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BCHL prospects hoping to make Draft history

Jost, Fabbro, Cholowski trying to impress scouts at Combine, get picked in first round

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Never have three players from the British Columbia Hockey League been selected in the first round of the NHL Draft.

That could change at First Niagara Center on June 24, when center Tyson Jost and defensemen Dante Fabbro and Dennis Cholowski each could hear his name called among the first 30 selections of the 2016 draft.

Jost and Fabbro, who played for Penticton, and Cholowski, who played for Chilliwack, are considered among the elite prospects of this draft class. The three have been busy this week at the NHL Scouting Combine at First Niagara Center and HarborCenter. Jost and Fabbro will interview with 28 NHL teams, and Cholowski will meet with 29.

"It's definitely a cool experience going through this with Tyson," Fabbro said Tuesday. "We can rely on each other at the combine. We're rooming together so it's been special. We've grown pretty close the past couple of years [in Penticton]. Hopefully we can make Penticton proud."

Two BCHL players were selected in the first round in 2007, when center Kyle Turris of Burnaby was drafted third by the Arizona Coyotes and forward Riley Nash of Salmon Arm went at No. 21 to the Edmonton Oilers. Turris remains the highest-drafted BCHL player.

BCHL teammates have not been selected in the first round since 2004, when Salmon Arm center Travis Zajac was selected at No. 20 by the New Jersey Devils and forward Kris Chucko was picked at No. 24 by the Calgary Flames. 

• Sarnia's Chychrun enjoying Combine experience

Forward Beau Bennett, selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the 20th pick in 2010, was the most recent first-round pick from the BCHL.

Fabbro, named the top defenseman in the BCHL this season, is committed to Boston University for 2016-17. Jost, the most valuable player of the BCHL, will attend the University of North Dakota next season, and Cholowski will continue his career at St. Cloud State University.

"The BCHL definitely helped my development as a player since I was a late pick in the WHL draft," said Cholowski, who was drafted by Prince George in the 10th round (No. 200) of the 2013 Western Hockey League bantam draft. "I made Chilliwack as a 16-year-old and now I'm committed to a college and playing hockey. I'm pretty happy right now."

Here are four other intriguing takes from Tuesday at the combine:

1. First-round feedback: Center Kieffer Bellows, No. 10 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 draft, said he feels Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews are setting a new path for American-born hockey players.

Eichel was chosen at No. 2 by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 draft, and Matthews is projected by many to be No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft. 

"Jack is a special player; I met him and he's just humble and down to earth," Bellows said. "I look up to players like that and feel he and [Matthews] are changing the face for this generation of USA Hockey players. They are elite players and they have that love and passion for the game that translates to the ice with the success they've had."

2. Scout's honor: Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron said he likes the depth of the 2016 draft class. New Jersey has nine picks in the draft, including the 11th pick in the first round, two picks in the third and two in the fourth.

"If you eliminate [Oilers center] Connor McDavid, this draft is as good, maybe better, than the top 15 players chosen last year in terms of depth," Castron said. "There are some dynamic players, big kids who are developing. Even where we're sitting at pick 11 in the first round, I'm pretty excited about who we might get."

3. Top underrated prospect: Defenseman Cam Dineen (5-foot-11, 183 pounds) of North Bay of the Ontario Hockey League rose 78 spots between NHL Central Scouting's midterm and final rankings of North American skaters, from No. 117 in January to No. 39 in April.

The native of Toms River, N.J., had 13 goals and 59 points in 68 regular-season games and eight assists in 11 OHL playoff games. He also had 25 points on the power play and four shorthanded assists.

"Cam had an excellent rookie season; the offensive numbers he put up are impressive and his development really took another step when he was asked to play top-pair minutes after the departure of Miles Liberati [in a trade to Kitchener in November]," Matt Ryan of NHL Central Scouting said. "His hockey sense is outstanding, as is his ability to read the play. He makes quality decisions with the puck and is able to put himself and others in positions to have success." 

4. Quirky question of the day: Windsor center Logan Brown, No. 7 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, said one team he met with asked him to name his favorite animal.

"I told them a golden retriever since I have one at home, but now I'm thinking that I probably should have said a bear or lion or something crazy like that," Brown said.

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