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Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 12:24 AM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Players focus on Top Prospects game, not rankings

CALGARY -- Ranked first or 101st, Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad knows his journey to the 2014 NHL Draft isn't close to being finished.

Ekblad, the top-ranked North American defenseman in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking, admitted that while the distinction is an honor, his focus is elsewhere since there's plenty of hockey left to play before draft day in June at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

"It is what it is," Ekblad said. "You could rate me one, two or 10. It is what it is. I think the most important thing is winning games with your team in the CHL and playing big on teams like this [the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game]. If you have team success, individual success will come quickly after that. I'm not worried about that. It is what it is and I've just got to keep working hard and doing the things I like to do."

What Ekblad's done throughout his junior career has been impressive. The 17-year-old has 14 goals in 31 games, tops among Ontario Hockey League defensemen, and his 31 points are tied for ninth. He also earned his way on to Canada's team for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

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Posted On Monday, 01.13.2014 / 10:03 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Top Prospects Game's a reunion for golden Canadians

CALGARY -- At his billet's home back in Kingston, Ontario, Spencer Watson has a reminder of Canada's golden performance at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.

His locker room at the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game will have plenty more.

Fourteen members of Canada's gold medal-winning entry are represented at the Top Prospects Game, making it a reunion of sorts for Watson and his teammates.

"Everywhere you look, you see someone you know," said Watson, who led the August tournament with 10 points in five games. "That way, it's a nice little reunion. It's great to play with players you've already played with before."

"Just to know you're part of that group and just know you're right there and you're just as good as all these other guys," he added. "It's a huge honor to be playing with all these great players for sure."

The memories didn't stop at Watson.


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Posted On Monday, 01.13.2014 / 9:44 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Snowstorm can't stop Top Prospects event

CALGARY -- A snowstorm in Calgary couldn't stop 40 of Canada's top draft-eligible players from invading the city.

Calgary, which will host the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet), was blanketed with heavy snowfall from dusk until dawn, throwing a wrench in some players' travel plans.

"It was pretty interesting," Plymouth Whalers goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic said. "A lot of guys got delayed on the plane so it's kind of been a little hectic getting to the airport and getting here, but it's been pretty cool.

"My flight was delayed a little bit. Just enough to make things hectic."

Nedeljkovic wasn't alone.

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Posted On Sunday, 01.12.2014 / 10:06 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014 Top Prospects Game blog

Hitmen duo ready to host CHL's top prospects

CALGARY -- There's something to be said for home-ice advantage.

Calgary Hitmen teammates Jake Virtanen and Ben Thomas will have 'Dome ice advantage in the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet).

"It gives me a little bit of confidence right from the start," Virtanen said. "It's in the [Saddledome]. Others are probably not used to playing in an NHL rink. I'm really excited for that. I'm really comfortable with that. I've been here [in Calgary] for almost two years now. I think it gives me and Ben a little bit of confidence more than most guys."

Virtanen and Thomas will be teammates Wednesday as members of Team Orr.

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Posted On Sunday, 01.12.2014 / 3:11 PM

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

Brayden Point to replace Samuel Bennett

Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett, an A-rated skater on the NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft, will not participate in the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet) after sustaining a lower-body injury.

Moose Jaw Warriors center Brayden Point will replace Bennett on Team Orr roster the Top Prospects Game, which will be played in Calgary at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Point, a 5-foot-9.5, 160-pound forward, has team-highs of 19 goals and 42 points in 44 Western Hockey League games.

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Posted On Friday, 01.10.2014 / 3:26 PM

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

Top prospects to undergo testing before game

Before 40 of the top 2014 NHL Draft-eligible prospects from the Canadian Hockey League showcase their ability at the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday, they'll undergo a series of on- and off-ice tests that will provide scouts and general managers an instant profile on each player.

All 40 of the players competing in the game will be put through those tests Tuesday at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, home of the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League and the site of the Top Prospects Game on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet).

These standardized tests, which will be conducted by Sport Testing Inc., have been completed in all three CHL leagues for the past four years and will be performed on all athletes participating. This will provide players, coaches and scouts detailed comparative data on an athlete's athletic ability.

The CHL has been using Sport Testing since 2010 at various skills combines at the bantam and minor-midget level to assess top OHL, WHL and QMJHL draft prospects for such gameplay qualities as speed, agility, explosiveness, stick handling and reaction time. Highly accurate measurement technologies and standard test protocols provide apples-to-apples benchmarking data that has shown a tight correlation to hockey performance.

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Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season