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2011 NHL Entry Draft
2011 NHL Entry Draft Hats
Posted On Friday, 06.10.2011 / 12:04 PM

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

Grimaldi keeps the faith

Following what he hopes will be a long and prosperous NHL career, Rocco Grimaldi of the U.S. National Team Development Program has every intention of giving back.

"I've always wanted to be a pastor since I was about 10-years-old," admitted the 18-year-old Grimaldi. "I have a real good sense of the Bible and can see things and stuff that most other people don't see."

Grimaldi routinely speaks in front of 10-18 people in his youth ministry group.


"I read (the Bible) every day and study it," he said. "A lot of people come to me for advice so I already got a jump-start to being a pastor. I think I'm a pretty good speaker and I'll hopefully become more comfortable with it in front of thousands instead of just tens and hundreds."

Interestingly, Grimaldi has two favorite "life verses" taken from the Bible that are actually customized on his Nike ID shoes -- one on each shoe. Not surprisingly, each passage deals with overcoming adversity and, in Grimaldi's case, his 5-foot-6, 163-pound frame that many thought would hinder his ability to reach the NHL.

The first is from Samuel 16:7: "But the Lord said to Samuel, do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

The second is taken from Corinthians 1:27: "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty."

"Foolish things of the world would be things that the world looks down upon; my size for example," Grimaldi said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Thursday, 05.26.2011 / 9:58 AM

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

Don Hay may return as Canadian coach at WJC

According to TSN, Hockey Canada on Thursday afternoon will announce Don Hay as the head coach of Team Canada for the IIHF World Junior Championship, Dec. 26-Jan. 5, in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta.

It would mark the second time Hockey Canada would turn to Hay to lead the program at the WJC. Hay, who just completed his seventh season as coach of the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League, coached Canada to a gold medal in 1995 with a team full of talented players, including Bryan McCabe, Wade Redden and Ryan Smyth.

During that run in 1995, when Canada finished 7-0-0 in the tournament, Canada's McCabe was named the best defenseman and Marty Murray the top forward.

Canada will play its Pool B games against the U.S., Finland, Czech Republic and Denmark in Edmonton before heading to Calgary for all playoff, relegation and medal games. Defending champion Russia will face Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia and Lavtia in Pool A.

Check back to NHL.com later today following Hockey Canada's press conference at 4 p.m. ET for further details.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.25.2011 / 1:43 PM

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

Memorial Cup draft-eligible leaderboard

So who among the 2011 draft eligible players are getting it done at the Memorial Cup after five days of activity within Hershey Centre in Mississauga?

Offensively, the creative wizardry of Tomas Jurco of the Saint John Sea Dogs has been on full display. Jurco, ranked No. 20 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, leads all scorers at the tournament with 4 goals and 5 points through three games.


His teammate, No. 3-ranked Jonathan Huberdeau, is in a five-way tie for second with 4 points (2 goals). In fact, the top four draft-eligible players from Saint John, including Huberdeau, No. 5 Nathan Beaulieu (1-2-3), No. 15 Zack Phillips (0-3-3) and Jurco are among the top seven point producers in the tournament.

Beaulieu ranks first among those defensemen in scoring with 1 goal and 3 points. Mississauga St. Michael's Majors blueliner Stuart Percy, rated No. 53 by Central Scouting, is tied with Beaulieu with 3 points -- all assists. He's in a five-way tie for seventh overall.

Owen Sound goalie Jordan Binnington, ranked third among those North American goalies eligible for the Entry Draft, is 1-0-1 with a tournament-low 1.31 goals-against average and tournament-high .959 save percentage.

Binnington was the third goalie to appear in the OHL finals for the Attack, stealing Game 6 and 7 while posting a 1.94 GAA and .943 save percentage. In 46 regular season games this season, he was 27-12-1-4 with a 3.05 GAA and .899 save percentage.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.25.2011 / 9:32 AM

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

Playoff hero Bieksa supports college way of life

To the five collegians invited to the upcoming NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa has some uplifting news with regard to the college way of life.

Following a three-year stint in the Ontario Junior Hockey League with the Burlington Cougars, Bieksa had the choice of attending Bowling Green State University of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association or playing for the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors of the Ontario Hockey League.

"It was going to be Mississauga's inaugural season and I was drafted by them in the later rounds, but went to their camp nonetheless," Bieksa told NHL.com. "It was a tough decision because of all the hoopla going on, with Don Cherry taking over the franchise. I was a big fan of his and it was something I really wanted to be a part of. I made the team and had a sit-down with my dad to really go over my options."

As it turns out, spending four seasons at Bowling Green turned out to be the turning point of his hockey career.

"It was one of the best decisions I've ever made," he said.


That's music to the ears of 2011 draft-eligible forwards Matthew Nieto of Boston University and Nicholas Shore of Denver University, and defensemen Patrick Koudys of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Adam Clendening of Boston University and Jamieson Oleksiak of Northeastern. All five players were invited to the NHL Combine from May 30 to June 4, where they'll undergo numerous interviews and partake in medical examinations and fitness evaluations.

Each player has high hopes they'll be considered by an NHL team when the NHL Entry Draft takes center stage at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25.

Bieksa's advice is something none of the players will take for granted, particular since the sixth-season Canuck played such a vital role in Vancouver's five-game series triumph over the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final. Bieksa's goal 10:18 into the second overtime on Tuesday resulted in Vancouver's first trip to the Cup Final since 1994 -- 17 years to the day.

In 2000-01, Bieksa joined the Falcons and produced 13 points in 35 games as a freshman to help BGSU become the lowest-seeded team (ninth) in CCHA history to advance to the league semifinals. He scored his team's lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Michigan State before Bowling Green was eliminated.

In June 2001, Bieksa was drafted by the Canucks in the fifth round (No. 151). He ended up playing four seasons at Bowling Green, where he scored 75 points in 147 games.


"Let's be realistic," Bieksa said. "At 16 years old, how many kids are actually going to make the NHL? So I wanted a fall-back plan. I didn't want to put all my eggs all in one basket, so I thought I'd go to school and get an education. The college route was picking up then and if I could make the NHL out of college, great, and if not, I had a (finance) degree to fall back on. I'd always been a pretty good student, so I think I made the right decision."

Bieksa said he would recommend college to any junior-age player asking for advice.

"I think there are cases where it's not beneficial, where some kids aren't going to finish school or aren't cut out for the classroom," he said. "But college turns you into a man, especially when you're moving away from home and living on your own. In college, you have unlimited responsibilities and schedules you have to fulfill. It's a great learning experience. I think you see a lot of college guys who, when they enter the NHL as rookies, are a little more mature as people on and off the ice."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.24.2011 / 4:00 PM

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

Right wings Salomaki and Shaw will attract attention

In case you missed it, NHL.com on Tuesday published its list of the top right wings invited to the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto from May 30 through June 4.

That compilation of prospects is pretty impressive, but two other skaters who worked the right side of the ice this past season who will also be participating at the Combine shouldn't be forgotten.

Miikka Salomaki, Karpat (Finland): The skinny on the 5-11, 198-pound Finn, listed as a right wing on NHL Central Scouting's list of European skaters, is that he compensates for his lack in natural talent with a tremendous work ethic.

In 40 games with Karpat in SM-liiga, he produced 4 goals, 10 points and 53 penalty minutes. He stood out in the IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo for his native Finland with 2 goals and 3 points in six games and collected 4 goals and 6 points in six games at the Under-18 World Championship in Germany. Salomaki is rated No. 7 overall among Europeans.

"Miikka is strong as a bull in one-on-one situations," Stubb told NHL.com. "He's a 100 percent team player. Whoever drafts him, will get a very useful two-way player whose overall skill level is surprisingly high."

Logan Shaw, Cape Breton (QMJHL): Another big (6-foot-3, 197 pounds), power-forward type who displayed greater confidence as the season wore on. In his third year on the Eagles' roster, Shaw was considered a veteran despite being only 18-years-old -- the team didn't possess any 19-year-olds.

He led his 18-45-1-4 team in scoring with 26 goals, including 9 power-play goals, and 46 points in 68 games -- all career highs. He also won 48 percent of his faceoffs on 94 attempts while generating a team-leading 190 shots on goal.

"As the season progressed, he displayed his very good skating abilities and puck skills," Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau said. "He was hanging on to the puck and making heads-up plays at the right time. He displayed more self-confidence as the year went on and, don't forget, his team has to travel 40 percent more than any other team in the 'Q'. He has the potential to be a good player at the next level."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 05.23.2011 / 12:10 PM

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

A return to Sweden is possible for Adam Larsson

Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson, a likely top five selection at this year's Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24, confirmed he hasn't yet decided whether he'll play in North America next season.

While Larsson is actually under contract with Skelleftea for 2011-12 in Sweden's Elitserien, that wouldn't keep him from beginning what is sure to be a prosperous NHL career. Still, it wouldn't come as surprise to his agent, Claes Elefalk, if Larsson spent one more season in the Swedish Elite League.

"Normally in most cases, we Euros think it's sometimes an advantage to stay one or two seasons after the Draft," Elefalk told NHL.com. "It's a tremendous culture change but it's not unusual to see players playing in Europe stay there an additional year or two. Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning) was an exception but we'll have to see what happens. Our belief is we'll stay another year or two in Sweden."

When recently contacted in his native Skelleftea, Larsson told NHL.com he would wait until after the Draft to determine for sure whether or not he would remain in Sweden's Elitserien at least one more season.

"I can play in the NHL next year (despite being under contract) but I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do next season," Larsson said. "But I'm ready, but am still learning every day. I think if I do decide to play in North America, I want to feel very prepared for it."

The youngest player on the team had 9 points and 41 penalty minutes in 37 regular-season games with Skelleftea this season and chipped in 4 assists and 12 penalty minutes in 17 playoff games. He also had a goal and 4 points in six games in the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., in January.

Whether or not Larsson decides to spend another year in Sweden shouldn't diminish his draft status. Most scouts have him rated among the top overall list of draft-eligible players. His upside along the blueline has been well documented and the fact he played well on the smaller North American ice surface during the WJC is further proof of his ability to play in tight corners. He's looking forward to meeting the NHL GM's and scouts at the Scouting Combine next week.

"I talked to teammates about the Combine and they gave me some tips so I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I've taken the test done on the bikes a couple of weeks ago, so I feel I'm prepared what it is going to be like going in."

More to come following the NHL Scouting Combine next week ...

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Sunday, 05.22.2011 / 1:09 PM

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

Dubuque wins USHL's Clark Cup championship

After spotting the Green Bay Gamblers the first game of their best-of-5 series in the United States Hockey League championship series, the Dubuque Fightning Saints capped a three-game winning streak on Saturday with a decisive 6-1 victory in Game 4 of Clark Cup before an energized 3,480 at Mystique Ice Center.

It was 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.

The last team to reach the Clark Cup Final in their first season was the Fargo Force in 2008-09. The first time Dubuque had a USHL team, they won the Clark Cup in their inaugural season 30 years ago (1980-81).

Following a scoreless opening period, during which Dubuque outshot the 2010 Clark Cup champion Gamblers, 13-10, Green Bay grabbed a 1-0 lead just 33 seconds into the second when C.J. Eick connected for his second goal in as many games. It also marked the second consecutive time that the Gamblers would open the scoring before eventually losing the contest -- the club was 4-0 when scoring the first goal of the game in the playoffs prior to its series with Dubuque.

Tyler Lundey scored his second goal in two games midway through the second before Dubuque captain T.J. Schlueter knocked in his first of the playoffs three minutes later to put the Saints in front, 2-1. Schlueter would then score 1:50 into the third for a 3-1 lead on a power-play goal to drain any energy Green Bay might have had entering the final 20 minutes. John Doherty, John Gaudreau and Shane Walsh would also score in the third to complete the scoring.

Gaudreau, who is rated No. 193 by NHL Central Scouting on its final list of North American skaters eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft, not only led the team in scoring during the regular-season with 72 points (36 goals, 36 assists) but topped the team in 11 playoff games with 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists). Gaudreau, a left wing who is committed to Northeastern University next fall, also finished with a plus-9 rating in the postseason.

"It's awesome, coming out here as an expansion team with a bunch of players you don't know and winning it," Gaudreau said. "We played an awesome season and we deserved it."

Dubuque goalie Matt Morris (University of Maine) made 37 saves, his highest total of the playoffs, to earn the win. He also garnered Clark Cup Playoff MVP after finishing 9-2 with a 1.53 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.

Dubuque defenseman Joakim Ryan, rated No. 174 on Central Scouting's final list and who will attend Cornell in September, had 2 goals, 5 points and a plus-6 rating in 11 playoff games. Ryan, a native of Rumson, N.J., led all defensemen on the team with 29 assists and 32 points in 53 regular-season games.
Vinny Saponari, Dubuque (Atlanta Thrashers)

In all, seven players competing in the championship series are ranked among the top prospects by NHL Central Scouting, including Gaudreau, Ryan and goalie Jackson Teichroeb of Dubuque and defensemen Andrew Welinski and Aaron Harstad and center Austin Czarnik (No. 115) of Green Bay.

Two players in the series have already been selected in the NHL Entry Draft -- Dubuque defenseman Nick Luukko by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and Dubuque forward Vinny Saponari by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008. Saponari, of Powder Spring, Ga., finished second on the team with 64 points during the regular-season and second in the playoffs with 9 points (5 goals).

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 05.20.2011 / 2:35 PM

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

Nugent-Hopkins, Landeskog = Sakic, Forsberg?

While nothing should ever be engraved in stone, there's a strong possibility that either Red Deer's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Kitchener's Gabriel Landeskog will be the first forward taken at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

The super-skilled Nugent-Hopkins supplanted Landeskog at No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters in April. Landeskog, who was atop the list on the mid-term report, comes in at No. 2.

NHL.com recently caught up with Central Scouting's Jack Barzee to discuss those little differences that create the makeup of each player. Barzee was obviously impressed with what each forward had in their arsenal.


"Do you want (Peter) Forsberg or (Joe) Sakic?" asked Barzee, referring to Nugent-Hopkins as Sakic. "I know that's pretty extreme because they were two superstars, but here are two guys that have a lot of similarities. They remind you of those players when they've got the puck, when they're skating, when they're playing and when they're executing."

Nugent-Hopkins finished tied for third in the Western Hockey League with 106 points, led the league with 75 assists, and his 31 goals (11 on the power play) were third on his team. He also posted a team-best plus-30 rating.

"Watching Nugent Hopkins … when he put that pedal to the metal and would just come up and snap that shot off or see someone out of the corner of his eye, you say how does he do this? How does a guy do this at top speed? You look at Sakic, who was the same way. Nugent-Hopkins is a little taller than Sakic was in his draft year but is probably 10 pounds lighter than Sakic."

The 6-1/2, 207-pound Landeskog had 36 goals, 30 assists, a plus-27 rating and 61 penalty minutes in 53 regular-season games as captain for the Rangers this season.

"When I watched Landeskog in Kitchener, I was amazed with his play in all three zones on the ice … the way he
used his body and his demeanor," Barzee said. "He is high octane in terms of level of performance; yet, his calmness and composure and the way he would execute in all three zones of the ice was so good."

Barzee was asked how he's able to enter each season with a solid grasp of those top prospects on the board.

"We always look for benchmarks to start," he said. "Who was best player last year? If you see a kid who looks just like him, then he's your benchmark. Now that's easy to do with experience, but it's the only way I can do it. I'm amazed sometimes how I can walk out of a rink and get so much and then leave another game and get nothing -- hockey will do that to you. The complexity of the game, the travel, the number of players and games all coming together all play a part of it.

"But when you see someone special, it hits you."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 05.19.2011 / 10:37 AM

By NHL Public Relations -  /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

NHL Network U.S. will have Memorial Cup covered

The NHL Network U.S. will showcase the best teams in Canadian major junior hockey as they compete for a national championship title in the 2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament. The coverage will feature a combination of live and tape delayed broadcasts throughout the 10 days of competition from the tournament's host city of Mississauga, Ontario.

It marks the fourth consecutive year that the NHL Network will provide fans the opportunity to see the NHL's future stars and 2011 draft-eligible players battling for Canadian Hockey League's supreme trophy.

Those teams challenging for the 2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup include Western Hockey League (WHL) champion Kootenay Ice, Ontario Hockey League (OHL) champion Owen Sound Attack and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) champion Saint John Sea Dogs, plus the host team Mississauga St. Michael's Majors (OHL).

NHL Network U.S. will air Rogers Sportsnet's coverage of all tournament games with the broadcast team of play-by-play man Peter Loubardias, analyst Sam Cosentino and host Rob Faulds. All games will be broadcast in high definition.

Tournament coverage will begin on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. ET with the re-broadcast of the previous night's action between the Saint John Sea Dogs and the host Mississauga St. Michael's Majors. Saint John is led by top-ranked prospects Jonathan Huberdeau (No. 3 ranked) and defenseman Nathan Beaulieau (No. 5 ranked), two of nine Sea Dogs on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking list. Mississauga captain Casey Cizikas, drafted 92nd by the NY Islanders in 2009, will lead the Majors to their first Memorial Cup appearance since 1961.

In the second game of Saturday's double-header, NHL Network U.S. will provide live coverage when the Owen Sound Attack take on the Kootenay Ice at 7:00 p.m. ET.  WHL Eastern Conference MVP and Kootenay center Cody Eakin, drafted 85th by the Washington Capitals in 2009, will lead the Ice against Owen Sound, which is coming off a big Game 7 win in the OHL championship series.  The Attack's 17-year-old, draft-eligible goaltender Jordan Binnington only allowed four goals on 70 shots over the last two games of the series.

Additional live game coverage will be added to the NHL Network U.S. schedule as the NHL’s Conference Finals series conclude.  Fans are encouraged to check the schedule at www.nhlnetwork.com for updates.

All of NHL Network's live broadcasts will feature intermissions originating from the NHL Network studio in Toronto.  NHL Network will also feature nightly Memorial Cup coverage on NHL On The Fly with tournament news and notes and game analysis.

NHL.com also will have special coverage of the tournament in its entirety with a team of reporters and videographers on-site to cover the sights and sounds of the CHL's best.

The 2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament features 25 recently drafted players from 20 NHL Clubs and 17 players eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft who have been ranked by NHL Central Scouting.

2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup on NHL Network U.S. Schedule (all times Eastern)

Date                 Game                                   Time (ET)
Sat., May 21    Saint John vs. Mississauga    9:00 a.m. (tape delay from 5/20)
                        Owen Sound vs. Kootenay    7:00 p.m. (LIVE)
Sun., May 22    Mississauga vs. Kootenay    7:00 p.m. (LIVE)
Tues., May 24    Owen Sound vs. Saint John    12:00 p.m. (tape delay from 5/23)
Wed., May 25    Kootenay vs. Saint John    12:00 p.m. (tape delay from 5/24)
Thurs., May 26    Mississauga vs. Owen Sound     12:00 p.m. (tape delay from 5/25)
Fri., May 27    Tie-Breaker (if necessary)    12:00 p.m. (tape delay from 5/26)
Sat., May 28    Semi-Final    1:00 p.m. (tape delay from 5/27)
Sun., May 29    Championship Game    7:00 p.m. (LIVE)

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.17.2011 / 3:38 PM

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

Jersey's Peter McMullen drafted by USHL's Lancers

In case you missed the 2011 United States Hockey League entry draft on Monday, two New Jersey natives playing in the Garden State during the 2010-11 campaign were selected in the later rounds.

Delbarton Prep senior Peter McMullen, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime to lead his team to a state Non-Public championship at Prudential Center on March 13, was chosen in the 19th round (281st overall) by the Omaha Lancers.

McMullen, rated No. 200 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, is the grandson of the late Dr. John McMullen -- the man responsible for bringing NHL hockey  to the Garden State in 1982. He finished the season as the leading scorer for the state's No. 1-ranked team, with career-highs in goals (25) and points (45).

McMullen is committed to Boston College in the fall of 2011.

"He's definitely what I consider a late bloomer," Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel told NHL.com. "After playing three years on the wing, we had a void in the middle this year and he filled that role nicely. When he drives the net he's a force. He can really shoot the puck and he'll only get better with time. He's a kid who never specialized -- he kind of put lacrosse first. But now that hockey is on his horizon, he's going to really develop over the next two years into a fine college hockey player."

The transition to center wasn't an easy one for McMullen, but he certainly played a key role for the Green Wave.

"I've had to work on face offs a lot in practice and I played with two sophomores (John Baiocco, Drew Melanson) and they're both quick and they liked to use their speed," McMullen told NHL.com. "I like to play in the defensive zone and work the corners.

"I've always loved hockey and when I was given the opportunity to play in college, I didn't think twice about it," he added. "I'm just focused on the game and not worrying about the future right now."

Additionally, former Delbarton forward Charles Orzetti, who played for the New Jersey Hitmen in 2010-11, was taken in the 18th round (267th overall) by the Indiana Ice. Orzetti, who is headed to Yale in September, wasn't rated among the top 210 North American skaters by Central Scouting at their final meeting.

"He's a very strong forward at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds," Shatel said of Orzetti. "He can really shoot and if he plays in the middle, that adds a whole other dimension to your team where he can win face-offs. He can skate for a big guy and he should be a really good college hockey player as well."

