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.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
Dwayne Roloson has built a reputation as a go-to goaltender when his team faces elimination. The Tampa Bay Lighting will need him to continue his excellence in those situations or their surprising postseason run will be over.
"Our thoughts are we have to go shift-by-shift," Roloson said Wednesday morning before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. "Sorry if it is cliche-ish, but realistically it is what we have to do. Start with the first one and try to snowball them over and win every shift. We have to go shift-by-shift and try to win a hockey game."
Roloson had the day off for Game 5. Coach Guy Boucher went with backup Mike Smith, who stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced in a 3-1 loss. Boucher said he told Roloson while the team was still in Boston that he would definitely be back in net for Game 6, and that was his plan regardless of the Game 5 outcome.
The 41-year-old Roloson last took a game off in the final contest of the regular season, when the Lightning eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes with a 6-2 victory.
"I don't think any goalie has played 82 games in a row since they changed the amount of games that we play," Roloson said. "You do it during the regular season, and there is no difference during the playoffs. I think everybody feels rested when they get a day off, so you take it when you can get it."
Roloson has allowed 13 goals in this series while being pulled twice and not playing one contest. That’s the same number he gave up in seven games against Pittsburgh in the opening round.
His .925 save percentage is still fourth among No. 1 goaltenders in this postseason, but his 2.51 goals-against average has dropped to eighth. The Lightning will likely need a performance like the ones he had in the three elimination games against Pittsburgh -- he turned aside 94 of 98 shots in the final three contests of that series, including all 36 he faced in Game 7.
"He's been a horse for us in these playoffs," Steven Stamkos said. "He's battled. He's one of the best competitors on this team. He's going to be ready and willing to prove he's a big reason why we got here as a team. If anything, he's had an extra day's rest and he's ready for tonight."
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.
Jamieson Oleksiak (Credit: Jim Pierce)
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
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Of all the potential changes that were possible for both teams heading into Game 5 of the Western Conference, the Canucks are the only team making a lineup change and it's a small one at that with Victor Oreskovich going in to play right wing on the fourth line for Alex Bolduc.
San Jose defenseman Jason Demers is also not in the lineup despite saying Tuesday morning that he is 100 percent ready to go after overcoming some bumps and bruises in his upper body that kept him out of the first four games of the series.
Here are the lines and defensive pairings that each team showed in pre-game warmups:
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
Seth Ambroz is a right wing for the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League. The 6-foot-3, 202-pound Ambroz, committed to the University of Minnesota next fall, was just 15-years-old when he burst upon the USHL scene as a rookie in 2008-09. In 56 games this season, Ambroz led Omaha with 24 goals, 46 points and 222 shots. The New Prague, Minn., native was rated No. 31 on NHL Central Scouting's final release of North American skaters in April. In 172 games spanning three seasons with the Lancers, Ambroz compiled 60 goals, 126 points, 295 penalty minutes and 535 shots (three shots per game). A participant of the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp fueled by G Series in August, Ambroz has offered to maintain a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.
Hi everyone. Ever since our season ended with a playoff loss to Sioux Falls, I've been training at the University of Minnesota to prepare for the NHL Combine (May 30-June 4). I think it will be a real fun experience. It will be fun to talk to all the scouts and talk to all the GMs and then, as far as the training goes, show them what you've got and enjoy the moment. I've heard stories (regarding the bike tests) that haven't been too positive, but it'll be fun to see what happens. I'm not too worried about it. I'm just going to go there and give them all I've got -- if you throw up,
I've been in training for three weeks now, entering my fourth week. I'm not too worried, and hopefully I do really well. Most of all, I just want to enjoy it and have fun.
As far as my season goes, I thought I had a good year and thought I learned a lot again. I can't complain; we didn't have the highest scoring team this year but I think all around, it was a good year. I thought I became that guy that players looked up to as a leader and that was a big part of my development and while it was disappointing with the way we went out, it is what it is. I wish we would have put up more of a fight. You just have to move on and hopefully, you keep doing well from here.
The plan right now is to go to the U (University of Minnesota) in the fall. I'm all set for that and things will push along next year.
There's a lot of excitement about the upcoming Draft. It's a lot of fun to be a part of and whether it's early or later, it'll obviously be an honor to be drafted. It's not about now, it's about what you do afterwards, so right now I'm having fun and I know the experience will be good.
Obviously, you would like to be drafted as high as possible … that's always a good thing. But afterwards, you're still a part of a team and then it's all about what you do from there. I'm not too worried. Whenever my name is called, it's called, and I'll go with it, develop and, hopefully, make a good career out of it. You have to stay positive about things. When the final (Central Scouting) rankings came out, it was a little frustrating (dropping three slots to No. 31) but I've learned to not pay attention to any of that and it's been working well. I'm just excited to be one of the top prospects.
I know it's possible a general manager or scout may ask me why they should draft me during the interviewing stage of the Combine. If they ask, I'm going to tell them that I'm a power forward who is willing to do all the little things and willing to go to the tough spot to get any type of job done. I'm willing to step up to any challenges and I feel I'd be able to do it. I'm a hard worker and I keep a positive frame of mind on and off the ice.
Finally, I had a great time in my three seasons in the USHL. Even off ice as well, it was fun to be around the guys, the coaches, and meet new people. While you're getting better developing as a player, you're also maturing a lot more and that helped me a lot as a player and a person.
Dan Boyle is by far the most honest quote in the Sharks locker room, always speaking his mind about his play and what's happening with the team.
On Monday, he said the mood of the team was good after they spent Sunday night pouting about the 4-2 loss in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final that left the Sharks in a 3-1 series hole with Game 5 set for Tuesday night in Vancouver.
Boyle said after he watched a replay of the game when he got home Sunday night, he was a little stunned by the fact the Sharks utterly dominated the Canucks at 5-on-5, yet were basically playing out the final minutes of a blowout loss during the third period.
"I was pretty upset last night, and I watched the replay of the game when I got home," Boyle said. "It was more frustrating than anything. They had seven 5-on-5 shots. If you had asked me before the game started if they would have that many shots, I would've taken it obviously."
Of course, a record three 5-on-3 goals would submarine any team, no matter how well they played at 5-on-5. That's why Boyle believes the Sharks shouldn't be written off entering Game 5.
"We have to be optimistic," Boyle said. "That's what we have to do."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It was a record-setting day for the Vancouver Canucks. Here is some of what they were able to accomplish in their 4-2 win over San Jose in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals:
* Vancouver set an NHL postseason record for most 5-on-3 goals scored in a single playoff game (3).
* The Canucks' three power play goals were scored in a span of one minute and 55 seconds, which is a new team record for fastest three goals in playoff history. It's also a record for the fastest three power play goals scored in NHL playoff history since the current power play rule came into play in 1957.
Prior to 1957, the penalized player was not allowed to leave the box after a goal was scored. The Red Wings and Canadiens scored three power play goals in a span of 56 seconds in 1954, but that was under the old rule.
* Sami Salo's pair of goals 16 seconds apart is a Canucks' playoff record for fastest two goals. Since they were both on the power play, Salo also tied Larry Murphy's NHL record for fastest two power play goals in the playoffs since 1957.
Bernie Geoffrion scored two power play goals 12 seconds apart under the old rule in 1955.
* Henrik Sedin's four assists gives him the team's single-game record for most assists in a playoff game. His three assists in the second period is also a new team record for most assists in a period.
* While this record isn't listed in Vancouver's playoff media guide, you have to assume that their 75 percent shooting in the second period (3 goals on four shots) has got to be one.
* The Canucks also set a record for fewest shots in a playoff game with 13, but that didn't matter.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl