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Posted On Wednesday, 10.19.2011 / 10:40 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli praises talent in USHL

In addition to the Stanley Cup ring he earned last season as general manager of the Boston Bruins, Peter Chiarelli also had a successful debut as part-owner of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League last season.

Dubuque captured the Clark Cup as USHL champion by winning Game 4 of its best-of-five series against the Green Bay Gamblers, 6-1, before 3,480 fans at Mystique Ice Center. Don't think for a second Chiarelli didn't know that it was also the largest crowd to see a game in the history of Dubuque hockey, which earned its first USHL crown since the 1984-85 campaign. Dubuque became the first expansion team to win the Clark Cup since the Lincoln Stars won it all during their inaugural season of 1996-97.

For Chiarelli, getting involved in the USHL has certainly turned out to be an exciting business venture.

"I've seen a lot of games in the USHL and our scouting staff sees a lot of games, so we have a good grasp on the league," Chiarelli told radio station 'Super Hits 106.1 FM' in Dubuque during intermission of a recent game. "I feel strongly about the league and I communicated that to those in the organization. The games I saw, the attendance was strong in every arena and the games were entertaining. The depth of the lines and defensive pairs were deeper than people expected, which speaks to the quality of the league."

In defense of their league title this season, Chiarelli is also delighted with the fact the Fighting Saints have two players considered top prospects for the 2012 Entry Draft, including forward Zemgus Girgensons and defenseman Mike Matheson.

"My schedule is all over the place so I like to see a team at home with good prospects, and on the road, and we have two in Girgensons and Matheson," Chiarelli said. "Zemgus has a lot of pro qualities and he's a real solid two-way player. I really like the way he protects the puck.

"You can tell Matheson is still growing into the league (as a first-year player), but he's a terrific talent and terrific skater. He can move the puck … he moves it to places where it's hard to move it, so you have two good players here."

Chiarelli was asked how impressed he's been with the caliber of talent in the USHL.

"I can tell you what we've done in our scouting staff reflects the value and the increasing improvement of the quality of players in the USHL," he said. "We've redirected a lot of our scouting schedules, so to speak, to make sure we have increased coverage in the USHL.

"You have to know the league very well," he continued. "It's a tough league to cover from a scouting perspective because it's spread across such a wide area. There are a lot of hidden gems in the USHL and, as time goes on, it won't be because it'll be heavily scouted. But I've redirected a lot of our scouts to make sure we get increased coverage here."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 11:34 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

NHL Director of Euro Scouting Goran Stubb offers overseas insight

There's no question the closer we get to the 2012 Entry Draft, the hot topic not only will be Russian forwards Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting and Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Quebec Remparts, but that incredibly talented crop of defensive prospects starring in the Western Hockey League.

However, there's also a fine group of prospects starring overseas who also might capture the fancy of NHL scouts and general managers.

Recently, NHL.com caught up with NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb to find who he thought were the most talented players outside North America. For starters, Stubb didn't hide the fact that Sweden will present a hockey haven for most scouts this season, with Finland coming in second.

"At present, there are some prospects from Russia, but no superstars," Stubb told NHL.com. "The Czechs, Slovaks, Swiss and Germans don't have anyone in the top 10 (among European skaters overseas) … right now."

Here are Stubb's top five European standouts eligible for the 2012 draft:

1. Filip Forsberg, F, Leksand (Sweden) - The 6-foot-1, 180-pound left wing (no relation to former NHL All-Star Peter Forsberg) was spectacular for his country at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August, totaling 4 goals and 10 points in six games for the silver medal-winning Swedes. His ability with the puck has been compared to fellow Swede Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators.

Swedish standout Filip Forsberg
"I think my offensive game is my biggest strength," Forsberg told reporters in July. "I like to shoot the puck, but I think I can play a complete game in terms of scoring, playmaking and defensive play."

Said Stubb: "He's a talented, speedy, two-way forward who can score the big goals. He also has a good selection of shots."

2. Sebastian Collberg, F, Frolunda (Sweden) - With decent size (5-11, 180) and sniper-like mentality off the right wing, Collberg is a player who might be off the radar at this point, but he won't stay there long. Collberg had 21 goals and 44 points in 35 games with Frolunda HC in 2010-11. In addition to a great wrist shot, scouts love the fact he isn't afraid to initiate contact in the corners.

