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Late-bloomer Stone showing he's a draft bargain

Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 11:21 AM / 2012 World Junior Championship

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Late-bloomer Stone showing he's a draft bargain
The Senators appear to have gotten a bargain when they took Mark Stone in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, as he's developed into a goal-scoring machine who had a hat trick in Canada's WJC opener.
EDMONTON -- It's hard to believe Mark Stone fell to the Ottawa Senators in the sixth round of the 2010 Entry Draft.
 
Was it the fact he was coming off an injury-plagued 28-point season with the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings in 2009-10? The 6-foot-2 1/2, 206-pound wing wasn't even among the top 100 skaters in North America when NHL Central Scouting revealed its final draft list that year -- he was No. 119.
 
"It's funny how the draft works … Freddie Hamilton was a late fifth-round pick and has been unbelievable the last two years [in Niagara]," said Ryan Strome, a 2011 first-round pick of the New York Islanders and a teammate of Stone's on Canada's entry in the 2012 World Junior Championship.
 
"Some people say the draft doesn't really matter, and I guess it's true for those guys. But Mark's a sixth-round pick putting up massive numbers. He's so valuable to his team and it says a lot about his character and his work ethic."
 

"Some people say the draft doesn't really matter, and I guess it's true for those guys. But Mark's a sixth-round pick putting up massive numbers. He's so valuable to his team and it says a lot about his character and his work ethic."
-- Ryan Strome, a 2011 first-round pick of the New York Islanders on Mark Stone

Of the 20 drafted players on this year's Canadian National Junior Team, 17 were chosen in the third round or higher. Forwards Brendan Gallagher and Hamilton were fifth-round picks and Stone is the lone sixth-round selection.
 
It's interesting to note that Stone's brother, Michael, was a third-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008.
 
"I was nervous watching the draft [on television] -- I wanted to be drafted and wanted to go to NHL camp that year, but once my name was said, I was pretty honored," Stone said. "It was just a sigh of relief and happy memories for me and my family."
 
The fortunes started to change for Stone after the Senators made him the 178th pick. In addition to becoming a perennial point producer in the WHL and a top prospect within the Senators' organization, "Stoner" is also the reason Team Canada will be an awfully tough out in the World Juniors.
 
"All he does is score goals and he's a got a great attitude," Canada coach Don Hay said. "He's excited to come every day, learn and get better, and he works very hard at it."
 
Stone led Brandon with 37 goals and 106 points in 71 games last season and immediately got the attention of the Canadian brass. He was invited to Canada's summer evaluation camp and turned out to be an offensive force alongside first-round picks Ryan Johansen (Columbus) and Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida).
 

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"He started out slow at summer camp but he really blended in with Huberdeau and Johansen, so it was something we thought that his line would be a really hard line to handle … it was a powerful line," Hay said. "He continued that great play into Ottawa's training camp and then this year in Brandon, where he's one of the WHL's best players."
 
Stone, who is captain of this year's team in Brandon, currently leads the WHL with 65 points, including 27 goals, in just 33 games.
 
"Between the dots and down the hash marks, Mark is the big, strong guy who always wants the puck," Hay said. "Some guys want the puck in the neutral zone like a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers) to get going, and some people want it in the scoring areas like Mark. He knows how to put the puck away; he's very good with people leaning on him and he can lean back and score at the same time.
 
"There are a lot of guys who don't want to go to that hard, critical area, but he does. He enjoys it and has success at it."
 
Despite the fact Johansen wasn't loaned to Team Canada since he's become a vital part of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Stone and Huberdeau haven't missed a beat with Strome now in the mix. In Canada's 8-1 victory over Finland in the WJC opener on Monday at Rexall Place, Stone erupted for a hat trick while his line accrued a whopping 12 points.
 
"It was good to get that chemistry going early playing with Jonathan in the summer," Stone said. "It was good to have some familiarity with him and Strome has had that experience in the NHL. I can't say enough about those two guys."
 
When reminded that Stone was chosen in the sixth round, Huberdeau smiled.
 
"Well, every player is different in their development, but when I played with him in the summer, I knew he was a good player," Huberdeau said. "It's tough to figure out why a team would wait until the sixth round. He's a sniper, a goal scorer. That's what he showing here."
 
There's no question Hay will be relying on Stone to continue his mastery down low and in the trenches, particularly now that power-forward Devante Smith-Pelly will be sidelined the remainder of the tournament with a broken left foot.
 
"When you have elite players, you want someone who thinks like them, skates like them and can get them the puck at those critical times," Hay said. "You want Stone to get the puck in front of the net and not in the neutral zone. You want someone else to carry the puck through the neutral zone and then let him do his work at the net."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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