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Posted On Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 2:05 PM

By Lonnie Herman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Conacher standing out for Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning Assistant General Manager Tom Kurvers talked about which players have impressed him here at the Florida Rookie Tournament.
 
"I've been really impressed with Cory Conacher (5-foot-8, 180 pounds)," Kurvers said of the training camp invitee. "He has some things small men need to play in the NHL. He has speed, puck skill, hockey sense and determination. When we open training camp he has a pretty good role model to see across our locker room, Marty St. Louis. Lots of under-sized guys have tried to get there (NHL), but not that many have made it, but Marty's been the best ever, perhaps.
 
"I wasn't familiar with Conacher until this spring and then again at this tournament, but he's made a great impression."

Conacher had 23 goals and 19 assists last season with Canisius College. When his college season ended, he saw time in the AHL with Rochester and Milwaukee, and Cincinnati in the ECHL.
 
Kurvers also talked about the size of the Lightning squad here, which is noticeably smaller than the opposition they've faced.
 
"Small teams can beat big teams with structure and synergy, but we really just scrapped a team together and threw them on the ice here," he said. "You'd like to win these games, sure, but there's a lot of things to factor in. Winning the games are secondary to individual performance of our young players -- we're assessing players on an individual basis. GM Steve Yzerman has been very clear in what we, as an organization, are looking for in hockey players, and hockey sense and competitiveness top the list; not at the expense of size, but when we are looking at potential players, these factors have to be present in order to argue the case for a player.
 
"Other teams have other criteria -- size is something some other teams may go after first. There are different ways of going after the prize."
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Posted On Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 1:01 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Rangers' Miller ready to face former coach in TC final

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Don't think for a second that New York Rangers prospect J.T. Miller doesn't know who his opposing coach will be when his club battles the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday in the championship game of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.

"Yeah, that's Ron Rolston, my coach for two years at the NTDP (National Team Development Program)," Miller told NHL.com

The most decorated head coach in NTDP history left after seven years to become the coach of the Rochester Americans, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres, in July. He's coaching Buffalo's prospects in the tournament this week. The Rangers and Sabres will square of in the tournament final here at Center ICE Arena at 7 p.m. ET.

Rolston guided his teams to five medals and multiple tournament championships in international competition. He is the only coach in U.S. history to win three gold medals in the Under-18 World Championship (2005, 2009, 2011). His team also captured a silver medal in the 2007 U18 World Championship.  Rolston's teams never missed a championship game in either of the two major NTDP tournaments -- the World U18 Championship and the World U17 Hockey Challenge.

Miller, who was drafted 15th overall by the Rangers in June, knows his team will have their work cut out for them.

"It's going to be great playing against him … it's about time," Miller said. "He's taught me a lot that I know, so I'm going to use what he taught me against him and hopefully it works out. I'm sure he has some really tough defensive systems up his sleeve, so it should be a good game."

The Rangers won their only other trip to the Traverse City championship game in 2007, defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-1, behind the play of Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Sauer, and Marc Staal. This is the first year Buffalo is competing in Traverse City.

Miller, who passed on a scholarship to the University of North Dakota to sign with the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers for the 2011-12 season, skated in 48 games with the USNTDP U18 team this past season. He produced 11 goals, 37 points and 80 penalty minutes.

"He's a really good hockey player, a lot of tools and a bright future," Rolston praised. "He's come a long way in the two years I had him as far as maturity. This will be his next step, getting with an organization and working with their leadership to continue his maturity and development. He's strong and can skate, plays hard. The Rangers have a lot there to work with."

Miller, from East Palestine, Ohio, led Team USA in scoring with 13 points in six tournament contests en route to capturing the gold medal at the 2011 U18 World Junior Championship in Germany. He tied for third among all tournament skaters in points, fourth in assists (9), sixth in goals (4), and seventh with a plus-8 rating.

In addition to Miller, the Rangers' prospects have been led by defensemen Tim Erixon (1 goal, 3 assists), Dylan McIlrath and Samuel Noreau and forwards Shane McColgan (2 goals, 2 assists), Ryan Bourque (3 goals), Christian Thomas (1 goal, 3 assists), Blake Parlett (5 assists) and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (2 goals, 3 assists). Goalies Jason Missiaen (1-0-1, 2.94 goals-against average, .898 save percentage) and Scott Stajcer (1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .929 save percentage) have performed well.

The 6-1, 200-pound Miller appeared in 95 career games over two seasons in the United States Hockey League with the USNTDP, registering 26 goals and 42 assists for 68 points, along with 159 penalty minutes.

"I think the pace (of the tournament) is great and the physicality that goes with it just takes it to a whole new level," Miller said. "I'm just trying to get used to it every game and trying to play more consistent. It's a tough game and you just can't beat yourself up too much and just get right back at it on the next shift. I'm trying to work on that."

Miller was asked what he anticipates from the Rolston-coached Sabres.

"A hard-nosed hockey game," he said. "They'll do their jobs and be responsible all over the ice. You have to play your role under Rolston … that's what he taught me over the years."