"He has a great first step … is so quick," Stubb said. "He rushes down the wing and shoots a lot; he's got soft hands and a quick shot. He's a player with great offensive instincts."

3. Pontus Aberg, F, Djurgarden (Sweden) - The 5-11, 187-pound left wing, who missed being eligible for the 2011 draft by eight days, offers a right-handed shot. He produced 13 goals and 30 points in 41 games with Djurgarden's junior club in the J20 SuperElit league last season and already has 4 goals and 6 points in nine games playing in the Elitserien this season. Aberg's contract with Djurgarden runs through the 2013-14 season.

"He's played great to open up the fall season," Stubb said. "He's a speedy, hard-working winger with a nose for the net … a sniper with a very good overall skill level."

4. Teuvo Teravainen, F, Jokerit (Finland) - The left-handed Teravainen is being touted as Finland's top performer. NHL Network analyst and prospect guru Craig Button labeled Teravainen as a potential sleeper for the 2012 draft. The 5-11, 187-pound right wing had 16 goals and 35 points through 11 games for his Jokerit U-16 club in 2009-10. Last season, he had 5 goals and 17 points in 11 games for Finland's Under-17 Team. He has compared his style of play to Patrick Kane and Pavel Datsyuk.

"Talk about a dynamic skater ... Teravainen is a guy who can make things happen so quickly," Button said. "He's really smart and able to draw defenders to him and make really good plays. Right now he's a little slight, but when you watch him on the ice, he's a real dynamic player. Right now, for me, he's a guy who is a first-round pick. By springtime, he could be mentioned among the top guys."

Stubb agreed: "He speedy, quick and talented … an offensive-minded winger who, with quick, surprising moves creates scoring chances for linemates and himself around the net. He's a bit inconsistent from game to game and will need to improve in that area."

5. Henrik Samuelsson, F, MoDo (Sweden) - If the name sounds familiar it should -- Samuelsson is the son of former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, who spent 16 seasons in the NHL. Henrik left the U.S. National Team Development Program when his father was hired as MoDo's coach and has 2 assists and eight penalty minutes in eight games so far this season.

His older brother, defenseman Philip Samuelsson, was selected in the second round (No. 61) by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2009 draft.

Henrik, a 6-foot-2, 193-pound right wing was born in Scottsdale, Ariz., and had 28 points and 98 penalty minutes for the U.S. National Team Development Program's under-17 squad last season.

"He's got good size, works hard and plays with grit," Stubb said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 1:36 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Red Deer coach keeping close tabs on Nugent-Hopkins

Just because Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has secured a roster spot for at least nine regular season games with the Edmonton Oilers to open the 2011-12 campaign, doesn't mean his coach in Red Deer, Jesse Wallin, has lost contact with him.

"I talked to him quite a bit early on in camp just to see how he was doing," Wallin told NHL.com. "But I haven't been in touch with him a whole lot lately; just a text here and there to see how he's doing. It was his first camp and he enjoyed himself. It's all new and exciting and a great experience for him and he handled it really well."

Wallin was asked if he's torn between seeing Nugent-Hopkins make the Oilers roster or having him return to Red Deer for his third full season.

"You want the best for him and, selfishly, we'd love to have him back here," Wallin said. "So from that end of things, we'd absolutely want to have him back in Red Deer. But having said that, if he makes the Oilers, then that's what it's all about as well. We're here to develop guys for the NHL and that's our No. 1 goal and if he's prepared to make that step this year, than we've done our job and that's good for our program."

Nugent-Hopkins entered the 2011 draft as the No. 1-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting's final list in April. He led the Rebels and finished tied for third in the WHL scoring race with 106 points in 69 games during the 2010-11 regular season while his 75 assists led all WHL players. He was also named Player of the Game for Team Orr at the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

"Ultimately, at the end of the day, what I want to see happen is what's best for Ryan and for him as a player," Wallin said. "It's about what's going to be best for him this year and not just for this season but for long term as well. I just think he's a very special talent and I think he's going to be a big time NHL player. I say that not only because of his ability but because of his personality traits … he's just got a real level head on his shoulders and has that type of personality that you see in real elite hockey players."