For a full recap of the 2011 USHL entry draft, click here.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 05.16.2011 / 12:14 PM

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

Huberdeau: 'Q' playoff MVP; Memorial Cup set

Saint John Sea Dogs center Jonathan Huberdeau continued his superb play in the Quebec Major Junior League Playoffs on Sunday when he struck for a goal and one assist to lead his team to its first President's Cup with a 3-2 double overtime decision over the Gateneau Olmpiques in Game 6 of the best-of-7 series at Robert Guertin Arena in Gatineau.

The victory sends the Sea Dogs, a 4-2 series winner over Gatineau, into the MasterCard Memorial Cup in Mississauga, Ont., from May 20-29. Saint John will open the tournament against the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on May 20 at 7 p.m. ET. The Sea Dogs, who are in their sixth year of existence, will look to become the ninth QMJHL team to win the championship.

The Kootenay Ice, who scored a five-game series victory over the Portland Winterhawks in its league championship series, also qualified for the Memorial Cup and will play OHL champion Owen Sound Attack on May 21 at 7 p.m. ET.

Kootenay goalie Nathan Lieuwen, who was named series MVP, stopped 26 shots in a 4-1 Game 5 triumph on Friday for his 16th win of the playoffs. Lieuwen, born August '91, is in his third season with Kootenay and is eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft.

Owen Sound, meanwhile, scored a 3-2 OT victory over Mississauga in Game 7 of the Robertson Cup Final on Sunday before a sold out Hershey Centre crowd of 5,517. Owen Sound's Robby Mignardi earned the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as Playoff MVP with 15 goals and 9 assists for 24 points in 22 postseason games. Mignardi, born June 1990, is in his third and final year of eligibility for the Entry Draft.

Huberdeau, rated No. 3 by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft, sent Game 6 to overtime by scoring with just 23 seconds left on the clock. In the second OT, Alexandre Beauregard scored the decisive goal for the Sea Dogs, who have all 10 of their road games in the playoffs this season.
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Posted On Friday, 05.13.2011 / 5:04 PM

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

Does the other Granlund have the goods?

After witnessing Mikael Granlund's perfectly executed lacrosse-style goal for Finland in its victory against Russia in the semifinal round of the IIHF World Championship on Friday, the big question is whether his younger brother could execute the same type of play.

NHL scouts and general managers probably are pondering that very question right now. After all, 5-foot-10, 169-pound Markus Granlund, who turns 18 on Monday, not only is Mikael's brother, but is No. 9 on NHL Central Scouting's list of European skaters eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft.

The younger Granlund was captain for Finland at the World Under-18 Championship in Germany. He finished second on the team with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) as the team finished fifth.

Granlund is regarded as a fantastic skater with outstanding play-making ability. Though not as strong as his Mikael, taken by the Minnesota Wild with the ninth pick of the 2010 Draft, Markus Granlund is a consistent point producer in most games. In six games on loan with the Suomi Under-20 team in the Finnish second division, he had 3 goals and 6 points. He had 11 goals and 21 assists in 15 international games for Finland this season.

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Posted On Friday, 05.13.2011 / 1:42 PM

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

NHL.com releases fourth mock draft of the season

Now that the NHL conference finals are set and those top 102 draft-eligible players from North America and Europe confirmed for the NHL Scouting Combine later this month, it's time to take one more crack at predicting the opening round of the NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Needless to say, all 30 NHL teams have been hard at work since NHL Central Scouting's final release of the top players back in April. They're making their own lists and preparing accordingly with the hope of finding that diamond in the rough.

How will the teams decide to use those valuable picks? No one knows for sure, but NHL.com is willing to take a guess.

NHL.com's three Draft experts -- Mike Morreale, Adam Kimelman and Steven Hoffner -- have once again taken their crystal balls out of storage to predict how the first round might turn out.

The draft order for this exercise is not what the final draft order will look like. The first 14 slots were set by the NHL Draft Lottery, which was held April 12. The next 12 spots set by teams eliminated in the first two rounds of the playoffs -- non-division winners in reverse order of points, followed by division winners the same way. The final four teams will be set following the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final, but for now we're listing them in inverse order of points.

All three of our prognosticators are in agreement that the Edmonton Oilers will select Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- Central Scouting's No. 1-ranked North American skater -- with the top pick. The 6-foot, 164-pound center led the Western Hockey League with 75 assists and was tied for third with 106 points.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

"I think any time you're selecting at the top of the draft, especially No. 1, these players are there for a reason," Edmonton General Manager Steve Tambellini said. "They have the ability to emotionally handle something; they have the obvious skill so whether they develop into that player, you don't know. But these top players have the ability to, one day, be franchise players."

After the top pick, things start to go in different directions. How do they think the rest of the first round will play out? Well, you'll have to check out all three drafts for yourself.

You can check back in a little more than two months to see how smart our experts really are.

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Posted On Thursday, 05.12.2011 / 9:53 AM

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

Sea Dogs win marathon OT game; Phillips hurting

Saint John Sea Dogs rookie center Ryan Tesink tries to model his game after Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. What promising young hockey player wouldn't?

But it's one thing to emulate the style of a player and another to showcase some on-ice dramatics reminiscent of that player as well, particularly when the game is on the line. The young Tesink, who is eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25, did just that on Wednesday when he ended the longest game in the history of the President's Cup Finals.

Tesink's goal at 19:16 of the second overtime gave the Sea Dogs a 4-3 victory over the Gatineau Olmpiques in Game 4 of their best-of-7 series in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship round. The Sea Dogs, which now lead the series, 3-1, have a chance to win their first-ever QMJHL championship on home ice in Game 5 on Friday in a sold-out Harbour Station.
Zack Phillips Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL

Tesink is one of nine players from the Sea Dogs rated among the top 210 North American skaters eligible for the upcoming draft by NHL Central Scouting. Tesink was regarded as the sixth-best Saint John player, ranked 47th overall, in April. Jonathan Huberdeau, No. 3 on Central Scouting's list, along with No. 5 Nathan Beaulieu and No. 15 Zack Phillips also hit for the Sea Dogs on Wednesday.

Phillips, who has nine goals in the playoffs, did suffer an upper-body injury and didn't play in the third period and overtimes. Coach Gerard Gallant admitted after the game that his injury isn't thought to be serious.

Saint John has yet to lose three straight games all season and lost back-to-back contests only once all year. A year ago, Saint John lost the QMJHL final in six games to the Moncton Wildcats. Gatineau's last appearance in the final, and last championship, was in 2008.

Stanislav Galiev, chosen by the Washington Capitals in the third round (No. 86 overall) last year, set up all four goals, and goalie Jacob DeSerres made 35 saves for the win.

The longest President's Cup Final prior to Wednesday's game was 28:31 into overtime, when Pat LaFontaine gave Verdun a 5-4 win over Longueuil on April 22, 1983. The lone assist on that goal came from current Sea Dogs coach, Gallant.

Tesink began the game-winning sequence when he hit Gatineau's Nicolas Deslauriers, forcing a turnover, which Galiev collected as Tesink drove to the net. Tesink alertly took a whack at the puck following a pass from Galiev and the puck fluttered over goalie Maxime Clermont's left shoulder for the clincher.

"That's the most tired I've ever been and I did not want to go into a third overtime, so we said we had to finish it and we got lucky," said Tesink, who beat Clermont on the Sea Dogs' 64th shot of the game. "It's a great feeling, but it's not over yet, though. [Gatineau] doesn't quit."

Huberdeau, who has a league-leading 15 goals in the playoffs, has performed on a line with Phillips and Galiev most of the postseason.

Beaulieu squared the contest with a power-play goal off a rebound in the third period. Saint John outshot Gatineau, 13-6, in the third but couldn't find another goal as the game required extra time.

In the first overtime, Saint John was called for two early penalties, giving Gatineau a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:24. Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant called a timeout and sent out Huberdeau, Beaulieu and Simon Despres to start the penalty kill. With help from Kevin Gagne, Eric Gelinas, Mike Thomas, Stephen MacAulay and Danick Gauthier, the Sea Dogs escaped unscathed.

"Everybody's tired. They're a tired hockey team over there and we're tired and beat up," Gallant said. "It's going to be a battle Friday night. I don't see it being any different than tonight. It was just a battle of two good teams playing hard hockey."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.26.2011 / 4:54 PM

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

Niagara defenseman Hamilton named OHL Scholastic Player of Year

Niagara IceDogs defenseman Dougie Hamilton, NHL Central Scouting's No. 4-rated North American skater eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft in June, has been named the Ontartio Hockey League's Scholastic Player of the Year.

Hamilton, the first defenseman identified on Central Scouting's final report, had an exceptional season in Niagara with 12 goals, 58 points, a plus-35 rating and 77 penalty minutes. He currently leads the IceDogs in assists (12) and points (15) in 13 playoff games. Hamilton is also sporting an impressive plus-8 rating in the postseason.

"I've watched Dougie in the playoffs and he was dominant," OHL scout Chris Edwards said. "He was pinning guys down and his puck movement was great. I hadn't seen the physical side of his game before, not much of it anyway this year, but he was strong all game. He set up the first goal of game on a nice cross-ice to (Ryan) Strome. He moves the puck well, is a great decision-maker and he's a top two defensemen right now … probably will be in the NHL too."

Hamilton is preceded in the rankings by No. 1 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer in the Western Hockey League, No. 2 Gabriel Landeskog of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers and No. 3 Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL). Rounding out the top 10 are No. 5 Nathan Beaulieu of Saint John, No. 6 Sean Couturier of Drummondville (QMJHL), No. 7 Sven Baertschi of the Portland Winterhawks (WHL), No. 8 Ryan Strome of Niagara, No. 9 Ryan Murphy of Kitchener and No. 10 Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades (WHL).

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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 3:57 PM

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

U.S. beats Canada in semis of U18 WC

The rivalry between the United States and Canada was renewed on Saturday in the Men's Under-18 World Championship at Crimmitschau Arena in Germany.

Boy, was it ever!

In the first meeting between the North American combatants on an international stage since Canada rubbed out the Americans in the semifinal round of the World Junior Championship in Buffalo four months ago, the U.S. made amends in dramatic fashion.

After watching a seemingly insurmountable three-goal lead disintegrate right before their eyes over the final 11 minutes of the third period, the U.S. received the inspirational boost they so desperately needed from one of their team leaders.

After U.S. goalie John Gibson stopped Canada's Ryan Murray at one end, U.S. National Team Development
Tyler Biggs Team USA NTDP
Program captain Tyler Biggs connected 4:22 into overtime at the other to give the Americans a 5-4 victory. Biggs, who dropped 17 rungs to No. 22 on NHL Central Scouting's final listing of North American skaters, might have just boosted his stock, too. Learn more about Biggs right here.

Team USA will look to capture its third straight gold medal after garnering back-to-back world titles in 2009 and 2010.

"We are fortunate to have held on for the win against such a good Canadian team," said U.S. coach Ron Rolston. "The puck bounced our way in overtime and now we have to prepare for a talented Sweden team."

After spotting Canada a 1-0 lead 4:37 into the first on the first of two goals by Brett Ritchie, the U.S. stormed back with four unanswered goals. J.T. Miller evened the score at 11:14 before assisting on Reid Boucher's first of two tallies 16:10 into the second. The U.S. then received goals by unheralded Zach Larraza at 6:43 and Boucher 33 seconds later in the third to open a 4-1 advantage. Boucher was named Player of the Game.

Despite the deficit, the Canadians didn't quit. Ritchie connected at the 9:15 mark and 2012 draft-eligible defenseman Ryan Murray then scored a power-play goal with Canadian goal Malcolm Subban pulled for a 6-on-4 advantage. Canada would then square the contest, 4-4, with 51 seconds showing and their goalie still pulled when Mark Scheifele converted feeds from Murray and Nick Cousins.  

For the second straight year, the Americans will face Sweden, a 3-1 victor over Russia in the other semifinal, in Sunday's gold-medal match at Crimmitschau Arena at 12:30 p.m. ET. Canada will face Russia in the bronze medal contest at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Sweden earned its one-way ticket to the gold-medal contest behind some fine display of goaltending by Niklas Lundstrom, the No. 8-rated European keeper according to Central Scouting. Lundstrom finished the contest with 28 saves, including 11 in the second period.

Russia's Sergei Smurov opened the scoring 3:07 into the game and that lead stood up, due in large part to the goaltending of Andrei Vasilevski (44 saves). Jeremy Boyce Rotevall squared the contest 11:02 into the second before Gustav Bjorklund connected for a pair of third-period goals, including the clincher 5:23 into the period. He'd hit an empty net with just 25 seconds left in the game. In five tournament games, Bjorklund has produced 4 goals, 6 points and a plus-8 rating for the Swedes.

U.S. forward Rocco Grimaldi continues to climb the leaderboard in all-time points at the IIHF World Men's U18 Championship for Team USA, with 17 points (4-13) in 11 games to rank third. He also played for the gold medal-winning 2010 U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team at last year's tournament in Belarus.

The Americans have captured a record seven consecutive medals at the U18 Championship, including back-to-back gold medals in 2005-06 and 2009-10, two silver medals (2004, 2007) and one bronze (2008). Team USA also captured the gold medal in 2002.

Here's a quick snapshot of each of the teams competing in the medal round on Sunday and those draft-eligible players to watch.

UNITED STATES: The top four players from the U.S. National Team Development Program who are listed on NHL Central Scouting's list of the best North American skaters are each making their presence felt in Germany. Biggs has notched 2 goals, 3 points and 45 penalty minutes. Biggs is No. 22 on Central Scouting's list. J.T. Miller, rated No. 23, has 4 goals, 11 points and a plus-6 rating. Miller has recorded points in every game and owns four multi-point efforts. Connor Murphy, rated 25th, has done a fine job along the blue line with a goal and a plus-7 rating; Grimaldi, No. 32, has 2 goals, 7 points and a plus-4 rating; Reid Boucher, No. 113, had produced 7 goals, 9 points, a plus-8 rating and team-leading 29 shots; and No. 70 Zac Larraza, has 1 goal, 5 points and plus-4 rating.

The top goalie eligible for the June Draft, USNTDP's John Gibson, has been solid between the pipes. Gibson, rated No. 1 among North American goalies, is a perfect 5-0-0 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

Sweden's Mika Zibanejad

SWEDEN: Top draft eligible prospect Mika Zibanejad (Djurgarden), who NHL Central Scouting has rated No. 2 among European skaters, has 4 goals, 8 points and a plus-9 rating for the Swedes. Additionally, another 2011 prospect along the forward line having a marvelous showing is 6-foot-1 1/2, 194-pound Victor Rask (Leksand), ranked 12th, has 2 goals and 5 points in five games. Defenseman Jonas Brodin (Farjestad), rated third, has one assist and a plus-4 rating.

RUSSIA: Nikita Kucherov (CSKA 2), rated No. 17 among Euro prospects but considered the best Russian winger available in the 2011 Draft, has led his country with 9 goals, 18 points and a plus-9 rating in 6 games in the tournament. The other Nikita on the U18 roster, Nikita Nesterov (Chelyabinsk 2), ranked 32nd on the Euro list, has also had a good tournament with 2 goals, 4 points, plus-9 rating and a whopping 27 penalty minutes.

CANADA: The Canadians have received a nice contribution from Mark Scheifele, who is the No. 16-rated North American on Central Scouting's chart. Scheifele, who plays for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League, has 6 goals, 7 points and a plus-2 rating. Additionally, defenseman Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers has 3 goals, 9 points and a plus-2 rating while generating 39 shots on net. Murphy, whose draft value has skyrocketed in the second half of the season, is rated ninth. Mark McNeill of Prince Albert in the Western Hockey League has chipped in with 6 assists -- he's rated 14th on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters.  

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.20.2011 / 6:11 PM

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

Victor Hedman has advice for Adam Larsson

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman not only completed his second NHL season this year but is now enjoying the frenetic pace that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In two seasons playing for MODO Ornskoldsvik in the Swedish Elite League prior to joining the Lightning in 2009-10, Hedman racked up 9 goals, 25 points, 96 penalty minutes and a plus-22 rating in 82 games.

As a rookie, he had 4 goals, 20 points and a minus-3 rating in 74 games. This year, he produced 3 goals, 26 points and a plus-3 rating in 79 regular-season contests. He led all Tampa defensemen with 23 assists, was second in points and fourth in plus-minus rating this season. Hedman has also averaged 91 blocked shots in two seasons.

It's been a tough grind, but Hedman admits he continues to learn on the fly and is more comfortable now than when he first broke into the League.

Hedman was asked to offer some advice for fellow countryman and highly-regarded 2011 draft prospect Adam Larsson what he might be up against following the Entry Draft in June. Hedman was the second overall choice by the Lightning in the 2009 Entry Draft. Larsson is expected to go in a similar spot, if not earlier this June 24 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

"Obviously, I wanted to come over (to North America) as soon as possible," Hedman told NHL.com. "As soon as I got drafted I wanted to come over and learn the game fast and that's the big key. I think, coming over from Europe and learning how to play on the smaller rinks and getting used to playing a lot of games and try to be on a high level was important."

It appears as though Larsson, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated European player, will likely return to Sweden to play for Skelleftea in the Elitserien next season.

"I don't know him personally, don't know him as a guy, but he seems very calm and poised out there so I don't think it'll be a big problem for him playing hockey in North America," Hedman said. "He's very good with the puck too, can play at both ends of the ice. He has to listen to what the experienced guys have to say to him and get in as much as possible, but still not change his game and learn."

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Posted On Monday, 04.18.2011 / 8:11 AM

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

Where are they now?

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs in full swing, let's not forget those up-and-coming performers in the Canadian Hockey League and overseas who are looking to make an impression in the junior hockey ranks.

Several players atop the NHL Central Scouting's final release of North American and European skaters are either still in the mix or done for the season. Among those players with nothing else to look forward to than the NHL Entry Draft in June are Red Deer's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kitchener's Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Murphy and Sweden's Adam Larsson of Skilleftea. Those still preoccupied with postseason play are Niagara's Ryan Strome and Dougie Hamilton and Saint John's Jonathan Huberdeau, Nathan Bealieu, Zach Phillips and Tomas Jurco.

Here are some quick hits on the playoff performances of a few of top 2011 draft-eligible prospects across the globe. The number preceding each player is their ranking on the final list of either North American or European skaters.

Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Murphy's Kitchener Rangers were eliminated from the OHL playoffs in the first round by the Plymouth Whalers.  No. 9 Murphy finished as the team's scoring leader with 11 points, including 9 assists, in 7
Gabriel Landeskog at the NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto
playoff games. No. 2 Landeskog finished tied for the team lead in goals (6) with Jerry D'Amigo (Maple Leafs) and was second to Murphy in points (10).  

Adam Larsson's Skelleftea lost the the Swedish Elite Championship after falling to Farjestad in five games. Larsson, who may have been dealing with a shoulder injury, had just 1 assist and a -3 rating in the series. He had only 4 assists with 12 penalty minutes in 17 postseason games.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins saw his season come to an end on Saturday when his Red Deer Rebels dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the Medicine Hat Tigers in the second round of the WHL playoffs. The Rebels failed to hold a 4-1 third-period lead on the way to losing a five-game series. After putting up two points per games against the Edmonton Oil Kings in the first round, No. 1 Nugent-Hopkins could only muster two assists against the Tigers, to go along with a minus-5 rating. He finished with 4 goals, 11 points and a minus-3 rating in 9 playoff games.

Would a poor playoff performance hurt Nugent-Hopkins' chances of hearing his named called first at the NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota on June 24? Don't forget, depite coming in at No. 34 on the final 2010 North American list, it was fantastic postseason effort by Kitchener's Jeff Skinner that elevated him in the eyes of the Carolina Hurricanes at last year's Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

After opening the series with two straight wins, Sean Couturier and the Drummondville Voltigeurs dropped the next four games to lose their series against Gatineau in the second round of the QMJHL playoffs. Couturier, rated No. 6, led his team with 6 goals, and finished tied for the team-lead with 11 points, in 10 playoff games.

Jonathan Huberdeau might just be the most dominant draft-eligible postseason player right now. No. 3 Huberdeau has 10 goals and 11 assists in nine games as the Saint John Sea Dogs are moving on to the third round of the QMJHL playoffs after defeating the Victoriaville Tigres 4-games-to-1. No. 15 Zack Phillips has 7 goals, 16 points; No. 20 Tomas Jurco has 4 goals, 12 points; and No. 5 Nathan Beaulieu, a defenseman, has 11 points and a plus-7 rating. Meanwhile, Victoriaville's Phillip Danault, rated 27th, had a team-leading 15 points, including 5 goals, and a plus-4 rating in 9 playoffs games this spring.

Ryan Strome and Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara IceDogs are in the third round of the OHL playoffs after eliminating the Oshawa Generals in five games. The IceDogs will face the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors in the Eastern Conference Finals -- the teams have combined for a 16-1 record in the playoffs so far. Strome, who jumped from No. 19 at mid-term to No. 8 on the final North American ratings, has 6 goals and 10 points in 9 postseason games. No. 4 Hamilton, a defenseman, has 3 goals, 14 points and a plus-10 rating in the same number of contests.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:01 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Ennis saw Nugent-Hopkins' talent early

Tyler Ennis a loyal Buffalo Sabre, but there's another team very close to his heart -- the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers.

He spent four seasons with the Tigers, including 43 goals in his final two seasons there. He still wears a spandex Medicine Hat shirt under his Sabres jersey, and is following them now in the WHL playoffs. The Tigers beat the Brandon Wheat Kings in the first round, and took a 3-0 lead on the Red Deer Rebels in the second round before losing 1-0 on Wednesday.

Red Deer is the home team of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Central Scouting's top-rated North American forward for the 2011 Entry Draft. Ennis remembered playing against Nugent-Hopkins in the WHL. It was during the 2008-09 season, Ennis' final season, while Nugent-Hopkins was a 15-year-old call-up to Red Deer.

Ennis said it was obvious right away what kind of talent Nugent-Hopkins had. "Sick passes, sick plays with the puck," Ennis recalled for NHL.com.

Ennis, an Edmonton native, had some advice for his hometown NHL team, which holds the first pick in June's Draft.

"He'd be my pick if I was making it," he said.
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Posted On Monday, 04.11.2011 / 11:30 AM

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

Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin advises top prospects

Boston Bruins rookie forward Tyler Seguin knows what it's like to play the waiting game following the release of NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top draft-eligible North American and European players.

Seguin experienced it just last year. He moved from No. 2 to No. 1 on the final list and was later selected second overall by the Bruins at the Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

Seguin was asked on Sunday that if he could sit down all the top prospects in one room to offer some advice, what would it be?

"I'd tell them to just relax, take it all in and have fun with it," he said. "That's all you can do. Obviously, you're going to get a little nervous before the Draft. I obviously was, but the overall experience comes and goes so quickly that you just need to take it all in and have fun with it. It's going to be a life-changing experience for all of them."

It's pretty hard to fathom that last year at this time, Seguin was playing for the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers in the playoffs. Now, he's with the Bruins, preparing for the rival Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"There are so many positives I've taken from this season," Seguin said. "I have grown as a player and matured as a person. I came in here and found new best friends and it's been a whirlwind and a great experience. I'm happy to get the playoffs going and to see how far we can go.

"As far as the NHL play … the physical grind, the speed, all that stuff is so much better," he added.

That being said, those draft eligible stars certainly have a lot to look forward to, and obviously prepare for.
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Posted On Monday, 04.11.2011 / 9:05 AM

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

CSS set to release final rankings with heavy hearts

The NHL's Central Scouting bureau will release their final rankings of draft-eligible North American and European players at high noon on Monday and while a season's worth of work is now in the books, this year's decision-making process will never be forgotten.

It would turn out to be EJ McGuire's last. And for that reason, it is tremendously sad.

Still, the mission was accomplished -- just as McGuire demanded -- and now the 30 NHL clubs will have the necessary information needed to make those split-second decisions when the NHL Entry Draft is in full swing at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25.

McGuire, 58, was the architect of many of the innovations Central Scouting pioneered in the past decade to achieve its mandate of providing the League's clubs with the most comprehensive list of NHL Entry Draft-eligible prospects each season.

Diagnosed this past December with Leiomyoscarcoma, an incurable, rare form of cancer that aggressively attacks the cells that make up the involuntary muscles within the body, McGuire waged a brave five-month battle with the disease.

"I want you to do the job you were paid to do," he'd tell the scouts via speakerphone prior to their meeting on April 2 inside the Conn Smythe Boardroom in Toronto. It was his final inspiring message to the group.

The scouts offered to speak with NHL.com following McGuire's passing on Thursday morning in an effort to relive the life of the man they honored and respected. And they did. They conjured up a few funny moments and plenty of meaningful ones. There's no question McGuire will certainly be on the minds of everyone at this year's Draft.

It's also no secret that McGuire would want to see those hot prospects such as Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sean Couturier, Adam Larsson, Ryan Murphy, John Gibson and Mika Zibanejad heating up the airwaves today -- they were all talking points following Central Scouting's mid-term release in January.

But on Tuesday, we remember the life of McGuire as he's laid to rest following a funeral at Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Oakville, Ont., in the afternoon.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.05.2011 / 2:08 PM

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

Craig Button reveals Top 5 draft-eligible prospects

Now that NHL Central Scouting is completing its final draft list of the top 210 skaters and 30 goalies in North America this week, no better time than for NHL Network analyst Craig Button to unveil his top five overall 2011 draft-eligible prospects.

Button released his updated list on Monday during 'NHL On the Fly'. While his top two players remained unchanged in center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer in the Western Hockey League and left wing Gabriel Landeskog of Kitchener in the Ontario Hockey League, there was some movement among the bottom three.

Back in March, Button had Kitchener defenseman Ryan Murphy rated fifth, Saint John center Jonathan Huberdeau fourth and Swedish defender Adam Larsson of Skelleftea third. Murphy was left off Button's most recent list and replaced with Niagara IceDogs center Ryan Strome of the Ontario Hockey League. Larsson was moved to fourth overall and Huberdeau to third.

When NHL Central Scouting released its top five North American skaters in January, Landeskog was considered the No. 1 prospect, followed by No. 2 Sean Couturier of Drummondville, No. 3 Nugent-Hopkins, No. 4 Huberdeau and No. 5 Tyler Biggs of the United States National Team Development Program. Larsson was the top-ranked international skater, following by No. 2 Joel Armia of Finland's Assat in Finland and Mika Zibanejad of Sweden's Djurgarden. Zibanejad, who is moving up the ranks following his promotion to the Elite League, has been said to have better upside than current Devils forward Jacob Josefson.

Central Scouting will release its final draft list on April 12 and NHL.com will have complete coverage. The 2011 Entry Draft will be held in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24.

Here's what Button had to say about each of his top five prospects.
Ryan Strome, Niagara IceDogs

5-Ryan Strome, Niagara (OHL), center: "He's one of those guys who needs some time to physically mature and that will come. He's a guy who's smart, instinctive and can skate and handle the puck. It looks like he has all the ability to take those skills and be a real productive offensive player in the NHL."

4-Adam Larsson, Skelleftea (Swedish Elite League), defenseman: "Is there one area where he's really dominant or flashy, probably not. But he does everything so well. He can get the puck out of the zone, he can shoot the puck from the point, he has size and range and those types of defenseman are extremely rare. When you can get that type of a player who can play a lot of minutes and play all the different situations in the game, they are much coveted."

3-Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John (QMJHL), center: "He has a chance to wind up being the best player in this draft and that's saying a lot. Huberdeau, to me, has it all. He has the determination, he has the skill and I'm going to go back to physical maturity; when he physically matures and is able to carry his weight with confidence and strength, he is going to be a force because he has the combination of skill and will. There has never been a great player in the League who didn't possess that combination.

2-Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener (OHL), left wing: "He's a force with skill. He is a hungry player. If they made the rink smaller, he would have no problem because he loves to play in those tight areas and in those areas around the net. He loves physical contract and initiates it. With his skill, he can make a difference as well. He's a real complete player and if there's one guy who might be closest to being NHL-ready, it might be Landeskog."

1-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer (WHL), center: "He makes everyone around him better. I say this in the most complimentary way, and not as a comparison to make unrealistic or unfair expectations on this young man, but he reminds me of Joe Sakic in this thinking and ability. Sakic was one of those guys where it didn't matter what type of game you were playing. You always knew you could count on Joe Sakic and you knew he'd made a play and make a difference, and I feel exactly the same way about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If the Edmonton Oilers have the first pick in the draft, and they want a player who can make Hall an even better player, then Nugent-Hopkins is that guy. It will take an enormous effort by another prospect to unseat Nugent-Hopkins in my mind because I think he's a star in the making."
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.29.2011 / 11:17 AM

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

A true sign of sportsmanship

One of the feel-good stories of the 2010-11 New Jersey scholastic ice hockey season was witnessing Delbarton Prep senior Peter McMullen score the game-winning goal in overtime to lead his team to a state Non-Public championship at Prudential Center in Newark on March 13.

McMullen, rated No. 144 on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings, is the grandson of the late Dr. John McMullen -- the man responsible for bringing professional hockey to the Garden State in 1982. He finished the season as the leading scorer for the state's No. 1-ranked team, with career-highs in goals (25) and points (45).

But, the story didn't end after McMullen connected 4:41 into the extra period of a 3-2 victory over St. Augustine Prep of Richland, N.J.

In one of the greatest displays of sportsmanship that you'll see at any level of any sport, St. Augustine senior goalie Joe Pantalone presented McMullen the puck the latter put behind him when the two got together during the ceremonial handshake.

"I thought about it being a player's dream to score a goal in overtime like that to win a state championship," Pantalone told Paul Bruno of The Star-Ledger. "Even though we had lost, I felt I had to get that puck and give it to Pete (McMullen). He made a great shot and he deserved to have that puck."

Pantalone, who made 37 saves in the loss, isn't projected to be drafted by an NHL team this June. It certainly doesn't discount the noble gesture that any NHL scout or General Manager would appreciate, however. He was named The Star-Ledger's Hockey Sportsman of the Year.

When told of Pantalone's courtesy, Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel was thrilled.

"It was a tremendous gesture of sportsmanship during a very difficult moment for an athlete," Shatel told Bruno. "It really was pretty extraordinary for him to do that, and it says a lot about that young man's character. It goes to show what (St. Augustine coach) Tim Fingerhut is teaching his players and it's a credit to the entire St. Augustine program."

The victory gave Delbarton (24-3-2) an unprecedented fourth straight Non-Public championship. In the OT, McMullen charged the cage and swept home a pass from John Baiocco past Pantalone. McMullen will attend Boston College in the fall. According to The Ledger, Pantalone might continue his career at Middlebury or Merrimack, or he might play junior hockey next season.

"We lost the game and it was a huge disappointment, but I think it shows nothing is ever as bad as it seems," Pantalone said. "You can always turn something negative into a positive. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Things get thrown at you in life, so you can either pack it in or work harder and make it a positive. I feel like the friendship that Pete (McMullen) and I can have now is something to gain from this."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 03.24.2011 / 6:14 PM

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

WHL announces 2011 All-Star Teams, Award nominees

The Western Hockey League released the 2010-11 WHL Conference First and Second All-Stars and the Conference finalists for the 2011 WHL Awards. The WHL Player of the Year finalists will be announced April 20. The winners of those awards and the WHL Player of the Year will be announced at the Awards Luncheon in Calgary, Alberta, on May 4.

Portland Winterhawks forward Sven Baertschi, who represented his native Switzerland in the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., in January is up for WHL Rookie of the Year honors. Bartschi, who led all first-year players in the League with 34 goals and 85 points, is projected to be selected in the opening round of the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., this June.

Another top 2011 prospect, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels, was named to the Eastern Conference First Team All Stars. As a rookie last season, Nugent-Hopkins finished second on the team in scoring with 65 points, including 24 goals, in 67 games to earn WHL's Rookie of Year Award and help the Rebels reach the playoffs for the first time in three years.

This year, Nugent-Hopkins, projected to go among the top three picks in the June draft, erupted for 31 goals and 106 points in 69 games.

WHL EASTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR TEAMS
FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM

Goaltender – Darcy Kuemper (Saskatoon, SK), Red Deer Rebels*
Defenceman – Stefan Elliott (North Vancouver, BC), Saskatoon Blades*
Defenceman – Brayden McNabb (Davidson, SK), Kootenay Ice*
Forward – Linden Vey (Wakaw, SK), Medicine Hat Tigers*
Forward – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Burnaby, BC), Red Deer Rebels
Forward – Mark Stone (Winnipeg, MB), Brandon Wheat Kings

SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – Tyler Bunz (St. Albert, AB), Medicine Hat Tigers
Defenceman – Alex Petrovic (Edmonton, AB), Red Deer Rebels
Defenceman – Duncan Siemens (Sherwood Park, AB), Saskatoon Blades
Forward – Cody Eakin (Winnipeg, MB), Kootenay Ice
Forward – Brayden Schenn (Saskatoon, SK), Saskatoon Blades
Forward – Quinton Howden (Oak Bank, MB), Moose Jaw Warriors

WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR TEAMS
FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM

Goaltender – James Reid (Calgary, AB), Spokane Chiefs
Defenceman – Tyson Barrie (Victoria, BC), Kelowna Rockets
Defenceman – Jared Cowen (Allan, SK), Spokane Chiefs
Forward – Brendan Gallagher (Delta, BC), Vancouver Giants
Forward – Tyler Johnson (Spokane, WA), Spokane Chiefs
Forward – Ryan Johansen (Port Moody, BC), Portland Winterhawks

SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – Calvin Pickard (Winnipeg, MB), Seattle Thunderbirds
Defenceman – Brenden Kichton (Spruce Grove, AB), Spokane Chiefs
Defenceman – Ryan Murray (White City, SK), Everett Silvertips
Forward – Brendan Shinnimin (Winnipeg, MB), Tri-City Americans
Forward – Brendan Ranford (Edmonton, AB), Kamloops Blazers
Forward – Ryan Howse (Prince George, BC), Chilliwack Bruins

*indicates unanimous selection
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Posted On Thursday, 03.24.2011 / 2:27 PM

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

Euro prospect Adam Larsson out with shoulder injury

In a season where defenseman Adam Larsson wants to prove to the hockey world just how valuable an asset he could be in his draft year, the big Swede is doing it the hard way.

For the second time this season, Larsson was sidelined by injury on Tuesday and Thursday during Skelleftea's semifinal round matchup with Lulea in the Elitserien playoffs. According to NHL European Scouting director Goran Stubb, Larsson left the second period of Tuesday's game with a shoulder injury. Projected to be drafted among the top three in June, Larsson was held out of practice for precautionary reasons on Wednesday and never dressed for Game 2 against Lulea on Thursday.

The winner will face either Farjestad or AIK for the Swedish Elite League championship beginning April 5.

Larsson represented Sweden at the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championship, finishing as the team's highest scoring defender at the tournament this past season with 1 goal and 4 points. He produced 7 assists, 9 points and 41 penalty minutes in 37 regular-season games this season.

A groin injury kept the 6-foot-3, 200-pound blue liner sidelined much of the regular season. He did play in the semifinals and bronze-medal game at the WJC, but supposedly pushed it a little too much. It probably didn't help that he was on the receiving end of a booming check by Team Canada and Columbus Blue Jackets draftee Ryan Johanson in the tournament semifinal.

But Larsson has rebounded nicely and, prior to suffering his shoulder injury on Tuesday, was playing his best hockey of late. It'll be interesting to see how he responds when he does return to the lineup.

"He's a big, complete package with a great future in hockey," Stubb told NHL.com. "It's not easy for a player with his talent to improve every year. He's been on his own high level already for three years. Perhaps there's too many "experts" expecting too much from him ... forgetting that he is only 18."

Two of Larsson's teammates on this year's Swedish National Junior Team praised their impressive young defenseman when asked for comparisons to Tampa Bay Lightning defender Victor Hedman.

"I think Adam is better than Hedman, but that's my opinion," said Larsson's WJC defensive partner and Sweden's alternate captain, Fredrik Styrman."He's more stick handling and can move the puck quick. That's the big thing, and he can hit too. He's a strong guy and he's big. I think he has a great future (in North America)."

Goalie Robin Lehner, who was drafted in the second round by the Ottawa Senators in 2009, feels very confident with Larsson patrolling his end.

"Hedman was big, of course, and strong and Adam is smaller but he makes up for that with smartness," Lehner told NHL.com. "He's really smart with the puck and tough. He won't back down from anything and even fought a 30-year-old in Swedish league. He just has this glow in his eyes … you know he's going to be a great player."

Former NHL GM Craig Button, who works as a hockey analyst for 'NHL On The Fly' and the NHL Network, has been impressed with Larsson's determination and grit. He has him ranked No. 3 on his draft board behind only Ryan-Nugent Hopkins of Red Deer (WHL) and Gabriel Landeskog of Kitchener (OHL).

"I like him for the completeness of his game," Button said. "He's a guy that can play defensively. He's got the size (6-3, 200) and poise defensively, but offensively, he knows how to create chances. He's got a great shot, he can pass the puck and jump into the attack. He can make good decisions and, for an 18-year-old defenseman, sometimes you're looking for that player who has to make better decisions. I really like the way he gets himself into position defensively and offensively, and he can control the game. Those types of players, who can play a lot of minutes, are hard to find."

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 10:59 AM

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

QMJHL announces finalists for Golden Puck Awards

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Tuesday released the list of nominees for the 2011 Golden Puck Awards. Each year, the QMJHL honors its most deserving athletes, teams and personalities at its awards banquet, which will be held April 6 at the Hyatt-Regency hotel in downtown Montreal.

There are several 2011 draft-eligible players up for awards, including nine from the Saint John Sea Dogs. The nominees for Top Professional Prospect included Saint John forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and Drummondville forward Sean Couturier. Huberdeau, who is considered by many to be a top 5 pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, finished with a franchise-record 105 points on 43 goals, 62 assists in 67 games. Couturier produced 36 goals, 96 points in 58 contests and Beaulieu had 12 goals, 45 points in 65 games.

Here are this year's nominees:

Michel-Brière Trophy - Most Valuable Player
Sean Couturier (2011 draft eligible) - Drummondville Voltigeurs
Philip-Michaël Devos - Gatineau Olympiques / Victoriaville Tigres
Jonathan Huberdeau (2011 draft eligible) - Saint John Sea Dogs

RDS Cup - Rookie of the Year
Martin Frk - Halifax Mooseheads
Charles Hudon - Chicoutimi Saguenéens
Zach O’Brien - Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Domenic Graham - Drummondville Voltigeurs  
David Honzik - Victoriaville Tigres
Dominic Poulin - Chicoutimi Saguenéens

Émile « Butch » Bouchard Trophy - Best Defenseman
Brandon Gormley - Moncton Wildcats
Simon Després - Saint John Sea Dogs
Ryan Kavanagh - Shawinigan Cataractes / Rimouski Océanic

Frank-J.-Selke Trophy - Sportsman of the Year
Philip-Michaël Devos - Gatineau Olympiques / Victoriaville Tigres
Zach O’Brien - Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Zack Phillips (2011 draft eligible) - Saint John Sea Dogs

Michael-Bossy Trophy - Top Professional Prospect
Nathan Beaulieu (2011 draft eligible) - Saint John Sea Dogs
Sean Couturier  (2011 draft eligible) - Drummondville Voltigeurs
Jonathan Huberdeau (2011 draft eligible) - Saint John Sea Dogs

Ron-Lapointe Trophy - Coach of the Year
Mario Duhamel - Drummondville Voltigeurs
Gérard Gallant - Saint John Sea Dogs
Patrick Roy - Québec Remparts

Maurice-Filion Trophy - General Manager of the Year
Sylvain Couturier - Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Mike Kelly - Saint John Sea Dogs
Pascal Vincent - Montreal Juniors

Paul-Dumont Trophy – Personality of the year
Sean Couturier (2011 draft eligible) - Drummondville Voltigeurs
Jonathan Huberdeau (2011 draft eligible) - Saint John Sea Dogs
Louis Leblanc - Montreal Junior

Humanitarian Award
Alex Émond - Rimouski Océanic
Kirill Kabanov - Lewiston MAINEiacs
Gabriel Lemieux - Shawinigan Cataractes

Michel-Bergeron Trophy - Offensive Rookie of the Year
Martin Frk - Halifax Mooseheads
Charles Hudon - Chicoutimi Saguenéens
Zach O’Brien - Acadie-Bathurst Titan

Raymond-Lagacé Trophy - Defensive rookie of the year
Domenic Graham - Drummondville Voltigeurs
David Honzik - Victoriaville Tigres
Dominic Poulin - Chicoutimi Saguenéens

Guy-Carbonneau Trophy - Best defensive forward
Michael Kirkpatrick - Saint John Sea Dogs
Phillip Danault (2011 draft eligible) - Victoriaville Tigres
Frédérick Roy - Québec Remparts

Kevin-Lowe Trophy - Best defensive defenseman
Samuel Finn - Lewiston MAINEiacs
Charles Landry - Montreal Junior
Andrew Randazzo - Drummondville Voltigeurs
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Posted On Monday, 03.21.2011 / 3:09 PM

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

NCAA Men's Frozen Four set

The NCAA Regionals are set to begin in four separate locations throughout the United States. The field of 16 for the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship was released on Sunday, with Yale, North Dakota, Boston College and Miami (OH) receiving the No. 1 seeds in the bracket (in that order). Boston College, the defending champion, meets Colorado College in its opener. Play begins this Friday, March 25, with the first round, and quickly progresses to the Frozen Four, set for April 7-9, at Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota -- site of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Here's a look at the NCAA schedule and those players within the games who could hear their names at the 2011 Entry Draft June 24-25.

