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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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Posted On Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 8:27 PM

By Steven Stamkos -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Steven Stamkos NHL Awards player blog

More fun to be in Vegas this time

LAS VEGAS -- It's still kind of surreal being here -- but I'm definitely a lot more comfortable being in this situation now.

My first year here I was 20 years old and I had just tied Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard Trophy. My eyes were wide open on that one, and I was pretty nervous even though I knew I had the award already. But now that I've been here a few years, you learn to take in the moment and soak it in. You never know if you're going to get the chance to be here again with all the best talent in the League.

My family is here with me this time, so we're trying to cherish it together. It's a lot of fun.

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 3:12 PM

By Ryan Murray -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Ryan Murray draft blog

Ryan Murray expecting the unexpected come Draft day

Defenseman Ryan Murray is captain of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League. The 6-foot, 182-pound native of Saskatchewan won a bronze medal playing for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship and was also the second-youngest player to ever appear for Canada at the Men's World Championship. Despite his busy schedule, Murray will log his experiences leading up to the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh this week for NHL.com.

Hey everyone, thanks for stopping by to read my blog once again.

Well, here we are -- it’s finally draft week. The past year has actually flown by with so much going on, and the draft kind of snuck up on me, to be honest. It’s been a really fun and exciting year leading up to this point, and now I’m just excited to see what’s going to happen on Friday [in the first round]. I’d have to say I’m also a little bit nervous and anxious, but mostly just looking forward to the draft.

I’ll be getting into Pittsburgh late [on Tuesday] and will have a couple of busy days ahead of me before Friday comes around. My family [parents and siblings] and my billet from Everett will be in town with me as well. It will definitely be cool having them all there and getting to share this experience with them.

This will be my first visit to Pittsburgh. I’ve heard great things about it being a nice city and the CONSOL Energy Center being a beautiful rink. I know they’ve got quite a few activities planned for us and we might even get to take batting practice at PNC Park [home of the Pirates], so that would be really cool to do. I’m looking forward to getting there, seeing everything and getting started.

For me, it seems like this draft is pretty unpredictable. I really have no clue where I’ll end up going, and I don’t really think the other guys do either. Anything can happen on Friday, that’s for sure. I think there’s definitely going to be some things happen that nobody will expect. That seems to be how it goes on draft day. It’s happened in previous years and this year will probably be no different.

Right now I think I’m just looking forward to Friday and getting to the draft itself. It’s something that everybody has been waiting for and excited about for a long time now. It’s hard to imagine the moment when I get drafted, going up to the stage and putting the jersey on.

I’ve watched the draft every year since I was a little kid, and it’s still hard to think of myself going up and doing that. I think it will probably just kind of hit me once I’m there in the building on Friday and everything is unfolding in front of me. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when 7 p.m. [ET] rolls around.

Thanks again for reading my blog and I’ll see you on Friday!

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 9:18 AM

By Alex Galchenyuk -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Alex Galchenyuk draft blog

Galchenyuk on his way to Pittsburgh

Alex Galchenyuk is a forward for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot, 198-pound forward was born in Milwaukee but is of Russian decent -- his father, Alexander, spent five of his 22 professional seasons playing in the U.S. Alex was the first pick of the 2010 OHL draft, and last season had 31 goals and 52 assists in 68 games. He had 2 goals and an assist in five games for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and returned to take part in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Despite suffering a major knee injury that nearly ended his season before it really began, Galchenyuk has maintained a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Hello everybody!

I've been having the craziest and most exciting couple of weeks in my life. I have to admit the schedule wasn't as tough as during the Combine, but there were still some places I needed to be.

Right after the combine I had to do a little combine in Toronto for the Maple Leafs, then I flew home to Sarnia for a little bit and after that my next stop was Montreal. I was there for two days and we did some stuff on and off the ice. Overall, a great trip. I've never been in Montreal and to see the city and then the rink, locker rooms and everything was pretty exciting.

Right now I'm very excited, of course. I've been dreaming of this moment since I was a little kid. It means everything to me, a new step in the direction of achieving my goal, and I can't be happier.

Today, my family and I are leaving for Pittsburgh. We are really excited. June 22 will be a fun day for all of us.