During Canada's National Junior Team development camp in August, Nugent-Hopkins was in the spotlight since the event was held in Edmonton. At the time, Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said that Nugent-Hopkins had a better than 50 percent chance of making the Oilers. He also said it would be up to the player to convince Renney he's ready to take that next step -- but it won't be easy.

"If playing for the Edmonton Oilers benefits him long-term, than that's great and good for hockey and that's his dream and I'm sure that's what he's trying to accomplish and what he should be trying to accomplish," Wallin said. "But if benefitting him long-term requires he return to Red Deer, we'll certainly welcome him with open arms and continue working with him to get him prepared to make that step when he's ready."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.28.2011 / 11:51 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Trouba intends to fulfill college commitment

Collegiate hockey was making headlines for all the wrong reasons this past summer when three players opted out of their previous commitments and another decided to part ways after one season in the NCAA ranks for the Canadian Hockey League.

Three players drafted in the first round of the 2011 Entry Draft, including Jamie Oleksiak (No. 14 overall, Dallas Stars), J.T. Miller (No. 15, New York Rangers) and Connor Murphy (No. 20, Phoenix Coyotes) and second round pick John Gibson (No. 39, Anaheim Ducks) all had college commitments but changed their minds and instead felt the Canadian junior level was a better fit. Oleksiak had just completed his first season at Northeastern.

Needless to say, when defenseman Jacob Trouba of the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program on Monday announced via Twitter he would continue his career at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2012, the first question on everyone's mind was just how committed he is to play for Red Berenson next season.

"I plan on fulfilling my commitment to the University of Michigan," Trouba told NHL.com. "My parents have taught me to follow through on all commitments I make in life. I'm excited to wear the maize and blue, but right now I'm focused on representing my country and working towards another successful season with my team at the NTDP."

There was speculation that the Rochester, Mich., native would make the jump to the Canadian Hockey League following his first season with the USNTDP U-18 team this campaign. Trouba was chosen in the third round of the Ontario Hockey League's priority selection by the Kitchener Rangers.

"I chose Michigan for a number of reasons, both on and off the ice," Trouba said. "After visiting the campus, I got a great sense of what the hockey program means to the school. It's a great fit for me and I know I'll get along great with my teammates.

"Having the opportunity to play in front of my family was also a big factor in my decision making as I'm very close to them."

In 2010-11, Trouba played 37 games for the U-17 NTDP team and registered 6 goals, 19 points and 35 penalty minutes before being promoted to the U-18 team for the final 21 games of the season.

"The (Michigan) facilities and coaching staff are known throughout the hockey community and I believe they are the best around," Trouba said. "Yost is an awesome rink to play in with a great atmosphere. School was also a big part of my decision. I know hockey will end one day and it was important to know I’d be receiving a great education in addition to playing hockey."

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Posted On Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 10:49 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

NTDP defenseman Trouba commits to Michigan

Jacob Trouba, one of the more highly touted draft-eligible players from the Under-18 U.S. National Team Development Program, has announced his destination in the fall of 2012.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound defenseman made it official on Monday via his Twitter account when he verbally committed to the University of Michigan. He was reportedly also considering the University of Notre Dame.

"Commited," Trouba tweeted. "It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine!"

Trouba won a silver medal for the U.S. at the 2011 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, producing 2 goals and 9 points in six games. He also scored a goal in the gold medal game of the 2011 U18 World Championships in a victory over Sweden.

Al Jensen of NHL Central Scouting paid close attention to Trouba during the USHL Fall Classic last week. He liked what he saw.

"I really liked the way he played in all three games I viewed; he's a very good size D man," Jensen told NHL.com. "He skates exceptionally well and likes to rush up ice with the puck and with good speed. He'll also join the rush himself, is very confident and has great agility. He's strong physically, can handle the puck and is always alert. He also did a good job with one-on-one rushes against ... he has great upside."

There was speculation that the Rochester, Mich., native would make the jump to the Canadian Hockey League following his first season with the USNTDP U-18 team this campaign. Trouba was chosen in the third round of the Ontario Hockey League's priority selection by the Kitchener Rangers.

