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Eichel, Hanifin among those to watch in NCAA tourney

Thursday, 03.26.2015 / 12:40 PM / Prospects

Corey Masisak and Evan Sporer - Staff Writers

There hasn't been an NCAA player selected in the top five of the NHL Draft since 2006, but this June there could be two and both are in action this weekend in the 2015 NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament.

Jonathan Toews from North Dakota and Phil Kessel from the University of Minnesota were top-five picks in 2006. Nine years later, Boston University forward Jack Eichel and Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin could be among the first five names called at the 2015 draft in Sunrise, Fla.

Eichel and Hanifin are two of the key players to watch in the NCAA tournament, which starts with four games Friday. There are also 107 NHL draft picks on the 16 rosters, according to College Hockey Inc., along with some undrafted players who should receive attention as free agents once their seasons are over.

Wheat Kings' Provorov proving self in North America

Thursday, 03.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Defenseman Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League has been described by teammates as a breakout machine.

The 6-foot, 191-pound native of Yaroslavl, Russia, has lived up to that billing in his first WHL season.

"He's good in all aspects of the game," defense partner Ryan Pilon said. "He can take the body and score some highlight-reel goals."

Provorov isn't your typical one-year wonder from Russia having success in North America.

Crouse gained confidence with complete effort at WJC

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Prior to the start of selection camp for the Canadian National Junior Team in December, director of player personnel Ryan Jankowski informed forward Lawson Crouse that doing the three things he does best would better serve his chances of earning a roster spot for the World Junior Championship.

The checklist included being first on the forecheck, finishing his checks and putting "the odd puck in the net in the blue paint." Nothing new to Crouse, since he considers himself an energy guy capable of doing the little things necessary to succeed. He also has one heck of a shot.

While no one would mistake Crouse for fellow 2015 NHL Draft-eligible center Connor McDavid, he did exactly what he was told to do and as a result played a vital fourth-line role in a gold medal-winning performance.

Hanifin tops all defensive prospects for 2015 Draft

Thursday, 02.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Boston College freshman defenseman Noah Hanifin didn't hesitate when asked if freshman forward Jack Eichel of rival Boston University would be able to beat him wide in a one-on-one situation.

The question certainly has merit since Hanifin and Eichel have seen a lot of each other over the years. They were teammates for the United States Under-18 National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., teammates for the United States National Junior Team at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, and are now opponents in Hockey East.

The fact the question was even posed to Hanifin is telling enough to how talented a player he is, considering Eichel is regarded as a generational star, a virtual lock as a projected top-two pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Blackwood a top goalie despite short time in net

Thursday, 02.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Evan Sporer - Staff Writer

Mackenzie Blackwood wasn't a goalie. He almost wasn't a hockey player.

Blackwood, the top-rated North American goalie in the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings for the 2015 NHL Draft, grew up like many kids, trying his hand at multiple sports. At age 9 Blackwood said he stopped playing hockey to focus on lacrosse and snowboarding.

The hiatus was relatively short-lived, as a year later he said he was back to playing in house leagues in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

But even then he wasn't a goalie. That didn't come until at age 12, when Blackwood's VP Bearcats lost their goalie and needed someone to play the position.

Finland's Rantanen put on show at World Juniors

Thursday, 01.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Finland didn't do much celebrating at the conclusion of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

After winning a gold medal at the 2014 WJC, Finland struggled to find any level of consistency at this year's tournament and finished seventh.

However, forward Mikko Rantanen made quite the impression as one of the youngest players on the team.

In the eyes of some scouts, the 18-year-old left-shot right wing was Finland's best player. He had four of Finland's eight goals at the WJC, and proved to be fast, energetic and reliable player at each end of the ice for Finland.

McDavid: I'm not in a class by myself

Wednesday, 01.21.2015 / 7:00 PM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

ST. CATHARINES, Ontario -- Erie Otters center Connor McDavid admitted there was a bit of a letdown for him after helping Canada celebrate its first gold medal in six years at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship at Air Canada Centre in Toronto earlier this month.

"It's pretty common to have a little bit of a letdown after world juniors; your game is so ramped up and everything is riding on every single play," McDavid said. "Then you come back to the Ontario Hockey League, where it's still great hockey but not the world juniors, so it's common to have a letdown."

McDavid, who was an alternate captain for Canada, had three goals, 11 points and a plus-8 rating in seven games for his country and was named to's World Junior Championship All-Tournament Team.

"I think I had a little bit of [a letdown] that first week back to Erie but I'm feeling really good now," he said.

Bittner's size makes him appealing 2015 draft prospect

Thursday, 01.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Joe Yerdon - Correspondent

BUFFALO – One of the bigger forwards eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft is Paul Bittner.

Bittner, a 6-foot-4, 202-pound left wing, plays for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. He's in his third season with the Winterhawks after coming out of Crookston High School in Minnesota and he was listed as a first-round candidate by NHL Central Scouting Service in their 2015 "Players to Watch" list.

A forward his size will earn attention from NHL scouts regardless, but it's the other skills he has to go along with it that can make him a first-round pick.

Connor, ready for Michigan, awaiting Draft moment

Thursday, 01.08.2015 / 10:03 AM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

As a Michigan native, Kyle Connor long has dreamed of playing hockey at the University of Michigan.

But before that happens he'll get to live another dream, hearing his name called at the 2015 NHL Draft.

Connor, a 6-foot-1, 182-pound left wing/center with the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League, earned an A rating on NHL Central Scouting's player to watch list.

"He's a solid two-way player and plays hard in both zones," Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen said. "Nice stride and quickness and good in tight with the puck. Saw him against the [United States National Team Development Program] U-18 team and elevated his game against them and wants the puck. And when he gets it he makes things happen."

Harkins draws inspiration, drive from father, brother

Thursday, 12.18.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

Forward Jansen Harkins of the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League has developed into a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft, but he isn't above asking his father for advice during rides to the rink, just like he did as a kid.

It's a perk that comes when your father, former NHL player Todd Harkins, doubles not only as his ride to and from the rink most days, but also as his team's general manager.

"He knows what it takes and how hard you have to work," said Jansen, who earned an A rating on NHL Central Scouting’s November players to watch list. "He's really instilled that [work ethic] in me my whole life. He's always been around coaching me and teaching me. He's been a lot of help to me. And now I have him up in Prince George living with me.

"It's nice to have someone I can talk to and relate to what I'm going through. It's awesome."

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