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Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli praises talent in USHL

by Mike G. Morreale
In addition to the Stanley Cup ring he earned last season as general manager of the Boston Bruins, Peter Chiarelli also had a successful debut as part-owner of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League last season.

Dubuque captured the Clark Cup as USHL champion by winning Game 4 of its best-of-five series against the Green Bay Gamblers, 6-1, before 3,480 fans at Mystique Ice Center. Don't think for a second Chiarelli didn't know that it was also the largest crowd to see a game in the history of Dubuque hockey, which earned its first USHL crown since the 1984-85 campaign. Dubuque became the first expansion team to win the Clark Cup since the Lincoln Stars won it all during their inaugural season of 1996-97.

For Chiarelli, getting involved in the USHL has certainly turned out to be an exciting business venture.

"I've seen a lot of games in the USHL and our scouting staff sees a lot of games, so we have a good grasp on the league," Chiarelli told radio station 'Super Hits 106.1 FM' in Dubuque during intermission of a recent game. "I feel strongly about the league and I communicated that to those in the organization. The games I saw, the attendance was strong in every arena and the games were entertaining. The depth of the lines and defensive pairs were deeper than people expected, which speaks to the quality of the league."

In defense of their league title this season, Chiarelli is also delighted with the fact the Fighting Saints have two players considered top prospects for the 2012 Entry Draft, including forward Zemgus Girgensons and defenseman Mike Matheson.

"My schedule is all over the place so I like to see a team at home with good prospects, and on the road, and we have two in Girgensons and Matheson," Chiarelli said. "Zemgus has a lot of pro qualities and he's a real solid two-way player. I really like the way he protects the puck.

"You can tell Matheson is still growing into the league (as a first-year player), but he's a terrific talent and terrific skater. He can move the puck … he moves it to places where it's hard to move it, so you have two good players here."

Chiarelli was asked how impressed he's been with the caliber of talent in the USHL.

"I can tell you what we've done in our scouting staff reflects the value and the increasing improvement of the quality of players in the USHL," he said. "We've redirected a lot of our scouting schedules, so to speak, to make sure we have increased coverage in the USHL.

"You have to know the league very well," he continued. "It's a tough league to cover from a scouting perspective because it's spread across such a wide area. There are a lot of hidden gems in the USHL and, as time goes on, it won't be because it'll be heavily scouted. But I've redirected a lot of our scouts to make sure we get increased coverage here."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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