East Regional Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard
March 25, 2011 No. 2 Union (N.Y.) vs. No. 3 Minn. Duluth 3 p.m. ET ESPNU/ESPN3.com
March 25, 2011 No. 1 Yale vs. No. 4 Air Force 6:30 p.m. ET ESPNU/ESPN3.com
March 26, 2011 East Regional Championship 6:30 p.m. ET ESPNU/ESPN3.com

West Regional Scottrade Center
March 25, 2011 No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Nebraska-Omaha 5:30 p.m. ET ESPN Syndication/ESPN3.com
Michigan: Kevin Clare, D, 6-1.5, 202; Jacob Fallon, C, 5-10, 191

March 25, 2011 No. 1 Boston College vs. No. 4 Colorado College 9 p.m. ET ESPNU/ESPN3.com
Colorado: Josh Thorimbert, G, 6-0, 178

March 26, 2011 West Regional Championship 9 p.m. ET ESPNU/ESPN3.com

Northeast Regional Verizon Wireless Arena
March 26, 2011 No. 1 Miami (Ohio) vs. No. 4 New Hampshire 4 p.m. ET ESPNU/ESPN3.com
UNH: Nick Sorkin, RW, 6-2.5, 166

March 26, 2011 No. 2 Merrimack vs. No. 3 Notre Dame 7:30 p.m. ET ESPN Syndication/ESPN3.com
Notre Dame: Thomas Tynan, C, 5-7.5, 165

March 27, 2011 Northeast Regional Championship 8 p.m. ET ESPNU/ESPN3.com

Midwest Regional Resch Center
March 26, 2011 No. 1 North Dakota vs. No. 4 Rensselaer 1:30 p.m. ET ESPN Syndication/ESPN3.com
Rensselaer: Patrick Koudys, D, 6-2.25, 190; Brock Higgs, C, 5-9, 180
North Dakota: Dillon Simpson, D, 6-0.5, 192

March 26, 2011 No. 2 Denver vs. No. 3 Western Michigan 5 p.m. ET ESPN Syndication/ESPN3.com
Denver: Nicholas Shore, RW, 5-11.75, 195

March 27, 2011 Midwest Regional Championship 5:30 p.m. ET ESPNU/ESPN3.com

Men's Frozen Four Xcel Energy Center
April 7, 2011 East Regional Champ vs. Northeast Regional Champ 5 p.m. ET ESPN2/ESPN3.com
April 7, 2011 Midwest Regional Champ vs. West Regional Champ 8:30 p.m ET ESPN2/ESPN3.com
April 9, 2011 National Championship 7 p.m. ET ESPN/ESPN3

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Posted On Monday, 03.21.2011 / 10:11 AM

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

Lucia tops list of top high school players to watch

It remains to be seen if this year's crops of high school players will have NHL scouts and general managers clamoring for their services when the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is staged at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

At Staples Center in Los Angeles last June, 22 high school players were chosen over seven rounds, the highest total in 16 years.

At the top of the list was Nick Bjugstad of Minnesota's Blaine High School. Busted, who went 19th to the Florida Panthers and is now starring at the University of Minnesota, was a member of the U.S. National Junior Team that won bronze at the 2011 World Junior Championship in January. Joining him in the first round were fellow scholastic standouts Kevin Hayes (No. 24 overall, Chicago Blackhawks) of Noble & Greenough in Massachusetts and Brock Nelson (No. 30 overall, New York Islanders) of Warroad High in Minnesota.

On March 21, NHL.com presented its high school package, featuring a few of the top draft-eligible prospects on the board from the scholastic ranks throughout the nation. Mario Lucia of Wayzata High School in Minnesota might be the primary target. Still, there are several other skaters and a few goalies who could very well hear their name at the Entry Draft.

One high school player who is not on anybody's radar right now, but who might be in June is Burnsville (Minn.) defenseman Eddie Wittchow. At 6-foot-3 1/4, 189 pounds, Wittchow has already received numerous offers from several colleges and will likely join the United States Hockey League next fall. The senior was also named to Minnesota's Third-Team All-Metro team after finishing with 14 goals, 23 points and a plus-11 rating in 25 games for the Blaze (17-4-4).

Some scouts have compared Wittchow to defenseman Rob O'Gara of Milton Academy in Massachusetts. O'Gara, committed to Yale in the fall of 2012, was rated No. 95 on Central Scouting's mid-term report. He had 2 goals and 9 points in 30 games. O'Gara is a good skater with a nice long stride. He is able to protect the puck well with his body and passes and moves well.

Many feel that O'Gara is behind the Czech Republic's Petr Placek (6-3 1/2, 210) of Hotchkiss in Connecticut. Placek, who's committed to the University of Harvard, had an injury-plagued season and, when in the lineup, wasn't 100 percent. Still, he's a strong, powerful skater and very aggressive on the puck. He can control the difficult pass in stride and can drive the net from the off-wing. In 15 games, he had 7 goals, 13 points this season. Placek is rated No. 54 on Central Scouting's list of top scholastic stars and might very well be drafted in the mid- to late rounds.

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Posted On Monday, 03.14.2011 / 9:58 AM

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

Delbarton wins 4th straight NJ title

Delbarton Prep senior Peter McMullen had to be grinning ear-to-ear when he woke up Monday morning.

That because the 6-foot-2, 200-pound center scored two goals, including the decisive tally 4:41 into overtime to bring the Morristown, N.J., school a dramatic 3-2 victory over St. Augustine in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's Non-Public championship less than 24 hours earlier.

McMullen, who was rated No. 144 on NHL's Central Scouting mid-term rankings, is the grandson of the late John McMullen -- the man responsible for bringing professional hockey to the Garden State in 1982. He finished the season as the leading scorer for the state's No. 1-ranked team, with career-highs in goals (25) and points (45).

A crowd of 7,310 witnessed the thrilling finish.

Delbarton All-state defenseman Matt Killian
The victory gave Delbarton (24-3-2) an unprecedented fourth straight Non-Public championship. In the OT, McMullen charged the cage and swept home a pass from John Baiocco past St. Augustine goalie Joe Pantalone (37 saves). McMullen will attend Boston College in the fall.

"To be honest I just let it go," McMullen told Paul Bruno of The Star-Ledger. "I didn't have time to think, so I really just turned and shot and I put it up near his left shoulder. It was really a great play by my teammates."

Delbarton pulled into a 2-2 tie when All-State defenseman Matt Killian, the top-rated (No. 77, CSS) draft-eligible player in New Jersey, converted a three-on-two breakout with just 2:10 remaining in regulation. Killian (6-1, 191), who finished the season with 8 goals and 27 points, will attend Yale in September. The game was the first Non-Public final to go to OT since 2005, when Christian Brothers earned a 2-1 victory over Delbarton on a goal by current Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk.

In the Public A Final on Sunday, Randolph scored a 1-0 victory over Montgomery on Matt Kral's 25th goal of the season with 3:41 left in the third period. The title was Randolph's fourth in the last six seasons and fifth overall.

In the Public B Final, junior forward Danny Casey (38 goals) registered a natural hat trick during a four-goal second period to lead Chatham to a 7-3 victory over Middletown South. The championship was the first for Chatham since 1976.

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Posted On Sunday, 03.13.2011 / 4:15 PM

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

Eden Prairie's Kyle Rau wins Mr. Hockey Award

Less than 24 hours after leading Eden Prairie to its second Minnesota state championship in three seasons on a goal in triple overtime, center Kyle Rau was named the Mr. Hockey Award recipient as the state's finest player on Sunday during a ceremony in the Grand Ballroom at RiverCentre in St. Paul, Minn.

Rau, 18, scored the game-winner at 4:43 of the third OT in Saturday's Class 2A boys' hockey championship game at Xcel Energy Center -- site of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft on June 24-25. Rau's head-first dive to poke home a rebound enabled the Eagles to score a 3-2 triumph over Duluth East, marking the first time in 67 years that the state final went to three overtime periods.

Following the game, Duluth East coach Mike Randolph saluted Rau and his dedication.

"(Eden Prairie) has the best player in high school hockey, Mr. Hockey in my mind, (and he) scored the winner," Randolph told the Star Tribune. "I have nothing but respect for that kid. He could go anywhere he wanted, and he stayed in high school hockey. And he got rewarded (in the state final)."

There's a good chance Rau, who was rated No. 176 on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term report of North American skaters, will hear his name called at some point during the second day of this year's Entry Draft in his home state.

It certainly wouldn't surprise NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee.

"When the puck comes to him, he executes," Barzee told NHL.com just last week. "When the game is on the line, he scores the big goal -- he's done it over and over again. In fact, I've only seen him taken out of a game once (against Eagan on Dec. 22 when he had a season-high 4 penalty minutes)."

If Rau, born in Hoffman Estates, Ill., could compare himself to any NHL player, he'd say Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Briere. His favorite player, however, is Chicago's Patrick Kane. On his dramatic triple-overtime winner, he dived to get a stick on a rebound of a shot taken by his twin brother, Curt, from the point. The puck got behind goaltender JoJo Jeanetta and Rau won the race before knocking it over the goal line.

"Rau has a sneakiness about him and a dynamic hockey sense where he's able to out-guess and out-think people," Barzee said.

In 25 regular season games, Rau produced 33 goals, 36 assists, 69 points (2.76 point per game) and a plus-24 rating. In three sectional playoff contests, he had 3 goals, 5 points and a plus-3 rating and in three more state tournament matches, notched 5 goals, 7 points (2.33 ppg.) and a plus-3 rating.

The University of Minnesota-bound standout totaled 41 goals, 40 assists, 81 points (2.61 ppg.) and a plus-30 rating in 31 games in 2010-11.

The top scholastic player in the nation, Wayzata's Mario Lucia (No. 30 on Central Scouting), whose team was defeated by Eden Prairie in the sectional championship game, isn't surprised Rau garnered the Mr. Hockey Award.

"He doesn't do the skill moves but he's a hard worker and never stops moving his feet, shooting the puck all the time," Lucia told NHL.com. "He goes to the net. You always need to watch out for him in the slot."

Lucia, who finished with 30 goals, 24 assists, 54 points (2.00 ppg.) and a plus-34 rating in 27 games with Wayzata this season, isn't eligible for the Mr. Hockey Award since he's only a junior. Lucia, the son of University of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, had 5 goals (2 game-winners), 7 points and a plus-8 rating in three sectional playoff games -- Wayzata lost a 4-3 double-OT decision to Eden Prairie on a Rau goal in the final.

The Mr. Hockey Award is given to the outstanding senior high school hockey player in the state of Minnesota and is selected by a panel of National Hockey League Scouts, Division I coaches and selected media members from around the state.

The top 10 candidates for the 2011 Mr. Hockey Award were Josh Archibald (Brainerd High School), Ben Bahe (Hill-Murray), Jon Brodzinski (Blaine High School), Tony Cameranesi (Wayzata High School), Patrick Daly (Benilde-St. Margaret's), Max Everson (Edina High School), Steven Fogarty (Edina High School), Garrett Hendrickson (Virginia High School), Joe LaBate (Academy of Holy Angels) and Rau.

Rau (Minnesota), Daly (Wisconsin), Everson (Harvard), Fogarty (Notre Dame), Hendrickson (St. Cloud), Archibald (Nebraska-Omaha), Labate (Wisconsin) and Cameranesi (Minnesota-Duluth) all have college commitments. Labate was rated No. 60 by Central Scouting, followed by Everson (No. 81), Fogarty (No. 132), Cameranesi (No. 160) and Rau (No. 176).

Lake of the Woods' Alex Lyon was named the Brimsek Award winner as the state's top goaltender.
 
Lyon, rated No. 20 by Central Scouting among domestic goalies, finished 17-7-3 with a 1.60 GAA, six shutouts and .945 save percentage in 27 games. He was 1-1-0 with a 3.03 GAA and .943 save percentage in two state sectional tournament games. 

Lyon, who will likely play in the USHL with Cedar Rapids in 2011-12, beat out Eden Prairie's Andrew Ford, who was also nominated for the award as the top senior keeper. 

Ford finished the regular season 19-4-2 with a 2.27 GAA, four shutouts and a .900 save percentage in 25 contests. In his team's three-game sweep to the state title, Ford went 3-0-0 with a 1.20 GAA, .943 save percentage and one shutout.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Friday, 03.11.2011 / 4:43 PM

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

Ontario Hockey League coaches name poll winners

The Ontario Hockey League released the results of its Coaches Poll for the Eastern and Western conferences on Friday.

Among the winners were several 2011 Entry Draft-eligible prospects, including Eastern Conference forward Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs. Strome, is No. 19 among North American skaters in NHL's Central Scouting's mid-term rankings of the top North American skaters available for the draft.

Ryan Strome

Strome received first-place selections in three categories, including Most Improved Player and Best Playmaker, while tying Boston Bruins prospect Ryan Spooner of the Kingston Frontenacs as the Best Stickhandler. Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67's was second to Strome in the Most Improved Player and Best Playmaker categories. Prince, incidentally, is No. 35 on Central Scouting's list.

Strome's teammate, defenseman Dougie Hamilton, also was honored.

Hamilton, No. 7 on the Central Scouting's list, was named the Best Skater and Best Offensive Defenseman, and placed third in the Best Defensive Defenseman category. Overall, the IceDogs had 12 players represented in the top three in 16 categories, followed by the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors with 10 players.

Over in the West
, No. 10 Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers placed in four categories, including a first-place finish as Best Skater. He was second to Nashville Predators prospect Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires as Smartest Player and Best Offensive Defenseman, and finished second to Colorado Avalanche prospect Joey Hishon of the Owen Sound Attack as Best Stickhandler.

Ryan Murphy

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds speedster and No. 43-rated Daniel Catenacci, who won the faster skater competition at the Top Prospects Skills Competition in January, finished third in the Best Skater category.

No. 42-ranked Vincent Trocheck of the Saginaw Spirit finished second in the Best on Face-Offs category and the No. 1-rated North American in the mid-term rankings, Gabriel Landeskog of Kitchener, finished second in the Best Body Checker category.

The Rangers and Attack had nine players represented in the top three of the 16 categories to lead all Western Conference clubs.

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Posted On Friday, 03.11.2011 / 8:37 AM

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

Sea Dogs establish team record for wins, points

The Saint John Sea Dogs, the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League for 13 straight weeks, established a new team record for wins and points Thursday in pretty dramatic fashion.

2011 Entry Draft-eligible prospects Tomas Jurco and Jonathan Huberdeau each scored in the shootout to give the Sea Dogs a 3-2 victory against the Rimouski Oceanic. Jurco, who has made a name for himself this season with his unbelievable poise and pizzazz in the shootout, scored off a nifty backhand before Huberdeau closed it out with a speed rush and tuck underneath Oceanic goalie Morgan Clark (29 saves).

The club improved to 54-6-1-2, setting a new team record for wins and points (111) and keeping alive hope of establishing a new Quebec Major Junior Hockey League record for wins in a season. With only five games remaining, including Friday's meeting with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, the Dogs could best the record of 58 victories set by Sorel Eperviers in 1973-74 and matched by the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs in 1978-79.

Huberdeau scored his team-leading 39th goal -- along with his franchise-record 98th point -- with just 1:50 left in regulation on a deflection in front. Rimouski would square the contest at 2-all with just 21 seconds left in regulation when Patrick Delisle-Houde fired a loose puck through a crowd and past Sea Dogs goalie Mathieu Corbeil (28 saves).

There's a good possibility as many as four players from the Sea Dogs could be selected in the opening round of the 2011 Entry Draft on June 24 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Those players include Huberdeau, the No. 4-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term list; No. 9 Nathan Beaulieu; No. 12 Zack Phillips; and No. 24 Tomas Jurco, who is 4-for-5 in shootout attempts this season. Jurco led the QMJHL with 9 shootout goals on 11 chances as a rookie in 2009-10.

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Posted On Monday, 03.07.2011 / 1:55 PM

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

Button dishes on Sean Couturier of Drummondville

After providing his top five picks for the upcoming 2011 NHL Entry Draft during Sunday's 'On The Fly' show for the NHL Network, NHL.com caught up with analyst Craig Button for his input on the player he has ranked sixth on his depth chart.

That would be Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. At the start of the season, Couturier was projected to be the No. 1 prospect among North American skaters. After producing 41 goals and league-leading 96 points in 68 games with Drummondville last season, the Bathurst, New Brunswick, native, has 36 goals, 92 points in 54 contests this campaign.

Button explained his reasoning behind having Couturier at No. 6 on his cheat sheet at this stage in the season.

"For me, the biggest thing, I try to project a players' future impact on the game," Button told NHL.com. "I think Sean is going to be a strong NHL player. I see him as a 60-70 point player at some point in the NHL and there's nothing wrong with that. I see him more along the lines of Jordan Staal, a player he's been compared to. Jordan is a good player, but not a star player. With Sean, I see a really good, smart player, but I don't see him as that front-line center right now. He'd be an excellent No. 2 center. That's why I put him behind (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins and (Jonathan) Huberdeau for now."

There's always a chance Couturier could move up on Button's list. We'll see ...
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Posted On Monday, 03.07.2011 / 11:39 AM

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

Craig Button of 'On The Fly' provides Draft insight

Craig Button, hockey analyst for NHL 'On the Fly' on the NHL Network, recently offered some insight on a few of the top prospects eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25.

In his analysis, Button admitted each of his top five choices had a unique quality.

"You have two defensemen, two centermen and a winger, and when you put them together, they all add something different but I think they'd be difference-makers for a team," Button said. "That'll be important after the scouts have spent those endless hours and long miles trying to gather reports and assess these players."

When NHL Central Scouting released its top five North American skaters in January, Kitchener Rangers captain Gabriel Landeskog was considered the No. 1 prospect, followed by No. 2 Sean Couturier of Drummondville, No. 3 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer, No. 4 Jonathan Huberdeau of Saint John and No. 5 Tyler Biggs of the United States National Team Development Program. Adam Larsson of Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League was the top-ranked international skater, following by No. 2 Joel Armia of Finland's Assat in Finland and Mika Zibanejad of Sweden's Djurgarden. Zibanejad, who is moving up the ranks following his promotion to the Elite League, has been said to have better upside than current Devils forward Jacob Josefson.

Here's how Button, a former NHL scout and General Manager, feels the top five selections might turn out on June 24 at Xcel Energy Center.

5-Ryan Murphy, Kitchener (OHL), defenseman: "He might not be big in stature (5-10 1/2, 176), but don't be fooled. He's a superb skater. His quickness, agility, and being able to turn and get the puck up ice is great. He opens up ice for himself. Ryan Ellis went 11th overall to the Nashville Predators (in 2009) and Ryan Muphy is in that class of player. He has great vision, great hands and he knows how to play with his size. Muphy has all the qualities to be a top NHL player."

4-Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John (QMJHL), center: "I think he's a complete player. He brings a lot of everything. He brings skill, he brings a great awareness on the ice, he competes and plays hard, he goes to the net and plays along the boards. He's the type of player who can create chances offensively in a lot of different ways. As he gets bigger and stronger, he's going to be even more of a force. He's got a determination and spirit about him that makes him really hard to play against."

3-Adam Larsson, Skelleftea (Swedish Elite League), defenseman: "I like him for the completeness of his game. He's a guy that can play defensively. He's got the size (6-3, 200) and poise defensively, but offensively, he knows how to create chances. He's got a great shot, he can pass the puck and jump into the attack. He can make good decisions and, for an 18-year-old defenseman, sometimes you're looking for that player who has to make better decisions. I really like the way he gets himself into position defensively and offensively, and he can control the game. Those types of players, who can play a lot of minutes, are hard to find."

2-Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener (OHL), left wing: "Any way you want to play, he'll oblige. He can skate, play a skill game or a power game. If you want to get down into the heavy parts of the game, he's fine with that too. He's strong, he'll battle in the hard areas and can beat you with his shot, beat you with a pass and has superb hockey sense. I was in Dallas (as Director of Scouting) when we drafted Brenden Morrow (25th overall, 1997) and Gabriel reminds me a lot of Brenden Morrow."

1-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer (WHL), center: "No. 1 centers are really hard to find. No. 1 centers that make everyone around them better, are even more difficult to find. Hopkins has unbelievable vision, he's got unbelievable creativity and when you combine it with great quickness in his feet, and hands, and the ability to see what's unfolding, he's hard to check. He's elusive … a lot like Brad Richards, maybe even a Joe Sakic although not as good a shooter as Sakic. But if you're looking for similarities to that type of player, I think it's fair to compare him to a Brad Richards or a Joe Sakic-type. I know those are lofty expectations, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins if a premier player."
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Posted On Monday, 03.07.2011 / 8:31 AM

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

Labate gives verbal to University of Wisconsin

Highly touted senior center Joseph LaBate of Holy Angels Academy in Minnesota gave a verbal commitment to continue his career at the University of Wisconsin next fall.

LaBate, who turned down scholarship offers from Nebraska-Omaha, Maine, RPI, Bemidji State and Minnesota State, made his decision on March 4. He produced 29 goals, 52 points and a plus-27 rating for the Stars this season and notched a pair of goals in a 4-3 loss to Prior Lake in the quarterfinal round of the Section AA state tournament last month. According to mnhockeyhub.com, Labate cancelled visits to North Dakota and Minnesota.

"I just loved my visit to (Wisconsin)," Labate told mnhockeyhub.com. "I had a really good feeling."

LaBate is NHL Central Scouting's fourth-rated scholastic player (No. 60 overall) among North American skaters, meaning he's projected to be drafted between the second and fourth round of the Entry Draft slated for St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25.

Labate, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound forward, is a finalist for the Mr. Hockey Award, which will be announced March 13 at the Grand Ballroom at RiverCentre.

"He's a big kid but he's not even peaked how strong he can be," Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "He has unbelievable skill, he's a great skater and good hands. He can shoot the puck and he's unselfish."

The next big scholastic name preparing to make his collegiate decision is the nation's top-rated high school player, Wayzata left wing Mario Lucia. Lucia, rated No. 30 by Central Scouting, is the son of current Minnesota U. hockey coach, Don. He told NHL.com that he has narrowed his choices to Notre Dame, Colorado and Minnesota.

The 6-2, 185-pound Lucia led the Trojans with 29 goals while finishing with 53 points this season.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 2:57 PM

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

Killian heads list of draft eligibles from New Jersey

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association ice hockey tournament has begun so now is as good a time as any to throw out a few names that NHL's Central Scouting has deemed players to watch.

In recent years, the Garden State has produced players such as James van Riemsdyk, Kyle Palmieri, George Parros and Bobby Ryan.

