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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 1:03 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Jackets' Dansk still has one draft to go

PITTSBURGH -- One draft down, one more to go for Swedish goalie Oscar Dansk.

Dansk, drafted with the first pick of the second round by the Columbus Blue Jackets (No. 31) on Saturday at Consol Energy Center, spent this past season with Brynas Jr of Sweden's second division. He sported a 2.82 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 28 games.

NHL Central Scouting's No. 2-ranked European goalie admitted he would certainly take the major-junior route if he is selected by a team on Wednesday during the Canadian Hockey League's annual Import Draft.

"My dream will be to come to camp and try my best, but I know it's a process and however long the process going to take, we'll see," Dansk said. "I feel like I had good conversations with the Blue Jackets, but you never know what will happen."

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 1:01 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Sutter, Thrower likely to see each other again soon

PITTSBURGH -- It's possible that Saskatoon Blades teammates' Lukas Sutter and Dalton Thrower could very well cross paths in the NHL as opponents in the very near future.

On Saturday at Consol Energy Center during the second round of the NHL Draft, it was more about sharing the most incredible experience of their hockey careers.

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Sutter, the son of former Philadelphia Flyers forward Rich Sutter, was taken No. 39 by the Winnipeg Jets and Thrower was chosen No. 51 by the Montreal Canadiens.

"We kind of crossed paths on the floor and gave each other a hug," Sutter told NHL.com. "He's my best friend and to share this experience with him is so surreal. I'm extremely proud of him and I'm sure he'd say the same about me."

In 148 games spanning three seasons with the WHL's Blades, Sutter has totaled 352 PIMs, including 165 in 70 contests this season. According to hockeyfights.com, he also dropped the gloves 10 times in 2011-12 -- seven short of the 17 players he fought last season.

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 11:13 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

New favorite team for Stolarz

PITTSBURGH -- Corpus Christi IceRays goalie Anthony Stolarz grew up in Jackson, N.J. -- about an hour north of Philadelphia -- rooting for Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.

But after being selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft, the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder said, "It looks like I'm a Flyers fan now."

Stolarz does have a connection to the Flyers, as growing up in central New Jersey, he played with and against Philadelphia forward James van Riemsdyk.

"I played against Trevor in high school when I was a freshman [at St. John Vianney], he was a senior at Christian Brothers [Academy]. There were a few times playing open hockey I'd play with James, Trevor and the youngest brother, Brandon."

Stolarz has taken a circuitous route to his NHL draft day. He played in the Atlantic Youth Hockey League and was recommended for an open camp Corpus Christi was having in Albany, N.Y. From there he was invited to the IceRays' main camp and posted a 2.84 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 50 games.

He admits he had no idea what hockey in Texas would be like.

"It was right on the beach," he said. "I figured it'll be a good spot."

However, playing in Texas made it a bit hard for NHL scouts to find him, which made his selection in the second round a bit of a surprise.

"To start the year I really wasn't focused on the NHL," he said. "I was focused more on getting a college scholarship. Anything after that was an added bonus."

He'll play at the University of Nebraska-Omaha next season, but said he's already looking forward to meeting Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

"He looks like an interesting character," Stolarz said. "He's a good goalie. Watching him in Phoenix and now Philly, hopefully I'll be able to pick up a few things from him."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 10:46 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Awkward reunion

PITTSBURGH -- Back in February at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, Red Deer defenseman Matt Dumba and Baie-Comeau left wing Raphael Bussieres and engaged in a pretty spirited fight.

When Bussieres was picked by the Wild in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft on Saturday, the first person he saw at the team's table on the draft floor was the team's first-round pick -- Dumba.

"I shook his hand," Bussieres told NHL.com. "It was a little awkward, but just funny. We both laughed."

Bussieres said there's no hard feelings or about what happened, saying it was just part of that game.