The decision undoubtedly is music to the ears of veteran Wolverines coach Red Berenson, who will likely lose All-American sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill (New Jersey Devils) following this season, as well as senior goalie Shawn Hunwick. Michigan has made 21 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Minnesota-Duluth in the tournament final last year.

In 2010-11, Trouba played 37 games for the U-17 NTDP team and registered 6 goals, 19 points and 35 penalty minutes before being promoted to the U-18 team for the final 21 games of the season.

Former NTDP goalie John Gibson, who was committed to Michigan and was drafted in the second round by the Anaheim Ducks in June, pulled out of his commit over the summer to instead join the Kitchener Rangers for this season.

It seems as though Trouba has no interest in opting out of his commitment.

"I don't want to make a commitment and then back down from it," Trouba told the media during the NHL's Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Friday, 09.23.2011 / 11:07 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

USHL Fall Classic loaded with draft-eligible players

The United States Hockey League's annual Fall Classic has traditionally offered NCAA Division I and III coaches, along with NHL representatives, a tremendous opportunity to catch a glimpse of many of the top players in the country. Several of those standouts also happen to be eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

The four-day event, which includes each of the USHL's 16 teams and encompasses 24 games, also attracts many of the country's top scouts. NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee, who specializes in scouting the mid-West and those players in the USHL, is a loyal follower of the Fall Classic.

Prior to the tournament, Barzee took some time to talk to NHL.com about those players he will be paying particular attention to at this year's tournament. Following the tournament, which concludes Sept. 24, we'll reach out to Barzee to receive his post-tournament evaluations.

The player who might be getting the most attention this week at the Fall Classic is 6-foot-1, 182-pound forward Zemgus Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints.

"He's the most experienced player … already having a year in the league and is the most physically developed," Barzee said.

NHL Network analyst Craig Button likes the fact Girgensons gets another year under his belt with Dubuque head coach Jim Montgomery, who not only starred alongside Paul Kariya at the University of Maine but spent parts of six seasons in the NHL. He captained the 1992-93 Maine team to the school's first NCAA championship.

"It's early to say who will emerge out of the group of centermen eligible for the draft but Girgensons has Jim Montgomery as his coach and that is going to help him," Button told NHL.com. "Girgensons is too good to play in the junior leagues but he's not good enough to play in the KHL, so he has to find a place where he can develop his skills."

Committed to the University of Vermont in the fall of 2012, the Latvian center finished third on the team with 49 points (21 goals) in 51 games in 2010-11 and was selected to the mid-season Western Conference All-Star Team.

Girgensons received an automatic one-game suspension in a 3-1 victory over the Tri-City Storm on Thursday and will sit out Friday's contest against Muskegon. He received his suspension with 25 seconds remaining in the third period after being issused a game misconduct for checking from behind.

Another player starring in Dubuque is left-handed defenseman Michael Matheson (6-foot, 170 pounds), who recently won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2011 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.

Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (6-2, 175) of Sioux City is committed to the University of North Dakota. He finished his rookie season in the USHL as the league's highest-scoring defenseman with 44 points (13 goals) in 53 games. Schmaltz was named to the USHL's 2011 All-Rookie Team.

Barzee's USHL dark horse candidate for the 2012 draft is Sioux City defenseman Cliff Watson (6-2, 195), who is committed to Ohio State next September.

"He played with Appleton United last year and I like everything about him," Barzee said. "He's a bull. Secondly, he's a bull who can skate, can shoot the puck, moves the puck, knows the game and can put you in the nickel seats. That's a pretty good combination for me. Watson will be the second guy on the power-play to get a lot of assists, but he's also a dynamite defensive player."

The Fargo Force has two players in the fold, including 5-foot-10 defenseman Brian Cooper and 6-2 blueliner Justin Wade.

"Cooper is going to be one of those real controversial-type guys heading into the draft because he's another Gary Suter or Matt Carle type; he's not yet 6-foot, but is one of those offensive-type defensemen in the mold of Ryan Murphy (Carolina Hurricanes)."

Wade, who recently committed to the University of Notre Dame, played 35 games with the Force as a 16-year-old in 2010-11. He was also a member of the U.S. Under-18 Select Team in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament this past summer.