Matt Killian, a defenseman roaming the blue line for three-time and defending Non-Public champion Delbarton, is the first scholastic player from the Garden State to be rated on Central Scouting's mid-term report in January.

The 6-foot-1, 191-pound defenseman, ranked No. 77 on the list, is committed to Yale in the fall of 2011. He's projected to be a third- or fourth-round draft pick in June. Killian, who plays a part of a pretty formidable defensive corps for coach Bruce Shatel at the Morristown, N.J., prep school, was actually being courted by Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, the University of New Hampshire and Providence.

"I'm a good skater, and definitely a more offensive-minded D," Killian admitted. "I also take pride in being hard to play against. I think I see the ice pretty well, and move the puck quickly to join the rush."

Killian's favorite NHL player is Duncan Keith but the skater he would compare his style of play to most would be Kings' blue liner Drew Doughty. He played 12 games with the U.S. Under-18 team this season and produced 1 assist and 6 penalty minutes.

At Yale, Killian will join Delbarton graduate Kenny Agostino (Penguins, fifth round, 2010) and Charles Orzetti, who is rated No. 120 by Central Scouting on the mid-term rankings for North America skaters. Orzetti, a 6-foot-3 1/2, 208-pound forward, gave up his senior year at Delbarton to play for the Jersey Hitmen (EJHL).

Orzetti, who would compare himself to former NHL power-forward John LeClair, offers speed, quickness and puck control in tight spaces on the ice.

There are two other players from Delbarton on Central Scouting's mid-term release for North American skaters. Center Peter McMullen (6-2, 200), who is headed to Boston College in the fall, is rated 144th and defenseman Tommy Davis (6-0 3/4, 172) is 196th.

Davis would like to be compared to Flyers defenseman Matt Carle. His strongest assets are his skating, stickhandling and "hockey sense."

McMullen has produced 21 goals and 17 assist this season for the Green Wave. He's the prototypical power-forward.

It's quite possible that Delbarton, the No. 1-ranked team in New Jersey, will meet second-ranked St. Augustine Prep in the state Non-Public school final on March 13 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The teams were declared co-champions following a 2-2 tie in the 53rd Gordon Cup on Feb. 26.

Follow the NJSIAA tournament here.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 9:04 AM

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

Eden Prairie defeats Wayzata, Lucia, in section final

Top-seeded Eden Prairie won its second Section 6AA championship in three seasons on Wednesday when it scored a dramatic 4-3 double overtime decision over Wayzata High School at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

Senior Kyle Rau, a finalist for the Mr. Hockey Award and a University of Minnesota recruit, scored with 7:41 left in the 17-minute second OT after emerging from a pileup in front of the net and sweeping a shot into the cage. The game started several minutes after its scheduled 8 p.m. face-off and concluded approximately three hours later at 11 p.m.

Junior Mario Lucia, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated scholastic player who is ranked 30th overall among North American skaters, and senior Bryan Tabery scored in the third period to pull second-seeded Wayzata (20-6-2) into a 3-3 tie and send the game into OT.

The Rau vs. Lucia matchup was a good one. Rau (5-foot-9, 160 pounds), who committed to Minnesota in May 2010, leads Eden Prairie with 35 goals and 73 points. Lucia, the son of current Minnesota U. hockey coach, Don, is still considering his options. Boston College, Colorado College, Denver, Notre Dame, Michigan and, of course, Minnesota, have extended the 6-2, 185-pound Lucia scholarship offers. He led the Trojans with 29 goals and also dished 24 assists.

StarTribune.com blogger Roman Augustoviz was at the Section 2AA thriller and provided a nice recap of the double-overtime contest. Read it here.

Eden Prairie senior Andrew Ford made 34 saves to earn the victory. Wayzata sophomore Aaron Dingman made 29 saves.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.01.2011 / 1:11 PM

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

Mario Lucia leads Wayzata into state final

Wayzata High School junior forward Mario Lucia is one win from celebrating his school's first Minnesota State Section 6AA championship in seven years.

Lucia, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated scholastic player who is ranked 30th overall among North American skaters, has been on a line with Mr. Hockey Award finalist Tony Cameranesi, and Tyler Klein, in the playoffs. The trio combined for 5 goals and 10 points in a 6-3 victory over Benilde-St. Margaret's in the Section 6AA semifinal on Feb. 26.

Lucia and Cameranesi each had a goal and two assists and Klein struck for his second hat trick of the season.

"This is probably one of those games of the year," Klein told reporters after the game. "In the section semifinal, playoff hockey, it's always great to get a hat trick no matter what game you play in. To go along with that, I got a lot of help from Tony and Mario both this game."

The second-seeded Trojans will next face Lake Conference rival and top-seeded Eden Prairie, the 2009 champion, in the Class 2A, Section 6AA championship on Wednesday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. Wayzata has outscored the opposition, 19-3, in two playoff games and Eden Prairie holds a 12-1 advantage over its playoffs foes.

In two playoff games, Lucia, the son of Minnesota University head coach Don Lucia, has produced 4 goals, 6 points and 6 shots on goal.
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Posted On Friday, 02.25.2011 / 3:28 PM

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

Petes' Puempel might require season-ending surgery

Peterborough Petes left wing Matthew Puempel, who NHL Central Scouting rated 29th on its mid-term release of North American skaters, might require season-ending hip surgery.

Peterborough General Manager Dave Reid said an MRI on Thursday revealed a chip fracture in Puempel's hip that has caused a fluid build-up. Puempel will see a specialist next week to determine the next step. If surgery is required, it could mean the end of Puempel's season. Reid stressed that there's an outside chance surgery may not be required as the hip may be best to heal on its own. Either way, Puempel will sit out a minimum two weeks.

"We are in the process of setting up an appointment with a hip specialist to evaluate Matt's injury," Reid told NHL.com. "He has undergone three different MRI's and the last MRI revealed the injury. Surgery may be required but we will not know until after the hip specialists can evaluate Matt's injury. If surgery is required, only the specialist will know the type of surgery and the length of rehab."

With the injury, the question now is will Puempel still be considered a first or second-round pick at the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25. After becoming the youngest player in the history of the Petes to score 33 goals in a season in 2009-10, Puempel has followed up with 34 goals (15 power-play goals) and 69 points in 55 games this campaign.

"At this point, a season-ending injury won't effect our opinion (of Puempel)," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "We have more than enough viewings on him. I, myself, have 14 viewings. He will be checked over at the combine by the doctors and as long as it is not career-ending, it should not make much of a difference."

Puempel said doctors informed him that surgery was imminent.

"It will be my first surgery," Puempel told the Peterborough Examiner. "It's a lot to digest in such a little amount of time. I found out at five o'clock (Thursday). I can't believe I'm done for the year. I've never had a severe injury where I've been out more than one or two games. To have something like this is real upsetting and frustrating. The timing of it, too, adds to it all. The worst part about it is you can't really do anything about it. With the playoff run here and personal goals I wanted to achieve, it's all frustrating."

Puempel, a 6-foot, 198-pound pure goal-scorer, was first injured three weeks ago. He had produced 5 goals in as many games since his return from that ailment. He sat out Peterborough's 5-2 loss to Belleville on Thursday.

"I've always been known as an offensive guy," he said. "I like that, but I also don't want to be known as a one-dimensional player. I kind of want to work on from the goal line out. I think that's what gets you to the next level. Defense first and the offense will come off of that."

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Posted On Thursday, 02.24.2011 / 4:43 PM

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

Surging Sea Dogs

It's pretty amazing what the talent-laden Saint John Sea Dogs have been able to accomplish this season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Not that it's too surprising, but still, the Sea Dogs have won 49 of 57 games this year for 101 points -- quite impressive indeed.

The Sea Dogs have outscored the opposition, 273-140, this season.

Last year, the club totaled 109 points en route to the Jean Rougeau Trophy as the regular-season champion. Just six other teams in the history of the QMJHL had achieved back-to-back 100-point seasons.

Keep in mind that there could be as many as six players from the QMJHL taken in the first round of the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24. The last time the league 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.

Not only could there be as many as six players from the 'Q' drafted in the opening round, but four of the players might very well be from the surging Sea Dogs.

According to Central Scouting's mid-term rankings, No. 4 Jonathan Huberdeau, No. 9 Nathan Beaulieu, No. 12 Zack Phillips and No. 24 Tomas Jurco of Saint John are all among the top 30 skaters on the North American list.

Huberdeau has 36 goals and 87 points in 56 games, Phillips has 32 goals and 81 points in 56 games, Jurco has produced 28 goals and 51 points in 49 games and Beaulieu, the only defenseman of the group, has 11 goals, 39 points and a plus-39 rating in 56 contests.

The other two players from the QMJHL projected to go in the first round are No. 2 Sean Couturier of Drummondville and No. 23 Phillip Danault of Victoriaville.

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Posted On Monday, 02.21.2011 / 1:50 PM

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

Draft eligible prospect Lucia heads Minnesota HS tourney

The Minnesota State Playoffs commence this week and it appears as though the competition between the top four seeds in Class 2A, Section 6 will be unlike any other in recent tournament history.

Top seed Eden Prairie is followed by Wayzata and Benilde-St. Margaret's. Rounding out this collection of top-10 teams is defending section champion Minnetonka. If both teams advance, the semifinal showdown of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka will be a rematch of last season's section final.

All four teams boast some of the state's top players. In Eden Prairie, it's Mr. Hockey candidate Kyle Rau and defenseman Nick Seeler. In Wayzata, it is Mr. Hockey candidate Tony Cameranesi and Mario Lucia, the top-rated scholastic player on the board heading into the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.

Lucia enters the tournament with 25 goals, 47 points and a plus-26 rating in 24 games.

Benilde-St. Margaret's will count on a deep group of forwards and Wisconsin-bound defenseman Patrick Daly. Two-way forward Thomas Schutt will provide Minnetonka grit and experience.

"We know the ups and downs of these games," Minnetonka coach Brian Urick told the Star-Tribune. "We were the No. 1 seed last year, but none of our games were easy. Coming in No. 4 is nice because I think the higher-seeded teams tend to grip their sticks a little tighter."

Here's the bracket for Class 2A, Section 6: Click here.

Only two Class 2A sections have defending champions that earned No. 1 seeds: reigning state champion Edina (Section 2) and Hill-Murray (4). Both teams have injury concerns. Senior defenseman Max Everson of Edina should return from a wrist injury, and Hill-Murray sophomore Zach LaValle (leg) hopes to return to the second line and top power-play unit. Everson, by the way, is rated No. 81 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term report.
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Posted On Monday, 02.21.2011 / 12:55 PM

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

USHL All Star selections

The United States Hockey League announced its midseason CCM All-Star selections for the Eastern and Western Conference last week.

Four players were named USHL All-Stars for the second straight season, including Omaha Lancers forward and top draft prospect Seth Ambroz, Des Moines Buccaneers defenseman Austin Coldwell and Indian Ice defenseman Nick Mattson. Team USA forward Rocco Grimaldi was also named but unable to participate in the event.

The Green Bay Gamblers, who currently have the best record in the USHL (30-10-2), lead the way with five All-Star selections. The Indiana Ice and the Dubuque Fighting Saints placed five players among the selections. Keep in mind the USHL All-Star Game is absent from the schedule this season as the League is exploring options to develop a format that will build off the success of prior games and provide an improved experience for fans, scouts, and media.

Another top 2011 draft prospect, defenseman Scott Mayfield of the Youngstown Phantoms was also named to the Eastern Conference All-Star squad.

2011 USHL All-Star Rosters

EASTERN Conference


Defensemen: Nolan Zajac (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Aaron Harstad (Green Bay Gamblers), Nick Mattson (Indiana Ice), Alexx Privitera (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Jacob Trouba (Team USA), Andrew Panzarella (Waterloo Black Hawks), Scott Mayfield (Youngstown Phantoms)

Forwards: Cason Hohmann (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Jayson Megna (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Austin Czarnik (Green Bay Gamblers), William Kessel (Green Bay Gamblers), Jean-Paul LaFontaine (Green Bay Gamblers), Blake Coleman (Indiana Ice), Brian Ferlin (Indiana Ice), Peter Schneider (Indiana Ice), Daniil Tarasov (Indiana Ice), Matt Berry (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Ryan Misiak (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Rocco Grimaldi (Team USA), Cody Strang (Youngstown Phantoms)

Goaltenders: Brady Hjelle (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Ryan McKay (Green Bay Gamblers)

WESTERN Conference

Defensemen: Austin Coldwell (Des Moines Buccaneers), Joakim Ryan (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Brian Cooper (Fargo Force), Matt Prapavessis (Lincoln Stars), Ben Marshall (Omaha Lancers), Jordan Schmaltz (Sioux City Musketeers), Rick Pinkston (Tri-City Storm)

Forwards: Cal Decowski (Des Moines Buccaneers), John Gaudreau (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Zemgus Girgensons (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Vinny Saponari (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Tanner Kero (Fargo Force), Jimmy Mullin (Fargo Force), Ryan Dzingel (Lincoln Stars), John McCarron (Lincoln Stars), Seth Ambroz (Omaha Lancers), Nick Oddo (Omaha Lancers), Caleb Herbert (Sioux City Musketeers), Max McCormick (Sioux City Musketeers), Ryan Jacobson (Sioux Falls Stampede)

Goaltenders: Matt Morris (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Ryan Massa (Fargo Force)
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.15.2011 / 4:34 PM

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

Larsson returns to Skelleftea lineup

Highly coveted European prospect, defenseman Adam Larsson of Skelleftea, made his anticipated return to the lineup on Tuesday against the top-seeded team in the Swedish Elite League, HV71.

Larsson, the No. 1-ranked player on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term list of the top draft-eligible European players, was paired with Fredrik Lindgren. Skelleftea entered the game in second place, 3 points behind HV71.

A groin injury, which has hampered Larsson all season, had kept the 6-foot-3, 200-pound blue liner sidelined since the completion of the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., on Jan. 5.

Larsson, who did play in the semifinals and bronze-medal game at the WJC, is in the midst of his second season playing for Skelleftea. He's projected to be a top five pick in the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24.

Larsson's produced 1 goal, 8 points and 37 penalty minutes in 28 games this season for Skelleftea. He represented Sweden at the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championship, finishing as the team's highest scoring defender at the tournament this past season with 1 goal and 4 points.
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Posted On Monday, 02.14.2011 / 7:54 AM

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

Tomas Jurco is at it again during shootout victory

In case you missed it, Saint John Sea Dogs forward Tomas Jurco was at it again on Sunday when he dazzled those in attendance during a shootout victory over the Moncton Wildcats, 3-2, in a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League matchup in Saint John.

First, Jurco and Stanislav Galiev (drafted by the Washington Capitals, 3rd Round-86th overall) connected for third-period goals to send the game into overtime before Jurco and Jonathan Huberdeau ultimately scored in a shootout as the Sea Dogs (46-5-3) won their 11th straight game.

Jurco delivered his fourth shootout goal in five opportunities this season. Starting at center ice, he shifted both skates in a partial turn, then quickly cut back to his forehand, going top shelf. Saint John goalie Jacob DeSerres (23 saves) then stopped Alex Saulnier to set up Huberdeau's clincher.

Jurco led the QMJHL with 9 shootout goals on 11 chances as a rookie in 2009-10. Through 46 games, Jurco has 26 goals, 49 points and a plus-40 rating with Saint John. He happens to be one of four players on the talent-laden Sea Dogs roster rated among the top 24 North American skaters, according to NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings. The list includes No. 5 Huberdeau, No. 9 Nathan Beaulieu, No. 12 Zack Phillips and No. 24 Jurco.

Jurco has been featured on NHL.com quite often this season. Read and view his magical stick work right here.

Today's featured prospect on NHL.com is Saskatoon defenseman Duncan Siemens, who just so happens to be the huge admirer of former New Jersey Devil enforcer Scott Stevens. In addition to his physical prowess, Siemens also exhibited a great deal of generosity prior to the 2010-11 campaign. Read about it here.

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Posted On Sunday, 02.13.2011 / 3:16 PM

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

U.S. wins Four Nations Tournament title

The U.S. National Under-18 Team notched its fourth Five Nations Tournament title in five years on Sunday when Reid Boucher scored three goals to lead the Americans to a 7-4 victory over Finland in its fourth and final game at Hradec Kralove Arena in Czech Republic.

Team USA, which finished 4-0-0 in the tournament, scored three goals in the second to open a 5-3 advantage. The Americans overcame deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 against Finland in the tournament finale.

"I'm so proud of our guys after a very successful event," said coach Ron Rolston. "The experience that these players gain at these international tournaments will stay with them throughout their hockey careers and lives."

Blake Pietila scored twice in the first as the U.S. and Finland ended the opening 20 minutes in a 2-2 deadlock. Boucher tallied his first goal to give Team USA a 3-2 lead early in the second period. After another Finland tally, Cole Bardreau and Adam Reid scored to give the U.S. a 5-3 lead after two.

The U.S. defeated Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic and Finland en route to the tournament title, outscoring its four foes, 26-11, in the process. Forward Rocco Grimaldi, No. 25 on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term list for North American skaters eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft, and Boucher led the U.S. with 5 goals apiece. Boucher totaled 10 points and Grimaldi finished with 9 points.

GAME SUMMARY

Scoring By Period

USA---2 - 3 - 2 - 7
FIN----2 - 1 - 1 - 4

First Period: Scoring: 1, FIN, Hannikainen (Rekonen, Maatta), 1.46; 2, USA, Pietila (unassisted), 7:31; 3, FIN, Hannikainen (Rekonen, Maatta), 10:36; 4, USA, Pietila (Bardreau, Haggerty), 19:26. Penalties: None.

Second Period: Scoring: 5, USA, Boucher (Grimaldi), 1:18; 6, FIN, Jarvelainen (Pokka), 2:48; 7, USA, Bardreau (Pietila), 7:13; 8, USA, Reid (Boyd, Paliotta), 17:45. Penalties: FIN, Lamberg (slashing), 5:05; FIN, Leino (interferece), 13:39.

Third Period: Scoring: 9, USA, Boucher (Miller, Fiala), 5:16; 10, USA, Boucher (Miller), 10:19; 11, FIN, Aaltonen (Wilenius), 18:59. Penalties: FIN, Maatta (holding), 7:59; USA, Pietila (slashing), 11:05.




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Posted On Sunday, 02.13.2011 / 10:29 AM

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

Draft prospect Lucia shines outdoors

There were several reasons to check out the fifth annual Hockey Day in Minnesota festivities on Saturday during which the state-wide celebration of playing on the frozen floor was taken to a whole new level.

One of the most intriguing events occurred earlier in the afternoon, however, when Wayzata High School battled the Roseau Rams in the first of two scholastic games on the outdoor surface at the Moorhead Youth Arena before 4,000-plus fans in sun-drenched 32-degree weather.

Wayzata, which is the No. 4-ranked scholastic team in the state, competes in the formidable Lake Conference with fellow Class 2A powerhouses Eden Prairie, Edina and Minnetonka. The team possesses Mr. Hockey candidate Tony Cameranesi, who is headed to Minnesota-Duluth next fall. Meanwhile left wing Mario Lucio, the son of Minnesota University head coach Don Lucia, and brother of former Gopher and current San Jose Sharks farmhand, Tony Lucia, is projected as the top high school player off the board at the 2011 Entry Draft.

Lucia is not eligible for the Mr. Hockey Award since he's a junior -- only those top seniors are considered.

Still, according to NHL Central Scouting's mid-term ranking, Lucia is rated 30th overall among North American skaters. The 6-foot-2, 183-pound left-handed sniper is the top-rated high school player on the board with Coate-Rosemary Hall forward Philippe Hudon a close second at No. 31 overall. Cameranesi (5-9, 162) is rated No. 160 overall.

Lucia connected for his 23rd goal of the season just 50 seconds into the second period and Wayzata (16-5-2) would ultimately defeat Roseau (10-12) when defenseman Marc Richards controlled the puck off a faceoff and scored in overtime for a 2-1 victory.

In 22 games this season, Lucia has 42 points, including 2 shorthanded goals, and plus-23 rating while scoring in five of the team's last seven games. Cameranesi, who assisted Lucia's goal, has a team-leading 48 points, including 14 goals and 6 power-play goals.

Now, Lucia and his Wayzata teammates have their sights set on a Section 6AA championship. He is also looking forward to the Entry Draft, where he and fellow Minnesota native Seth Ambroz (Omaha Lancers, USHL) will be in high demand among the local hockey prospects. This year's draft will be held June 24-25 in St. Paul, Minn.

"Having the draft in Minnesota is probably the best thing that could of happened to me," Lucia told the Minnesota Wild web site. "My family and friends will be there to watch me walk on that stage. Ever since I started to play hockey it has been my dream to play in the NHL."

In the later game, Mr. Hockey candidate and Hill-Murray (20-3) forward Ben Bahe scored the game-winner with seven minutes remaining to give the No. 1 Pioneers a 3-2 win over the host team and No. 15-ranked Moorhead (14-7-2) Spuds. Bahe has 24 goals and 46 points this season. Hill-Murray, incidentally, has now won 12 straight.

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Posted On Friday, 02.11.2011 / 4:34 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Smart move by Jensen

After spending some time with Oshawa Generals forward Nicklas Jensen, you learn two things. One, he had some really good English lessons growing up in Denmark, because he really doesn't have much of an accent.

And two, he knows where to go find the most exposure.

And it wasn't staying home in Denmark.

