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Forbort feels the home-ice advantage

by Mike G. Morreale
LOS ANGELES -- While it may have been an unexpected surprise for Derek Forbort, it was also music to his ears.

Forbort, the standout defenseman from the United States National Team Developmental Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., received the loudest ovation Friday night in the opening-round of the 2010 Entry Draft.

The reason? Because the hometown Los Angeles Kings tabbed him with the 15th selection before an energetic crowd at Staples Center.

"It's just a great feeling, it's the hometown team and just I'm truly excited about this … I don't even know what to say really," Forbort said.

The excitement of being drafted certainly outweighed the shock.

"I actually only had a two-minute interview with the Kings organization (at the NHL Combine in May)," Forbort grinned. "It was a little unexpected, but I'm really excited about this."

Really, though, the Kings had the 6-foot-5, 198-pound Forbort in their cross-hairs all along. Los Angeles General Manager Dean Lombardi traded two picks (No. 19 and No. 59) to the Florida Panthers in exchange for the No. 15 pick. 

Forbort was the top-rated U.S. prospect on the NHL Central Scouting list at No. 9 and is only one year removed from Duluth East High School in Minnesota. Forbort, who's committed to the University of North Dakota, had 10 assists and 14 points in 26 games with the NTDP this season.

"Here's a kid who wasn't even here last year and has just risen right to the top," former NTDP coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. "He's got size, intelligence and a great compete level. It doesn't really surprise me to see him at the top. The best way to describe Derek is that it just comes natural and so easy to him."

Said NHL scout Jack Barzee: "He's probably a top-two defenseman in the NHL if he reaches his potential."

Forbort credited the NTDP program with his rapid development and ascent up the prospects chart.

"It's a great program to move guys to the next level and teach you so many different things about the game and even away from the ice too," Forbort said. "Hearing your name called is just a huge lift off the shoulders. I was pretty nervous and my hands were sweating, sitting up there waiting. But it's been a great experience."

And who does he model his game after?

"I don't know -- someone I try to model my game after is Chris Pronger," he said. "Good puck man, defenseman. Just an all-around defenseman."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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