Forward Mitchell Smith of Salisbury School in Connecticut was the final player ranked on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible skaters in North America at No. 210 earlier this month.
What makes the 5-foot-11, 182-pound senior an easy target for discussion, however, doesn't have anything to do with that distinction. What does is the fact his twin brother and linemate, Evan Smith (6-0, 190), is ranked six spots ahead of him at No. 204.
"They both can play a little center and wing, and they are players that really grow on you for a couple of reasons," Central Scouting's David Gregory told NHL.com. "First, they're not the biggest kids, but they work so hard and are not afraid to be proactively physical.
"Second, they both have great hockey sense and move the puck so well. You really do see some of that twin energy every once in a while, and that's cool to see."
Eight players in the history of the Salisbury ice hockey men's program have been chosen by NHL teams, including defenseman Ryan Segalla by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fourth round (No. 119) of the 2013 NHL Draft. It wouldn't surprise anyone if the Smith twins were plucked in the sixth or seventh round in June at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Gregory was asked why Evan was ranked ahead of Mitchell at the midterm release.
"It was kind of split to be honest, since they're both very close," he said. "Right up to the last guy, we're always comparing one to the other and, at last minute, they were separated. But they were side by side for a long period. Bottom line is they are both good players. To me, both have pro potential to be worthy of a late-round pick and that's the reason we made sure to identify them to NHL teams."
Each will continue his career at Yale University under the tutelage of Keith Allain beginning in 2014-15.
"Since Keith has taken over there [in 2006], and the reputation he's built with turning out players that move on to play pro hockey, I think it's a good situation for Evan and Mitchell," Gregory said.
VIRTANEN TOPS TESTING
Calgary Hitmen right wing Jake Virtanen still remembers the days when grandpa marveled at his speed on the ice.
"I think skating is one of my greatest strengths and I think I am fortunate as skating speed and balance is something I was lucky to have from the start," Virtanen told NHL.com. "When I was little, my grandfather used to joke with me that I should go into Olympic speed skating."
His grandfather might have a point.
According to data released by Sport Testing, Virtanen had the highest overall grade from the on-ice testing that was performed on Jan. 14 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary one day before the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Among the highlights for Virtanen was his top time in the 30-meter forward sprint at 3.92 seconds, as well as the top time in the 30-meter backward sprint, 4.55 seconds.
"I was very happy and excited to win the testing portion since skating is such a huge part of the game, so doing well was really important to me," Virtanen said. "I don’t exactly work on my speed but have taken power skating lessons from a very young age and still do that every summer."
The 6-0.75, 208-pound right-handed shot began skating when he was 3 years old. Virtanen is No. 9 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top skaters in North America. Despite the fact he didn't register a point, Virtanen said playing in front of his hometown fans in Calgary at the Top Prospects Game was quite a thrill.
"The game was a lot of fun and I had a lot of fun wearing a microphone for warmup," he said. "I think my nerves may have gotten the best of me as I didn't perform to my own expectations. Of course, winning was the icing on the cake to finish the experience."
Placing second in the testing was Halifax Mooseheads forward Nikolaj Ehlers, followed by Plymouth Whalers defenseman Alex Peters, Guelph Storm forward Robert Fabbri and Sarnia Sting defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.
Aaron Haydon of the Niagara IceDogs set a Sport Testing record with his performance in the reaction drill. A measure of vision, reaction speed, unplanned change of direction and acceleration, Haydon completed the test in 8.63 seconds; no previous player tested by Sport Testing had completed the drill in less than nine seconds.
Haydon, a 6-2.75, 197-pound defenseman, is No. 28 on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings.
Prince George Cougars goalie Ty Edmonds was the top-ranked goaltender at the event. The goalies took part in specialized reaction, agility and movement challenges Sport Testing designed along with Boston Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa.
PROVING HE BELONGS
Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Aaron Irving certainly held his own at the Top Prospects Game.
At No. 119 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, Irving was the lowest-rated player participating in the game. He finished with no points and a plus-1 rating for Team Cherry while skating alongside No. 6 Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels.
"He's a good-sized defenseman who plays special teams and has a feisty side to his game," Central Scouting's Dan Marr told NHL.com. "He's not afraid to stand up on wingers and keeps his game with the puck safe and simple. He moves the puck around effectively in all zones, has a good understanding with positioning and knows to play within his limits."
The 6-1, 190-pound right-handed shot anticipated well and moved the puck effectively when on the ice for his team. He has eight goals, 28 points and a plus-19 rating in 43 games as a rookie for the Oil Kings this season.