"In Denmark there's not that many scouts," he told me in an interview at the Top Prospects Game. "Over here there's scouts at every game. It's better for me, especially in my draft year, to be seen a little more."

And after talking to some scouts, they've liked what they've seen in Jensen.

You can read all about it by clicking here.
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Posted On Friday, 02.11.2011 / 4:27 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

U.S. continues to roll at Five Nations

Blake Pietila's second-period shorthanded goal snapped a 1-1 tie and sparked the U.S. to a 3-1 victory against the host Czech Republic on Friday at the 2011 Five Nations Tournament.

The U.S. improved to 3-0, with its final game coming Sunday against Finland.

"This was a tough win against a hard-working Czech team," U.S. coach Ron Rolston told USA Hockey's website. "We found a way to win, and I'm extremely proud of our guys."

Pietila, who plays for the U.S. National Team Development Program, is No. 112 on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term ranking of North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft.

Travis Boyd passed to Pietila, who broke in alone, deked to his backhand and deposited the puck behind the Czech goalie Patrik Bartosak.

Reid Boucher and Nicolas Kerdiles also scored for the U.S., and goalie John Gibson, Central Scouting's top-rated netminder, picked up the win.

For more on Gibson's season, take a look at this profile Mike Morreale wrote on him earlier this season.

Rocco Grimaldi assisted on Boucher's goal, giving him a team-leading 8 points.

In three games at the tournament, the U.S. has outscored it's opponents 19-7.
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Posted On Thursday, 02.10.2011 / 1:35 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

U.S. 2-0 at Five Nations

The U.S. won its second straight game at the Five Nations Tournament early today, blasting Russia 10-4 in a game played in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic.

Rocco Grimaldi, who had a hat trick in the Team USA's opening-game win yesterday, had 2 more goals plus an assist in the win. Grimaldi is No. 25 on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term ranking for the 2011 Entry Draft.

At just 5-foot-6 and 163 pounds, Grimaldi doesn't let anything get in his way, as staff writer Mike Morreale learned earlier this season when he talked to Grimaldi.

Cole Bardreau and Reid Boucher each had 2 goals and an assist, and Tyler Biggs, No. 5 on Central Scouting's list, had a goal.

Matt McNeely, No. 5 on Central Scouting's mid-term ranking of North American goaltenders, picked up the win in net.

"It is not often we beat a quality opponent like Russia 10-4," said Scott Monaghan, senior director of operations for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. "Our challenge now is to come prepared to play the host country, the Czech Republic, on national television tomorrow."

The U.S. next faces the host Czech Republic on Friday.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.09.2011 / 4:34 PM

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

Team USA wins opener of Five Nations Tourney

It appears as though the U.S. National Under-18 Team is out to atone for last year's second-place finish in the Five Nations Tournament this year.

Leading scorer Rocco Grimaldi, a top 2011 Entry Draft hopeful, scored three goals and added one assist and Reid Boucher chipped in with three assists to lead Team USA to a 6-2 victory over Sweden in Wednesday's opener at the Novy Bydzov Arena in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic.

Team USA had won the Five Nations Tournament three straight years before placing second to Russia during the 2010 Six Nations Cup. The tournament was named 'Six Nations' last year.

"Everyone contributed to this win and it was a complete team effort," said USA coach Ron Rolston. "It was an excellent start to a very difficult tournament."

Grimaldi, rated 25th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, scored once in the second and twice in the third en route to earning player of the game honors. Goalie John Gibson, the No. 1-rated North American goalie on the board for the 2011 Draft, earned the victory for the Americans.

Blake Pietila (committed to Michigan Tech), Adam Reid (Northeastern) and J.T. Miller (North Dakota) also hit for Team USA. Miller, rated 13th among North American skaters, scored from the slot 8:44 into the second to snap a 2-2 tie.

Team USA will face Russia on Thursday at Hradec Kralove Arena before battling Czech Republic on Friday and, finally, Finland on Sunday.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.09.2011 / 1:25 PM

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

2011 Minnesota Mr. Hockey candidates announced

The top 10 candidates for the 2011 Mr. Hockey Award for the state of Minnesota were announced on Wednesday afternoon.

They include Josh Archibald (Brainerd High School), Ben Bahe (Hill-Murray), Jon Brodzinski (Blaine High School), Tony Cameranesi (Wayzata High School), Patrick Daly (Benilde-St. Margaret’s), Max Everson (Edina High School), Steven Fogarty (Edina High School), Garrett Hendrickson (Virginia High School), Joe LaBate (Academy of Holy Angels) and Kyle Rau (Eden Prairie High School).

Rau (Minnesota), Daly (Wisconsin), Everson (Harvard), Fogarty (Notre Dame), Hendrickson (St. Cloud), Archibald (Nebraska-Omaha) and Cameranesi (Minnesota-Duluth) all have college committments. Eden Prairie's Andrew Ford, and Lake of the Woods' Alex Lyon were named finalists for the Brimsek Award for the state's top senior goaltender.

The 27th annual Mr. Hockey Awards Banquet will be held at 12:00 p.m. on March 13 at the Grand Ballroom at RiverCentre (175 Kellogg Boulevard). The Minnesota State boys' High School Hockey Tournament will be held at Xcel Energy Center, March 9-12.

The Mr. Hockey Award is given to the outstanding senior high school hockey player in the state of Minnesota and is selected by a panel of National Hockey League Scouts, Division I coaches and selected media members from around the state. Three other awards will be presented at the banquet: The Frank Brimsek Award, The John Mariucci Award, given to the Class A and Class AA high school coaches of the year and The Cliff Thompson Award, presented to the "Old Timer Coach" of the year.

Previous Mr. Hockey Award winners are: Tom Chorske (1985), George Pelawa (1986), Kris Miller (1987), Larry Olimb (1988), Trent Klatt (1989), Joe Dziedzic (1990), Darby Hendrickson (1991), Brian Bonin (1992), Nick Checco (1993), Mike Crowley (1994), Erik Rasmussen (1995), Dave Spehar (1996), Aaron Miskovich (1997), John Pohl (1998), Jeff Taffe (1999), Paul Martin (2000), Marty Sertich (2001), Gino Guyer (2002), Nate Dey (2003), Tom Gorowsky (2004), Brian Lee (2005), David Fischer (2006), Ryan McDonagh (2007), Aaron Ness (2008), Nick Leddy (2009) and Nick Bjugstad (2010).
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Posted On Monday, 02.07.2011 / 8:57 AM

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

Landeskog returns, Larsson does not

One thing's for sure, there was certainly plenty of excitement in Kitchener this weekend.

First there was the news of two-time Team USA World Junior Championship participant Jerry D'Amigo, who last Thursday was assigned by the Toronto Maple Leafs back to Kitchener, the team that chose him in the 12th round of the 2007 OHL Priority Selection. D'Amigo had signed a three-year entry level contract with the Leafs in August, 2010, after being selected by the team in the sixth round (No. 158 overall) in 2009.

On Friday, Kitchener coach Steve Spott confirmed that Rangers' captain Gabriel Landeskog, the No. 1-rated North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting's mid-term report on Jan. 10, would make his triumphant return to the lineup against the Plymouth Whalers following a 15-game absence due to a severe ankle sprain.

D'Amigo and Landeskog played on a line together in a 6-3 victory over Plymouth on Friday. D'Amigo notched a goal and one assist and Landeskog chipped in with one assist in his first game back. In Sunday's 4-2 victory over Sault Ste. Marie, D'Amigo was named the game's first star after collecting a goal and one assist once again.

While Landeskog is back in the lineup, another top-tier 2011 draft-eligible prospect, Adam Larsson of the Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League, will likely remain sidelined for precautionary measures until Feb. 17. Larsson, No. 1-ranked player on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term list of the top draft-eligible European players, is suffering from a groin injury that has apparently hampered Larsson all season. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound blue liner has been out of the lineup since the completion of the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., on Jan. 5.

The top draft-eligible Russian available in the upcoming Draft might just be Vladislav Namestnikov of the London Knights (OHL). Namestnkiov, whose father, Evgeny, and uncle, Slava Kozlov, were former NHLers, has every intention of perfecting his game in North America. Read his story here.

In case you missed it, NHL.com's Adam Kimelman featured goalie Liam Liston of the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) on Friday. Liston, the only goalie to stop every shot faced (18) in the Top Prospects Game at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Jan. 19, is ranked No. 4 among domestic goalies by Central Scouting.
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Posted On Friday, 02.04.2011 / 12:53 PM

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

Kitchener captain Gabriel Landeskog will return to ice

Kitchener Rangers captain Gabriel Landeskog, the No. 1-rated North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting's mid-term report on Jan. 10, will be in the lineup on Friday for his team's Ontario Hockey League matchup against the Plymouth Whalers.

"We're good to go, he's had almost two full weeks with contact now and for me it was more mental than physical and he feels this is the time to go and he's ready to go," Kitchener coach Steve Spott told NHL.com.

The news comes one day after Spott announced that the Toronto Maple Leafs had assigned Jerry D'Amigo to Kitchener, the team that chose him in the 12th round of the 2007 OHL Priority Selection. D'Amigo had signed a three-year entry level contract with the Leafs in August, 2010, after being selected by the team in the sixth round (No. 158 overall) in 2009.

"With Jerry, and now Gabriel, there's a good buzz in the city so it should be a fun building tonight," Spott said.

"I really look forward to playing in front of the home crowd again," Landeskog told NHL.com on Wednesday. "Just
that feeling to step out onto the ice is something that I really look forward to right now."

A high ankle sprain forced Landeskog to miss all but one game for Team Sweden in the World Junior Championship and required him to relinquish his roster spot in the Top Prospects Game -- to Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67's. Landeskog has 25 goals, 45 points and a plus-24 rating in 32 OHL games. Despite not playing since Dec. 18, he still leads his team in goals and is third in points.

Central Scouting rated Landeskog the No. 1 skater in the Ontario Hockey League in its preliminary rankings release in November. Landeskog is the second European-born and -trained player to captain an OHL team -- New York Islanders prospect Tomas Marcinko, a native of Slovakia, captained the Barrie Colts in 2007-08.

Landeskog admitted being surprised with the No. 1 ranking last month.

"I was pretty surprised, to be honest," he said. "I wasn't expecting it at all but, to me, it was just something that showed me that I was doing good things on the ice. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. At the same time, it's just a list and you want on be on the top of the rankings at the end of June and not in January, so you have to just stay on track and keep doing what your doing."

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.02.2011 / 4:38 PM

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

Landeskog hopes to return to lineup Friday

Kitchener Rangers captain Gabriel Landeskog, the No. 1-rated North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting's mid-term report on Jan. 10, is cautiously optimistic he'll return to the lineup on Friday in an Ontario Hockey League matchup against the Plymouth Whalers.

"I really look forward to playing in front of the home crowd again," Landeskog told NHL.com. "Just that feeling to step out onto the ice is something that I really look forward to right now. So I'm going to have a good practice tomorrow and continue to do my rehab and hopefully I'll feel good to go on Friday."

A high ankle sprain forced Landeskog to miss all but one game for Team Sweden in the World Junior Championship and required him to relinquish his roster spot in the Top Prospects Game -- to Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67's. Landeskog has 25 goals, 45 points and a plus-24 rating in 32 OHL games. Despite not playing since Dec. 18, he still leads his team in goals and is third in points.

"The ankle is getting better, the rehab is progressing pretty well right now," he said. "I've been doing exercises to strengthen up the muscles and also doing things to get the balance and the power into it as well."

Central Scouting rated Landeskog the No. 1 skater in the Ontario Hockey League in its preliminary rankings release in November. Landeskog is the second European-born and -trained player to captain an OHL team -- New York Islanders prospect Tomas Marcinko, a native of Slovakia, captained the Barrie Colts in 2007-08.

Landeskog admitted being surprised with the No. 1 ranking last month.

"I was pretty surprised, to be honest," he said. "I wasn't expecting it at all but, to me, it was just something that showed me that I was doing good things on the ice. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. At the same time, it's just a list and you want on be on the top of the rankings at the end of June and not in January, so you have to just stay on track and keep doing what your doing."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.01.2011 / 6:16 PM

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

Adam Larsson might return this weekend from injury

Reports out of Sweden are that defenseman Adam Larsson, the No. 1-ranked player on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term list of the top draft-eligible European players, could return to the lineup as early as this weekend.

A groin injury, which has apparently hampered Larsson all season, has kept the 6-foot-3, 200-pound blue liner sidelined since the completion of the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., on Jan. 5.

Larsson, who did play in the semifinals and bronze-medal game at the WJC, supposedly pushed it a little too much and is now on the mend. It probably didn't help that he was on the receiving end of a booming check by Team Canada and Columbus Blue Jackets draftee Ryan Johanson in the tournament semifinal. Larsson was hit so hard, his feet came off the ice as he went back-first into his own goalpost.

Larsson is in the midst of his second season playing for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League. He's projected to be a top five pick in the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24.

Larsson represented Sweden at the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championship, finishing as the team's highest scoring defender at the tournament this past season with 1 goal and 4 points. He's currently playing for Skellefea AIK in Elitserien, where he's produced 7 assists, 8 points and 37 penalty minutes in 28 games.

Two of Larsson's teammates on this year's Swedish National Junior Team praised their impressive young defenseman when asked for comparisons to current Tampa Bay Lightning defender Victor Hedman.

"I think Adam is better than Hedman in his draft year, but that's my opinion," said Larsson's WJC defensive partner and Sweden's alternate captain, Fredrik Styrman."He's more stick handling and can move the puck quick. That's the big thing, and he can hit too. He's a strong guy and he's big. I think he has a great future (in North America)."

Goalie Robin Lehner, who was drafted in the second round by the Ottawa Senators in 2009, feels very confident with Larsson patrolling his end.

"Hedman was big, of course, and strong and Adam is smaller but he makes up for that with smartness," Lehner told NHL.com. "He's really smart with the puck and tough. He won't back down from anything and even fought a 30-year-old in Swedish league. He just has this glow in his eyes … you know he's going to be a great player."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.01.2011 / 12:25 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Don't miss these Draft profiles

With all the attention paid the last couple weeks to the 2011 All-Star Game, just want to make sure all the Entry Draft profiles we've been writing here don't get lost, because there's been some pretty neat stuff going up.

In case you missed Tomas Jurco's unbelievable puck wizardry at the Top Prospects Game skills competition, Jurco emptied his bag of tricks for NHL.com's cameras. Also, Mike Morreale caught up with Tomas and got him to explain how he developed his amazing skills.

Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers is on pace to score at a level no OHL defenseman has reached in 15 years. But he asks that you please don't label him an offensive defenseman. He's working to do much more with his game.

And let's not forget the masked men. In this case, U.S. National Team goaltender John Gibson, who is looking to follow in the footsteps of another USNTDP goalie, Jack Campbell. Gibson has the size and skill that made Campbell a desirable prospect.

There's a lot more at NHL.com's Entry Draft website, and we're always adding more, so click back often.
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Posted On Monday, 01.24.2011 / 9:55 AM

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

Top Prospects recap and USNTDP goalies to watch

There has been plenty of discussion following last week's Top Prospects Game at Air Canada Centre in Toronto regarding which players elevated their draft status with better than average performances.

I will say this. I thought all 40 players participating in the event held their own and I really couldn't single out one player who disappointed, that's for sure. The event, sponsored by Home Hardware and presented by the CHL, was a great opportunity for scouts and general managers to get a glimpse of what the future holds for the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.

Right off the bat, I must say that Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Liam Liston performed exceptionally well in his 30:30 of action for Team Orr. Liston, selected in the third round (No. 57 overall) by Brandon in the 2008 WHL bantam draft, made 18 saves on 18 shots. He faced the most rubber of any of the four goalies.

Offensively, couldn't help but be impressed with the Big Four from the QMJHL's Saint John Sea Dogs -- forwards Zack Phillips, Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Jurco (Team Cherry) and defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. Phillips, Huberdeau and Beaulieu combined for 3 goals and 6 points in Team Orr's 7-1 victory over Team Cherry. Jurco wasn't in on the scoring for Team Cherry but he did produce the highest point total in the Showdown Breakaway Challenge and was a video highlight machine on NHL.com throughout the weekend. Read about the skill competition right here.

Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs and Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67's were also impressive for Team Cherry. Prince, filling in for injured Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers, actually scored the lone goal for the losing side off assists from forward Ty Rattie of the Portland Winterhawks and defenseman Scott Harrington of the London Knights. Portland defenseman Joe Morrow and Kitchener's Ryan Murphy, who was named Team Cherry MVP, also exhibited nice composure along the blue line for the losing side.

Team Orr's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2 assists) of the Red Deer Rebels, Daniel Catenacci (1 goal) of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Sven Baertschi of the Portland Winterhawks (1 goal, 1 assist) were also standouts. Nugent-Hopkins was named MVP for Team Orr. Despite not earning a point on the scoresheet, Drummondville's Sean Couturier showcased the two-way game he has been said to demonstrate. Can't forget the spirited fight between Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades and David Musil of the Vancouver Giants, either. Read the game and fight recap right here.

A couple of players who are top prospects but weren't participants in the Top Prospects Game since they don't play in the Canadian Hockey League are U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program goalie's John Gibson and Matt McNeely. Gibson is the No. 1-rated goalie in North America, according to NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings; McNeely is fifth. Read about them on NHL.com.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.19.2011 / 11:44 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

The fight of the night

The only fight of the night came late in the second period, when Duncan Siemens and David Musil dropped the gloves. The all-WHL play started with Siemens and Sven Baertschi getting tangled along the wall in the Team Cherry end. Siemens threw Baertschi into the glass and then shoved him in the head when they fell to the ice. Siemens then shoved Ryan Nugent-Hopkins when he skated over, and that's when Musil jumped into the fray.

"We had talked after the game and he (Musil) said he saw me, Baertschi and Hopkins down there and he said uh-oh I better get down there," Siemens told NHL.com. "We both had been out on the ice for a while. I had been being a little bit of a pest all game, so when I saw him coming down, there's no turning back no matter how tired you are. I knew when he looked at me what he was thinking. And I had asked him earlier in the game."

This time Musil engaged, and while there weren't a ton of punches thrown, it was the talk of the post-game press conference.

"Great show of team play there," said Nugent-Hopkins. "Baertschi was getting cross-checked in the head and I stepped in to separate the two. Musil saw that happening and he just stepped in and fought Siemens."

Siemens' Saskatoon Blades and Musil's Vancouver Giants only play once a season, so there was no pre-existing bad blood between the two, and there was only mutual respect afterward.

"I have a lot of respect for David Musil," said Siemens. "He's a good competitor."

Team Cherry coach Don Cherry, who knows how to enjoy a fight, certainly enjoyed that scrap. And even managed to get a shot in of his own, at Musil's father, veteran NHL defenseman Frantisek Musil

"That was Musil's second fight, eh? Did better than his old man," Cherry said with a laugh.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.19.2011 / 9:38 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Wild finish to Top Prospects Game

It's all over here at the Air Canada Centre, as Team Orr opens things up here in the third period for a 7-1 victory. The Saint John Sea Dogs were all over this one, as Jonathan Huberdeau and Zack Phillips had a goal and an assist each for Team Orr.

We'll have more from all the players and the coaches in a bit, so stay tuned.
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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 / 7:11 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

In goal tonight

Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Liam Liston will start in goal for Team Orr, with the Owen Sound Attack's Jordan Binning ton replacing him about halfway through the game.

The Victoriaville Tigres' David Honzik will start in net for Team Cherry, with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens' Christopher Gibson set to replace him halfway through.

We're about 10 minutes from puck drop here. Check back for in-game updates.

EDIT: The game sheet was wrong, as Christopher Gibson started for Team Cherry. Honzik will replace him midway through the second.
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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 Wednesday, 01.19.2011 / 1:08 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Clark, Gilmour meet the media

Team Orr coach Doug Gilmour and assistant Wendel Clark met with the media this afternoon following their practice. And while no one can reach the bombast level of Don Cherry, Gilmour and Clark were interesting in their own ways. Here are a few highlights from each man:

WENDEL CLARK

How much fun is it to be involved in this game? "I think it's great. You get to watch the kids, the raw talent before they get drafted, so you see the excitement, the energy and the raw talent and they get to play together with their peers throughout Canada."

Does this bring back memories from when you were in your draft year? "They never had this when I was going through. These guys get to see each other throughout the league and that's a lot of fun. They get to compare each other. It's an honor for them to be here for the three days. It's not really an All-Star game. They're trying to get drafted and get to the next level. The intensity is going to be a lot higher."

What's your message to the kids? "Do what got you here, don't change anything. Anything in sports, it's do what got you there, play hard, have fun. Take it all in. These are some of the fun things. Sometimes kids come and forget to take it all in and they remember 10 years later. Come here, work hard, take it all in and have fun with it. These are the stepping stones not all kids get to do."
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.19.2011 / 12:27 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Team Orr lines and pairings

Doug Gilmour's Team Orr just finished their morning skates, and it was a little more brisk of a pace than Team Cherry's skate. Here are the line combinations that were used, from left to right:

Sven Baertschi-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Zack Phillips
Lucas Lessio-Shane McColgan-Daniel Catenacci
Boone Jenner-Vladimir Namestnikov-Jonathan Huberdeau
Brandon Saad-Colin Jacobs-Vincent Trocheck

Unlike Team Cherry, Team Orr looked more set in their defense pairings:

Dougie Hamilton-Stuart Percy
Reese Scarlett-David Musil
Nathan Beaulieu-Xavier Ouellet

And in goal were Jordan Binnington and Liam Liston. Each goalie will play half the game, but who starts and who finishes remains to be decided.