The Sabres have been led on offense by the triumphant top-line trio of Marcus Foligno (1 goals, 2 assists), Luke Adam (2 goals) and Zack Kassian (3 assists). Defensively, Brayden McNabb and Mark Pysyk have excelled. Nathan Lieuwen (1-1-0, 4.00 GAA, .862 save percentage) and Ryan Rondeau (1-0-0, 3.00 GAA, .885 save percentage) have split goaltending duty.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 12:01 PM

By Ryan Pinder -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Flames, Oilers set to meet in Battle of Alberta

PENTICTON, British Columbia -- Bragging rights in Alberta are on the line tonight (7:30 p.m. PST) at the Young Stars tournament as the Flames and Oilers meet.

Ah, the battle of Alberta (Prospect Edition 1.0) – one of hockey’s great rivalries. There will be elbows thrown, there will be taunting, there will be scraps, and there will also be a game for these two unruly fan bases to watch as well. While that may be a slight exaggeration of the scale of the hatred between the two hockey tribes, it isn’t that far off.

True, it seems the Oilers and Flames rivalry was a touch hotter in the late-80s when the teams seemed to perennially meet in the Smyth Division playoffs. But the Oilers have finished dead last in the NHL the last two seasons, and the Flames have missed the playoffs while spending close to the cap over the same stretch, making it tough for fans to get the bile churning when, frankly, the stakes just haven’t been as high.

This will be the final game of the tournament for both sides. The Oilers have looked sharp in Penticton – two wins in two games – while the Flames are winless after watching a lead disappear with just 15 seconds remaining, then losing moments into overtime on Monday when they faced the Canucks.

In the afternoon affair, the Sharks and Canucks battle at 4 p.m. PST.
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Posted On Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 11:58 AM

By Ryan Pinder -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Battle of Alberta Headlines Day 4

Bragging rights in Alberta are on the line today at the Young Stars Tournament as the Flames and Oilers meet in Penticton, B.C.

The Battle of Alberta (Prospect Edition) remains one of hockey's great rivalries. The rivalry between the Oilers and Flames was a touch hotter in the late 1980s, when the teams seemed to meet annually in the Smythe Division playoffs. The Oilers have finished 30th in the League the last two seasons, while the Flames also have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. It can be tough for the fans to get totally into it when, frankly, the stakes just haven't been as high.

This will be the final game of the tournament for both sides. The Oilers have looked sharp here with wins in both their games, while the Flames are winless after watching the Canucks tie Monday's game with 15 seconds left in regulation than score in overtime.

In the second game today, the Sharks will face the Canucks.
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Posted On Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 1:36 AM

By Ryan Pinder -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Oilers blank Jets, 2-0

Ryan Nugent Hopkins was the story early, but 19-year-old goalie Tyler Bunz ended up stealing the show as he and the Edmonton Oilers blanked the Winnipeg Jets 2-0 on Tuesday night.

The Oilers are now 2-0-0 in the Penticton Young Stars tournament.

Bunz was sturdy all night but seemed to get better and better as the game  progressed. In the second period he made a tricky save after a puck hit the iron, then in the final two minutes he made two gigantic saves to preserve the win. He reacted to the final buzzer and his shut-out performance with a double fist pump before being mobbed by teammates.

Both goals in the game came from the Oilers in the first period. First, Chase Schaber scored less than three minutes in, then Nugent-Hopkins and Kristians Pelss set up defender Ryan Lowery, who got a puck through traffic and behind Jets goalie Chris Carrozzi.

Nugent-Hopkins’s assist on the  power-play goal gave him his second point in as many games, but it was his physicality that had fans, scouts and media buzzing, as he used his body effectively early on in the game, doling out multiple hits.

For the Jets, Eric O’Dell had a stellar chance to beat Bunz in the second frame, but hit the post, and Bunz kept it out of the cage off the firm carom. Then in the final frame, Carl Klingberg took a great pass, cut across Bunz’s crease, but missed a tap-in on a yawning cage.
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 10:43 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Tvrdon, Mosher lead Red Wings over Sabres

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Slovakian Marek Tvrdon scored two goals and Evan Mosher turned aside 19 shots to lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday in the final round-robin contest of the Traverse City Prospects tournament.

Tvrdon, who was drafted by the Red Wings in the fourth round (No. 115 overall) last June, scored both his goals in the first period when Detroit opened a 2-1 edge. Tvrdon will spend his first full season in North America this season with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. He had 6 goals and 11 points in 12 games with the team in 2010-11.

Phil Varone scored the first-period goal for Buffalo, which had forwards Luke Adam and Daniel Cantenacci and defenseman Brayden McNabb listed as healthy scratches for the match. Detroit was without six players, including 2011 first-round pick Tomas Jurco, who was sidelined with a lower-body injury.

Marcus Foligno scored 13:21 into the second to pull the Sabres into a 2-2 tie. Detroit scored three goals on 11 shots in the third -- receiving goals from Bryan Rufenach, Joakim Andersson and Trevor Parkes. Nathan Lieuwen turned aside 32 shots for Buffalo, which went 0-for-7 on the power-play.