"I have nothing against Dumba," Bussieres said. "The game is intense. He hit one of the players I played with and I just fight him."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 1:27 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Missing graduation no problem for Jankowski

PITTSBURGH -- As recently as a week ago, Mark Jankowski was struggling to figure out what he should do.

But when he was taken the Calgary Flames with the 21st pick at the NHL Draft on Friday night, the tall center from Stanstead College in Quebec knew he’d made the right call to skip his high school graduation ceremony and attend the first round of the draft

"I think I made the right decision," a beaming Jankowski said while wearing a Flames jersey. "I only made my decision about a week ago, and right up until that day I was flip flopping every day."

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 1:23 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Devils draft son of Stephane Matteau

PITTSBURGH -- Stefan Matteau was three months old when his father wrapped home the historic goal in the second overtime of Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals as a member of the New York Rangers against the New Jersey Devils.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello pretty much assured that the younger Matteau wouldn't allow history to repeat itself when he drafted Stefan with the 29th pick of the NHL Draft at Consol Energy Center on Friday.

Was the youngster, NHL Central Scouting's No. 17-ranked North American skater, surprised by the selection?

2012 NHL DRAFT

Oilers grab Yakupov with No. 1 pick

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
With the first pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, the Edmonton Oilers selected 18-year-old right wing Nail Yakupov, making him the first Russian-born player chosen No. 1 overall since Alex Ovechkin in 2004. READ MORE ›

"I met with the Devils a few times, but obviously knowing the history of my name, I guess it's surprising," Matteau said. "But I couldn't be more thrilled."

Matteau's father was selected with the 25th pick in 1987 by the Calgary Flames, meaning Stefan lost the big bet since father was drafted earlier than son.

After hearing his name announced by New Jersey director of amateur scouting, David Conte, Matteau said he didn't even have enough time to chat with his father.

"I gave [my father] a hug and ran down to the stage," Matteau said. "I think he's happy for me. If I would have gone to the Rangers with the pick before, there would have been a lot of pressure. I think it's good for me and I'm glad to be a Devil."

Matteau was the sixth American-born player drafted in the opening round. He'll play for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2012-13.

"You meet with teams early on and give yourself expectations and sometimes you don't meet them," Matteau said. "I thought I could have gone earlier, but it worked out in the end. There are 10 to 15 minutes between each pick and it's long.

"Today was the longest day of my life, but it all worked out in the end and I'm really proud."

The 6-foot-1 1/2, 210-pound center had 15 goals, including four power-play goals, and 32 points in 46 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program this season. He also accumulated 166 penalty minutes. In 47 games with the U-17 Team last season, he had seven goals, 18 points and 67 penalty minutes.

"I'm a big-bodied power forward, have a lot of skill and a good shot, and I play with an edge," Matteau said. "Some teams like that, and I like to bring an all-around solid game."

Matteau doesn't believe he plays the game as his father once did.

"Growing up, I did get to watch him … he was a hard-working, physical guy who played with an edge," Stefan told NHL.com. "It's weird to say this because he played 15 years, but I think I'm more offensive than he was. Dad told me I'm bigger and more skilled … that's what he said."

Matteau believes he's a perfect fit with the Devils, a team he considered to be one of the hardest-working in the playoffs.

"Just their physicality and the way they never stopped," Matteau said. "The Final was a tough go, but they still didn't back down and that's how I play. I go hard to the end and it's a good fit for me."

He said his "mentality is to make the team next year."

"If not, I'll just go back to junior and develop one more year and hopefully make the jump after that."

U.S. U-18 NTDP coach Danton Cole envisions Matteau as a prototypical power forward in the NHL. Some believe he could be the next Jordan Staal. Matteau sees himself as a future James van Riemsdyk, Scott Hartnell or Vincent Lecavalier.

"He's a powerful man, big and strong," Cole told NHL.com. "He plays a physical game and he's going to be good. I would think he's a little (more physical than dad). He also probably has a little more high-end offensive ability -- Stef's going to put the puck in the net."

