Doug Gilmour's patience could very well pay off in a big way this year for the Ontario Hockey League's Kingston Frontenacs.
After leading the Frontenacs back to respectability in two full seasons behind the bench as coach in 2009-10 and 2010-11, Gilmour took over as general manager in the summer of 2011. He named his former Toronto Maple Leafs teammate, Todd Gill, the new coach and vowed to rebuild an organization that hasn't advanced beyond the conference quarterfinals since 1992-93.
"[Director of hockey operations] Darren Keily and I hired a new scouting staff and we had a plan of retooling and getting rid of a lot of players and going with youth," Gilmour told NHL.com. "We would absorb our lumps and start from scratch and that's what we did."
The move has paid off in spades. Now entering his third season as GM, Gilmour's team will not only be in the hunt for a J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL champion, but perhaps even a Memorial Cup. And if it doesn't come together this season, the future looks very promising. The Frontenacs are loaded with young talent.
"We've been patient with some guys who did not make the club their first year, and made some trades," Gilmour said. "As any GM in the Canadian Hockey League, you have to have patience and gain the knowledge with other people you speak to that you're putting the right pieces together. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves because there's always the chance of injuries and other things, but the excitement is there for sure."
Three players -- left wing Samuel Bennett, right wing Spencer Watson and defenseman Roland McKeown -- could very well be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft on June 27 in Philadelphia.
Bennett, who has three goals and six points, was selected in the first round (No. 9) of the 2012 OHL Priority Draft. He was best known as Connor McDavid's linemate for the Toronto Marlboros minor midget team. McDavid is the hockey prodigy from the Erie Otters who is the likely slam dunk choice as the first pick in the 2015 Draft.
"Sam didn't get the exposure when we got him, but we felt great to get him where we did," Gilmour said. "He plays both ends of the rink. He doesn't say much but is an extraordinary talent, so he's going to get better."
McKeown, who through five games has five assists and a plus-9 rating, was taken No. 2 in the 2012 OHL Priority Draft right after Erie's selection of McDavid. Watson has produced two goals and five points this season.
"Roland has great upside as far as his skill; he's still learning," Gilmour said. "He's very close to a first- or second-round pick. I think he'll be a first-rounder and the projection is up to those scouts; he has great skill and talent."
All three potential first-round picks were given an "A" rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary Players to Watch list released Sept. 23. Watson's twin brother, Matthew, is also eligible for the 2014 draft and will suit up on defense for the Frontenacs. Additionally, Gilmour acknowledged that another 2014 draft-eligible defender to keep a close eye on from Kingston is Dylan DiPerna.
DUBUQUE EYES RARE REPEAT
Winning back-to-back championships in the United States Hockey League is no easy task.
The Omaha Lancers were the last team to do it 20 years ago when they garnered the second of two straight Clark Cup trophies in 1993-94. It's something Dubuque Fighting Saints coach Matt Shaw will use to his benefit in his first season behind the bench in 2013-14.
"It's been 16 years since the NHL had a team win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back years [the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998], so it's been even more difficult in the USHL to repeat," Shaw told NHL.com. "That's something we have used, and will use [as motivation] throughout the course of the year."
The Fighting Saints captured the 2013 Clark Cup with a 3-2 overtime win against the Fargo Force in Game 3 of the championship series last May to complete their three-game sweep. Shaw, an assistant coach with the NHL's New Jersey Devils last season, is hopeful his team can pick up where it left off under the tutelage of Jim Montgomery, who is currently coaching the University of Denver.
"Our simple mantra is that we want to be a puck possession team," Shaw said. "We want to hold onto the puck and make plays and manage the puck. When we don't have the puck, we want to be a re-possession team, aggressively and quickly getting it back."
Shaw will have plenty to work with in his inaugural season with the Fighting Saints as NHL Central Scouting has identified four players as potential draft picks from Dubuque on its preliminary players to watch list that was released Sept. 23.
There is a pair of "B" rated skaters on the list. Rookie left wing Shane Eiserman (6-foot-1.5, 200-pounds), who is committed to the University of New Hampshire next fall, and center Seamus Malone (5-9.25, 165), who will attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 2015.
