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Wild prospect Peterson wins Mr. Hockey Award

Sunday, 03.09.2014 / 3:47 PM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Minnesota Wild prospect Avery Peterson of Grand Rapids High School was named the recipient of the 2014 Mr. Hockey Award on Sunday as the most outstanding senior boy's high school player in the state of Minnesota.

The Mr. Hockey Award is selected by a panel of judges, including scouts from the NHL and United States Hockey League, Division I and III coaches, and selected media members from around the state.

Other finalists for the award this year were Philip Beaulieu (Duluth East), Tyler Cline (Blaine), Spencer Naas (Benilde St. Margaret's), Tyler Nanne (Edina), Mitch Slattery (Hill-Murray), Steven Spinner (Eden Prairie), Luc Snuggerud (Eden Prairie), Nick Wolff (Eagan) and Zach Yon (Roseau).

Top prospect Connor McDavid has highlight-reel goal

Thursday, 03.06.2014 / 8:23 PM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

There are a number of NHL general managers who already are looking ahead to the 2015 NHL Draft. One look at Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid shows why.

The 17-year-old McDavid showcased the kind of skill that has NHL teams so excited Wednesday with a highlight-reel goal in an 11-2 win against the Plymouth Whalers.

Sabres to host 2014, '15 All-American Prospect Games

Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 12:38 PM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

USA Hockey and the Buffalo Sabres announced a partnership Tuesday that will see the team and First Niagara Center host the 2014 and 2015 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospect Games.

"We're extremely pleased to be returning to Buffalo, the site of the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects game in 2012," executive director of USA Hockey Dave Ogrean said. "The enthusiasm and support for hockey in Western New York will provide a great environment for the future stars of the NHL who will play in this game. It's terrific to be working with the Sabres organization and we appreciate their continued commitment and support of hockey at all levels."

The event, started in 2012, brings together 40 of the best American-born prospects eligible for that season's NHL draft. In the past, players in the game have come from the United States Hockey League, the Canadian Hockey League, the NCAA, and high school and prep school teams.

The inaugural game was played in Buffalo in September 2012 and featured defenseman Seth Jones, who went on to be taken by the Nashville Predators with the fourth pick of 2013 NHL Draft. The 2013 game was held at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and among those taking part was Boston College freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko, who is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American goaltenders for the 2014 NHL Draft.

With draft's importance, Prospects Game is pivotal

Monday, 01.13.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

CALGARY -- Calgary native and former NHL player Tim Hunter said he knows just how important the NHL Draft has become during the past decade.

Following a 16-year career with the Flames, Quebec Nordiques, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks, Hunter served as an assistant coach for three NHL teams. He's seen many top players drafted and develop into NHL stars while others struggle to rekindle that magic they once had as juniors.

"You can't make a mistake and take a flyer on someone with the hope he'll be a player," Hunter said. "You have to be precise on your positions at the draft."

Reinhart, Ekblad named captains of Top Prospects

Thursday, 01.09.2014 / 4:03 PM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Forward Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice and defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts on Thursday were named captains for the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 15 in Calgary.

The Top Prospects Game will showcase the Canadian Hockey League's top 40 NHL draft-eligible players for the 2014 NHL Draft, featuring talent from the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

"I don't think you will find one scout say this game will dramatically influence their position on a specific player, but a good performance always bodes well," NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr said via a conference call on Thursday. "The players in this game were voted in by the NHL teams, so now those teams will get an opportunity to see them play."

Plymouth goalie Nedeljkovic quickly gaining notice

Thursday, 01.09.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Alex Nedeljkovic never dreamed he'd play a vital role as a rookie goaltender for the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers last season.

But now that he's been there and done that, he knows the road to becoming a legitimate top prospect at his position for the 2014 NHL Draft is officially a go.

"I think it was cool as a rookie coming in and taking over and playing the minutes I played … even in the playoffs," Nedeljkovic told "It was a really good opportunity for me to kind of get ahead and prepare for this year.

"I knew what to expect going into this season; I know what to expect from certain teams and how the crowds will react at certain venues."

Confident Thomas thriving with hometown Hitmen

Thursday, 01.02.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- Ben Thomas can remember a time when the only way he was allowed to step foot in Scotiabank Saddledome was to buy a ticket.

Now he calls it home.

The 2014 NHL Draft-eligible defenseman has blossomed with the Calgary Hitmen this season in the rink he grew up cheering in, no less.

"It's pretty amazing," Thomas said. "I used to go to Flames games and Hitmen games all the time as a kid. I remember the first time I went out for practice with the Hitmen. It was just a really weird feeling being out there after all those years of watching other teams on the ice. To be able to have this as my home rink is pretty special."

Navigating through his draft year, the 17-year-old Thomas doesn't have to look far to find motivation.

Just down the hall, in fact.

Collegiate programs provide bulk of U.S. WJC talent

Monday, 12.16.2013 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

It shouldn't come as a surprise more than half the players invited to the 2014 United States National Junior Team selection camp on the campus of the University of Minnesota this week are also standouts in college.

The fact is USA Hockey has traditionally scoured the collegiate ranks every year with the focus of bringing the best the country has to offer to the prestigious 10-team World Junior Championship. This year was no exception as 21 of the 29 players invited are starring for programs across the NCAA landscape.

"The collegiate players are our bread and butter to where we end up on this roster," U.S. National Junior Team general manager Jim Johannson said. "I think the partnership we have with supporting U.S. junior hockey and USA Hockey as a whole has been vital to the unlimited growth of the American player both in college and the international scene. So it's by nature of structure that college hockey needs USA Hockey to be strong and, by nature of player development, we need college hockey to be strong."

U.S. starts bid for WJC repeat with selection camp

Saturday, 12.14.2013 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

The United States National Junior Team begins defense of its gold medal-winning triumph at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship with several new faces looking to create their own mark on the campus at the University of Minnesota beginning Sunday.

The first item on the agenda as the U.S. prepares for the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden, is the 29-player selection camp consisting of five practices at Mariucci Arena as well as a pre-tournament game at Minnesota State University on Dec. 17. All practices at Mariucci are open to the public. After training is complete in Minneapolis, the team will travel to Angelholm, Sweden, to continue the evaluation process from Dec. 19-23. The Americans will play pre-tournament games Dec. 20 against Sweden and Dec. 22 against Finland.

U.S. National Junior Team coach Don Lucia expects to finalize his 22-player roster Dec. 23.

Lucia, who is in his 15th season as the head coach for the Golden Gophers, is excited that the first leg of the evaluation process will be held in Minnesota.

CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game rosters announced

Friday, 12.13.2013 / 3:15 PM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Calgary Hitmen teammates Ben Thomas and Jake Virtanen can expect the loudest ovation when introduced to the hometown faithful on Jan. 15 during the 19th annual BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta.

The Top Prospects Game will showcase the Canadian Hockey League's top 40 NHL draft-eligible players featuring talent from the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The rosters for Team Orr and Team Cherry were released by the CHL on Friday.

Virtanen, a 6-foot-0.75, 208-pound right wing, was given an A rating on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft. He is one of 26 players invited to the game tagged with an A rating, or a potential first-round candidate for the draft. There are also 11 B-rated players or potential second- or third-round candidates, and three C-rated prospects.

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Quote of the Day

We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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