Does Matteau have a message for Devils' fans?

"No, not really … I'm in shock myself," he said with a grin. "There's a bright future ahead, and I'm looking forward to having an impact wherever they may need me."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 1:09 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Nugent-Hopkins excited to get Yakupov

PITTSBURGH -- Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins never skated with Nail Yakupov. He's excited about getting that chance -- and it could happen sooner rather than later.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Center - EDM
Goals: 18 | Assists: 34 | Pts: 52
Shots: 134 | +/-: -2
Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini drafted Yakupov, NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked North American player, with the first pick Friday in the opening round of the 2012 NHL Draft at Consol Energy Center.

Nugent-Hopkins, who accompanied the team on the stage when Tambellini announced the pick, was chosen No. 1 last year at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

"It's kind of neat to see things from this side of the spectrum and there's no pressure or nerves," Nugent-Hopkins said. "You just kind of watch all these things unfold.

"There's always talks and stuff going on before the Draft but ultimately it comes down to what the staff decides on draft day and we picked up a great player."

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 12:40 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Ceci staying home -- again

PITTSBURGH -- Cody Ceci knows for sure he'll be playing his home games in Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. Whether he's doing it as a member of the Ottawa Senators, however, is another story.

Ceci, taken by the Senators with the 15th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, plays his junior hockey for the Ottawa 67s. With their home arena, the Ottawa Civic Center, under renovations, the 67s will play their home games next season at Scotiabank Place, home of the Senators.

And if he does eventually play for the Senators, it'll be easy for his family to see the games -- Ceci was born and raised in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, Ont.

"It's a crazy feeling for me," he told NHL.com. "I never thought it would happen. To stay at home for major junior was crazy enough. Now doing it at the [NHL] level is indescribable. My mom's really happy."

Ceci said he met with the Senators in May at the NHL Scouting Combine, and said he was told then that if he were still available when the Sens' turn came at the draft -- he was No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters -- he would be a player they would consider.

"When it got to be closer to them I was hoping that everything would work out," he said. "Just having everything work out is special. I'm really fortunate and I feel lucky that it did work out."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 12:25 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Laughton gets first taste of rivalry

PITTSBURGH -- Oshawa Generals forward Scott Laughton got a rough introduction to the bitter Flyers-Penguins rivalry.

Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren nearly was drowned out by the Consol Energy Center crowd, and Laughton said he never really heard his name called with the 20th pick.

"It definitely was loud, and I really couldn't hear my name being called," he told NHL.com. "But I heard Oshawa Generals and I knew it was me. We know the rivalry is alive and well. Pretty excited about it."

A 6-foot, 177-pound center, Laughton had 21 goals, 32 assists and 101 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Generals. He also had seven points in seven games for Canada at the 2012 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He was No. 28 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft.

"He came on strong at the end [of the season]," Holmgren said. "We had four or five guys over there at the Under-18 World Championships, and they all thought Scott was Canada's best player."

Laughton said he didn't mind getting booed by the Penguins fans on Friday -- but also said he wouldn't forget it when he gets to Philadelphia.

"I think I will try and pay them back," he said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Friday, 06.22.2012 / 11:58 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Fairy-tale ending for Pearson

PITTSBURGH -- Barrie Colts forward Tanner Pearson was passed over in two drafts, but had a dominant season in the Ontario Hockey League, finishing third with 91 points and helping Canada win the bronze medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

He culminated his fairy-tale season by being selected by the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings with the final pick of the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

"I think it puts the icing on the cake, for sure," Pearson told NHL.com.

Pearson said as the final picks of the first round came off the board, he wasn't sure if he would have to wait until Saturday to hear his name called.

"It goes through everyone's head," he said. "If I didn't get picked today I don't think it would have been the end of the world for myself. I would have come in tomorrow with the exact same attitude I had today and hopefully get picked up. But I was fortunate to get picked up today. Last but not least, but it's going to be fun."