There are also several players starring for the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team, including forwards Cameron Darcy, Nicolas Kerdiles (Wisconsin), Brendan Silk (Boston College) and Stefan Matteau (North Dakota), defenseman Jacob Trouba and goalie Collin Olson (Ohio State).

Among that group of formidable players, Trouba, who hasn't committed to college but whose rights belong to the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers, would appear to be a first-round talent next June.

Trouba had 7 points in 21 games for the U-18 team last year and 6 goals, 19 points in 37 contests for the U-17 Team. The native of Rochester, Mich., scored the first goal in a 4-3 overtime gold-medal game triumph over Sweden in the 2011 U18 World Championship in Germany last April.

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.21.2011 / 1:17 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to 2012 NHL Draft

Yakupov looks to be top choice ... for now

And so it begins.

Nail Yakupov, Sarnia Sting
The road to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is well under way and, not surprisingly, there are several players vying for top honors. At the head of the list is Russian Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League.

The Sting open the season on Friday against Erie at the RBC Centre. In six preseason games, Yakupov did nothing to disappoint, racking up 6 goals and 15 points. He closed out the preseason with a spectacular five-point outburst, including 4 goals, in a 6-1 victory over the Windsor Spitfires.

NHL Network analyst Craig Button feels Yakupov is the real deal.

"He's got an abundance of skills," Button told NHL.com. "When you're talking about the top eight guys (in the 2012 draft), you're talking about so many attributes and he fits right into that category as a player with multiple attributes."

The native of Nizhnekamsk, Russia, who was named Rookie of the Year in the Canadian Hockey League in 2010-11, led all first-year players and finished tied for fourth overall in OHL scoring with 101 points in 65 games (49 goals, 52 assists).  He became just the fifth OHL rookie to reach 100 points in a season in the last 15 years and established new team record for goals and points by a rookie -- surpassing the marks set by Steven Stamkos in 2006-07.

"When you watch Yakupov, you can see that explosive ability but you also that stealth ability, like Jari Kurri," Button said. "Kurri would wait, and before you knew it, not only was (Wayne) Gretzky moving in, but Kurri was moving into the right spot and it was too late. Yakupov has that ability, which is why I've compared him to Kurri. Jari was always one of those guys to say, 'I'm not going to go there yet because it's not time to go there.' Yakupov has that similar ability and patience."

Yakupov (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) represented Russia at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships, notching a hat trick in a 6-4 victory over Team Canada in the bronze medal game.

In addition to Yakupov, Button named three defensemen from the Western Hockey League who looked primed to go in relative early fashion next June -- Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, Matt Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels and Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Murray was named Everett's captain this past season by head coach Craig Hartsburg despite the fact his 6-foot-1/2, 190-pound blueliner had just turned 17-years-old. The move was made when regular captain Landon Ferraro, a second-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, was sidelined due to sports hernia surgery and a bum shoulder. He'll serve as captain of the Silvertips this season as well. In 122 career games for the Silvertips, Murray has recorded 73 points (11-62-73) and is Everett's all-time plus-minus leader with a +51 rating.

"Murray is a real dependable, consistent defenseman," Button said. "He reminds me of a Kevin Lowe-type defender. He passes the puck very well and is the type of player you want on your team."

NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards feels Murray is the complete package.

"He's an excellent skater," Edwards said. "His mobility, agility and speed make him, at this point, one of the best skaters up for the draft. He possesses excellent puck handling and decision making and is a top two defenseman in Everett. I would expect him to be a top two at the pro level as well."

Dumba was the WHL's rookie of the year in 2010-11, connecting for 15 goals and 26 points for the Rebels in 62 games. He was also a plus-24 with 83 penalty minutes. At the 2011 U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg, Manitoba in January, Dumba led the tournament with 12 assists and 12 points.

"He's a kid who reminds me of P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens)," Button said of Dumba.

Rielly, meanwhile, led Moose Jaw in scoring as a rookie last season with 6 goals and 28 points in 65 games. He was also the second youngest player to represent Team Canada at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships.

"Rielly will lift you out of your seat," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com. "He's and exceptional skater; he skates as well as anyone that's ever played in the WHL. He twists and turns on a dime and is very exciting to watch."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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2012 NHL Draft