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Gudbranson in control on and off the ice

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 5:05 PM / Prospects

Lonnie Herman - Correspondent

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The outlook couldn't be brighter, nor the expectations higher, than for Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson, the team's first-round selection (No. 3) at the 2010 Entry Draft.

Beyond his physical attributes, which at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds are NHL-caliber, and his obvious skill on the ice, the most recurring comment echoed among scouts concern his maturity and leadership. As an example, they cite his ability to block out all the hype surrounding his potential to go high in the draft during the 2009-10 season.

"I made a mental note not to check anything, not to listen to anything that was said and not to read anything," Gudbranson said. "Doing that kept me really humble as well, and really focused. That was a good thing and I ended up getting selected as the first defenseman taken."

That sort of self-control translates to the ice, where Gudbranson, 19, is a vocal leader, calling for the puck and shouting instructions. At Tuesday's game against the Nashville Predators here at the 2011 Florida Rookie Tournament, he assisted on the Panthers' only goal in a 3-1 loss.

Leafs' Ross wants to show he's not just a pest

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 12:24 PM / Prospects

Erin Nicks - Correspondent

OSHAWA, Ont. -- When Brian Burke took the reins as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, truculence became the order of the day.

Toronto prospect Brad Ross embodies the meaning of the word, and has no problem with the title at all. In fact, he's ready to follow in the footsteps of one of the Leafs' most infamous agitators.

"Yeah, I'm OK with it for sure," Ross said of being known as a pest. "I like to model my game after Darcy Tucker and he did that exceptionally well for Toronto when he played there, so I just really want to try and be like him. He's good friends with my assistant coach in Portland, and he shares stories with me about him and his game. It's pretty good. He reminds me of how much of a team guy Tucker was."

Late-bloomer Breen impressing Flames

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 10:30 AM / Prospects

Ryan Pinder - Correspondent

Calgary Flames prospect Chris Breen. (Photo: Brad Watson/NHLI)
It's not often you find an undrafted 6-foot-7, 21-year-old defenseman with a season of AHL hockey under his belt. Since, as the saying goes, "you can’t teach size," why not take a late-round flyer on that huge kid, right? That makes the case of towering Calgary Flames defense prospect Christopher Breen a touch curious.

In reality, Breen wasn't slighted -- he just wasn’t showing all his potential in his draft-eligible years. The native of Uxbridge, Ont., didn’t play in the Ontario Hockey League until his 18-year-old season; since then, he has added three inches and a whole lot of bulk to his frame.

He's the textbook case of the late bloomer.

"In the OHL I was one of the guys on the back burner, and this year in (AHL) Abbotsford I played hard and got some good coaching and made some big strides in my game," Breen said of his sharp ascent.

Erixon hopes to follow in father's footsteps with NYR

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 10:23 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Tim Erixon can't explain why he chose to man the blue line instead of playing forward the way his father once did, but it appears he made the right decision.
"To be honest, I don't know why I chose to be a defender," Erixon told "I played the position for as long as I remember. My dad never pushed me to play -- I don't know why. I know that it's a just great opportunity to be here."
It's still early, but there's no question the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder is proving to be quite a pickup for the New York Rangers. In two victories at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament here at Center ICE Arena, Erixon has a goal, 3 points and a plus-1 rating. The smooth-skating Erixon has been paired mostly with rugged 6-5, 215-pound Dylan McIlrath

Nyquist and Smith pushing for jobs with Wings

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 10:02 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- There never seems to be a shortage of talent in the Detroit Red Wings' farm system.
This year is no exception, particularly with former Hobey Baker Award finalists Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith powering through the ranks. Both were front and center for the Red Wings during the Traverse City Prospect Tournament here at Center ICE Arena this week.
Nyquist grew up in Malmo, Sweden, but his English is impeccable and after three productive seasons at the University of Maine, during which he was a Hobey Baker finalist two straight seasons, he appears ready to take the next step.

Is third time the charm for Ellis?