Pearson said he's already put his 2011-12 season behind him and shifted his focus to doing what he can to play for the Kings in 2012-13.

"Something new is starting," he said. "It was a great year, it happened, and now I have to focus on making the Kings. … I know it's going to be a hard team to make. I want to do everything I can to do that."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 06.21.2012 / 4:34 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Upholding the pride of the WHL

PITTSBURGH -- The last time NHL draft prospects took batting practice was two years ago at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, and the only player to reach the outfield seats was current Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Connolly, an alum of the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League.

Two prospects from the WHL -- Everett's Ryan Murray and Moose Jaw's Moran Rielly -- were among the seven taking batting practice Wednesday at PNC Park, but neither was able to equal Connolly's feat.

"I'm extremely disappointed," a laughing Rielly told NHL.com. "I was hoping to come out here and just rake it, but I didn't. It's a lot harder than I thought."

Only Jacob Trouba of the U.S. National Team Development Program came close to reaching the outfield fence.

"I was clearing the infield by the end of it, which I was happy about," Rielly said. "It was pretty impressive he could hit a home run. That's good for him."

"I didn't even hit it out of the infield," Murray told NHL.com. "I don't think I got one airborne outside of there. I definitely did not keep up to his reputation."

Despite not living up their WHL predecessor, the players still enjoyed themselves.

"It was a good time," Murray said. "It was fun coming out here. I hadn't touched a bat in a long time -- since I was a little kid. It was fun to come out here. You really appreciate the game a lot more."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 06.21.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Twins manager a big hockey fan

PITTSBURGH -- Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and his team were on the road when the 2011 NHL Draft came to Minnesota, so he wasn't going to miss a chance to watch the top prospects in action this year.

Gardenhire met the prospects and watched some of their batting practice session at PNC Park prior to his team's game Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"These guys slap a ball around pretty good," he told NHL.com. "We've seen some pretty good hockey players come through and whack the baseball. I've thrown a lot of BP to them."

Gardenhire also is a hockey fan, and owns a pair of goalie pads. He's even stepped into a net to take shots from Wild players.

"I got the pads," he said. "I was wearing my ice boots because there's no way I can skate -- I can't stand up on skates. I got in there and had Darby Hendrickson shoot some pucks at me. It was a blast. I didn't realize how fast the pucks came until they started hitting it at me, and that probably wasn't even fast. It is an amazing thing. I love hockey."

And like any smart baseball man, he's always keeping his eyes open for extra talent.

"Any of them pitch?" he asked.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 7:00 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Prospects on high

PITTSBURGH -- The full day of events for a few of the top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft concluded with a drive up to the top of Mount Washington for a scenic view of the Pittsburgh skyline.

The players went to the same spot Mario Lemieux visited just after he was drafted by the Penguins with the first pick of the 1984 draft. In a well-known picture, Lemieux posed in his Penguins jersey with his stick and skates over his shoulder.

On Wednesday, Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk, Ryan Murray and Jacob Trouba went to that same spot and posed for a similar picture.

Prior to posing, the players were shown the famed Lemieux picture. Then they were told by Penguins vice-president of communicates Tom McMillan that as a gift from the team, they would get a custom-made frame of that famed photo of Lemieux as well as their own photo from that same scenic mountain-side spot with a personalized Lemieux autograph.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 6:10 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Special location for ball-hockey game

PITTSBURGH -- The top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft didn't just to skate indoors Wednesday. They got to play ball hockey. In the middle of the famed Roberto Clemente Bridge.

Nope, not your usual location for a pick-up hockey game.

The iconic bridge was the setting for a game of 4-on-4 between the prospects and players from the Pittsburgh Ice hockey program. The program is affiliated with the NHL's Hockey is For Everyone initiative.

Ryan Murray thought the level of competition among the kids -- average age was 8 years old -- was pretty good.

