end talent in the league this year for sure."
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.05.2011 / 9:01 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

Canada opens 3-0 lead on Russia in gold medal game

It appears nothing is going to stop these Canadian juniors from reaching the pinnacle this year.

Canada connected once in the second to grab a 3-0 lead over Russia through 40 minutes of play in the gold-medal game of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship and will now look to put together one more solid period to earn their sixth gold in the last seven years.

Brayden Schenn ripped home his tournament-leading eighth goal from the right circle off a nice pass from Marcus Foligno along the left-wing half boards 6:27 into the second period to extend Canada's lead to 3-0. Schenn's goal was his second point of the game and 18th point of the tournament, tying him with Dale McCourt for most points in one WJC with 20 minutes remaining. McCourt's mark has stood since 1977.

The goal forced Russian coach Valeri Bragin to pull goalie Dmitri Shikin and replace him with Igor Bobkov. As the dejected Russian goalie skated to his bench, the center ice scoreboard highlighted a fan holding a sign that read: "Canadian Fried Shikin."

The Canadians had an opportunity to extend the lead when they were issued their second power-play of the game, but it was Russia that had the best scoring chance. Danil Sobchenko found an opening and broke in on Mark Visentin. The Canadian goalie, who has yielded just two goals in the last two games, scooped up the attempt directed toward the five-hole.

The Russians received some horrible luck with 4:29 remaining in the second when captain Vladimir Tarasenko needed to be helped off the ice after incidental contact by a Canadian player just inside the Russian blue line.

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.05.2011 / 8:17 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

Canada opens 2-0 lead on Russia in gold medal game

The Canadian National Junior Team continued its march toward a sixth gold medal in seven years in the opening 20 minutes of the gold medal game in the World Junior Championship on Wednesday.

Canada leads Russia, 2-0, in the seventh gold-medal clash between the clubs since the playoff format was adopted for the tournament in 1996.

Carter Ashton connected for his first of the tournament -- becoming the 15th player to at least have one goal -- with just 13.5 seconds remaining in period off great work behind the Russian net. After fighting off a check by Denis Golubev, Ashton skated to the front of net and received a pass from Louis Leblanc before finishing it off with a splendid sharp-angle shot from low in the right circle that entered the top far corner on Russian goalie Dmitri Shikin.

Russia committed the first mistake of the game when Georgi Berdyukov was whistled for hooking at the 4:20 mark of the first period. Canada, which entered the game with the top power-play in the tournament with a 43.48 proficiency rate, needed just 30 seconds to grab the early lead.

Brayden Schenn gathered a pass from Calvin de Haan in the right circle and quickly fired a cross-ice pass to captain Ryan Ellis in the opposite circle. Ellis collected and fired into a wide-open cage as Shikin never slid over to cover that portion of the cage.

Dmitri Orlov also pulled the Russians even when he stickhandled his way into the Canadian end and uncorked a slap shot that Mark Visentin corralled. Cody Eakin broke into the Russian end on a neutral zone turnover 11:40 into the first but was bothered just enough by the stick of defenseman Yuri Urychev.

Yevgeni Kuznetsov had an apparent breakaway attempt denied by a diving Tyson Barrie with 5:10 remaining in the period as the Canadian defense did all they could to deny the speedy Russian forwards an easy access to the goal cage.

Vinsentin turned aside eight shots in the opening period.

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.05.2011 / 7:17 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

U.S.A. names top players

The U.S. National Junior Team scored a 4-2 victory over Sweden in the bronze medal game to become the first American club to earn a medal of any color on home soil in four tries on Wednesday at HSBC Arena.

The victory also marked the first time the Americans have won back-to-back medals.

The top three players for the United States in the tournament, as selected by their coaching staff, were forward Charlie Coyle, defenseman Jon Merrill and goalie Jack Campbell.

Coyle, a first-round choice of the San Jose Sharks (No. 28 overall), finished with 2 goals, 6 points and a plus-1 rating. Merrill, a second-round pick of the Devils (No. 38 overall), led all defenders on the team with 4 points. Campbell, the first American-born player drafted last June (by the Dallas Stars), entered the bronze medal game 4-1 with a 1.63 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.

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