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Team Orr coach impressed with prospects

by Mike G. Morreale /

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- One practice and discussion with his players was all it took for Team Orr coach Mike McPhee to realize times have changed from his playing days.

McPhee, who will oppose Don Cherry at the 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet) here at Metro Centre, took some time out to discuss those differences with

"The pace of the practice, movement and size of these kids … it's different than it was 20 years ago in the NHL, but it sure is fun to be involved," McPhee said. "Everyone talks about the kids being bigger, faster and stronger. I think maybe they're training harder and the technology is a lot better so you know how to attack things.

"The other thing is how well they handle themselves as 17- and 18-year-old kids. Maybe they're more used to the media with how widespread the Internet is today. Still, I think all the players will be nervous [Wednesday] and they realize it's big, but they're good kids and respectful and will look you in the eye. So whether they make it in the NHL or not, they all have that good quality moving forward."

Having the game in Halifax has special meaning to McPhee, who was born and raised in Nova Scotia. He played 744 NHL games, including eight full seasons with the Montreal Canadiens followed by a season with the Minnesota North Stars and another with the team after it re-located to Dallas in 1993-94.

His professional career started in Halifax, where he played two seasons (1982-84) with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs of the American Hockey League.

McPhee will be assisted on Team Orr by Halifax coach Dominque Ducharme and former NHL coach and general manager Doug MacLean.

"[Before the game] we'll just tell them they are here for a reason," McPhee said. "They are the top prospects in Canada and they've earned the right to play in this game. Some are goal scorers and some are grinders. Some are all-round players, so you have to play to your strengths and don't try to change for one game. Keep doing what got you here."

McPhee certainly has a wealth of experience he could share with his players. He recorded 399 points over his NHL career after being selected by the Canadiens in the 1980 NHL Draft. He won a Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1986.

McPhee was asked if he had any intention of having Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones out on the ice whenever Team Cherry's top line of Ryan Hartman, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin hopped over the bench. Jones was rated the No. 1 skater in North America by NHL Central Scouting in its midterm rankings, followed by No. 2 MacKinnon and No. 3 Drouin. Hartman is No. 25 on the list.

"I guess we'll find out," McPhee said.


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