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NHL Draft

Brannon McManus shows offense at Prospects Game

Helps Team Leclair defeat Team Howe with goal, two assists

by Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale / Staff Writers

PHILADELPHIA -- Forward Brannon McManus got off to a good start showing NHL teams he could be a strong offensive performer.

McManus, 17, had one goal and two assists to help Team Leclair to a 6-4 win against Team Howe at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.

McManus was one of 42 of the top United States-born prospects for the 2017 NHL Draft playing in the game.

The offensive outburst is something new for McManus, (5-foot-9, 181 pounds) who had 17 goals and 39 points in 58 games with Omaha of the United States Hockey League last season. He had three points in a game three times last season. 

McManus prides himself on his two-way play but understands the need to add more of an offensive element.

"I just have to shoot the puck more," he said. "I have a tendency to look for the pass than shoot the puck. I have a good shot, just have to use it more."

He had two shots on goal Thursday, and one of them found its way into the net. At 17:07 of the third period, with Team Leclair leading 5-4, he got the puck on a 2-on-1, pulled up in the left faceoff circle and scored on a hard wrist shot.

"It was a good play by [defenseman Michael] Anderson," McManus said. "He chipped it up to me, made it a 2-on-1. I looked to pass first but the defense gave me the shot so just let it rip."

He had given Team Leclair a 2-1 lead at 5:04 of the first period when he cut through the offensive zone and got the puck to Nate Knoepke, who scored from the left point. And at 1:19 of the second period, he assisted on Alexander Chmelevski's goal to give Team Leclair a 3-1 lead.

McManus will look to use his performance Thursday as a springboard to another solid season with Omaha, which opens its season Friday.

"It's going to get harder," he said. "It's my draft year. I just keep working on the little details of the game and its going to be good."

Home sweet home

Wells Fargo Center is a pretty familiar place for goaltender Cayden Primeau, and he made the most of his return to the building.

Primeau made 17 saves on 19 shots for Team Leclair and received some of the loudest ovations from the crowd Thursday.

Among them was about 100 family members and friends, including his father, former Philadelphia Flyers captain Keith Primeau.

"It was awesome to know I have that support behind me," Cayden said.

It might not have been as easy for his father.

"I have a couple boys that played forward and was never nervous," Keith Primeau said. "When they're a goaltender it's a completely different ballgame. You live and die by every save or non-save. It's exciting, it's interesting and it's nerve-wracking all at the same time."

Cayden said the last time he remembers skating at Wells Fargo Center was during a youth hockey "Mites on Ice" promotion between periods of a Flyers game. Now a 17-year-old heading into his NHL draft season, it's a bit different.

"Usually I have nerves going into games," he said. "But over the past year and a half I've gained some confidence. I knew what I could do. … Usually it's just getting the first shot and everything just clears down. But I was a little nervous at the beginning because it's at home, in front of family and friends on a big stage like this.

"This is home for me, where I came to Wells Fargo, then Wachovia Center, to watch my dad and all my role modes. Playing in a game like this, playing on a stage like that, just an experience in itself."

Primeau (6-2, 177) started his season helping the United States win the silver medal at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup last month, and he'll play for Lincoln of the United States Hockey League this season.

"He's got the calm and relaxed style about him," NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "He plays big in the net in all situations. I like his coolness and calmness. He always gives himself a chance to stop the puck. He has great net coverage and is a positional-style goalie who isn't very flashy but has great rebound control and very focused and concentrated in there. He doesn't really let things bother him."

Learning from the Best

Forward Kailer Yamamoto of Spokane of the Western Hockey League, who had two assists Thursday, owes a good portion of his hockey success to Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson, and Johnson's mother.

"I'm pretty close with Tyler," said Yamamoto, like Johnson a native of Spokane, Washington. "When I was growing up his mom taught me how to skate."

Yamamoto, 17, was a quick learner and now skates during the summer with Johnson. There's a lot of similarity between them, as both are small but explosive offensive players. Yamamoto (5-7, 153) led Spokane last season with 71 points in 57 games and helped the United States win the bronze medal at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. His seven goals tied for the tournament lead and his 13 points were second on the U.S. to Clayton Keller (14). Johnson (5-8, 185) has scored at least 20 goals twice in three full NHL seasons.

"I always look up to him because he's so mentally focused on our workouts," Yamamoto said. "We talk about how to get to the next level. So it's good."

Oettinger Thankful

Boston University freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger, 17, is looking forward to beginning his college career this fall, but he's also thankful to the coaches who helped get him there.

Oettinger (6-4, 206), who might be the first U.S.-born goalie selected in the 2017 draft, credited Kevin Reiter, the goaltending coach at USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, for much of his success.

He started for Team Leclair, and had 12 saves on 14 shots in 30:28 of ice time Thursday.

Reiter, who is an assistant coach for Team Leclair at the game, is in his fourth season as goalie coach for the NTDP under-17 and under-18 programs.

"I can't say enough good things about him," Oettinger said. "I'm actually surprised he's not an NHL goalie coach right now because the things he's done for me on and off the ice have been so valuable. I respect him so much as a coach, but I also like the way I could go to him with anything. He's a friend. And when I was homesick as a 17-year-old, I remember turning to him. I don't know where I'd be without his assistance at that time.

"I'm excited to have him as a coach in this game."

In 37 games with the NTDP U-18 team, Oettinger went 25-8-1 with a 2.38 GAA and a .908 save percentage. He also helped the U.S. win the bronze medal at the 2016 IIHF World U-18 Championship, with a 1.50 GAA and a .934 save percentage in four games.

Wishing for More

Leclair, who was part of the U.S. 1996 World Cup championship, couldn't hide his emotions when asked about the early exit of Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

A 3-0 loss to Team Europe and 4-2 loss to Team Canada eliminated Team USA from reaching the semifinals of the tournament. Team Canada and Team Europe, a group of players from eight countries, clinched spots.

"I think it's disappointing any time the U.S. doesn't win, because that's who you root for," said Leclair, who was second in scoring at the 1996 World Cup with six goals and 10 points in seven games. "But I think things didn't go well from the start and it's been a tough situation for them."

Leclair is one of 16 players from the 1996 World Cup team, along with assistant coach John Cunniff and general manager Lou Lamoriello, who have been inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The team as a whole will be enshrined as part of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2016 on Nov. 30 in Philadelphia.

Three generations of Howes

Mark Howe had some company on the bench Thursday. His son Nolan joined him as an assistant.

Nolan Howe coaches the ISS Kings, a team of 14-year-olds based out of a rink in Bristol, Pa., about 25 miles north of Philadelphia.

"He's been coaching for three, four years now," Mark Howe said of Nolan. "He's far more in-tune to doing drills and different things."

Mark Howe is the director of professional scouting for the Detroit Red Wings and didn't mind having another experienced coach on the bench, along with John Wroblewski, who coaches USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team. But there also were other benefits.

"For me, I got to do so many things with my father," he said. "To spend a little time on the bench, share this, it's special for me."

Mark's father, and Nolan's grandfather, Gordie Howe, also had a presence Thursday. Mark wore a tie with Gordie's No. 9 and a silhouette of his father skating, and a red No. 9 lapel pin.

Tweet from @NHLAdamK: From the Gordie Howe collection, Mark Howe's tie tonight

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