Follow Alex Galchenyuk on Twitter: @AGally94

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 9:00 AM

By Matt Dumba -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Matt Dumba draft blog

Dumba's big week includes school, draft

Matt Dumba is a defenseman for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. The 5-foot-11.75, 183-pound defenseman was named WHL Rookie of the Year after scoring 15 goals and adding 11 assists in 62 games. He also had a tournament-high 12 points -- all assists -- to help Canada Pacific win the bronze medal at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. This summer, he played for Canada at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Tournament and also took part in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Dumba has offered to maintain a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

The time finally has come. It's exciting right now. Just getting packed up and ready to go to Pittsburgh right now. It's pretty crazy.

The last few days I've been just working out, really. I've done a few interviews with radio stations and newspapers. People are getting pretty excited at home here in Calgary, especially friends and family.

I'm actually studying right now. My last day of final exams is Tuesday, and then I fly out to Toronto with the family and then we'll make our way down to Pittsburgh. It's pretty crazy, knowing it's my last day of high school and then the draft. Everything's coming pretty quick now.

I have a pretty nice-size group coming to Pittsburgh -- my mom, my dad, my little brother. I have some aunts and uncles coming, my trainer. And I have some buddies coming, and their mom is coming, too.

My mom is just kind of trying to organize all the family stuff, make sure we're getting in on time. She's working on that stuff. That's the stress she's going through. My dad is just along for the ride. He's kept me pretty calm, kept the whole family relatively balanced.

My stress level is pretty low at this point. I've come to the point where I know really everything is out of my hands. I've done everything I can do. Now it's just time to let the cards fall where they may. I'm just really relaxed and enjoying this time with my friends. They're all excited for me. I'm excited to find out on Friday.

People keep asking me if I have any idea what teams are interested in me, and to tell you the truth, no, not really. As far as that goes, I don't really know at all. All the teams in that area where I'm ranked haven't really said anything. They're keeping their cards held tight. I'm excited to find out on Friday.

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Posted On Sunday, 06.17.2012 / 9:00 AM

By Jacob Trouba -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Jacob Trouba draft blog

USNTDP's Trouba excited for Draft Day in Pittsburgh

Jacob Trouba is a defenseman for the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program of the United States Hockey League. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound native of Rochester, Mich., was the youngest player on the U.S. National Junior Team at the 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta. He also won his second straight gold medal for Team USA at the Under-18 World Championship in Czech Republic, connecting for one goal, three points and a plus-5 rating in six games. Trouba has agreed to give fans a players' perspective in the week leading up to the 2012 NHL Draft at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, June 22-23, by maintaining a blog of his experiences. Check back often.

Hey everyone!

Only one week until draft day! It's a very exciting time for my family and I and we're looking forward to a crazy fun filled week. My family and friends are making this a special weekend for me. Honestly, it has opened my eyes to how lucky I am to have all these people in my life. I'm sitting in the family room with my dad this morning, trying to watch the U.S. Open and he is constantly on the phone with hotels, restaurants and family making sure everyone is taken care of.

I almost feel bad because I've seen his golf game recently, and he could use a few teaching points from the pros. On a serious note, a big thank you goes out to him for taking all the time to do that.

A total of 30 family members, old coaches and friends are making the trip to Pittsburgh. They'll be making the trip from all over the country, including those from Florida, Missouri and plenty from Michigan.

We are a pretty diverse bunch ranging from 7-foot-1 Uncle Mike, to Aunt Janice, who measures in at 5-foot. Also, a shout out to Uncle Mike and "Royal "T" BBQ" team who won the Kansas City Barbeque contest last week. My Aunt Janice, Uncle Jim and my cousins Alex and Rachel will also be there. I have lived with them the last two years in Ann Arbor and I don't think I would be where I am without them. All of their excellent cooking and hospitality have made the last two years so much easier on me. They have played a huge role in my journey and it is going to mean a lot to have them at the draft with me. The best part about it is that they are going to leave the dogs at home.

As for me, I am feeling great. I've been working out and keeping my normal summer routine on track. It has been great being home with both my brothers and my parents. Tennis has become a pretty common occurrence in the evening. There is usually a pretty big argument to see who gets to be on my team … not really though. I just like to think that I'm good. It's a tough game with a 6-foot-8 dad standing at the net.

