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2011 NHL Entry Draft
2011 NHL Entry Draft Hats

Sea Dogs' domination figures to continue at draft

Tuesday, 06.21.2011 / 9:51 AM / 2011 NHL Entry Draft

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Sea Dogs' domination figures to continue at draft
There figures to be many an NHL team calling the name of a Saint John player at the 2011 Entry Draft, as the team has nine players among the top 124 skaters ranked by Central Scouting.
Lost in all the hype surrounding who would be the first player chosen at the 2010 Entry Draft --- Windsor's Taylor Hall or Plymouth's Tyler Seguin -- was the fact eight players were taken from the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks.

It marked the most players drafted from one team since the Draft went to seven rounds in 2005 -- the next closest being the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with six in 2009.

This year, the team most likely to have the highest number of players plucked from its roster is the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.

Saint John forward Jonathan Huberdeau, No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, heads a list of nine Sea Dogs among Central Scouting's top 124 skaters who could hear their name at some point during the Draft, which will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25.

"It's something that has never happened since I've been here, where a team has had this much talent," Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau told NHL.com. "It's just been an exceptional year and kind of an exceptional team coached by a real good person in Gerard Gallant."

As many as four Saint John players could be taken in the first round -- Huberdeau, No. 5 Nathan Beaulieu, No. 15 Zack Phillips and No. 20 Tomas Jurco. Bordeleau, who has specialized in rating prospects from the QMJHL for the last 18 years, feels each player would benefit from spending another year in junior hockey before jumping to the NHL.

That includes Huberdeau, who some claim to be NHL-ready.

"I don't think he's ready physically to play yet," Bordeleau told NHL.com. "At 170 pounds, he lacks physical strength right now. In my opinion, another year in junior would be very beneficial for his development down the road … no use rushing."

Still, the possibility that Saint John could have four players taken in the opening round is pretty remarkable when you consider just eight total players were drafted from the organization in its first five years of existence in the QMJHL.

"I don't think there's any doubt there's 10 or 11 guys who have a chance to play in the NHL from this team," Gallant said. "I know nine guys are rated this year and there's a bunch of other guys who also have a chance to play in the NHL. Within the next two or three years, I'm expecting five or seven guys from this year's team will be in the NHL if things keep going the way they're capable of going."

Gallant, named CHL Coach of the Year for the second straight season, saw his team score the most goals (324) while allowing the fewest (165) en route to recording a QMJHL record for wins this season with 58. The Sea Dogs were atop the CHL MasterCard Top 10 poll for the final 15 weeks of the season, and went on to win the Memorial Cup.

"The fourth line on that team is as good as some second lines on a lot of other teams in the CHL," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "They're really deep and very well coached."

Here's an in-depth look at the top six Saint John players expected to be drafted over the opening four rounds. The number preceding each player is his North American rating according to NHL Central Scouting.

3-Jonathan Huberdeau, LW/C: A native of Saint-Jerome, Que., Huberdeau led the team with 43 goals, 62 assists, 105 points and a plus-59 rating in 67 regular-season games. Huberdeau's point total not only was the third-highest in the QMJHL, but set a new franchise standard for points in a season, surpassing the former mark of 95 set by Chris DiDomenico in 2007-08. Huberdeau also led the team in scoring during the QMJHL playoffs with 16 goals, 6 power-play goals, and 30 points to garner the Guy Lafleur Trophy as playoff MVP.

He finished tied for second in scoring in four games in the Memorial Cup, with 3 goals and 6 points, en route to earning the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the tournament's MVP. He was the first Quebec-born player to win the trophy since 2002 (Danny Groulx, Victoriaville Tigres), and capped his tournament with a dazzling goal in the Sea Dogs' 3-1 win in the championship game.

Huberdeau's fantastic season didn't surprise Bordeleau.

"He's the type of player who can change the outcome of a game suddenly and quickly," Bordeleau told NHL.com. "He's displayed unbelievably quick hands and an ability to set up and score goals. He definitely has NHL hands and playmaking ability."

5-Nathan Beaulieu, D: The top-rated draft-eligible defenseman in the QMJHL, Beaulieu had 12 goals, 45 points and a plus-44 rating in 65 regular-season games, including 11 multiple-point games. He really turned it on in the playoffs, leading all Sea Dogs defensemen with 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists) while sporting a plus-6 rating in 19 games.