Gilmour and assistant coach Wendel Clark also spoke this morning, and I'll have those highlights in a bit.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.19.2011 / 11:34 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Don Cherry speaks

Don Cherry never is shy about having an opinion, whether it's on the famed Coach's Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada, or this morning at the Air Canada Centre following Team Cherry's practice prior to tonight's Top Prospects Game.

Here are a few highlights from Cherry's meeting with the media:

Still have fun doing this? "We still have a lot of fun. When you see a goaltender like that Owen Sound guy (Jordan Binnington) stand on his head, it reminds me of (Roberto) Luongo (in 1997). I remember him with Bobby Orr, we were in Maple Leafs Gardens and we outshot them 17-1 and we were losing 1-0. To see these guys coming up, you think of 2003 in Kitchener and (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Dion) Phaneuf and Marc-Andre Fleury, to see them … it's still a lot of fun."

What's your message to the kids? "We told them you can never, ever drop (in the rankings). But you can … and I go back to Dan Cleary. Dan Cleary when he came, he was from Belleville, Newfounland, not many people knew him. He had a hell of a game and he jumped like you couldn't believe. The big thing is, everything's got to be quicker because everybody is good here. You see them against their peers and the whole deal. There are going to be 200 guys here watching you. If you're a banger, you have to bang -- you have to do your thing. If you just grab your wing and go back, it doesn’t do you any good. That's why you see sort of an open-ice game."
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.19.2011 / 11:06 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Team Cherry lines and pairings

Team Cherry just finished the game-day skate, and here are the line combinations they used:

Tomas Jurco-Sean Couturier-Shane Prince
Nicklas Jensen-Ryan Strome-Ty Rattie
Mark McNeill-Mark Scheifele-Matthew Puempel
Phillip Danault-Rickard Rakell-Tobias Rieder

Assistant coach Brian Kilrea ran the practice, and while the lines stayed intact from beginning to end, he rotated all six defenseman, so Ryan Murphy, Scott Harrington, Joe Morrow, Tyler Wotherspoon, Duncan Siemens and Myles Bell all took shifts with each other.

And Christopher Gibson and David Honzik manned the nets. They'll each play about half the game tonight, but the starter is yet to be determined.

Team Orr should be taking the ice in a bit and we'll have their lines and pairings in a while.

Also, Team Cherry coach Don Cherry held court after practice and was his usual self. Stay tuned to the blog for some of the highlights.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.19.2011 / 12:37 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Breakaway relay steals the show

Polling a few of the prospects Tuesday night, it's obvious the Showdown Breakaway contest was the star of the show, especially Saint John's Tomas Jurco.

"The thing that Tomas Jurco did, his shootout move, that was pretty slick," said Kelowna's Shane McColgan. "That was pretty cool, never seen anybody do that. And (Sven) Baertschi told me he was going to do that one-handed thing and he pulled that off. So that was pretty cool."

"Jurco's move was pretty cool," said Saskatoon's Duncan Siemens. "When I saw him flip it up and started spinning his stick and the puck landed on it, that was like, wow. Baertschi's one-handed move was pretty cool. There was a lot of cool moves, a lot of creativity."

The one surprise entry in the event was Portland Winterhawks defenseman Joe Morrow. Morrow isn't really known as an offensive player, but he made the most of it. His highlight was a Superman dive with the puck in his left hand, and then he slid it onto his stick for a shot that was stopped.

"He had some fun with it," said Siemens. "That last one with the Superman, that's pretty fun."

Siemens and Bell were happy to limit their participation to the hardest shot contest.

"Kind of happy I didn't have to embarrass myself out there," said Bell, who won the hardest shot contest.

"I was glad I was put where I was," added Siemens. "If I could stay away form the breakaway and accuracy, I was fine.

"Just a tough break for Morrow, I guess. … Not too many d-men that have good gloves out there. There's guys like (Kitchener's Ryan) Murphy, (Montreal's Xavier) Ouellet that got some hands and some moves, but for the most part d-men aren't known for their good mitts."
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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 Tuesday, 01.18.2011 / 10:26 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

NexTesting 'injury'

As the first group of players was going through on-ice drills for the Nex Testing cameras, there was on near fatality -- not to a player, thankfully.

As Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left the starting line for a speed drill, his stick caught the big digital read-out board that displays the players' times, nearly knocking it from its perch midway up the glass to the ice. Thankfully, the board survived the injury.
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Posted On Monday, 01.17.2011 / 11:12 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to St. Paul 2011 Entry Draft Blog

Top Prospect Game coaches working their own way

The Top Prospects Game is a pretty intense affair, but the coaches don't go overboard.

For the first on-ice sessions, Team Cherry coach Don Cherry didn't make it out to the MasterCard Centre tonight, leaving the on-ice work to his assistant coach, junior coaching legend Brian Kilrea.

When asked how much coaching Cherry really does, as compared to a Hockey Hall of Famer like Kilrea, Kilrea was quick to tell NHL.com with a broad smile, "This is Don's team, we're just his helpers."

On the other side, Team Orr coach Doug Gilmour was on hand, but one of his assistants, Wendel Clark, was missing.

Gilmour said he saw Clark last weekend when their sons were playing in a tournament in Kingston.

"I said are you coming out Monday," Gilmour told NHL.com. "He said no, I'll see you Wednesday."
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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 Monday, 12.13.2010 / 9:27 AM

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

Carolina draft guru discusses Jeff Skinner

In October, Edmonton Oilers head amateur scout Stu MacGregor spoke to NHL.com about the process of pinpointing the top players eligible for the Entry Draft. It was rather enlightening, particularly since MacGregor played one of the lead roles in choosing Taylor Hall with the first overall pick in the 2010 Draft. Read MacGregor's story here.

This month, we spoke to Carolina Hurricanes head amateur scout Tony MacDonald, who provided the story behind the drafting of Jeff Skinner seventh overall in the 2010 Draft.


It's interesting to hear about what the top scouts are looking for and how they ultimately determine who should be drafted when and where. For one thing, it's certainly interesting reading for those eligible 2011 prospects.

The drafting of Skinner was somewhat of an eye-opener, particularly since the Kitchener Rangers center had been rated 34th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting heading into the draft at Staples Center in Los Angeles. But he was deemed much higher by MacDonald, whose decision is now looking pretty golden.

Instead of getting an invite to the Canadian World Junior camp, Skinner continues to do his best in helping the Hurricanes as one of the top rookies in the League. Skinner has 8 goals and 20 points in 28 games for the 'Canes this season in 16:21 of ice time per game.

In recent games, Skinner has basically played left wing alongside center Tuomo Ruutu and Chad LaRose.

In case you missed it, the top-rated defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Saint John Sea Dogs blueliner Nathan Beaulieu, explains his path to prominence in the Canadian juniors.
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Posted On Friday, 12.10.2010 / 9:15 AM

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

A 'Big Chill' in the air

The hockey programs at No. 11 Michigan and Michigan State are set to go head-to-head on Saturday in 'The Big Chill' -- the much anticipate outdoor hockey extravaganza that is sure to leave more than its share of lasting memories of the Big House at Michigan University.

In case you missed it, NHL.com correspondent James Murphy crafted an eloquent piece on the big game. Read it here.

The Wolverines were practicing in flurries in their first two days of workouts outdoors this week and no matter the elements or conditions on Saturday, a crowd of over 100,000 is expected. For the record, however, there's a 20 percent chance of snow for the fifth major college outdoor hockey game.

All 109,901 tickets have been sold for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association game. The original Cold War game on the campus of Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in 2001 broke the all-time hockey attendance, 74,544. A world-record attendance of 77,803 last May watched the USA play Germany in the domed Veletins Arena soccer stadium at the World Championships in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

If you're going to the game, you might want to pay special attention to three players who were named 'C Players' to watch in the CCHA by the NHL's Central Scouting Service. A 'C Rating' is designated to a player the Central Scouting is tracking as a potential late-round selection for the 2011 Entry Draft.

Those players include defenseman Kevin Clare and center Jacob Fallon of Michigan and goaltender Will Yanakeff of Michigan State. There's a strong possibility, however, that Yanakeff will be backing up Drew Palmisano in the MSU net on Saturday.

Clare has played just six games and has one assist and four shots. Fallon, whose strengths are his speed and passing ability, has a goal and three points in 12 games for the Wolverines. Fallon's career took a bit of a hit last winter when he was suspended by the USNTDP for a drinking violation. A month and a half after returning from suspension, he was involved in another incident and chose to leave the program for the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League for a fresh start. Despite all that, Fallon has made good for head coach Red Berenson and still expects to be an NHL draft pick in June.

Yanakeff, whose favorite player is former MSU standout and 2010 Vezina Trophy winning NHL goalie Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres, is 0-1-0 with a 3.00 GAA and .886 save percentage this season. In 10 games with the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL, Yanakeff went 5-5-0 with a 3.41 GAA.

More details and a live audio feed of the game, which begins 3 p.m. ET, can be accessed here.
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Posted On Friday, 12.03.2010 / 9:40 AM

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

A 'Boone' for any team

NHL.com offered a few interesting 2011 draft eligible prospect pieces posted this week.

The first was on YouTube sensation Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League. Strome connected for a pair of goals on Thursday to lead Niagara to a 5-3 victory over the Windsor Spitfires before 5,960 at the WFCU Centre. Read Strome's tale right here.

Scott Mayfield of the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL wrapped up a huge month of November, which included a gold medal for Team USA at the World Junior 'A' Challenge in Penticton, B.C., in his draft blog. Excellent read.

On Dec. 2, we released a feature on Oshawa's Boone Jenner, who learned very early in life the value of heavy labor. Read it here.

Some of you may recall the time Matt and Terri Jenner were in quite a quandary on Sept. 19, 2009, when their youngest son, Boone, and eldest, Leo, were scheduled to go head-to-head in an OHL match at Compuware Arena in Plymouth, Mich.

Leo, at the time a 6-foot-4, 224-pound defenseman for the OHL's Plymouth Whalers, even found himself denying little brother Boone at certain points in the game within the defensive zone.

"It was nerve-wracking," Terri Jenner told Peter Krupsky of the Plymouth Whalers Examiner after the game. "But it was fun and worth it."

Terri donned an Oshawa jersey in honor of Boone while Matt wore a Plymouth jersey for Leo, who played five seasons in Plymouth. He's currently starring at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

As it turned out, 6-1/4, 194-pound Boone held his own playing center for the Oshawa Generals but Plymouth would prevail in overtime, 6-5.

The Jenners would combine for three goals and an assist in the game -- Leo hitting once and Boone depositing a pair of deflections when Oshawa rallied to tie the contest in the third period. The end wasn't quick enough for the parents, however.

"I remember scoring a goal in that first game we played them and he was on the ice so I let him know about that every now and again," Boone said. "He always says it was on the power play so I had the advantage."
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Posted On Monday, 11.29.2010 / 10:00 AM

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

Murphy leads OHL defenders

Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy admits he used to model his game after defenseman Bryan McCabe.

"But (McCabe) has gotten a little older know, so I've moved on to Mike Green," he admits. Still, the Markham, Ont. native has also listed San Jose's Dan Boyle as his favorite NHL player.

Whatever the case may be, Murphy is doing a fine job of making a name for himself in his second season in the Ontario Hockey League. He leads all defensemen in goals (13), assists (26) and points (39) while compiling an angelic-like 8 penalty minutes in 24 contests. He also sports a plus-5 rating.

It was quite a learning experience in 2009-10 for Murphy, who is No. 8 on the NHL Central Scouting's preliminary ratings for OHL players. Murphy was cut from Canada's Under-18 team that won a third straight gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial in Slovakia and the Czech Republic last August. He felt the team just wasn't in need of an offensive-defenseman.

"Coming in, I was pretty scared of all the hazing I guess, but in Kitchener, everyone was just great to me," Murphy recalled. "All the vets treated me like just another player and I just loved being there. It's a great organization."

Murphy recorded 17 points, including 5 goals, in 20 games to help the Rangers reach the semifinals of the OHL tournament last season -- taking eventual champ Windsor to the limit. He notched 6 goals and 39 points in 62 regular-season games.

"Going into the playoffs, only four or five players on the team had playoff experience," Murphy said. "So my coach told us, 'get ready for the next year.' Going that deep in the playoffs, a bunch of us got playoff experience, it was just great for us."

The trick for Murphy to have an even greater impression on scouts heading into the 2001 Entry Draft will be to play well enough so that people forget about his diminutive frame (5-foot-10 1/2, 176 pounds). He has the capability, too, with his smarts and quickness in tight spaces.

"I'm an offensive defenseman," Murphy said. "I love to handle the puck. I like to play defense, but I would rather be in the offensive zone, I love points."

Said Central Scouting's Chris Edwards: "Ryan has real good mobility. He's a bit of a gambler. He's going to have to concentrate on making good plays. He got himself into trouble making those high-risk plays, but that's what they used to say about (Montreal rookie) P.K. Subban. He's at least as good a skater as Subban."

Murphy, Kitchener's first round selection (third overall) in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection, was invited to Team Canada's summer selection camp in July.

He was surrounded by other draft-eligible prospects on the White Team, including Dougie Hamilton of Niagara and Duncan Siemens of Saskatoon (WHL). Hamilton is rated No. 3 on Central Scouting's OHL list and Siemens No. 8 on the Western Hockey League list.
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Posted On Friday, 11.19.2010 / 2:15 PM

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

NHL.com staffers offer initial mock draft

There's never a right or wrong time to sit down and put together a mock draft, but now that NHL's Central Scouting has done much of the heavy lifting after producing their preliminary ratings for the 2011 Draft in June, it seemed like a pretty good time to make an attempt.

That's what me and Adam Kimelman determined, at least, when we each sat down and put our best foot forward by scribing our first -- of what could be several -- mock drafts. It wasn't easy, but at least it'll get all of us talking, debating, yelling, criticizing and, we hope, smiling (It's Thanksgiving, for crying out loud). Give thanks, not grief.

Anyway, you can eye our picks right here! I love the fact that we both have a different player going to the Islanders at the top spot and, of course, for different reasons.

By the way, in case you missed it, Kelowna Rockets forward Shane McColgan checked in with his monthly blog this week and shared some interesting insight into former Kelowna alum who have aided him during his draft year.
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Posted On Thursday, 11.18.2010 / 3:30 PM

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

Point leaders among CSS-rated players

With the NHL's Central Scouting preliminary rankings still fresh in everyone's mind, now's as good a time as any to take a look at each of the three Canadian Hockey Leagues and the United States Hockey League and compare those ratings with the top scorers.

Of course, what does it mean? Not much when you take into consideration defenders aren't asked to be goal-scorers and players competing for teams that are struggling are at a disadvantage. But, it is fun to take a look at where some of the top-rated prospects are in terms of production in their respective leagues.

Ontario Hockey League
Ryan Murphy, Kitchener, 20 games, 11-24-35, 8th CSS, 4th in scoring
Ryan Strome, Niagara, 21 games, 10-23-33, 4th CSS, 8th in scoring
Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener, 20 games, 17-14-31, 1st CSS, 10th in scoring
Alexander Khokhlachev, Plymouth, 20 games, 9-19-28, 12th CSS, 14th in scoring
Daniel Catenacci, Sault Ste. Marie, 22 games, 10-15-25, 16th CSS, 18th in scoring

Western Hockey League
Ty Rattie, Portland, 23 games, 14-25-39, 3rd CSS, 2nd in scoring
Sven Bartschi, Portland, 23 games, 16-17-33, 2nd CSS, 4th in scoring
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer, 22 games, 5-25-30, 1st CSS, 10th in scoring

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Sean Couturier, Drummondville, 26 games, 14-20-34, 1st CSS, 5th in scoring
Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John, 23 games, 15-15-30, 2nd CSS, 10th in scoring
Phillip Danault, Victoriaville, 23 games, 11-16-27, 4th CSS, 17th in scoring

United States Hockey League
Rocco Grimaldi, USNTDP, 19 games, 14-10-24, 4th CSS, 1st in scoring on USNTDP
Reid Boucher, USNTDP, 18 games, 6-7-13, 13th CSS, 3rd in scoring on USNTDP
J.T. Miller, USNTDP, 17 games, 2-11-13, 2nd CSS, 4th in scoring on USNTDP
Tyler Biggs, USNTDP, 17 games, 6-4-10, 1st CSS, 5th in scoring on USNTDP
*Seth Ambroz, Omaha, 8 games, 2-2-4, 3rd CSS
*Scott Mayfield, Youngstown, 10 games, 1-2-3, 4th CSS

* - Have played fewer games in USHL in order to compete for U.S. Selects Team.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.16.2010 / 11:00 AM

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

Preliminary Central Scouting ratings released; Oilers' Eberle warns not to get too hyped-up

They're here…

Yes, the day every prospect prognosticator and player wishing to hear his name announced at the Entry Draft craves. The NHL's Central Scouting service on Tuesday unveiled their preliminary North American and European ratings for the upcoming draft in St. Paul, Minn. It's the first of three big ratings' installments -- a midterm release in January and final release in April are forthcoming.

A special thanks to those gentlemen over at Central Scouting, who do a fantastic job at compiling these lists for the benefit of the 30 NHL franchises. I especially want to commend the boys who spend countless hours on the road yet still find the time to return a phone call or email at the drop of a hat whenever a question arises about a potential star in the making.

The preliminary rankings, which include the top 25 skaters and most coveted goalies from the OHL, WHL, QMJHL and the USHL, may be accessed off the main story that ran on NHL.com Tuesday morning. There are also sidebars on those top-ranked European standouts and those in the collegiate ranks, including two from Boston University and two from the University of Wisconsin.

For those players checking in for the first time to learn where they stand, my suggestion is to not get too wrapped up in having a number attached to your name. Continue playing hard while conducting yourself in a professional manner.

I recently had an opportunity to chat with Edmonton Oilers 20-year-old rookie Jordan Eberle about the preliminary draft lists.

Eberle, of course, was drafted in the first round (No. 22 overall) in 2008 by the Oilers. If you'll recall, he was told he would be an early choice in the WHL bantam draft but, despite great numbers, scouts shied away because of his size (5-foot-8, 145 pounds at the time). He ended up falling all the way to the seventh round, where the Regina Pats grabbed him 126th overall. He'd go on to score 70 goals and 130 points in two seasons -- that's hard work.

Eberle's advice to those starry-eyed prospects:

"I remember (the preliminary lists) clearly," Eberle told NHL.com. "It's something as you go through your draft year … there's so many ups and downs but I think the big thing is you can't get too hyped up and focused in on all of that stuff.

"It really affects your game. You see guys rated high and they worry way too much about their ranking and all that stuff and they start dropping," he continued. "The thing is to just play your game, don't worry if you're high or low. I mean, I'm a seventh-round draft pick in bantam so I don't think that the draft is really … if you're a good enough player people are going to find you, it's as simple as that."

No better words spoken.
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Posted On Monday, 11.15.2010 / 9:15 AM

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

USA wins third straight gold medal

Jimmy Mullin scored his team-leading sixth goal 16:07 into the third period to rally the U.S. Junior Select Team to a 6-4 victory over Canada East in the championship game of the 2010 World Junior A Challenge on Sunday at Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton, B.C.

Mullin, who was drafted in the fourth round (118th overall) by the Tampa Bay Lightning last June, scored his decisive goal just 40 seconds after Austin Czarnik (2011 draft eligible) had tied the game for Team USA. Austin Czarnik, who scored twice in the game, was named Team USA's player of the game while defenseman Scott Mayfield (2011 draft eligible) and Mullin were named to the tournament all-star team. Mayfield, who has been maintaining a monthly blog for NHL.com, was also named the tournament's most valuable player.

"Our goal for the entire tournament was to climb the mountain," said U.S. coach P.K. O'Handley. "We
were naturally concerned, down 4-1. But we stuck with our plan and came out on top. This was one of my best hockey experiences of my coaching career."

Canada East had taken a 4-1 lead with a pair of goals in the first five minutes of the second by Scott Wilson (East's player of the game, 2011 draft eligible) and Matthew Peca (2011 draft eligible) but the U.S. responded to pull within one on goals by Sam Warning (2011 draft eligible) and Brian Cooper (2011 draft eligible) to close out the middle period.

Michael Parks' empty-net goal with 1:24 remaining sealed the deal while U.S. goalie Casey DeSmith (2011 draft eligible), who replaced starter Zane Gothberg (10 saves in 25 minutes) early in the second period, turned aside all eight shots he faced. Jordan Ruby made 37 saves in the loss for Canada East and was one of three easterners named to the all-star team. He joined defender Tyson Wilson (2011 draft eligible) and forward Evan Rodrigues (2011 draft eligible), who co-led the tournament with 7 points.

Russian forward Mikhail Girgorenko (2012 draft eligible) earned the other all-star forward spot.

In the bronze medal game, Switzerland scored an 8-3 victory over Canada West as 14 different players notched at least one point. Gregory Hofmann (2011 draft eligible) scored twice in the victory.

The Swiss broke open a 2-2 game in the third with six unanswered goals in a span of 11:43 by Reto Schappi  (2011 draft eligible), Manuel Holenstein (2011 draft eligible), Joel Vermin (2011 draft eligible), Romain Loeffel (Swiss player of the game, 2011 draft eligible), Gaetan Haas (2011 draft eligible) and Hofmann. Canada West goalie Matthew Krahn (2011 draft eligible) was named best player for his team.
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Posted On Sunday, 11.14.2010 / 1:10 PM

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

Canada East vs. USA in World Jr A Challenge final

The United States and Canada East won semifinal-round contests on Saturday and will face-off in the gold-medal game on Sunday at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C.