"He has physical talents you can't teach," Shaw said of Eiserman. "He's very aggressive, so it doesn't surprise me that he's viewed very highly by the scouts at this stage."
Malone, in his second year with Dubuque, has a goal and one assist with a plus-1 rating in two games.
Shaw told NHL.com that Malone actually reminds him a bit of a player he coached on the NHL's Devils last season.
"I think Seamus has very high hockey IQ and compete level; I see him having NHL potential without question," Shaw said. "I think he sees the ice extremely well, is very smart for a guy his size and his stick skills remind me of [New Jersey Devils center] Adam Henrique. We just want to encourage him to shoot more."
Two other players from the Fighting Saints earned a "C" rating on Central's preliminary list: right wing Karson Kuhlman and defenseman Blake Hillman.
TOP WHL DEFENSEMAN
It's no secret the Western Hockey League has traditionally produced many of the top defensive prospects available on the draft board each year.
What's the secret?
"It's hard to describe," NHL Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com. "It's been that way since I've been scouting [since 1997]. They always seem to produce the majority of better defensemen. It just works out that way. The top scorers seem to come from the OHL or QMJHL, but defense is always there from the WHL."
In 2012, five of the top 10 draft picks were defensemen from the WHL -- Ryan Murray (Blue Jackets, No. 2), Griffin Reinhart (Islanders, No. 4), Morgan Rielly (Maple Leafs, No. 5), Mathew Dumba (Wild, No. 7) and Derrick Pouliot (Penguins, No. 8). Last June, five of the nine defenders selected in the opening round starred in the WHL -- Seth Jones (Predators, No. 4), Joshua Morrissey (Jets, No. 13), Ryan Pulock (Islanders, No. 15), Mirco Mueller (Sharks, No. 18) and Shea Theodore (Ducks, No. 26).
The early candidates to head the list of top-tier defensemen from the WHL in 2013-14 could be Haydn Fleury (6-2.5, 198) of the Red Deer Rebels and Julius Honka (5-10, 167) of the Swift Current Broncos. Fleury, the Rebels' second-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft, helped Canada's Under-18 team win gold at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka in August.
"He's got good strong mobility, great vision and has a knack for making that first good outlet pass," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "He's composed and calm with the puck, and has an ability of knowing when to join the rush at the right moments."
Fleury spent his first full season with the Rebels in 2012-13, connecting for four goals and 19 points in 66 games. He also sported a plus-4 rating. At the Hlinka tournament, he notched one goal in five games. He has one goal, two points and a plus-1 rating in six games for Red Deer this season.
Honka, a native of Jyväskylä, Finland, spent the 2012-13 with the JYP U-20 team and recorded four goals, 15 points and minus-4 rating in 42 games. The Broncos selected him in the first round (No. 34) of the 2013 CHL Import Draft. In four matches this season, he leads the team with seven points (six assists) and a plus-4 rating.
"Julius is a deceptive swift skater with different speeds," Sullivan said. "He has all the skill and smarts. He likes to control the speed of the play. He's not physical, but will take his man out when he has to. His overall game is puck control and he is outstanding in that area."
TOP EUROPEAN SIDELINED
Forward Kasperi Kapanen, an "A" rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list from Finland, is expected to return to the lineup next week after sustaining a lower-body injury on Sept. 24.
"Kasperi is back skating with the team and should be back next week," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com.
Kapanen (5-foot-11, 172 pounds) has a goal and two points in four games for KalPa in SM-liiga in 2013-14. Kapanen, who should play for Finland at the 2014 World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden, had eight points, including a team-leading five goals, for his country at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
"Kasperi is at present the No. 1 European prospect," Stubb said. "He's a sniper who will play for Finland at the 2014 World Junior Championship. He possesses excellent vision and has great skills … he's a star in the making."