He earned a spot on the Memorial Cup tournament all-star team after finishing with 1 goal and 3 points in four games. Many scouts believe Beaulieu bolstered his draft stock following a tournament that saw him log big minutes and play a key role in critical game situations.

"After Christmas I felt my game was a lot better," Beaulieu told NHL.com. "I think I was scoring at almost a point-per-game (pace). Going into the playoffs I had a lot of confidence and confidence in my teammates that we were going to bring it home this year.

"Playing almost 30 minutes a game isn't easy, but the power play is one of the things I have to play good on … it's something where I need to be recognized and that's where I need to contribute, so being a quarterback is huge for me. I think special teams is where I've been most successful. If you want to be drafted high, your special teams game is what wins you championships."

15-Zack Phillips, C: Phillips, who routinely centered the team's top line, with Huberdeau on left wing and Washington Capitals prospect Stanislav Galiev at right wing, finished second on the team behind Huberdeau in goals (38), assists (57), points (95) and plus/minus (plus-48) in 67 regular-season games. His 15 power-play goals led the team and he won 45 percent of his faceoffs on a team-leading 969 attempts.

Phillips suffered a minor shoulder injury during the QMJHL playoffs, but still managed 9 goals, 24 points and a plus-8 rating in 17 games. In the Memorial Cup, he had 1 goal, 4 points and a plus-3 rating in four games.

"I like to be along the boards with a little bit of space and like working with my hands down low in the tight areas … my ability to work down low with my hands is something I pride myself on," Phillips told NHL.com. "I like being behind the net along the goal line and with the puck, looking for nice passes, setting up a nice play."

20-Tomas Jurco, RW: In addition to his 31 goals and 56 points in 60 games during the regular season, Jurco was 5-for-6 in shootouts this past season, after going 9-for-11 in his first season in the league.

His shootout percentage in two years is an impressive .823 (14-for-17) -- likely a prominent statistic for interested NHL scouts and general managers.

He struck for 6 goals and 18 points in 19 QMJHL playoff games and connected for a team-leading 4 goals in four games in the Memorial Cup. He is most noted for his tremendous stick-handling ability, which he showcased at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Toronto in January. He was the talk of the Showdown Breakaway Challenge during the skills portion of the event at Air Canada Centre on Jan. 18 following an amazing lacrosse-style scoop with his stick from between the circles, followed by a spin-o-rama backhand whip to record a goal that received the highest score among the 12 participants.

The Slovak star, who represented his country at the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., however, wants to be known as more than just a magician with the puck.

"Pavel Datsyuk has great hands, is a great player, but he's not a clown," Jurco told NHL.com. "That's his style of hockey. I'm not saying I'm Datsyuk, but I like to do those same moves and it's just a plus that I can do the stuff with my stick off the ice. I don't really like to be known as just a guy with the stick off the ice. I'm first a hockey player."

44-Scott Oke, LW: A third-line forward who probably didn't receive as much ice time because of the aforementioned big four on the club, the 6-foot-2 1/2, 185-pound forward had 5 goals and 10 points in 54 regular-season games. He is well-regarded for using his body effectively along the wall and in the corners. He chipped in with 1 goal and 6 points to complement a plus-4 rating in 18 QMJHL playoff games.

"The fact that he had to sit out every second game or so because he played for a team that had drafted players and older players needing to play kind of limited his development," Bordeleau said. "But we could see he has potential as a very good skater with size, good puck skills and playmaking ability."

47-Ryan Tesink, C: One of two local rookie forwards on the roster -- along with Aidan Kelly. Tesink was a fourth-line grinder who never quit. He had 8 goals and 35 points in 59 games before contributing 3 goals, 5 points and a plus-6 rating in 19 playoff contests.

His finest moment came in Game 4 of the President's Cup Final against the Gatineau Olympiques when he ended the longest game in the history of the QMJHL championship series, connecting 19:16 into the second overtime of a 4-3 victory.

"When used, Tesink played very well," Bordeleau said. "He's a very good skater, possesses good hands and a great work ethic. If all these guys do return to Saint John (in 2011-12), they will be a very good team."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale