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Scouts happy to have best of the best in one place

by Adam Kimelman

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Scouts are used to being on the road to see the prospects they need to evaluate each season. But when the prospects can all come to them, it makes the lives of some of the hardest-working people in hockey just a little bit easier.

For the scouts who examine U.S.-based prospects, they get a treat this weekend when 38 of the best American-born players showcase themselves at the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Saturday here at First Niagara Center.

With the season just getting under way in the Canadian junior leagues and about a week away in the USHL, Saturday's game also will serve as a baseline for what the scouts will be looking for from each of the players.

"It's a tremendous advantage for scouts, No. 1, just to get the caliber of players all together in one site," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr told "But the fact that now we get a head start on these players and our evaluations on them during the season. They all come to us in one venue. Not only is it good economically, but from a scouting point of view it gives you your first impression on the kids for the year."

Marr said seeing the best-on-best competition so early in the season also will be a benefit going forward.

"It starts the process," he said. "First impressions are long-lasting, so a lot of these kids are going to make a good initial impression and teams are going to remember that. By the midseason meeting, some of them will have gone back and said, 'Yep, that's the player we saw' or 'He's even better than that,' or 'We didn't read him right.'"

The Canadian Hockey League has held its top-prospects game each January since 1996; the fact USA Hockey now is holding its own event is something important in its evolution as an elite development organization.

"This is unique in the fact that it's all American, it's not just from all one league," Marr said. "It's unique in that way. And in some circles some people think it might be overdue. It's very good for USA Hockey to host this."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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