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Posted On Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 1:36 AM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Fight nearly costs two Top Prospects chance to shine

CALGARY -- For a brief moment, Jacob Middleton and Aaron Haydon thought they had lost their chance to shine.

Middleton, from Team Cherry and Haydon, from Team Orr, renewed Ontario Hockey League acquaintances and dropped the gloves at 17:41 of the first period, a staged-but-spirited tilt that brought the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd to its feet during the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday.

But prior to the bout, both removed their helmets -- and under Canadian Hockey League rule, each was assessed a game misconduct. However, the ruling was rescinded in the first intermission thanks in part to Team Cherry assistant coach Paul Reinhart.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.15.2014 / 3:52 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Butterflies settling in for roommates Virtanen, McCann

CALGARY -- Jake Virtanen has played many memorable games at Scotiabank Saddledome. His biggest will come Wednesday.

The Calgary Hitmen forward will serve as alternate captain for Team Orr at the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet).

"It's pretty cool," the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder said. "Obviously playing in front of the Hitmen fans, I'm used to that. Playing in front of the Flames fans will be pretty cool too. I played the Teddy Bear Toss here and it was fully packed for that. It was pretty cool as well. I'm kind of used to that. It'll be pretty fun to just get the game going and have fun out there."

Former NHL player Tim Hunter, who saw action in 815 games in parts of 16 seasons, put Team Orr through the paces at the morning skate.

It's the most nervous Virtanen, ranked ninth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its midterm rankings, has felt over the course of the three-day event.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.15.2014 / 3:28 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Nedeljkovic, Billia face tough task as backups

CALGARY -- Alex Nedeljkovic and Julio Billia face a challenge unlike any the 38 other players assembled for the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet) have to deal with.

The goaltenders will square off against each other at opposite ends of the ice but won't do so until the first stoppage of play after the midway mark of the second period.

In other words, they pulled back-up duty.

"We flipped a coin for it and unfortunately I got the second half of the game," Nedeljkovic, who will play for Team Cherry, said. "I'd rather start and come out after the first 30 [minutes] just because I'm already warm after the warmups. It's how it goes. I'm not too worried about it.

"You always have to be ready to go in no matter what, whether you're starting or whether you're backing up. You never know what's going to happen so you always have to be ready to step in and give your team a chance to win."

Posted On Wednesday, 01.15.2014 / 2:46 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Fun and games for Reinhart family

CALGARY -- There was a moment during practice for Team Cherry at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday when Sam Reinhart engaged in a 1-on-1 battle with his father at center ice to the delight of those in attendance.

There were no high sticks or taps to the shin, just an all-out game of keep-away. Paul Reinhart acknowledged afterward that long gone are the days when he used to win those little scrums with his sons.

"It's not even close anymore with any one of them [Sam and older sons Max and Griffin]," Paul Reinhart said. "I stopped trying to compete with them a while ago. I used to have an advantage with a little bit of knowledge but that's long gone. Their strength and puck control and their stamina is way too much for most of us."

Posted On Wednesday, 01.15.2014 / 10:19 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

A family affair at Top Prospects Game

CALGARY -- The last time center Ryan MacInnis stepped on the ice at Scotiabank Saddledome was two years ago when his father, Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis, was being honored as "Forever A Flame" to a capacity crowd.

The elder MacInnis, who played in 12 NHL All-Star Games and won the 1989 Norris and Conn Smythe trophies, was accompanied on the ice by his family and Flames alumni during a special pregame ceremony that was established to honor members of the Flames organization.

"It was pretty cool," Ryan MacInnis told "I walked out onto the ice with my family and dad made a speech. It was awesome to see how Calgary just loves him."

Ryan MacInnis returned to the Saddledome this week for the first time since that February 2012 evening to represent Team Cherry at the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet). The 6-foot-4, 185-pound MacInnis, who is in his first season with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, is one of five players in the game with fathers who played in the NHL.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 11:37 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Clarke out to impress scouts, show he belongs

CALGARY -- Saginaw Spirit left wing Blake Clarke has dealt with many off-ice distractions in what should have been a season to impress scouts considering him for the 2014 NHL Draft.

Clarke, No. 93 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, changed teams last month when the North Bay Battalion dealt him to Saginaw in exchange for forward and fellow 2012 first-round Ontario Hockey League draft pick Zach Bratina.

Clarke sustained a shoulder injury in the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Pittsburgh in September that limited him to 21 games with North Bay. He'll play for Team Orr at the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet) with hopes of turning some heads.

"I look at this as a big opportunity for me," Clarke said. "I was invited because people still believe in what I can be as a player in the future, so I have to prove them right.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 10:35 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Goldobin latest Russian starring in Sarnia

CALGARY -- Sarnia Sting right wing Nikolay Goldobin knows all about Nail Yakupov and how he was selected first by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2012 NHL Draft.

Yakupov spent two seasons in Sarnia, totaling 31 goals and 69 points in 42 games during an injury-shortened 2011-12 season. As a rookie in 2010-11 he had 101 points to lead the Sting and all Ontario Hockey League first-year players. His scoring also surpassed Steven Stamkos' team records for goals (42) and points (92) by a Sarnia rookie.

Does Goldobin consider himself the best Russian out of Sarnia since Yakupov?

"I want to be drafted high, in the top five," Goldobin told "We don't talk much about Yakupov but we do talk about his play in the NHL. It's been a big transition for me playing in Canada the last two seasons. In Canada the hockey is way faster than Russia."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 10:14 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Nedeljkovic admires Devils' Brodeur

CALGARY -- Plymouth Whalers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic never has seen live any of the three goals scored by New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, but admits to watching replays on the Internet every chance he gets.

"I've always wanted to score a goal and I keep that in the back of my head sometimes and envision myself doing it," Nedeljkovic said. "Marty was my favorite goalie growing up and still is. Just the way he plays the game and the accomplishments he'd had … it's been an incredible career."

Nedeljkovic (6-foot, 182 pounds) acknowledged he blew his one good opportunity to score a goal, during his midget-minor season.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 9:34 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

De Leo a veteran of Top Prospects games

CALGARY -- When it comes to playing in prospects games, Chase De Leo is close to qualifying for veteran status.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Portland Winterhawks forward will make his second appearance in an event that pits the top peers of his age group against each other when he participates in the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet).

De Leo played in the 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Sept. 26 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, but the 18-year old admitted his participation in that game doesn't give him an advantage in this one.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 7:28 PM

By Aaron Vickers - Correspondent / - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Top prospects get put to the test

CALGARY -- Aaron Haydon can be forgiven if he was a little winded after Tuesday's activity at the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Scotiabank Saddledome.

He might've been running a little low on energy.

After skipping two games on the weekend with a bout of the flu before returning Sunday to play for his Niagara IceDogs, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound defenseman admitted both off-ice and on-ice components to Tuesday's testing left him gasping for air.

Divided into their respective teams, those chosen to participate in the Top Prospects Game were put through the paces by Sport Testing in a plethora of dry land drills designed to grade, measure and quantify their abilities in hand grip, medicine ball toss, vertical jump, standing broad jump and pro agility.

After a 45-minute recovery break, prospects hit the ice to test their skills in a 30-meter sprint as well as drills to evaluate reaction time, lateral agility, multi-directional changes and transitional agility, both with and without pucks.

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