"We tied them," he said. "They had some skill over there, some good shots, some good speed. Goalies were good. They had good positioning out there. It was tough to score."

Another reason the prospects had trouble scoring could have been their choice of footwear. Mikhail Grigorenko wore black dress shoes, while Nail Yakupov wore flip flops.

"Guys didn't know it was casual," Alex Galchenyuk said. "Mikhail was trying to look good and Yaki [Yakupov] just came from the showers. Guess they didn't know they were playing hockey."

There also was the usual good-natured ribbing. Jacob Trouba started the game on the bench, and when the Pittsburgh Ice team scored the game's first goal, he looked at Murray and yelled, "minus-1."

Murray heard him, and had a response: "I told him he should change his curve because every ball he was shooting was going down the bridge. The coach down there was getting a workout running up and down trying to get the ball."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 5:25 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Murray: Goal to be in NHL next season

CASTLE SHANNON, Pa. -- Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray already has played three full seasons in the Western Hockey League, and if he has it his way, there won't be a fourth.

Murray, ranked second on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft, said he hopes to be in the NHL when the 2012-13 season starts.

"That's what I want to do, that's my goal," he said. "That's what I want to do next year. … I want to make the jump. Obviously it's a big one. I know I have a lot of work to do, but that's definitely my goal for next year."

Murray was born about two weeks past the cutoff date for the 2011 draft, making him one of the oldest players among the first-timers for this year's draft. He said he believes having a late birthday when it comes to the hockey season has helped him.

"I got an extra year than the other guys," he said. "I've got a pretty big head start on the other guys. I guess the scouts keep that in mind, too. I try to relate myself to the [1993-born prospects from the 2011 draft] a lot, as well."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 5:08 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

'Babysitter' Gibson remembers back to last year

CASTLE SHANNON, Pa. -- One of the more interested observers at the clinic on Wednesday was Pittsburgh-area resident John Gibson, who was drafted in the second round last year by the Anaheim Ducks.

He helped on the ice at Tuesday's session, but was a spectator Wednesday.

"My brother is out there," Gibson told NHL.com. "I came to pick him up. … I'm on babysitting duty today."

Nine-year-old Justin Gibson is a burgeoning defenseman who got the treat of skating with a few of the top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft.

Gibson said watching the clinic brought him back to last year in Minnesota.

"It definitely was an exciting time," he said. "I know I enjoyed it with my family. It goes by fast. The main thing is just enjoy it."

Gibson, who spent last season with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, said that was the advice he was giving his friends who were up for the draft this year.

"They ask a little bit of what to expect and stuff," he said. "I just say enjoy it, it goes by fast."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 4:46 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Murray happy for Hartsburg

CASTLE SHANNON, Pa. -- Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray was happy to hear Craig Hartsburg, dismissed as an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames, had been hired to the same post with the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week.

Hartsburg spent two seasons (2009-11) as coach with Everett, which happened to be Murray's first two seasons in the Western Hockey League.

"That's great for him," Murray told NHL.com. "He's one of the best coaches I ever had. He did a great job with our team in Everett for two years. He got a tough break from Calgary, but it's great that he's back in the NHL again. He really deserves it."

Murray said Hartsburg -- who spent 10 seasons as an NHL defenseman with the Minnesota North Stars -- taught him what he needed to get to the next level.

"He's just a really intense guy," Murray told NHL.com. "Every day he teaches you to work hard. You can't take a shift off when he's your coach or you're going to hear about it. He really taught me that you have to play consistent if you're going to play at a high level. He taught me that if you're going to play at a high level you have to play hard every night and you have to show up every single day."

And with the Blue Jackets currently holding the second pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, there's a chance they pair could be reunited next season.

Murray, however, would only say, "I guess there's a chance."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

USA Hockey excited by defensemen in draft

The past two months have been good ones for American hockey players, culminating with Dustin Brown becoming the second U.S.-born captain to hoist the Stanley Cup and Jonathan Quick becoming the third U.S.-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy -- all on a Kings team constructed by American-born general manager Dean Lombardi.