PROSPECTS ON THE RISE
Each week, 'Prospector Files' will feature three players on the rise within the scouting ranks. This week's triple threat has an American flavor after the recent completion of the second annual CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Sept. 26 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
1-Jack Dougherty, USA U-18 (USHL): The big defenseman had a solid showing at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Sept. 26 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, scoring an impressive power-play goal off a rising slap shot from the left faceoff dot. He entered the season with a "B" rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list from the United States Hockey League.
The Minnesota native played high school hockey at St. Thomas Academy the past two seasons before joining the National Team Development Program. He has two assists and a plus-7 rating in five appearances for the U-18 Team this season.
"Even as a high school player, he was a smart two-way player and proved to be very responsible," Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen told NHL.com. "He's also tough, can play the power play and work the point well. He's a player we're all looking forward to tracking this season."
2-Blake Weyrick, USA U-18 (USHL): The 6-foot-3, 203-pound B-rated goalie earned the victory for Team Mark Johnson at the All-American Prospects Game, making 19 saves on 21 shots. His highlight-reel glove save against C-rated prospect Tyler Sheehy off a two-on-one rush in the third period was a thing of beauty. Weyrick, who intends to reveal his college plans just before Christmas, sports a 1.33 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in three wins for the U-18 Team this season. Weyrick stopped all 25 shots faced in an 8-0 victory over the Chicago Steel on Sunday to notch the first of what could be many USHL shutouts.
3-Ryan Mantha, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL): NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said it's impossible to miss the 6-4.5, 225-pound defenseman because "he's a mountain of a guy." He entered the season with a "B" rating on Central Scouting's preliminary Players to Watch list but may move up the charts with a solid showing over the next month. The nephew of former NHL defenseman, Moe Mantha, Ryan is in his second season with the Musketeers. He had seven points in 52 games in 2012-13 and will attend the University of North Dakota in the fall of 2014.
"As he starts using more of the assets he has, he'll be unbelievable; it's already tough to get around him," Gregory said. "He's right there to force the man wide with his stick and then ride him off to the boards. He doesn't necessarily have to hit someone every time out because he has good mobility and a heck of a shot. But in order to make that leap, he just needs to play a more consistent game and I think that will happen."
DATES TO KEEP
Oct. 3-5: Manitoba Junior Hockey League Showcase, Winnipeg, MB
Oct. 10: Boston College at Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oct. 24-27: Beantown Fall Classic, Marlboro, Mass.
Oct. 26: Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff (Vermont vs. Penn State), Wells Fargo Center
Oct. 28-30: Canada East selection camp (World Junior A Challenge), Oakville, Ont.
Oct. 28-20: Canada West selection camp (World Junior A Challenge), Calgary, Alta.
Nov. 4-10: 2013 World Junior A Challenge, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
Draft dandy of the week
Sam Reinhart, the highly touted center for the Kootenay Ice in the Western Hockey League, gets the nod as NHL.com's prospect of the week to open the season. The 6-0.75, 185-pound right-handed shot is an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary Players to Watch list from the WHL and has three goals and 10 points in four games to open the season. Reinhart is in his third full season with the Ice and has 68 goals and 159 points in 147 career games with the team.
"Sam is extremely responsible in any area of the ice," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "He has exceptional anticipation and is a very good opportunist; having the ability to make something out of nothing. He can dish the puck effortlessly to both sides and have very high hockey IQ, is sneaky good and dangerous every shift."
Reinhart is the son of former NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart, who played 11 seasons with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. He also has two successful hockey-playing brothers. Max Reinhart was a third round pick of the Flames in 2010 and Griffin Reinhart was selected No. 4 by the New York Islanders in 2012.
Reinhart's upcoming games: Friday at Calgary Hitmen; Saturday vs. Calgary Hitmen; Sunday vs. Seattle Thunderbirds.
NHL team: Calgary Flames
NHL player: Sidney Crosby
Shootout move: "Fake shot, backhand, forehand"
Goal celebration: "Do whatever is in the moment [not much]"
Video game: FIFA 13
Actor: Will Ferrell
Preferred music: Country
Three people you would invite to dinner: Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel
Sport (other than hockey): Tennis
Breakfast food: Crepes
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