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Conley leads Team East at USHL Prospects Game

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

Youngstown Phantoms left wing Kevin Conley, a C-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list for the 2015 NHL Draft, had two goals and one assist to help lead Team East to a 7-4 victory against Team West in the United States Hockey League/NHL Top Prospects Game on Tuesday before 3,021 fans at the Mystique Community Ice Center in Dubuque, Iowa.

More than 100 NHL scouts were in attendance at the game, which included players from 15 different states. In addition to the United States, there were players representing five other countries (Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden).

In addition to Conley, who was named most valuable player for his team, Team East also got goals from Chase Pearson (Youngstown; C-rated), Callahan Burke (Cedar Rapids; C-rated), Christian Wolanin (Muskegon), Sam Miletic (Green Bay; C-rated) and Jiri Fronk (Cedar Rapids; C-rated).

Joe Masonius (U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program), Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (Omaha; B-rated), Jake Henderson (Omaha; C-rated) and Christopher Wilkie (Tri-City; C-rated) had goals for Team West.

Forsbacka-Karlsson (6-foot-1, 192 pounds), who had two points and was named MVP for Team West, will attend Boston University in 2015-16. The native of Stockholm, Sweden, ranks sixth in the USHL with 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) in 31 games.

East goaltender Ryan Larkin (Cedar Rapids; C-rated), committed to Miami University, allowed no goals on 18 shots, including 12 saves in the first period. West goalie Christopher Birdsall (Youngstown; B-rated), committed to Boston College, stopped all nine shots he faced after entering the game with 7:47 remaining in the second.

The game also featured three A-rated prospects, center Kyle Connor (Youngstown) of Team East and Brock Boeser (Waterloo) and Thomas Novak (Waterloo) of Team West. Connor will attend the University of Michigan in 2015-16; Novak is headed to the University of Minnesota. Boeser remains uncommitted.

Connor showcased plenty of speed and creativity while generating one shot and a plus-1 rating. Novak had an assist and took one shot on goal. Boeser had two shots.

Conley (6-foot, 191), who was named as an injury replacement Monday, did all his scoring in the first when the East took a 5-0 lead.

"On Monday morning I got the call from my coach and had to rush to Dubuque [from Youngstown], but it was worth it," Conley said.

The University of Denver commit opened the scoring off a rebound from the slot at 3:39. Conley later swept a shot over the glove of West goaltender Ben Blacker (Cedar Rapids) from the right circle at 14:00 for a 3-0 lead.

Masonius, who is not rated by NHL Central Scouting and is committed to the University of New Hampshire in 2015-16, did his best to get the attention of scouts. The 6-foot, 180-pound left-hand shot exhibited plenty of poise and feistiness throughout. His goal in the second came off a shot from the top of the left circle at 15:47.

This was the third USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, with the previous two events being held in Muskegon, Mich., in 2012 and 2013. There were 16 players from the 2012 prospects game selected in the 2012 draft, including Robert Baillargeon (Indiana), who was chosen by the Ottawa Senators in the fifth round (No. 136) of the 2012 draft.

The 2013 prospects game included 17 players chosen in the 2013 draft, including goaltender Eamon McAdam (Waterloo) by the New York Islanders in the third round (No. 70) and forward John Hayden (USA U-18), selected by the Chicago Blackhawks three picks later.

"The USHL isn't an easy league to cover since it's spread out so much. But it's a strong year in the USHL and you have to respect the league and the players it produces," St. Louis Blues director of amateur scout Bill Armstrong told Fasthockey.com during the first intermission. "We send out a tremendous amount of scouts to view the players in the USHL and I liked what I saw in the game; it was physical and fast."

Blues forwards Jaden Schwartz, David Backes and T.J. Oshie all played in the USHL prior to their NHL careers.

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