WEYRICK CHOOSES BROWN
Goalie Blake Weyrick of the United States Under-18 National Team Development Program in the United States Hockey League announced on Wednesday he would continue his career at Brown University in 2014-15.
The 6-3, 203-pounder is 4-4-0 with a 3.15 goals-against average and .889 save percentage with one shutout for the U-18 Team. Weyrick is No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top 2014 draft-eligible goalies in North America.
"He relies heavily on his quickness and athleticism, which is excellent," Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "He could turn out to be one of the quicker goalies in this year's draft. He has great lateral quickness, great battle and aggressiveness."
He's won two of his three starts against USHL competition, including a 25-save, 8-0 shutout against the Chicago Steel on Sept. 29. He sports a 1.63 GAA and .943 save percentage in four USHL games. The native of Ojai, California played with the U.S. U-17 team last season, posting a 2-5-1 mark and 2.95 GAA. He turns 18 on Feb. 5.
PROSPECTS ON THE RISE
1. Brendan Lemieux, Barrie Colts (OHL): The 6-1, 210-pound left-handed shot is No. 38 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible skaters in North America. He's the son of former NHL player Claude Lemieux, Brendan's biggest hockey influence growing up. Lemieux ranks seventh in scoring on the team with 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists). He scored a goal for Team Orr in a 4-3 victory against Team Cherry at the Top Prospects Game.
"The skating between father and son are similar, but Brendan doesn't play as edgy a game as dad," Gregory told NHL.com. "He has a bit of an attitude. It's there, but he also has shown good offensive instincts."
2. Dysin Mayo, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL): Ranked No. 84 on Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters, the second-year Oil Kings defenseman (5-11.75, 181) has produced four goals, 20 points and a plus-10 rating in 38 games.
"He skates really well and knows when to jump into the play and get that odd-man situation," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "He has good offensive instincts and pretty good mobility so he's a good skater. I feel he can go in the third or fourth round."
3. Jared Fiegl, USA U-18 (USHL): The native of Parker, Colo., is No. 100 on Central Scouting's midterm rankings. At 6-1, 206 pounds, the left wing hasn't been lost on a very talented U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program, which has 10 players ranked ahead of Fiegl on Central Scouting's list.
"The NTDP has so many good players and he was under the radar for a lot of us coming into the season and has crept his way up to being someone we knew could play and exhibit pro potential," Gregory said. "He has size and can move much better than I expected. I think he has good upside."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
SIDEBAR - Ryan Donato: Draft dandy of the Week
Forward Ryan Donato of Dexter School in Massachusetts has the capability of making the most difficult play look easy.
"You better be ready to see the pass because he can make a play from just about anywhere," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory told NHL.com. "He can play all situations."
Donato, the son of former NHL player Ted Donato, is No. 54 on Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible skaters in North America. He's having a very productive season at the boys' prep school with 21 goals and 42 points in 17 games.
"He's a kid with unreal hockey sense and really good with the puck," Gregory said. "He's one of those skilled offensive guys with good size. He can play physical and in traffic and not be dominated. His first step quickness will have to improve in order to advance up the ladder."
Donato (6-foot-0.25, 174 pounds) has 64 goals and 141 points in 71 career games at Dexter.
"I feel I'm a player who can play in all situations," Donato told NHL.com. "I can play on the power play and also kill penalties. I feel I can use my vision to see the ice and be a setup man, create opportunities. I can score and finish when I have the chance."
His father, a 1987 fifth-round pick (No. 98) of the Boston Bruins and current head coach at Harvard University, spent 13 seasons in the League with eight different clubs.
"What surprises me when watching my dad play is how every shift, he's giving 100 percent effort," Donato said. "It makes me feel lucky to have someone like my own father to mentor my game after."
NHL team: "It's tough because I like so many other NHL teams, but if I were to choose one I would have to say the Bruins but only because I'm a Boston boy."
NHL player: Pavel Datsyuk
Shootout move: "The Datsyuk"
Goal celebration: "Glass jump"
Video game: NHL 14
Movie: Step Brothers
Actor/Actress: Steve Carell and Sofia Vergara
Three you would invite to dinner: Tom Brady, Luke Bryan, Pavel Datsyuk
Sport (other than hockey): Baseball
Breakfast food: "Eggs over easy"
Superhero: Iron Man
-- Mike G. Morreale
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