Detroit will play Carolina in the seventh-place game on Wednesday at Center ICE Arena. Buffalo, meanwhile, will battle the New York Rangers in the championship match at 7 p.m. ET.

The fifth-place game will feature the Minnesota Wild against the Dallas Stars and the third-place match will have the St. Louis Blues against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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Posted On Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 10:24 PM

By Erin Nicks -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Sens top Leafs in OT on Stone goal

OSHAWA, Ontario – The Oshawa Rookie Tournament wrapped up on Tuesday night with the Battle of Ontario, and the Ottawa Senators outlasting Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-3 overtime tilt.

Mark Stone scored the winner for the Senators after the Leafs tied the score in the final minute of regulation with goaltender Mark Owuya pulled for an extra attacker.

“We talked today about introducing these young players to the rivalry,” Ottawa prospects coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. "Say what you want, you can sense it out there … there’s just something to these games. There’s just not a whole lot of 'like' out there between either team.”

Ottawa led off the scoring, as Shane Prince fed a pass to Stephane Da Costa, who flicked a wrister under the arm of Owuya.

The Senators continued to press, when Louie Caporusso gained control of the puck behind the net, and passed it off to Jakub Culek in the slot. Culek then wristed the puck past Owuya, putting the Sens up 2-0.

The Leafs got on the board late in the second, during a 5-on-3 power play. Matt Frattin one-timed a pass from Mitchell Heard, beating Robin Lehner blocker side.

As the third period began, the Senators found themselves down a man when Sondre Olden beat a screened Lehner from the top of the face-off circle. However, Ottawa countered when Shane Prince dished the puck to Mika Zibanejad, who quickly flicked a nifty backhand into the net.

But with 48 seconds left and Owuya out of the net, Greg McKegg jammed a puck past Robin Lehner on a tic-tac-toe feed from Josh Nicholls and Mitchell Heard, knotting it at 3-3, and forcing the game into overtime.

Two minutes into the extra frame, it was the Senators having the last laugh when Stone skated in alone through the slot, and rocketed the winning shot past Owuya. Stone was all smiles as he tried to recall the moment.

“I just remember getting the puck at the blue line and having a clear lead to the net,” Stone said. “I was looking to feed it and grab it back-door, but the defenseman, he bit real hard. So I had a clear lane and I just put it in the back of the net.”
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 9:45 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Chaput, Dainton spark Blue Jackets over Wild

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Michael Chaput scored unassisted in the second period for the go-ahead goal, and Paul Dainton made it stand with 26 saves as the Columbus Blue Jackets scored a 3-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday in the third game for each club at the Traverse City Prospects tournament.
 
Mike Thomas scored in the first to give Columbus a 1-0 lead before Joey Martin connected for the Wild 3:19 into the second to square the contest. Chaput's goal 17:43 into the second snapped a 1-1 tie. Tyler Johnson then scored 16:50 into the third to extend the lead to 3-1.
 
Matthew Hackett, who was the winning goalie in last year's Traverse City tournament final, made 26 saves in defeat.
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 8:16 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Shugg strikes in second OT to lift Hurricanes

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- In what was perhaps the most exciting finish to a game in the 2011 Traverse City Tournament, Justin Shugg connected 2:19 into the second overtime off a breakaway to bring the Carolina Hurricanes their first victory of the tournament, 4-3, against the New York Rangers.
 
Shugg received his opportunity after a nifty theft on Christian Thomas at the Carolina blue line before speeding, uncontested, down right wing. Despite the loss, the Rangers still advance to the tournament championship game against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday at Center ICE Arena.
 
The Rangers snapped a 2-2 tie in the first when Christian Thomas converted a feed from Shane McColgan with just one second on the clock. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and McColgan also collected goals for the Rangers, who suffered their first loss of the tournament.
 
Scott Pitt and Tyler Carroll connected for Carolina in the opening period.
 
Beau Schmitz scored 17:42 into the second to pull the Hurricanes into a 3-3 tie. Both goalies played well throughout. Carolina goalie Mavric Parks stopped 38 of 41 shots, including 23 in the third period. Rangers goalie Jason Misssiaen turned aside 35 shots in the loss.
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Posted On Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 8:15 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting the future

Rattie, Allen lead Blues past Stars

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Ty Rattie scored a pair of goals and dished out two assists, and Philip McRae had a goal and two assists to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 6-1 victory against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.

Goalie Jake Allen made 27 saves to notch his first victory of the tournament.

Anthony Nigro and Tyler Shattock scored first-period goals as the Blues opened a 2-1 lead. Matt Tassone scored the only goal for Dallas, which has lost two straight games. Jay Barriball also hit for St. Louis, which finished 3-for-10 on the power play.

Dallas defenseman Jamie Oleksiak totaled 7 penalty minutes and engaged in his first fight of the tournament with Yannick Veilleux.
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