Monday, 09.12.2011 / 10:16 PM / Prospects

Lonnie Herman - Correspondent

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The third time may be the charm for Ryan Ellis the third time may be the charm.

That's the hope for the Nashville Predators' first-round draft choice from 2009, who has attended training camp with the club the last two years, only to be returned to the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League.

Ellis finished last season in the American Hockey League with Nashville's affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. That step-up appeared to be a smooth transition for the 20-year old, who arrived in time for the playoffs and appeared in seven games and contributed 1 goal and 1 assist.

So, is that enough seasoning to enable him to make the jump to the National Hockey League this year?

Canucks preaching patience with prospect Connauton

Monday, 09.12.2011 / 2:28 PM / Prospects

Ryan Pinder - Correspondent

"He's still pretty young. He's going into his second year pro, so we feel it's important that he plays a lot, and that he's developing in that regard. We have to be patient with our young kids, and we can afford to be right now with the depth that we have. " -- Dave Gagner

He's 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, rushes the puck well and has an uncanny ability to get pucks through traffic to the net. There's certainly a lot to like about defenseman Kevin Connauton, who is coming off an impressive first professional season and now is trying to raise eyebrows at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C.

Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks after his freshman season at Western Michigan University, Connauton wasn't always considered NHL material by scouts; in fact he was passed over in his first draft-eligible season after putting up strong numbers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Spruce Grove Saints (45 points in 56 games in 2007-08).

Saad using World Junior cut as motivational tool

Monday, 09.12.2011 / 11:03 AM / Prospects

Erin Nicks - Correspondent

"He's showing us he's on the right path. He's going to go back and play junior hockey this year, and that will help teach him all the little things about becoming a pro. All the little details matter and we've really been trying to stress that to Brandon and the rest of the guys the past two days." -- Blackhawks prospect coach Ted Dent

OSHAWA, Ont. -- Like all of the players coming into the Oshawa rookie tournament, Chicago's Brandon Saad just wanted to be noticed.

With 5 points in two games, he has been achieving that goal.

"I wanted to make a good impression like everyone else," Saad said. "I didn't expect to do poorly, but I guess I've been clicking more with my linemates (Jimmy Hayes and Phillip Danault) more than I expected."

Ted Dent, who is coaching the Blackhawks prospects here, agrees.

"I'm really happy with how quickly they have jelled," Dent said. "They have great chemistry."

Saint John alums making mark in Traverse City

Monday, 09.12.2011 / 10:16 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Wild prospect Zack Phillips. (Courtesy: Saint John)
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The Traverse City prospects tournament is a reunion of sorts for the top junior team in the Canadian Hockey League last season.
There are seven players from the Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League spread among the eight participating teams competing this week, including five drafted players and a pair of invitees.
"I don't know who does the scouting, but they did a phenomenal job because every time you watched Saint John play, it was exciting and fun to watch," Detroit Red Wings Director of Amateur Scouting Joe McDonnell told "You were watching high-end prospects every night -- it was just an exciting team and now most have been drafted. Gerard Gallant is a heck of a coach and he has a job to do to get these guys back, mentally, after the great season they had. It'll be fun to watch them again this year."

Murphy hopes to follow in Skinner's footsteps

Monday, 09.12.2011 / 10:09 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Just because Carolina Hurricanes defense prospect Ryan Murphy and reigning Calder Trophy winning forward Jeff Skinner play different positions doesn't necessarily mean they're not comparable.
In fact, position may be the only difference between the former Kitchener Rangers teammates.
"From a skill level point of view, Murphy has about as much skill as anyone in the 2011 draft, and in a lot of ways he has as much skill as Skinner, only he plays a different position and may take a little longer to get to the team," Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford told "But these are the types of defensemen you need with the way the game is played today."
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The last time I did it was 1994 and surprise, 20 years later it’s still working. I don’t do it very much, though. I don’t think I had it. I’m kind of surprised. It was probably because I went to church before the game.

Panthers veteran forward Jaromir Jagr on the move that produced his second goal in a 4-2 victory against the Senators on Sunday
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