WINNIPEG - It's an important week for draft-eligible prospects as the 2022 NHL Scouting Combine is underway in Buffalo, NY.
While the fitness testing doesn't occur until the end of the week, the prospects will spend the majority of their first few days in Buffalo interviewing with the 32 NHL teams. Among those teams is obviously the Winnipeg Jets, who hold two picks in the first round of this year's NHL Draft.
Not all prospects will talk with all the teams - NHL.com's Mike Morreale reported that top prospect, Shane Wright, will chat with 12 clubs this week - but those conversations are often an important part of the decisions teams make at the NHL Draft, held July 7-8 and in Montreal this year.
At that event, a number of Manitobans will hope to hear their names called, and that's why this week's Combine is so important.
It's a chance for organizations to get to know the player behind the stats. Here is a quick look at just some of the Manitoba products ranked inside the top 30 of NHL Central Scouting's North American rankings, with five of the seven attending this week's Combine (the only two that aren't are goaltenders Reid Dyck and Matthew Kieper).
The 18-year-old centre from Strathclair, MB is the highest ranked skater from Manitoba. He finished fifth on NHL Central Scouting's list after being ranked fourth in the midterm rankings.
Geekie's third season with the Winnipeg ICE of the Western Hockey League just came to an end on Saturday night, as the team was eliminated from the WHL playoffs by the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Geekie had 24 goals and 70 points in 63 regular season games, and added another 11 points in 15 playoff games.
The 6'3", 196-pound centre's brother, Morgan, has played 111 NHL games since being drafted in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, and also just finished the 2022 IIHF World Hockey Championship with a silver medal.
Coming in at number 14 on the NHL Central Scouting list of North American skaters is Winnipeg product Denton Mateychuk.
The 5'11, 188-pound left-shot defenceman has now played three seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors and averaged a point-per-game (10 points in 10 games) in this spring's WHL playoffs, despite the Warriors being eliminated in the second round by the Winnipeg ICE.
Mateychuk nearly hit that point-per-game mark in the regular season as well, scoring 13 times and finishing with 64 points in 65 games.
The 17-year-old has a gold medal from the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 tournament in his trophy case, and was also named the WHL East Division's nominee for the Bill Hunter Trophy as defenceman of the year this season.
Owen Pickering's draft stock went up in the second half of his second season with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos.
At the midterms, NHL Central Scouting had him 21st among North American skaters. By the time the season ended, he was 15th.
Pickering, from St. Adolphe, MB, was named one of Canada's Top 3 players at the Under-18s this year, and the towering left-handed defenceman - he's 6'5" and 178 pounds - had nine goals and 33 points in 62 games this season with the Broncos.
To cap it off, he was also part of the 2022 CHL Top Prospects Game, finishing as a +1 on the victorious Team White squad.
From West St. Paul, Adam Ingram just put the finishing touches on his first season with Youngstown in the United States Hockey League.
The 6'2", 165-pound centre had 26 goals and 55 points, putting him over the point-per-game mark in 54 games.
Ingram is the son of Derek Ingram, the professional golf coach to PGA players and Canadian national teams. It seems that gene has passed on to Adam, who has a lot of talent in golf, but has put his focus on hockey.
Ingram played for the Selkirk Steelers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in 2020-21, prior to making the jump to the USHL this season. As Ingram looks to carve his own path to the professional level - just on the ice instead of off it, like his dad's profession - he plans to take his game to St. Cloud State of the NCAA for the 2022-23 season.
The top-ranked North American goaltender, according to NHL Central Scouting, is from Winnipeg.
Tyler Brennan's Prince George Cougars may have been swept in the first round of the WHL playoffs by the Portland Winterhawks, but he didn't make it easy. Brennan had a 0.954 save percentage in those four games, up from the 0.899 save percentage he had during his 39 regular season games.
Brennan was one of two Manitoban goaltenders that suited up at the CHL Top Prospects game (the second is the very next name on this list) and also wore Canada's colours at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 tournament, winning a gold medal.
The 18-year-old, who stands 6'4", played his minor hockey in Fort Garry and spent his U14 season with the Winnipeg Monarchs. After two seasons with Rink Hockey Academy, Brennan was selected in the first round, 21st overall, of the 2018 WHL Draft.
He's hoping to add another draft memory to his collection in July.
Reid Dyck was the busiest goaltender at the 2022 CHL Top Prospects Game, but he was up to the task.
The 18-year-old from Winkler, MB stopped all 23 shots he faced, but it wasn't enough for his Team Red to take home the victory, as all the offence came in the first half of the game with Dyck on the bench.
Dyck was ranked 26th among North American goaltenders at the midterm rankings, but shot up to eighth - partly due to that performance, no doubt.
Dyck's Swift Current Broncos didn't make the WHL playoffs this season, finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 26-35-5 record. His stats during the regular season (6-12-1, 0.884 save percentage) don't necessary jump off the page, but his work at the 2022 World Under-18s did, as he was named one of Canada's Top 3 players at the event.
No player likes to miss time during the season, especially in a critical draft eligible year.
That's exactly what happened to Winnipeg product Matthew Kieper.
The Regina Pats goaltender missed nearly a month with an upper-body injury sustained in mid-February. When the 6'1" player returned to the line-up on March 12, four days after his 18th birthday, he made 21 saves on 24 shots to lead Regina to victory over Lethbridge.
His ranking with NHL Central scouting may have dropped from 17th at the midterms to 25th by the end of the season, with his injury likely playing a part in that, but Kieper's numbers for the Pats (who didn't make the playoffs this season) were just a shade under Reid Dyck's - a 3.68 goals-against average and a 0.876 save percentage in 35 games.