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2011 NHL Entry Draft
2011 NHL Entry Draft Hats
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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