Don't think that once the final list of North American skaters and goalies is released that NHL's Central Scouting closes shop for the summer.
It's actually quite the opposite. The end of one season simply signals the start of another, and you can bet your bottom dollar that each full-time scout already has seen and evaluated the top draft-eligible prospects for 2011.
"When we're through with our final list, we start on a 'Future's List,' which is a brainstorming list," Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire told NHL.com. "When we publish it, teams will receive a hard copy at the NHL Draft Combine. The guys who have caught our eye, to date, are all put into a computer database and, when we're ready to retrieve that, the computer will spit out those players and we sort them in alphabetical order and grouping order.
"We then begin to plot out summer camp programs, which are more important for us than the NHL teams. We'll inform teams that they may want to check out a particular player at these camp programs in order to get an early season look."
That begins upon completion of the final North American list -- which will be released April 7. A few scouts provided NHL.com with a little insight into some of the players they'll be paying special attention to in preparation for the 2011 Entry Draft.
Ontario Hockey League --
Don't expect the league that usually is stocked with NHL-ready talent to disappoint. OHL scout Chris Edwards already is looking at three standouts -- Oshawa Generals center Boone Jenner, Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy and Belleville Bulls right wing Austen Brassard.
"Murphy had a really good year in Kitchener," Edwards said of the Aurora, Ont., native, who turns 17 March 31. "He has excellent mobility and is really smart at moving the puck. He's used on the top power-play line and is already killing penalties. He's a real heady defenseman and he'll only get stronger next season."
Murphy had 6 goals and 39 points in 62 games with Kitchener. Jenner had 19 goals, 49 points and 91 penalty minutes in 65 games with Oshawa.
"Boone's puck skill and playmaking ability are very good," Edwards said. "His production in his rookie season was very good and he was used on the top power play and penalty kill units. He played with very good energy all season on a team that missed the playoffs. He has good size and knows how to use it."
Brassard, who was traded to Belleville from Windsor during the season, had 10 goals and 29 points in 63 games.
Western Hockey League --
WHL scout B.J. MacDonald is keeping a close eye on two players. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels had 24 goals, 65 points and 28 penalty minutes in 67 games this season.
"If he progresses the way he's been at an early age, he's going to be a special player," MacDonald said. "At 16 he was almost a take-charge guy already. He's one of those players with radar -- he sees the play forming and can see guys behind him and beside him. If they pair him with a guy who can finish, then it could be a good combination."
"When we're through with our final list, we start on a 'Future's List,' which is a brainstorming list. When we publish it, teams will receive a hard copy at the NHL Draft Combine. The guys who have caught our eye, to date, are all put into a computer database and, when we're ready to retrieve that, the computer will spit out those players and we sort them in alphabetical order and grouping order." -- Director of Central Scouting
MacDonald also is high on Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray, who had 5 goals, 27 points, 31 penalty minutes and a plus-33 rating in 52 games. Murray also scored 2 goals and 7 points in 6 playoff games.
"He's playing in their top-four right now as a 16-year-old," MacDonald said. "Even now, he's showing signs of great poise and maturity."
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League --
It's possible the 2011 Draft will be the year of the "Q." League scout Chris Bordeleau was all smiles when discussing next year's crop, which includes four players from the Saint John Sea Dogs and high-profile sniper Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
Couturier had for 41 goals (10 on the power play), 96 points, and finished with a plus-62 rating and 262 shots on goal in 68 regular-season games. He then capped it with 3 goals, 7 points and a plus-9 rating in four playoff games.
The Saint John contingent consists of centers Jonathan Huberdeau (61 games, 15 goals, 43 points, plus-28) and Zack Philips (65 games, 16 goals, 44 points, plus-22), right wing Tomas Jurco (64 games, 26 goals, 51 points, plus-34) and defenseman Nathan Beaulieu (66 games, 12 goals, 45 points, plus-43).
"These kids are likely to be gone in the first round, so it's going to be a banner year in the 'Q' with these kids," Bordeleau said.
U.S. East --
East coast scout Gary Eggleston offered plenty of high school standouts he felt could be selected after his early viewing.
From New Jersey, Delbarton defenseman Matt Killian (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) had 15 goals and 26 assists to help lead the club to its third straight Non-Public state championship. Defender Joakim Ryan of Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft connected for 15 goals and 42 points.
From Connecticut, Eggleston was high on defensemen Craig Wyszomirski (6-foot-2 1/2, 195 pounds) of The Gunnery School and Mike McKee
(6-4, 230) of Kent School, and forwards Philippe Hudon (6-1, 175) of Choate Rosemary Hall and Petr Placek (6-3, 175) of The Hotchkiss School.
U.S. West --
When NHL.com was in Sioux City, Iowa, in September for the USHL Fall Classic, one of the most talked-about prospects was Omaha Lancers left wing Seth Ambroz (6-foot-3, 205 pounds). The kid didn't disappoint in his second season in Omaha, registering 22 goals, 47 points, 116 penalty minutes and a plus-20 rating in 54 games.
"He's an outstanding underage player with a very bright future," West-based scout Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "He's good at all facets of the game and has them down pretty well."
For Ambroz, the last three years have been a virtual whirlwind. After registering 35 goals and 68 points in 22 games at New Prague High School in Minnesota, he joined the Lancers as a much-heralded rookie in 2008-09 and posted 14 goals, 31 points and 88 penalty minutes in 60 games. And he was the youngest player in the league.
"He's a freak," Omaha coach and general manager Bliss Littler told NHL.com. "He's a special kid. To think, he started on our third line (in 2008-09) and ended up on the top line with Louis Leblanc
and Pat Mullane."
Barzee has also been impressed with two players from the U.S. National Team Development Program -- forwards Brandon Saad and Matthew Nieto. Saad (6-2, 200) has 23 goals (5 on the power play) and 48 points through 54 games. Nieto (5-11, 182) has 26 goals (4 on the power play, 5 game-winners) and 49 points in 46 matches.
Follow Mike Morreale at Twitter at: @mike_morreale