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Prospects

Bittner's size makes him appealing 2015 draft prospect

Thursday, 01.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com 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.

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Connor, ready for Michigan, awaiting Draft moment

Thursday, 01.08.2015 / 10:03 AM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com 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."

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Harkins draws inspiration, drive from father, brother

Thursday, 12.18.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Aaron Vickers - NHL.com 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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Zacha making transition to North America look simple

Thursday, 12.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Pavel Zacha had a pretty good idea of the steps he needed to take to succeed in his first season in North America with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League.

It wasn't easy. The smaller rinks and quick decisions he had to make on the fly were a bit of an adjustment, but the Czech Republic native seems to have found his groove.

"Pavel has made a seamless transition to the North American game," Sting general manager Nick Sinclair said. "He's a very intelligent young man both on and off the ice."

With 19 points in 21 games, Zacha is tied for third in scoring among OHL rookies, and his nine goals are tied for third on the Sting. He had an A rating from NHL Central Scouting on its November players to watch list for the 2015 NHL Draft.

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Shift to goalie paying off for USNTDP's Opilka

Thursday, 12.04.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Luke Opilka came very close to quitting hockey before realizing his true calling as a goaltender during an open skate at a friend's birthday party.

"I was never too good a player; the only goal I ever scored was on my own net," Opilka said. "I really thought I actually scored a goal so I began celebrating. I was probably a mite [8 years old] then and I probably should have known better, but I didn't."

What he did learn was that playing defense was not a good idea for him.

"I tried goaltender at my friend's birthday party and just loved it, so I stuck with it from there," he said.

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Novak lurking on edge of center pool in 2015 Draft

Thursday, 11.27.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO – With the attention being paid to center prospects in the 2015 NHL Draft, it might be easy to lose track of a player like Thomas Novak.

Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, and Dylan Strome have all taken turns in the spotlight already this season, but now Novak is starting to make his mark amongst draft hopefuls and drawing rave reviews from those who have watched him closely.

Novak's road to notoriety is a bit different than many his contemporaries.

He's playing in the United States Hockey League for Waterloo after a three-year stint with St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota.

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Tri-City defenseman Carlo building up offensive game

Thursday, 11.20.2014 / 9:00 AM / Prospects

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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It was his strong defensive game that earned defenseman Brandon Carlo of the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League an A rating from NHL Central Scouting in its latest players to watch list.

But for Carlo to cement his status as one of the top prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft, he needs to advance the offensive side of his game. The numbers might not show it yet, but Carlo is putting the work in.

In 23 games this season Carlo has one goal and 10 points, putting him ahead of his pace from last season, when he had three goals and 13 points in 71 games.

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Erie's Dylan Strome ready to follow brother's path

Thursday, 11.13.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Erie Otters forward Dylan Strome can recall the excitement watching his older brother head to the podium after the New York Islanders had just selected him with the fifth pick in the 2011 NHL Draft at Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.

"We were kind of in shock," he said. "My brother just went fifth overall in the NHL draft and I'm like, 'Wow.' It's something that happens just once in your lifetime and it was pretty cool to be a part of it from right there in the fifth row.

"Hopefully, I can live that day again."

There's no reason to think Strome won't get a little déjà vu on June 26 when the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft is held at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. The 6-foot-3, 187-pound left-handed shot has been everything advertised after the Otters selected him No. 2 in the 2013 Ontario Hockey League draft.

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USNTDP's Greenway using size to his advantage

Thursday, 11.06.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Jordan Greenway pulls no punches when it comes to discussing the presence he provides whenever he steps on the ice.

Big, physical, and at times ornery.

"I'm 6-foot-5 so I guess I'm a power forward, right," Greenway said. "I've got some pretty good skill and I like to drive the net a lot, can usually come out of the corners with the puck and can create more space for the skilled guys on the team."

He's a big fan of New York Rangers forward Rick Nash. The 222-pound left wing appreciates players who fight for pucks along the wall and go to the net hard; it's what has given him the attention he deserves as a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft.

Greenway, an A-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the draft, has one goal, nine points and 20 penalty minutes in 13 games for the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 team.

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McDavid showcases his skills in Sabres' home rink

Wednesday, 10.22.2014 / 10:45 PM / Prospects

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Being in the spotlight is something Connor McDavid has gotten used to already in his career. But playing in a NHL arena in front of NHL fans is something new.

The 17-year-old Erie Otters center is one of the most anticipated prospects in years and may wind up being the first selection in the 2015 NHL Draft. McDavid's Otters defeated the Niagara IceDogs 8-4 Wednesday in an Ontario Hockey League game at First Niagara Center and he knows the attention on him is growing.

"It's a little different," McDavid said. "But I guess I've had a little bit experience in the last two years kind of growing up, [learning how] to act. It started pretty crazy in my 15-year-old year, when everyone was kind of first taking notice. So I have a little bit of experience. Obviously, this year is a little bit ramped up. Nothing really changes."

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For six months, it's a really good accomplishment. But as soon as April [11, the end of the regular season] comes around, no one thinks about the regular season anymore. For six months, it's a real battle to get into the playoffs in the NHL these days. There are a lot of good teams, and it takes consistency over a long time.

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