But the celebration for USA Hockey began in April, when the National Team Development Program's Under-18s won their fourth straight world championship. Players from that tournament now are likely to be selected at the 2012 NHL Draft, to be held June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

"It was unique this year with Zach Parise [of the New Jersey Devils] and Dustin Brown both being [Stanley Cup Final] captains from the United States, then Jonathan Quick winning the Conn Smythe. That's something we've been striving for," said Danton Cole, who coached the U.S. U-18 team. "Hopefully we see more guys like that in the NHL."

Cole's USNTDP team could figure prominently in that goal. The U-18s cruised through the world championship tournament in the Czech Republic, wrapping up gold with a 7-0 victory over Sweden in the final.

The program had five graduates selected in the top 39 picks at the 2011 Draft. This year, their choices likely will start with Jacob Trouba, a physical defenseman and national team co-captain who was No. 9 among North American skaters in Central Scouting's final ranking. He could be one of a number of U.S. defensemen hearing his name called.

"[Trouba] is a heck of a player and a really good man and a great competitor. He's going to make somebody pretty happy for a lot of years, throwing him out on right D every night," Cole said. "Staying on D, Brady Skjei is probably going to go very high as well. [He is] probably one of the best skaters to come through this program. Patrick Sieloff will go fairly high, in the first couple of rounds probably. [He has] good offensive skill but makes his mark on the defensive side of the puck by being physical. We had a pretty strong D corps this year."

The real jewel of the U-18 blue line could be its other co-captain, Seth Jones. The Texas product and son of former NBA player Popeye Jones won't be draft eligible until 2013, but is already at the top of a number of boards. If he goes No. 1, he'll be the first American to do so since USNTDP product Erik Johnson and Patrick Kane did it in in 2006 and 2007.

"He's certainly in the mix at the top there," Cole said of Jones. "He's got work to do, a whole other year to build that resume. But somebody is going to sleep well at night throwing him out every night on D.

"I felt the same way about Jacob at the end of the tournament. Those two guys did a good job."

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.20.2012 / 11:41 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Jackets' associate coach Hartsburg knows Murray

The hiring of Craig Hartsburg as associate coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets by general manager Scott Howson on Wednesday might have confirmed one thing entering the NHL Draft.

That 2012 draft-eligible defenseman Ryan Murray of the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips might not last beyond the No. 2 pick in Friday's opening round at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

The Blue Jackets currently hold the No. 2 choice in the Draft. The Edmonton Oilers have the first overall selection.

Hartsburg, who spent last season as associate coach of the Calgary Flames, served as the head coach of the Silvertips from 2009 through 2011. He coached Murray for two seasons in Everett, including his rookie season in 2009-10.

Murray was named captain of the Silvertips in 2010-11 by Hartsburg despite the fact his 6-foot-1/2, 195-pound blue liner had just turned 17-years-old. The move was made when regular captain Landon Ferraro, a second-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, was sidelined due to sports hernia surgery and a bum shoulder.

"I really didn't expect it at all but I got more comfortable with it as the year went on," Murray said at the time. "Coach called me into his office one day and said that I would take over captaincy while Ferraro was out and I took the responsibility and it was a great honor to represent my team like that.

"I just kind of stayed the same way. I acted the same way towards my teammates and played the same way."

Hartsburg never wavered in naming Murray the youngest captain in franchise history.

"To me there never was a question," Hartsburg told the Everett Herald. "He's the most mature kid on our team. He exemplified what we want to be. He works hard every day, competes hard every day, cares about the team and his teammates. It's a reward for what he brings to the table."

Murray would reward his coach by leading all Everett defenders in scoring with 46 points, including 40 assists, while leading the team with a plus-18 rating.

Murray is currently NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American defenseman eligible for the Draft. He's ranked No. 2 overall behind Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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2012 NHL Draft