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2011 NHL Entry Draft
2011 NHL Entry Draft Hats
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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