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Family, hockey blend nicely for Lincoln's Johnson

Thursday, 10.11.2012 / 4:05 PM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

It wasn't like seeing a carbon copy, but when Jim Johannson, the executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, saw the Lincoln Stars' Luke Johnson in action, it felt like he had seen the young forward before.

"I played with and against his dad and he reminds me so much of his dad," Johannson told

Steve Johnson was chosen by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 1987 supplemental draft and after four solid seasons at the University of North Dakota, he spent two seasons in the International Hockey League.

Size, skill help Ristolainen attract attention

Monday, 10.08.2012 / 10:00 AM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen stood out from the crowd at an August junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. -- and not just because the 17-year-old blueliner checks in at 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds.

Ristolainen excelled in all phases of the game during his week playing with and against some of the top talent in his age group. Many scouts have him pegged as a first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. NHL Central Scouting ranked him as an "A" player on its preliminary "players to watch" list, meaning he has the potential to be a first-round draft pick.

Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen combines a solid frame with a skill set that features physical ability, some offensive flair and improved play in his own zone. (Photo: Getty Images)

"He's a mobile, strong, offensive-minded defenseman with very good puckhandling and passing skills," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told "He's young, but he knows how to use his size and strength. He's one of the best young defensemen in Europe in his age group. He's a leader on the ice and plays with confidence."

In 40 games last season with TPS in SM-liiga, the top Finnish pro league, he had three goals, five assists and a minus-21 rating on a team that finished 10th in the 14-team league.

He also saw time with Finland at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he had three assists in seven games to help his country to a fourth-place finish, its best since 2006. He also had two goals and an assist in seven games for Finland at the 2012 World Under-18 Championship.

That's a lot of hockey for one season -- he also played eight games for the TPS team in the Finnish under-20 league -- but Ristolainen said in hindsight it was a good experience.

Compher a model of competitiveness for USNTDP

Sunday, 10.07.2012 / 9:00 AM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Recently at the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, J.T. Compher was asked by a media outlet to pose for a few different video shoots.

Compher, a center with the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 team, had no problem striking the right poses.

As much as hockey comes naturally to Compher, modeling could be a close second.

"When I was younger I did toddler modeling and I was on the front of a catalog," Compher told "I got to keep the red scooter that I was modeling. That was pretty cool."

Savage has skated into key role for USNTDP

Saturday, 10.06.2012 / 9:00 AM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Scott Savage had two goals and eight assists in 43 games with the USNTDP U-17 team last season. (Photo: Getty Images)

Every player who laces on a pair of skates has a different entry point into the game, but for U.S. National Team Development Program defenseman Scott Savage, his might be one of the more unique.

Born in California, Savage was 4 years old when he and his family moved from Lake Arrowhead south to San Clemente. The people the Savage family bought the house from were strangers at the time, but they made one suggestion that changed the family's life.

"The people we purchased the house from told us to check out the roller-hockey rink," Savage said. "They just said if you're looking for something to do, check out the roller rink. I checked it out and I was hooked."

Seth Jones knows how to handle media crush

Friday, 10.05.2012 / 12:59 PM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

The 38 players who took part in the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game were watched closely by scouts, media and fans.

But one star burned brightest during the weekend in Buffalo, and that was Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones.

The 6-foot-3 1/2, 208-pound blueliner is a favorite to be one of the first two players picked at the 2013 NHL Draft, and could go No. 1.

Along with that lofty status comes the attendant outside attention. It's ratcheted up a notch when the player has as interesting a backstory as Jones -- raised and developed in the non-traditional hockey market of Plano, Texas, as the son of a longtime NBA power forward.

Former NBA player Jones helps groom son for NHL

Friday, 10.05.2012 / 9:39 AM / Prospects

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Popeye Jones' middle son Seth, an 18-year-old defenseman for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, now stands at the top of every 2013 prospects list. (Photo: Christopher Mast)

In some ways, Popeye Jones isn't your typical hockey dad. The 6-foot-8 former NBA player spent 11 seasons crashing the boards for six teams. But the lessons learned in his basketball career have helped his son Seth become one of the top prospects for the 2013 NHL Draft.

Ironically, Seth Jones' hockey road began with his father's time as an NBA journeyman, playing primarily on teams that shared an arena with an NHL franchise. When Popeye Jones entered the NBA in 1993 with the Dallas Mavericks, he was bound to rub elbows with his NHL neighbors.

"We were following the [Dallas] Stars when I was with the Mavericks. I did a charity event with [Mike] Modano and thought he was a nice guy," Popeye Jones, now an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets, told "So we went to a Stars game and we really fell in love with the sport. I started watching hockey and we adopted the Stars as our team."

