BUFFALO -- The last time two college freshmen were selected among the top five in the first round of the NHL draft in their first year of draft eligibility occurred nine years ago when Jonathan Toews and Phil Kessel went off the board.
The odds of it happening again at the 2015 NHL Draft are pretty good, as Boston University center Jack Eichel and Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin are set to play prominent roles for their respective teams this season while in the crosshairs of NHL scouts.
If you didn't know by now, Erie Otters center Connor McDavid and Boston University center Jack Eichel will dominate the headlines leading up to the 2015 NHL Draft.
They are projected to be franchise-type players capable of having immediate impacts for the teams drafting them. They also have taken two different paths to this point, making their race to No. 1 that much more intriguing.
Both players were identified as A-rated prospects in their respective leagues on the NHL Central Scouting preliminary players to watch list for September that was released Tuesday.
McDavid has been a star since arriving in the Ontario Hockey League as a 15-year-old in 2012 with "exceptional player" status. Eichel, after two standout seasons with the United States National Team Development Program, will start play as a freshman in Hockey East this season.
PENTICTON, British Columbia -- Conventional wisdom suggests after a 112-game season, one would fancy a bit of a break.
"I grew a lot as a player [last year] … just feeling comfortable with the pros," said Morrissey, who had triple digits in games on behalf of the Jets (NHL preseason), Prince Albert Raiders (Western Hockey League preseason, regular season and playoffs), Canada's national junior team (World Junior Championship) and the St. John's IceCaps (American Hockey League regular season and playoffs) in 2013-14.
"I'm coming in here now wanting to make the Jets," Morrissey said. "I'm going to do everything I can to do that. A big key for me was to gain strength and size to be able to play the man's game at the next level. I'll never be the biggest guy in the League, but I'm a lot stronger now. That's huge for me.
"I think I'm ready to make that jump."
A lack of discipline put Forsberg in the penalty box against the Tampa Bay Lightning three times. An abundance of skill led to him scoring a goal in overtime, as well as assisting on a goal by Kevin Fiala.
"It was a great end for sure for me and also for the team. But three penalties was not acceptable," said Forsberg, No. 12 on the NHL.com Top 60 prospect rankings for this season.
The Predators have heaped high expectations on the 2012 first-round pick (No. 11) of the Washington Capitals, whom they acquired for Martin Erat in 2013. The 20-year-old has yet to reach those lofty levels, however, with one goal in 18 NHL games during the past two seasons.
The hope remains that the 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward can start moving forward in his development this season.
PENTICTON, British Columbia -- He aced the exam after three years with Boston College. His NHL debut in April earned him a passing grade as well. A field trip to represent his country at the 2014 IIHF World Championship yielded a positive result, too.
"I'm excited," said Gaudreau, who captured the Hobey Baker Award in April after he had 36 goals and 80 points last season, the top totals in NCAA hockey last season. "It's going to be different. I'm not really sure what to expect right now. I hear from the older guys it's a pretty tough camp. You've got to be mentally prepared and physically prepared. I'm just trying to make sure I'm in the best shape and have the best possible chance to make this team."
As teammates departed from practice Saturday, the 18-year-old remained on the ice for an extra couple of spins around the rink.
It's the tough reality the Canucks first pick (No. 6) in the 2014 NHL Draft faces as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
"It's frustrating," said Virtanen, who was ranked the NHL's No. 24 prospect by NHL.com for the 2014-15 season. "I think when I watched the game [Friday] night, it was pretty frustrating to watch. I want to be out there real quick. I want to be back into it. It's the time of year when the season is starting up and you want to be out there with the guys. It's tough to watch."
There's his father Richard, who played in the Canadian Football League, as well as his uncle, Donovan McNabb, who was an All-Pro quarterback in the National Football League. His mother, aunt and older sister all played college basketball. But since selected by the Oilers with the seventh pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, Nurse has turned most to younger sister Kia, who is adding her own chapter to the family's impressive sporting legacy.
"She asked me what it's like to be away for the first time. There's always those challenges of not being in familiar territory, not being able to go see your friends every single day," Darnell said. "That was probably the biggest thing I told her. No matter where you are there's always the team around you that you can rely on. You can pick up the phone and call me. I'll be there just like my parents were for me. It's always different moving away for the first time."
It's a conversation Darnell has been having more and more frequently with Kia, a basketball phenom who is in her first semester at the University of Connecticut, one of the top women's programs in the country.
Nurse is busy as well right now. He's with Oilers prospects through Monday at the 2014 Young Stars Classic rookie tournament in Penticton, British Columbia, where he's playing games against prospects from the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
To do that with any NHL team would be impressive. To do it with Detroit would be unheard of.
Despite an organizational philosophy that considers time in the American Hockey League a prerequisite to wearing the winged wheel, Detroit management thinks Mantha, who turns 20 on Sept. 16, could be an exception to their rule.
He'll get a chance to start impressing his future bosses this week when he joins other Red Wings prospects at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, which runs Sept. 12-16.
"Obviously I want to play for Detroit next year. I'm going to go to [training] camp and try to make the team. If I'm cut, I'll go to [AHL] Grand Rapids and show that I can dominate that league and get called up as fast as I can," Mantha said. "To go somewhere you want to go you need to see yourself there. I'm going to go to camp and try to make my place."
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The majority of David Pastrnak's teammates at the Boston Bruins rookie camp were exposed to him for the first time Thursday during off-ice testing and the first official practice at Ristuccia Arena.
Pastrnak made quite an impression.
"He's just a big goofball," fellow forward Matthew Lindblad said after practice. "And we're going to have a lot of fun over the next week."
The Bruins' rookies left after practice for Antioch, Tenn., where they will compete in a rookie tournament against similarly experienced squads representing the host Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. Pastrnak, the Bruins' first-round pick (No. 25) in the 2014 NHL Draft, will bring the most notoriety among Boston’s players, not because of his comedic approach to life but because there's been little done by the organization to tamp down the hype that he could make the NHL as an 18-year-old, without further seasoning.