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High school rivals are roommates at Combine

Tuesday, 05.28.2013 / 9:12 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer / Combing the 2013 NHL Combine

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Combing the 2013 NHL Combine
High school rivals are roommates at Combine

TORONTO -- Two of the top high school players eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft were given quite the surprise this week after learning they would be sharing a hotel room during their six-day stay for the NHL Scouting Combine.

Further complicating matters is the fact defenseman Thomas Vannelli of Minnetonka, Minn., and center Connor Hurley of Edina happen to play for rival schools. As members of the Lake Division, Minnetonka defeated Edina twice last season, each time by a 4-3 score. Hurley had three assists and Vannelli two assists in the two matches.

"We're friends off the ice, but on the ice it's kind of a rivalry," Hurley told NHL.com. "We played against each other a couple of times since we're in the same conference and his team got the best of us. But 1-on-1, I got the best of him on the ice. Don't tell him that though."

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Vannelli, who was a finalist for the 2013 Mr. Hockey Award in Minnesota, moved up 33 spots from his midseason ranking to No. 44 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking. He finished the season with 10 goals, 35 points and a plus-23 rating in 27 games for Minnetonka. He'll attend the University of Minnesota in the fall.

"Vannelli is a big kid (6-foot-2, 165) who moves well and is a skilled defenseman," Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen told NHL.com. "He has all the attributes you want in a defenseman today. He kind of jumped on the scene late in Minnesota last summer. When he gets with better players, his compete level and thinking elevate. He's played really well with the U.S. Under-18 program, and that's why his stock has gone up."

Vannelli's Canadian Hockey League rights are owned by the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League. He said he informed Medicine Hat he was committed to college.

Hurley, who had 15 goals, 43 points and five game-winners in 25 games, was rated No. 45 in the final ranking.

"Connor is a skilled player and maybe he didn't dominate as much at the high school level, but when he gets with better players, he plays better, so that's a factor you have to consider," Rajanen said.

Hurley was all over the map this season, spending time with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League, and his high school. He intends on playing a full season in Muskegon in 2013-14 before attending Notre Dame in the fall of 2014.

"Going back to high school from Muskegon was a tough decision, but I knew we had a solid team, and after losing the state tournament the previous season [I] wanted to get back there," Hurley said. "We did and we won it so that was a good experience."

Vannelli and Hurley were two of 18 high school players from Minnesota to be ranked among the top 178 prospects from North America. That's something they are proud about.

"I think that's a credit to the guys in the past like Nick Leddy and Jake Gardiner," Vannelli said. "They really paved the way for guys like me and Connor, and all the other Minnesota kids here. A lot of credit goes to them for making high school hockey what it is."

Hurley, one of four juniors from Minnesota high schools to be listed in Central Scouting's final rankings, agreed.

"I think if you're good enough, they'll find you," Hurley said. "Minnesota high school hockey is great, and a lot of players who started there are in the NHL right now. Tom and I play our game no matter what, and we never really worried about who was watching."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL