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Halifax trio at forefront of midterm rankings

by Mike G. Morreale

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- Halifax Mooseheads center Nathan MacKinnon admits he hasn't thought much about the ovation he and teammates Jonathan Drouin and Zachary Fucale might receive when they take the ice for pregame warmups in preparation for Wednesday's 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at the Metro Centre.

Still, he did predict one thing.

"I guess it'll be a little louder than usual and we'll be excited to be a part of it," MacKinnon told

There's no question those Halifax fans in attendance will be awfully proud of their Mooseheads participating for Team Cherry at the Top Prospects Game. In fact, all three players were regarded highly in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings release Tuesday morning.


MacKinnon and Drouin are ranked second and third, respectively, on the big list of North American skaters eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft. Fucale is the No. 1-rated player among North American goalies.

"There's genuine fan interest in the game because the three players are at the forefront of this year's draft," NHL Director of Central Scouting, Dan Marr, told "They are all three exciting players."

Fucale is also looking forward to the pregame cheers.

"We're certainly lucky to be in our town, so it's good news for us," he said. "It's fun for other guys to visit and be able to play in this game too."

Central Scouting's Chris Edwards feels all three players might very well be selected in the first round.

"I don't think the CHL could have scripted it any better than this," Edwards said. "This is such a good hockey market to begin with. I was here last year when Quebec played Halifax and MacKinnon scored five goals that night and outplayed [Mikhail] Grigorenko … you would have thought it was the 1978 Canadiens playing the Bruins. It's a tremendous hockey market and the fans will be treated to a great game."

MacKinnon and Drouin, who each played a role for Canada at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, have combined for 43 goals, 106 points and a plus-51 rating this season in Halifax. MacKinnon, who leads the club with 55 points in 32 games, has won 55 percent of his faceoffs.


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"It's exciting, for sure," MacKinnon said. "I was really happy that I could be a part of this game. I've heard so much about it and how great the game is … how high-tempo it is. I'm really excited to meet our coach [Don Cherry] and talk to him. It'll be fun to meet him in person."

Cherry informed the media on Monday that MacKinnon and Drouin would likely play on a line with hard-hitting Ryan Hartman of the Plymouth Whalers in the Ontario Hockey League. Hartman played a key role for the gold medal-winning United States National Junior Team at the WJC alongside "Grind Line" mates Blake Pietila and Cole Bardreau.

"I'm just using this game to help myself and try to do my best to show scouts how I play and what my game is like," Hartman told "Hopefully, people like the way I play and I do a good job out there."

Fucale leads the Canadian Hockey League with 28 victories in 35 games. He also sports a 2.50 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.

"In this type of event, no one is in anyone's shadow," Fucale said. "We're all here and everyone wants to see everyone at this game. It's a fun time, and whoever is here certainly deserves to be here. They've all shown something to deserve this spot and be in this event."

The 6-foot-1.25, 181-pound Fucale not only earned co-MVP honors with McKinnon last season, but he also won the Fans' Choice award, the Top Rookie award, and the Academic Player of the Year award.

"I was pretty excited when I saw the lineup for the two teams and seeing Nate and Fooks on my team," Drouin said. "It's great and we'll have fun, but this is great competition. This is an opportunity to prove you can play against the best."

In a strange twist, Halifax coach Dominique Ducharme will serve as an assistant coach for Team Orr against his top players from the Mooseheads.

"Yeah, I've already told them to watch out," Ducharme said with a smile. "But it's all about getting the kids to show what they have. It will be great for our fans to see a game like this. They deserve it because they've been awesome. They'll make Nathan, Jo and Zach feel right at home, as they should."

One player expected to see plenty of MacKinnon and Drouin is Central Scouting's No. 1-rated North American prospect, defenseman Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League. Jones, who won a gold medal for the United States at the WJC, is captain for Team Orr.

"I think a lot of these guys have played against each other and I'm pretty familiar with their style of play," Jones said. "[MacKinnon and Drouin] are both quick players and make quick plays with the puck if you give them time. So my No. 1 priority is to take away their time and space as much as possible. Sometimes they still might make a play, so you have to do your best."

MacKinnon has no intention of changing his style of play against Jones.

"I will do the things that got me here," MacKinnon said. "No matter who you play, I feel you shouldn't have to change your game. You might have to adjust and adapt to what they're giving you and that means having more tools in the tool box … take what they give."


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