This will be my first trip to Pittsburgh, and I am excited to see the city and the rink. It is a great hockey city and it should be a great place to host the Draft. I feel as if it is an unpredictable draft with all of the great players, but then again all drafts are unpredictable. I'm just looking forward to enjoying the time with my family, friends and teammates.

Follow Jacob Trouba on Twitter at: @JacobTrouba

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.12.2012 / 6:56 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings set to bring Cup to late-night television

Roughly 24 hours after winning their first Stanley Cup championship, the Los Angeles Kings will be showing off their trophy on two of the biggest shows on late-night television.

The fun gets under way when Kings captain Dustin Brown appears with hockey's Holy Grail on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (11:35 p.m., NBC). Brown, 27, had eight goals and 12 assists in 20 postseason games.

Led by Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick, the Kings will also make a visit to "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on Tuesday night. That show begins at midnight and can be seen on ABC.

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.12.2012 / 10:15 AM

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

Order of first round of 2012 NHL Draft set

With the Stanley Cup Final settled, it's time to take a look at how the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft will look.

The first 14 picks were set by the results of the NHL Draft Lottery held in April. The 12 teams eliminated in the first two rounds of the playoffs come next. Non-division winners are placed in inverse order of points, followed by division winners through the same process. That's why the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had the fourth-most points in the League, have a better draft spot than the Florida Panthers, finished with nine fewer points but won the Southeast Division.

The next two spots go to the losing teams in the conference finals, again in inverse order of regular-season points, meaning Phoenix will pick 27th and the Rangers 28th. New Jersey, which lost in Game 6 of the Cup Final, will pick No. 29, while the Cup champion Kings will take No. 30.

Three teams have multiple first-round picks: Tampa Bay will pick 10th and 19th; Washington has the Nos. 11 and 16 picks; and Buffalo will pick 12th and 21st.

Columbus also could have two first-round picks. They currently have the No. 2 pick and hold an option to take Los Angeles' pick. The Blue Jackets acquired the rights to the pick in the Jeff Carter trade, and can take the Kings' first pick this year or next, or trade the option.

Three teams currently will sit out the first round: Colorado, which sent it's pick to Washington in the Semyon Varlamov deal; Detroit, which traded it's pick to Tampa Bay as part of the Kyle Quincey trade; and Nashville, which dealt its pick to Buffalo in exchange for Paul Gaustad.

The New Jersey Devils will hold onto the 29th pick. They had the option of forfeiting the pick as part of the NHL-imposed penalty for circumventing the salary cap to sign Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010. They now must surrender their first-round pick in 2013 or 2014

1. Edmonton

2. Columbus

3. Montreal

4. N.Y. Islanders

5. Toronto

6. Anaheim

7. Minnesota

8. Carolina

9. Winnipeg

10. Tampa Bay

11. Washington (from Colorado)

12. Buffalo

13. Dallas

14. Calgary

15. Ottawa

16. Washington

17. San Jose

18. Chicago

19. Tampa Bay (from Detroit)

20. Philadelphia

21. Buffalo (from Nashville)

22. Pittsburgh

23. Florida

24. Boston

25. St. Louis

26. Vancouver

27. Phoenix

28. N.Y. Rangers

29. New Jersey

30. Los Angeles

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

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.12.2012 / 2:03 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings were aiming for Brodeur's blocker side

LOS ANGELES -- If it seemed like the Los Angeles Kings were targeting the blocker side of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur during the Stanley Cup Final, it's because they were.

Of the 15 goals allowed by Brodeur, eight beat him to his stick side and many of them were significant.

In Game 1, Anze Kopitar beat Brodeur on a breakaway in overtime by going to the stick side. In Game 2, both Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter scored the Kings' lone goals in that direction. They scored seven goals in total during the first five games of the series, and it wasn't an accident.

"Yeah, that was part of it," Kings forward Dustin Penner told NHL.com. "Low blocker from far out, and from in tight you want to go high glove."

Kings forward Justin Williams beat Brodeur twice to the blocker side and said it was part of an evolving strategy against the future Hall-of-Famer.

"I think we overanalyzed it a little bit," Williams said. "We tried shooting low to start and he made a bunch of saves, and there's no trick to scoring on any goalie -- shots, screens, tips, rebounds. We drove the net hard."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Now we have an 'X' next to our name, which is nice. Now we have to keep trying to climb and catch these guys.

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