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Prospects

Bunz focused on quick start, big year

Thursday, 09.15.2011 / 9:28 AM / Prospects

Ryan Pinder - NHL.com Correspondent

Tyler Bunz, the No. 1 goaltender for the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers, may not actually be in the Tigers' net that much this winter. The 19-year-old has already missed time while playing with Edmonton Oilers prospects during this week's Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C. He'll miss more time by attending training camp with the Oilers, perhaps including some preseason play -- and that's not even counting Team Canada's events building to the World Junior Championships and the CHL's Subway Series against Russia.

To achieve all that, Bunz will have to get off to a fast start -- something he hasn't always done.

"It's definitely going to be a year where I need to come out and play strong, especially in the first half of the season if I want to have a shot at that World Juniors team," Bunz said. "It's been kind of been one of my knocks over the course of my career where I don't have good starts. This year can't be like that. I need to go out there, right from the first game, and identify myself as a goalie and make a good statement out there. 
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Babcock dishes on Lidstrom, players to watch

Thursday, 09.15.2011 / 8:56 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"We got six lines coming to training camp that all think they can play in the NHL. We'll get a good look at prospects Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, (Tomas) Tatar, (Jan) Mursak, (Cory) Emmerton and many others. They're all in the running, so we'll see what happens." -- Wings coach Mike Babcock

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The secret's out on how the Detroit Red Wings game plan for a majority of their opponents.
 
"We talk to our best players all the time and we call (the plays) Nick-isms and Pav-isms and Z-isms because we steal what they do and turn it into a system play because they do it better than anyone else," Detroit coach Mike Babcock told NHL.com.
 
And, to think, we all thought Babcock was a master tactician.
 
The veteran coach is referring, of course, to defenseman Nick Lidstrom, center Pavel Datsyuk and left wing Henrik 'Z' Zetterberg. The 41-year-old Lidstrom needs to win just one more Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman to tie the great Bobby Orr.
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Young talent shined at Oshawa Rookie Tournament

Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 1:15 PM / Prospects

Erin Nicks - NHL.com Correspondent

OSHAWA, Ont. -- The Oshawa Rookie Tournament may have concluded, but the talent won't be forgotten any time soon.
 
The Ottawa Senators, who won the tournament with a 3-0 record, showed they have some significant skill in the pipeline. Mika Zibanejad, the sixth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, scored two of the prettiest goals of the tournament, and his flash and willingness to go hard to the net will make him a contender for the big club in the next few weeks.

Stephane Da Costa will be another name on GM Bryan Murray's list after this past weekend. With 4 goals during the tournament, including the competition's only hat trick, his offensive skill definitely made waves here.
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Zibanejad tries to make his mark with Sens

Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 1:00 PM / Prospects

Erin Nicks - NHL.com Correspondent

Ottawa Senators prospect Mika Zibanejad. (Getty Images)
OSHAWA, Ont. -- Ottawa Senators prospect Mika Zibanejad, the sixth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, has an eclectic background, with Iranian, Finnish and Swedish bloodlines. But as those attending this weekend's Oshawa Rookie Tournament soon discovered the 18-year-old's game also has an international flair.

"I try to mix my European style and my North American style," Zibanejad said. "I'm not afraid to play a physical game, but I'm not hiding my skills, either. I try to use them as much as possible. I like it out here (in Canada). It's tough. The decisions you have to make come in a split-second, so I'm enjoying it here at the tournament."

The young center's experience largely has come on the international-sized ice surface, but Zibanejad has not had any trouble making the adjustment to the smaller, North American-sized rink.
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Carter allows Jackets to be patient with Johansen

Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 10:23 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"We drafted Ryan because we needed to get stronger through the middle of the ice. He has an opportunity to come in and battle for a job on our hockey team, but at the same time he doesn't have to be one of our top two centers if he does make our hockey club. He's a talented kid who can play in a lot of situations." -- Scott Arniel

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The offseason acquisition of Jeff Carter did a lot more than strengthen the Columbus Blue Jackets down the middle. It enabled the organization to have a little patience with their top prospect, Ryan Johansen.
 
Many believe Johansen, the fourth choice of the 2010 Entry Draft, will earn an NHL roster spot at training camp. However, instead of having the 19-year-old shoe-horned into a top two-line role, now he can be eased into what has become a pretty competitive environment up front in Columbus.
 
"Obviously, we're in a different position than maybe we would have been two months ago prior to the Jeff Carter trade," Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel told NHL.com. "We drafted Ryan because we needed to get stronger through the middle of the ice. He has an opportunity to come in and battle for a job on our hockey team, but at the same time he doesn't have to be one of our top two centers if he does make our hockey club. He's a talented kid who can play in a lot of situations."
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Gudbranson in control on and off the ice

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 5:05 PM / Prospects

Lonnie Herman - NHL.com 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.
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Leafs' Ross wants to show he's not just a pest

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 12:24 PM / Prospects

Erin Nicks - NHL.com 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."
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Late-bloomer Breen impressing Flames

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 10:30 AM / Prospects

Ryan Pinder - NHL.com 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.
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Erixon hopes to follow in father's footsteps with NYR

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 10:23 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com 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 NHL.com. "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
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Nyquist and Smith pushing for jobs with Wings

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 10:02 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com 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.
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