2015 NHL Draft
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Matthew Tkachuk's game reminding many of NHL dad

Thursday, 10.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Every Thursday, NHL.com 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 - NHL.com 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 - NHL.com 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 - NHL.com 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 - NHL.com 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."

Top 11 players at Traverse City Prospects Tournament

Wednesday, 09.16.2015 / 9:12 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The Columbus Blue Jackets became the second team to win a fourth championship in the 17-year history of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament following a 5-2 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday at Centre Ice Arena.

The Blue Jackets, also champions in 2005, 2006 and 2014, equaled the St. Louis Blues (1999, 2000, 2001, 2004). They received effective play from their top line of Kerby Rychel (2013 NHL Draft, No. 19), TJ Tynan (2011, No. 66) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (2013, No. 89), and solid goaltending from Joonas Korpisalo (2012, No. 62).

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is pleased his organization has many solid prospects waiting in the wings, including Bjorkstrand, Rychel, Sonny Milano (2014, No. 16), Josh Anderson (2012, No. 95), Dillon Heatherington (2013, No. 50) and Zach Werenski (2015, No. 8), who returns to the University of Michigan in 2015-16.

Mantha looks to show Red Wings drive, consistency

Tuesday, 09.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- There was a time when Detroit Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha was being considered as a potential fit alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

It all changed Sept. 15, 2014, when Mantha, a first-round pick (No. 20) in the 2013 NHL Draft, sustained a fractured right tibia at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. At the time of his injury, which sidelined him all of training camp in 2014, he was leading Red Wings prospects in goals, points and shots on goal.

Mantha missed two months before finally making his professional debut with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League on Nov. 14, 2014. He struggled upon his return, scoring 15 goals and 33 points in 62 games. The lack of offensive production didn't sit well with Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano, who expressed with the local media his disappointment in Mantha's performance.

Sabres' Eichel scores game-winner in prospects finale

Monday, 09.14.2015 / 11:33 PM / Prospects

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO – Buffalo Sabres rookie forward Jack Eichel gave the fans at First Niagara Center a lot to think about heading into training camp with his performance against the Boston Bruins on Monday.

Eichel, the second pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, scored the game-winning goal with 37 seconds left in overtime that gave the Sabres a 3-2 win in the finale of the Sabres' Prospect Challenge.

Eichel took the puck up the right wing side and skated past Bruins forward Anton Blidh before he took a wrist shot that got past Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre on the far side of the net.

"We're on the bench after a long shift in our own zone and the coach [Randy Cunneyworth] asked if I had anything left and I figured I could go out there and see what I could do," Eichel said. "It's nice having [Sam Reinhart] and [Brendan Guhle] out there too; two guys you can trust. [Guhle] and [Reinhart] make a good play on the 2-on-1 coming back our way and [goalie C.J. Motte] deflects the puck into the corner. I just tried to protect it down the ice and I was able to get a shot off and luckily it went in."

News, notes from Traverse City Tournament - Sept. 14

Monday, 09.14.2015 / 11:10 PM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The Chicago Blackhawks have been very successful reloading each season with general manager Stan Bowman working within the NHL's salary-cap system.

The Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons in 2014-15, and there's no reason to think they won't be in the running for another despite losing some key players from that championship lineup.

After winning the Cup in six games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in June, Bowman traded forwards Brandon Saad (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Patrick Sharp (Dallas Stars), and forwards Brad Richards (Detroit Red Wings) and Antoine Vermette (Arizona Coyotes) and defenseman Johnny Oduya (Stars) left as free agents.

The Blackhawks acquired some good young talent and some savvy veterans during the offseason, but they will also rely on their top prospects for added support at some point in 2015-16.

One player closing in on making the jump to Chicago is left wing Ryan Hartman, a first-round pick (No. 30) in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Canucks' Shinkaruk ready to handle high expectations

Monday, 09.14.2015 / 4:17 PM / Prospects

Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

PENTICTON, British Columbia -- Hunter Shinkaruk knows that entering his second year of professional hockey the heat on him will be turned up. So too will expectations.

Shinkaruk, chosen by the Vancouver Canucks with the No. 24 pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, has already felt that weight.

"You kind of just read different things, see different things on Twitter, and people are wondering where you are and if you're going to be able to make the jump," Shinkaruk said at the Young Stars Classic, his third year in attendance. "I think the pressure has increased a little bit because people are waiting on that. Every year there's new first-round picks that are coming in and trying to take your spot. You have pressure, but I'd probably say the longer it goes, the more the pressure builds."

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