Hockey fans in Manitoba will keep a close eye on this year's NHL Draft.
The province has six players in the top 50 North American skaters heading into this month's event in Chicago, including Nolan Patrick who could go first overall. Joining him on that list are Cody Glass, Nick Henry, Josh Brook, and Stelio Mattheos, and Morgan Geekie.
Born in Winnipeg, Patrick helped the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings to a league championship for the first time in 20 years in 2015-16, along with Mattheos (ranked 38th on the North American skaters list). While this past season was hampered by injuries, Patrick managed to post 20 goals and 46 points in 33 games.
Glass, another Winnipeg native, heads into the Draft as the sixth ranked skater in North America. The right-handed centre said he was a bit nervous heading into this week's NHL Combine.
"The first day was really nerve racking for me getting the first interviews out of the way," he said. "But as the week went on, I felt more comfortable and every interview went really well, and obviously we had the fitness testing too. I'm happy with this week."
Glass scored 32 goals and 94 points with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL this season. While the point totals were nice to have, he says he's proud of how his entire game developed.
"The thing I've been working on in the past year is my two-way game. That's something I really take pride in," said Glass. "I'm a two-way playmaker. That's a huge thing for me."
Video: COMBINE | Cody Glass
Speaking of pride, Brook's results in fitness testing were something to be proud of. His 16 repetitions on the bench press (at 70 to 80 per cent of his 185 pound body weight) was the second best of all the prospects at the Combine.
He also finished tenth in the VO2 Max test, but that came with a price.
"Both the bike tests were pretty tough. I threw up after the one," the defenceman said with a grin. "Those were the two that I was least excited for."
The 17-year-old was born in Yorkton, SK, but played his minor hockey in Roblin, MB. Less than 20 minutes from where Ryan Pulock, the 15th overall selection in the 2013 NHL Draft played his minor hockey.
"I really looked up to (him) as a defenceman," said Brook. "He got drafted first round, just an awesome player. I watched him growing up in Brandon (with the Wheat Kings). I kind of tried to follow his footsteps a little bit."
Video: COMBINE | Josh Brook
Keeping with the WHL theme, right-winger Henry finished his first WHL season with 81 points, the highest total by a rookie on the team. He says his game has come a long way in two years, starting back in 2015-16 with the MJHL's Portage Terriers.
"Starting in Portage playing for Blake Spiller, he did a lot for me. He played me a lot and gave me the opportunity," said Henry. "Making the transition up to the Western League this year to play for John Paddock. John was a really good coach for me. It was a special year for me.
"It was a really big jump for me (to the WHL). There were a lot of growing pains at the start. I played on a very good team in the Regina Pats and played with a lot of good line mates. They made it easy on me to have a good year."
Just like those teammates, having some familiar Manitoban faces around the Combine has made things a bit easier for Henry.
"It's pretty nice for myself to have a bit of a comfort zone," he said. "It was a pretty cool week, a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, and I was really excited with how it went."