Former junior hockey talent becomes soccer star

Wednesday, 10.03.2012 / 12:00 PM / Prospects

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

It's the dream of any child who has ever played hockey in Montreal. Rise through the ranks before making it to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. From there, maybe play in Europe before someday returning to the city.

Former junior hockey star Patrice Bernier is living that dream, with an interesting twist.

Bernier has become a star in Montreal, but instead of hockey, the former two-sport athlete is a standout for the Impact of Major League Soccer. (Photo: Montreal Impact / Charles-William Pelletier)

Sure, Bernier starred for the Val d'Or Foreurs and Sherbrooke Faucons of the QMJHL. And yes, he traveled through European leagues before becoming a hometown star in Montreal. The only thing is, Bernier quit hockey almost 15 years ago. It's a decision that has paid off for the midfielder with Major League Soccer's Montreal Impact.

"I played both sports until I was about 18. I went through all the rankings in soccer and hockey," Bernier, 33, told "I could have a tournament where I played hockey in the morning and then a soccer tournament in the afternoon. It was a bit draining -- 365 days of switching from soccer to hockey, sometimes in the same day."

As a 17-year-old, Bernier starred on defense for a Val d'Or team featuring 10 future NHL draft picks. His first year in junior hockey, the 5-foot, 9-inch blueliner led all Foreurs defensemen in scoring.

"Patrice was one of those guys you could tell was into soccer," said Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, Bernier's defense partner in Val d'Or who logged 269 NHL games before playing for the Malmo Redhawks last season. "When you passed him the puck, sometimes, even if it was on his stick, he would try to handle it with his feet."

U.S. to hold World Junior camp in New York

Tuesday, 10.02.2012 / 3:42 PM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

USA Hockey announced Tuesday that the U.S. National Junior Team selection camp will be held Dec. 16-18 at the MSG Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y., the New York Rangers' practice facility.

The camp will be used to determine the final 22-man roster for the 2013 World Junior Championship, which will be held Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2013, in Ufa, Russia. Seven-time NHL All-Star and U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Housley will coach the team.

The United States is coming off a seventh-place finish at the 2012 WJC after entering the tournament with its usual high expectations. Successive preliminary-round setbacks to Finland, Czech Republic and Canada knocked the U.S. team from medal contention for the first time in 13 years. The team needed a 12-2 victory against Latvia in the opening game of the relegation round in order to earn a ticket to the 2013 WJC. The seventh-place finish was the lowest for Team USA at the WJC since finishing eighth in 1999.

Jeremy Welsh ready to step up his game

Monday, 10.01.2012 / 10:50 AM / Prospects

John Manasso - Correspondent

The first time Rick Bennett saw Jeremy Welsh play, he saw a kid who stood out -- and, in Bennett's words, "not in a good way at times."

Welsh had just made the move from Junior B to Junior A with the Oakville Blades in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. Bennett, then an assistant coach with Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., saw a bit of "an unknown," "a fat kid with long hair."

"His feet were a little choppy," said Bennett, who will enter his second season as Union's coach this fall. "We just kind of looked through a lot of that stuff. We saw the intangibles he had."

Three years later, Welsh's 27 goals ranked third in the NCAA, as he helped lead Union to its first berth to the Frozen Four, played in Tampa. Less than 48 hours after his team was eliminated by Ferris State, Welsh signed a contract to play with Carolina and made his NHL debut in the Hurricanes' season finale on Florida's other coast against the Panthers.

Fitzgerald wins Prospects MVP in front of NHL dad

Saturday, 09.29.2012 / 11:27 PM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In his role as assistant general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tom Fitzgerald was on duty Saturday night, helping scout players at the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game.

However, Fitzgerald also was on duty as father to one of the 38 2013 NHL Draft-eligible players on the ice, Team McClanahan center Ryan Fitzgerald.

It was a winning role on both ends, as Ryan had three assists and walked away with the game MVP trophy in Team McClanahan's 5-2 victory.

"I'm there working and being a dad," Tom Fitzgerald told "I'll put some notes down on all the other players but I won't do it for my own son. It's a hard situation [but] people have gone through it before me. … You just want him to feel good about himself and be confident in himself. We just saw him and he looked pretty happy, that's for sure, and that makes us happy."

The Fitzgerald family had nothing to not like about Ryan's game. He made a beautiful cross-ice feed to Hudson Fasching for an easy tap-in goal to open the scoring, and his clean faceoff win on an offensive-zone draw 6:06 into the second set up Seth Jones' goal that launched his team's three-goal outburst that blew the game open.

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