The U.S. defeated Canada East, 6-1, on Nov. 8 in its first game of the preliminary around.

Team USA, which has won two straight World Junior A golds, received a goal and one assist from Garrett Allen in the opening 11 minutes of the game and Jimmy Mullin scored his tournament-leading fifth goal via a penalty shot in the third period as the Americans rolled to a 5-1 victory over Canada West.

"I was very pleased with our start tonight," said Team USA coach P.K. O'Handley. "I know it sounds cliche, but this game was just another step. We need to remain focused (Sunday) and compete like we did tonight."

The U.S. took a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the game when Caleb Herbert knocked in a rebound goal. Only three minutes later, Allen, of Delafield, Wis., extended the lead 2-0 with a goal.

The U.S. had beaten Canada West in the last two gold medal games. The loss means Canada West will not be playing for a gold medal for the first time in the tournament's five-year history. Zane Gothberg made 27 saves for the U.S. Allen was named player of the game for the Americans and Dylan Walchuk was best player for Canada West.

The U.S. was 1-for-6 on the power play and Canada West went 0-for-9 -- the U.S. has allowed only one power-play goal in 21 shorthanded situations in the tournament.

Canada East, meanwhile, knocked off previously unbeaten Switzerland, 4-2, as team player of the game Nick Huard scored twice and Jordan Ruby made 39 saves. 

Canada East received goals by Huard and Maxime Dumond in the second period to grabe a 3-1 lead over Switzerland, which will battle Canada West in the bronze medal game on Sunday.

Swiss forward Ryan McGregor, whose late goal in the first had pulled his team into a 1-1 tie, was named Switzerland's player of the game.
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Posted On Friday, 11.12.2010 / 9:00 AM

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

Canadian contingent advances to semifinals

Canada West and Canada East each scored quarterfinal-round victories on Thursday to advance into the medal round of the 2010 World Junior A Challenge at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C.

Canada West, which will play the defending champion, United States, in the semifinals on Saturday (7:30 p.m. PT), received a power-play goal by Nolan Kaiser at 5:18 of the third period to snap a 2-2 deadlock and Matthew Krahn made it stand behind 31 saves en route to a 3-2 victory over Sweden. Dylan Walchuk and Ben Gallacher also hit for Canada West and Linus Hulstrom and Sebastian Dyk connected for Sweden. Kaiser was selected as Canada West's player of the game and Dyk was named top player for Sweden, which outshot the Canadians, 33-22.

In the other quarterfinal game, Matthew Peca and Evan Rodrigues scored 42 seconds apart in the second period to give Canada East a four-goal cushion before Russia began a rally only to fall one-goal short, 4-3. Canada East will now face Switzerland in the other semifinal on Saturday.

Matt Chiarantano and Zach Hyman -- Canada's player of the game -- also hit for Canada East, which received a 35-save performance by Jordan Ruby. Mikhail Grigorenko, who scored two goals in the third period to pull Russia within one with over 11 minutes remaining, was named his team's best player in the contest.

Friday
Sweden vs. Russia (consolation game)

Saturday - Semifinals
Canada East vs. Switzerland
Canada West vs. United States
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Posted On Thursday, 11.11.2010 / 8:40 AM

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

Day 3 at World Junior A Challenge

The United States remained unbeaten and Canada West scored its first victory during the third day of preliminary-round action at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge on Wednesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C.

The U.S. received two points apiece by Seth Ambroz, Max Gaede, Cason Hohmann and Sam Warning, who each scored once, and goalie Zane Gothberg turned aside 32 shots as the Americans secured a spot in the semifinal round by wrapping up first place in Group A with a 5-1 victory over Sweden.

Gaede, Hohmann and Ambroz all scored in a span of 7:25 in the second period to give the United States a 4-1 advantage. Jimmy Mullin also connected for the U.S., notching his tournament-leading fourth goal. Ambroz, a likely top 15 draft pick in June, was named the Player of the Game for the Americans. Ambroz is blogging for NHL.com this season.

Filip Gunnarsson, who had an assist, was named Player of the Game for Sweden, which received its lone goal off the stick of Alexander Lagerstrom. The U.S. will have Thursday and Friday off before Saturday's semifinals while the Swedes (0-2) will face Canada West in Thursday's quarterfinal round.

In the other preliminary contest held Wednesday, Grayson Downing and Dylan Walchuk scored third-period goals to snap a 2-2 tie and give Canada West a 4-2 triumph over Russia before 3,497 in attendance.

Russia, which yielded 52 shots to Switzerland one night earlier, allowed 53 shots to Canada West. Russian goalie Oleg Dyatlov made 49 saves and was named Player of the Game for his team. Downing received similar honors for Canada West, which will next face Sweden. Russia will battle Canada East.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.10.2010 / 8:25 AM

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

Day 2 at World Junior A Challenge

Canada East rebounded from a disappointing opening-day loss and Switzerland won its second straight contest during preliminary round action of the 2010 World Junior A Challenge on Tuesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C.

The Swiss, who are making their first-ever appearance in the tournament, defeated Russia, 5-1, to clinch first place in Group B and solidify a spot in Saturday's semifinals. With the victory, Switzerland has now beaten last year's silver medalist -- Canada West -- and bronze medalists.

The teams combined for 91 shots to set a World Junior A Challenge record for one game, two more than the previous mark of 89 set by Germany and Belarus on Nov. 11, 2006. Switzerland outshot Russia, 52-39. Gaetan Haas (2011 draft eligible) scored a pair of goals in a 61-second span early in the third period to give Switzerland a 4-0 advantage. Russian goalie Denis Perevozchikov (2011 draft eligible) made 47 saves, including 16 in the opening 20 minutes. Perevozchikov, incidentally, plays for Bars Kazan back home.

Goalie Remo Giovannini (2011 draft eligible), who made 38 saves, was named Player of the Game for Switzerland and Maxim Shalunov (2011 draft eligible) received similar honors for Russia.

Canada East, which lost to the U.S. on Monday, received a goal and three assists from their Player of the Game, Evan Rodrigues (2011 draft eligible), while Jordan Ruby (2011 draft eligible) turned aside 34 shots in a 6-2 verdict over Sweden. Canada East connected for the opening four goals of the game in the first period before Sweden's Christian Nyman (2011 draft eligible) and Pontus Netterberg (2011 draft eligible) pulled Sweden to within 4-2. Netterberg, a product of HV 71 in the Swedish Elite League, was named Sweden's Player of the Game.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.09.2010 / 9:01 AM

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

Day 1 recap of World Junior A Challenge

The U.S. Junior Select Team and Switzerland each notched victories in the preliminary round of the 2010 World Junior A Challenge on Monday at the South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton, B.C.

Jimmy Mullin (Lightning), named the Player of the Game, scored three goals and goalie Zane Gothberg (Bruins) made 23 saves, including three breakaway attempts, to lead the Americans to a 6-1 victory over Canada East.

"We ran into some penalty trouble early, but started to find our game in the second and third periods (when the U.S. outscored CE, 6-1)," U.S. Junior Select head coach P.K. O'Handley said. "We've been working hard to develop chemistry, and we hope to bring this energy throughout the rest of the tournament."

The U.S., which will next face Sweden on Wednesday, has won the last two WJAC golds. Canada
Colten St. Clair, Team USA, Fargo Force USHL
Colten St. Clair Fargo Force USHL
East, which received its lone goal off the stick of Evan Rodrigues (2011 draft eligible), is slated to play Tuesday against the Swedes. U.S. captain Colten St. Clair (2011 draft eligible) and teammates Ryan Dzingel (2011 draft eligible) and Garrett Allen (2011 draft eligible) all had two assists.

The U.S. roster, incidentally, is made up entirely of players from the United States Hockey League.

Switzerland, meanwhile, had a memorable debut in the tournament after scoring a 5-4 victory over Canada West when Nicholas Steiner (2011 draft eligible) connected for the game-winner while on the power-play 1:45 into overtime. Canada West actually erased deficits of 3-0 and 4-2 with a four-goal third period. Penticton native Mark MacMillan (Canadiens) scored twice in the third as CW pulled even before the game entered OT.

Swiss forward Ryan McGregor (2011 draft eligible) was named Player of the Game for the victors and MacMillan received similar honors for Canada West.

The Swiss return to action Tuesday against Russia. The Russians will then meet Canada West on Wednesday in the preliminary-round finale.

Monday, 8 November, 2010
CAN E 1 - USA 6
CAN W 4 - SUI 5 (OT)
Tuesday, 9 November, 2010
SWE - CAN E
SUI - RUS
Wednesday, 10 November, 2010
USA - SWE
RUS - CAN W
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Posted On Monday, 11.08.2010 / 10:00 AM

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

Landeskog: No ordinary European

If not for the face, you would swear Gabriel Landeskog were American.

Read about him right here!

That's because his English is that good. It was something he was determined to learn when he turned 3 back in his native Stockholm, Sweden. Not only was he determined to perfect the English language, though, but enhance his chances at becoming a high-end prospect at the 2011 Entry Draft by playing the North American style at a very young age.

Landeskog did just that. After starring at Djurgarden in the Swedish Elite League at the tender age of 16 years, 90 days, Landeskog took his show to Kitchener in the Ontario Hockey League last year, producing an impressive 24 goals and 46 points in 61 games. He was named captain of the team this year, a sure sign he not only speaks the English language, but can relay any message of importance in a clear and concise manner. He wants to be regarded as the prototypical power-forward, following in the footsteps of former Swede Peter Forsberg and current stars Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom.

"Both (Franzen and Holmstrom) are role models, they've won cups and that's someone you want to
look up to," Landeskog told NHL.com. "The strength Johan Franzen brings to the game and how strong he is low in corners is something I can learn from. Holmstrom is very good he is in front. Having a similar role in Kitchener, I try to study that to the best of my ability."

Landeskog told me he doesn't think the path he took to the Canadian Hockey League should be the same for every European player. But, he did go on to say that learning the North American style at a young age was of great importance to him.

"I'm really happy I came over here a year ago," he said. "But saying that, there are a lot of different paths you can take to the NHL and get to that level you want. Some players prefer the Swedish Elite League and go that route. I felt like I wanted to show Sweden and other young players this is possible too; a path you can take.

"Players ask me all the time how the life and hockey is over here," he continued. "I always recommend it and if that's what you want to do, it's not going to make you a worse hockey. It has strengthened me as a person and a player. I've learned a lot about the lifestyle and how playing 68 games plus playoffs is a bonus. It's a lot of games and that's the type of schedule you want to have if you want to reach the next level."
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.03.2010 / 1:00 PM

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

Sound advice for 2011 draft prospects

In case you missed it, Edmonton Oilers amateur scout Stu MacGregor offered plenty of interesting insight into his job and what it entails. Read it right here.

MacGregor is in his eighth season with the Edmonton Oilers scouting staff and fourth as the organization's head amateur scout.

He's responsible for the team's amateur scouting staff and is usually the one working the table at the NHL Entry Draft for the Oilers.

"When I'm not on the road, I'm usually completing and reading reports on the players that our scouts have filed and then following up with our scouts via email or phone," MacGregor told NHL.com. "I have to be cognizant that we have the proper coverage in all the leagues and where the players appear to be for that particular league. I also have to be conscious of our budget and work with it."

In addition to that administrative work, MacGregor is also one heck of an evaluator of future talent. Here's some advice he had for those draft-eligible players entering the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.

NHL.com: What would be your advice to those high-end prospects in the 2011 Draft?

MacGregor: "I would just tell them to enjoy it, it's a great experience, and it should be a lot of fun -- the greatest time of your life. Just try to work as hard as you can and keep your head up. Keep trying to push forward. Don't worry about what people are saying. Do as you're told by your coach and work hard and, most importantly, enjoy the whole experience."

NHL.com: What's the best tip you can offer a player about to enter his first interview with an NHL team?

MacGregor: "I just think a player going into that just needs to be himself. Offer conversation and try to step forward as an individual. Show them that you're a good person and interested in the process, interested in the people you're talking to. Have your head up and look people square in the eye."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.02.2010 / 12:20 PM

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

Scholastic stargazing at NIT Tournament

The two Minnesota high school rosters for the Bauer National Invitational Tournament scheduled Nov. 5-7 at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope, Minn., have been confirmed.

Two teams -- Minnesota White and Minnesota Red -- were selected using players from seven regular-season Elite League squads. Players were notified of their selections on Oct. 31 -- Trick or Treat!

High schools in Edina, Benilde-St. Margaret's and Grand Forks Central (N.D.) are among the scholastic teams possessing three players in the annual event.

For a complete schedule, click here. In addition to the two Minnesota squads, six other teams will compete in the eight-team tournament, including prep powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary's, Michigan U-18 White, Massachusetts All-Stars, Manitoba Prep, Northwood School (N.Y.) and an all star team from Dallas.

There are a few Minnesota kids competing in the event rated as 'B Players' by NHL's Central Scouting Service. Keep in mind, a 'B' rating represents a potential 2011 selection in the third-to-fifth round in the Entry Draft.

Those players include forwards Joe Labate (Holy Angels) and Tony Cameranesi (Wayzata) of Minnesota White and forwards Steven Fogarty (Edina) and Kyle Rau (Eden Prairie) of Minnesota Red. The Shattuck-St. Mary's roster will likely include 'B rated' forward Tanner Sorenson and defenseman Mike Reilly.

The only 'A' rated player from the Minnesota high school ranks, left wing Mario Lucia of Wayzata HS, is currently on loan to the U.S. Under-18 National Team Developmental Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. Lucia will not be participating in the NIT Tournament.

I'll have more information as it becomes available.

If you haven't already seen it, NHL.com's Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's 'players to watch' list is out. Get it here.
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Posted On Friday, 10.29.2010 / 3:36 PM

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

Drummondville's Sean Couturier -- Let the buildup begin

So if the NHL Entry Draft were held tomorrow, odds are Drummondville center Sean Couturier would be the No. 1 overall selection.

At least that's the gut feeling. It seems scouts like his tough two-way acumen and the confidence within. It certainly doesn't hurt being ranked sixth in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 25 points, including 11 goals, in 19 games.

At this point in the season, Couturier's agent, former NHLer Gilles Lupien, would prefer not to have his client speaking with reporters. So, I spoke to Lupien about his budding prospect, who led the QMJHL in scoring in 2009-10 with 96 points (41 goals) in 68 games.

Lupien compared Couturier to a young Darryl Sittler, the former Toronto Maple Leaf, Philadelphia Flyer and Detroit Red Wing inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989.

"He's a bright kid, he gets 95's in school, he's a brainer and quiet guy and doesn't say much," Lupien said of Couturier. "He's the type of guy who sits in the room, like a Bob Gainey and doesn't say much but shows by example. He's like a Joe Thornton, that silent type, and Darryl Sittler. Sittler was like that. He's tall and appears slow-moving but then, all of a sudden, poof, he's out like a rocket like Sittler."

Lupien has limited Couturier's interview requests during the early stages of the season in order to minimize the pressure of his draft year.

"I just want him to concentrate on being the best player he can be right now," Lupien said.
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Posted On Friday, 10.29.2010 / 2:47 PM

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

Draft Fodder Friday

If you haven't already checked out Adam Kimelman's report on the players to watch this season in the Western Hockey League, you can find that right here.

I recently had a great conversation with the head amateur scout for the Edmonton Oilers, Stu MacGregor. While the veteran talent-evaluator wasn't about to reveal any secrets, he did tell me that Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL is really opening some eyes. Strome has 8 goals, 24 points and a plus-3 rating in 14 games this season.

Strome, draft eligible next June, was a 'B List' player on the NHL's Central Scouting 'Futures List', but will undoubtedly be at or near the top by the time the preliminary rankings are released in mid-November. If you haven't yet seen Strome's highlight-reel goal against Plymouth, check it out here.

Gabriel Landeskog
MacGregor informed me how the most "interesting experience of his scouting career" took place last season when he was routinely reporting on Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. As we know, the decision would ultimately be Hall, but it was only after countless meetings and viewings.

In other news, Gabriel Landeskog, who is also high on 2011 draft lists, was named team captain for the Kitchener Rangers on Oct. 24. Landeskog was Kitchener's Rookie of the Year in 2009-10 after notching 24 goals and 46 points in 61 games. He was the youngest player -- at 16 years and 90 days -- to play for  Djurgarden in the Swedish Elite League during the 2008-09 campaign.

"I play a lot like Jarome Iginla and Mike Richards," Landeskog told NHL.com. "They're kind of my role models. I look a lot at how they play and I kind of try to be like them. They're good leaders and good role models for me."
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Posted On Thursday, 10.28.2010 / 2:46 PM

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

E.J. McGuire talks 2011 Entry Draft

How tough is it at this point in the season to pinpoint one prospect capable of living up to all the hype as the first overall choice in the 2011 Entry Draft in June?

So tough that even E.J. McGuire, the Director of NHL's Central Scouting, admits there is no consensus No. 1 -- for now.

"In mid-November, (Central Scouting) will put out their (preliminary rankings) once we've had a chance to comb the major junior leagues and, from that, we'll usually get our top 1-2-3 guys," McGuire told NHL Live! on Thursday. "There are some top guys from each of the three leagues this year and there's probably one Swedish guy (defenseman Adam Larsson) who'll also be top 5 next year."

While no one player has taken the lead as top gun, McGuire certainly didn't hold back when asked his opinion of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer in the Western Hockey League.

"Ryan is the type of player who goes through traffic -- he's not likeable in a china shop," McGuire said. "I had the pleasure to watch him at the Research, Development and Orientation Camp in Toronto in August and no one executed the long pass better than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He's a bring-the-fans-out-of-your-seat kind of player with all his offensive moves."

Nugent-Hopkins is more of a skilled forward as compared to those power types, according to McGuire. To get more insight into Nugent-Hopkins, check out his blog on NHL.com.

"Early in the season, Sean Couturier is that power-forward type playing with Drummondville in QMJHL," McGuire said. "He's a big, strapping center, tall and rangy, and he might go No. 1 overall."

Sean was born in Phoenix, Arizona, when his father Sylvain Couturier played for the IHL's Phoenix Roadrunners and moved to Bathurst after his dad's retirement. Couturier has drawn comparisons to a young Vincent Lecavalier, although he claims to model his game after Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin. Through 19 games this season, he's produced 11 goals and 25 points.

McGuire also touched on a few players generating a buzz throughout Central Scouting headquarters. Three of the five players he mentioned -- Adam Clendening of Boston University, Shane McColgan of Kelowna in the WHL and Seth Ambroz of the Omaha Lancers in the USHL -- have already been featured on NHL.com.

McGuire also recognized U.S. National Team Development Program member Connor Murphy, a defenseman who is currently sidelined with an ailing back, and David Musil of the Vancouver Giants in the WHL. Musil, also a defenseman, has 2 goals, 10 points and 24 penalty minutes in 16 games with Vancouver this season. He produced 7 goals, 32 points and 67 PIM in 71 contests last season.
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Posted On Wednesday, 10.27.2010 / 11:45 AM

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

World Junior 'A' Challenge set

In case you missed it, the rosters for the six-team 2010 World Junior 'A' Challenge in Penticton, B.C., slated Nov. 8-14 have been established. Several players on each roster will likely be selected in the 2011 Entry Draft, so check them out when you have the chance.

Group A
Team USA (gold medalist 2009, '08)
Sweden
Canada East

Group B

Canada West (gold medalist 2006, '07)
Russia
Switzerland

Round-robin play runs through Nov. 10. The semifinal round takes place Nov. 13 and the gold-medal game, shown nationally on TSN and RDS, is scheduled Nov. 14 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Also, 2011 draft-eligible prospect Seth Ambroz of the Omaha Lancers in the United States Hockey League has filed his initial blog on NHL.com. Check it out here.
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Posted On Monday, 10.25.2010 / 10:00 PM

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

Prepping for St. Paul (Minn.)

No better time to fire up the 2011 Entry Draft blog than right after Central Scouting's initial 'Players to Watch' release for high schools, Canadian provincials and international skaters.

It's the first step in attempting to pinpoint the crème de la crème among draft eligible prospects for 2011. While it's certainly no easy process, it's something the NHL's Central Scouting Service takes great pride in. So with eight months to go before draft day, in St. Paul, Minn., it's time to get informed.

In case you missed it, here are the high school and Canadian provincial players to keep an eye on.

Here are the international players to watch. Of course, Adam Larsson, a defenseman from Sweden, is being touted as the next Victor Hedman (or better).

NHL.com has already featured several future stars, including a few players from the United States Hockey League in Scott Mayfield of Youngstown and Seth Ambroz of Omaha and two from the Western Hockey League in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer) and Shane McColgan (Kelowna). Adam Kimelman has written reports on goalie prospect Christopher Gibson of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Adam Clendening of Boston University.

In case you missed it, NHL.com's list of the top draft-eligible prospects from the USHL also hit the front page of the web site. Get it here!

Four players have also offered to provide NHL.com with a monthly blog that will chronicle their season, start to finish. You can check out a new blog each Wednesday every month leading up the Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center in June.

Scott Mayfield's blog


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' blog


Shane McColgan's blog


Seth Ambroz's blog

The Draft blog will be updated as often as possible with player updates and information as it becomes available, so check back often.
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