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Erie's DeBrincat following in McDavid's footsteps

Thursday, 11.19.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

It may surprise some to learn Erie Otters forward Alex DeBrincat has something in common with Connor McDavid, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers.

When DeBrincat was awarded the Ontario Hockey League's rookie of the year in 2014-15, he joined McDavid as the only other player in Otters history to win the trophy.

It's a pretty remarkable feat when you consider DeBrincat, of Farmington Hills, Mich., wasn't even considered among 299 picks in the 2013 OHL draft but later signed with the Otters as a free agent by way of Lake Forest Academy in Chicago in April 2014.

Tufte's mix of size, skill make him intriguing prospect

Thursday, 11.12.2015 / 9:00 AM / Prospects

Joe Yerdon - Correspondent

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

If NHL teams are looking for a physically large forward with a skill set to match his size in the 2016 NHL Draft, then Riley Tufte will draw a lot of interest.

At 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, the Minnesota high school standout is one of the tallest forwards eligible for the 2016 draft and he understands having that kind of size at his age is useful.

"It's awesome," Tufte said before the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in September. "I'm 6-5, and I know there's a couple other guys out here that are my size too, but it's just such an advantage to my reach. It's just an advantage to me."

Graham McPhee looking to follow father's footsteps

Thursday, 11.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Graham McPhee is hoping legendary collegiate coach Jerry York can do for him what he did for his father more than three decades ago.

George McPhee, who played seven seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils before beginning a successful managerial career, won the 1982 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player at Bowling Green State University under York.

"It was a great life experience to be able to play for Jerry York because he had his priorities in the right order for a young person in that family was first, education was second and then hockey," McPhee told

Mississauga's Day moves past 'exceptional' label

Thursday, 10.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Mississauga Steelheads defenseman Sean Day doesn't necessarily want to be known as exceptional. The 2016 NHL Draft prospect would prefer to be himself.

Day still is trying to move past the heightened expectations of being granted exceptional-player status and allowed to play in the Ontario Hockey League as a 15-year-old in 2013.

"To this day there's still pressure about it," Day said. "I'm kind of scrutinized more than anyone else because of that label. I can't really make excuses for it. I just kind of play and hopefully people see that I'm the same age as everyone else in the draft. I did play an extra year [in the OHL], but I'm on the same development curve as everyone else still. To me it doesn't really matter. I don't think too much about it. I just play."

Finnish talent Puljujarvi draws Selanne comparisons

Thursday, 10.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Right wing Jesse Puljujarvi of Karpat in Finland, a top prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft, possesses all the tools scouts crave.

He has the size (6-foot-3, 203 pounds), strength and speed, is creative on the power play and can dominate 1-on-1. He could go as high as a top-five pick and, judging by his play so far this season in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, it's easy to see why. In 16 games the 17-year-old has four goals, four assists and 49 shots on goal while averaging 14:38 of ice time.

"He's a powerful skater with good speed and balance," said Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting. "He has outstanding hockey sense and reads the play well. He's a good playmaker with strong puck-handling skills. He can take advantage of 1-on-1 situations with his long reach."

His appetite to score goals is pretty obvious.

Matthew Tkachuk's game reminding many of NHL dad

Thursday, 10.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Forward Matthew Tkachuk didn't hesitate when asked what he felt stood out most about his U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame father, Keith Tkachuk, during his playing days.

"His leadership and competitiveness for sure," the younger Tkachuk said. "He would have no problem whacking a guy, sticking up for a teammate or just being vocal. Throughout his career it seemed there was never a time he didn't have a letter on his jersey.

"I know [having a letter] doesn't mean everything, but he's just a great leader."

McInnis scores winner in USA Hockey prospects game

Friday, 09.25.2015 / 12:05 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Former NHL forward Derek Plante finds it hard to believe that many of the most gifted American-born skaters in the crosshairs of NHL scouts and general managers also happen to be some of the largest.

Serving as one of the coaches in the fourth CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Thursday, Plante witnessed a few of those agile big skaters when the line of Logan Brown (6-foot-6, 223 pounds), left wing Max Jones (6-foot-2, 205) and right wing Willie Knierim (6-foot-3, 213) combined for three goals and four assists to help Team Plante to a 6-4 victory against Team Roenick at First Niagara Center.

"The only thing that slowed them down were the [television] timeouts, because when play got going, it was fun to watch," Plante said. "These guys were making plays. To have this skill at the size of some of these players is unbelievable. Many of the players that size when I played were a lot slower."

Leetch praises USA Hockey grassroots programs

Thursday, 09.24.2015 / 12:00 PM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Brian Leetch was on the ground floor of the growth of USA Hockey during his development time. Now the Hockey Hall of Fame member sees the rarified air the organization has reached.

Leetch is in Buffalo to meet with players and coaches taking part in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN), and can't help but notice how much things have changed since he played on those early USA Hockey teams.

"I was there at the beginning of them identifying some of the top players and trying to give them competition," he said. "I remember playing as a 17-year-old against Canadians in Colorado; we played a three-game series, playing against Adam Graves. Then the World Junior teams, that tournament was so strong and our teams were weaker at that stage.

"When I look at it, I look at the grassroots programs USA Hockey has done, and the amount of participation that has come from so many different areas. Now with USA Hockey it's not just the Northeast, or Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts. To be able to see these kids get introduced to hockey from warm-weather states and non-traditional hockey areas, and then to be able to get identified and to get moved into stronger roles, that's where I think USA Hockey has come a long, long way. … It has to start at those grassroots and they've done a great job of balancing money on both sides of it, with the elite kids as well as exposing kids to all different avenues of getting into the game of hockey."

Scouts to get measure of draft prospects at AAPG

Wednesday, 09.23.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- The 2015 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, which will be played Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) at First Niagara Center, will serve as an opportunity for 42 of the top United States-born 2016 NHL Draft-eligible players to showcase their ability in front of NHL scouts.

"NHL scouts focus on players' assets and potential rather than the passport, but certainly this type of event is valuable as it pits the best identified American prospects in one game competing against each other," said Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting. "This is a marquee event for USA Hockey to showcase the American talent available for the NHL Draft."

The game will consist of three 20-minute periods and, if necessary, a five-minute overtime. If a winner still hasn't been determined, the game will be decided by a shootout.

Sabres' Eichel recalls star turn at '14 prospects game

Tuesday, 09.22.2015 / 4:27 PM / Prospects

Joe Yerdon - Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The perspective on the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game has changed a lot in a year for Jack Eichel.

A year ago, Eichel arrived in Buffalo for the first time and won the Most Outstanding Player award in the 2014 game. Now he's trying to make the Buffalo Sabres roster and is helping to provide an example to future American players as they prepare for the 2015 All-American Prospects Game on Thursday at First Niagara Center (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US).

"It was really important for me," Eichel said about playing in the game. "Obviously this game is pretty highly touted and there's so many great prospects and great players here. I just wanted to come in here and have a good start to my year, and I think I did that. It was a great experience for me getting here, seeing a lot of my friends, and playing a game in front of thousands and thousands of people. It's a really exciting event to be a part of. These kids are really going to enjoy it; it's a night they're never going to forget."

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Quote of the Day

Yeah, I guess so. That empty-netter was pretty lucky, but I'll take it.

— Senators forward Mike Hoffman when asked if his two-goal game was a good way to celebrate his 26th birthday
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