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Where are they now?

by Mike G. Morreale
With the Stanley Cup Playoffs in full swing, let's not forget those up-and-coming performers in the Canadian Hockey League and overseas who are looking to make an impression in the junior hockey ranks.

Several players atop the NHL Central Scouting's final release of North American and European skaters are either still in the mix or done for the season. Among those players with nothing else to look forward to than the NHL Entry Draft in June are Red Deer's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kitchener's Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Murphy and Sweden's Adam Larsson of Skilleftea. Those still preoccupied with postseason play are Niagara's Ryan Strome and Dougie Hamilton and Saint John's Jonathan Huberdeau, Nathan Bealieu, Zach Phillips and Tomas Jurco.

Here are some quick hits on the playoff performances of a few of top 2011 draft-eligible prospects across the globe. The number preceding each player is their ranking on the final list of either North American or European skaters.

Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Murphy's Kitchener Rangers were eliminated from the OHL playoffs in the first round by the Plymouth Whalers.  No. 9 Murphy finished as the team's scoring leader with 11 points, including 9 assists, in 7
Gabriel Landeskog at the NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto
playoff games. No. 2 Landeskog finished tied for the team lead in goals (6) with Jerry D'Amigo (Maple Leafs) and was second to Murphy in points (10).  

Adam Larsson's Skelleftea lost the the Swedish Elite Championship after falling to Farjestad in five games. Larsson, who may have been dealing with a shoulder injury, had just 1 assist and a -3 rating in the series. He had only 4 assists with 12 penalty minutes in 17 postseason games.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins saw his season come to an end on Saturday when his Red Deer Rebels dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the Medicine Hat Tigers in the second round of the WHL playoffs. The Rebels failed to hold a 4-1 third-period lead on the way to losing a five-game series. After putting up two points per games against the Edmonton Oil Kings in the first round, No. 1 Nugent-Hopkins could only muster two assists against the Tigers, to go along with a minus-5 rating. He finished with 4 goals, 11 points and a minus-3 rating in 9 playoff games.

Would a poor playoff performance hurt Nugent-Hopkins' chances of hearing his named called first at the NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota on June 24? Don't forget, depite coming in at No. 34 on the final 2010 North American list, it was fantastic postseason effort by Kitchener's Jeff Skinner that elevated him in the eyes of the Carolina Hurricanes at last year's Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

After opening the series with two straight wins, Sean Couturier and the Drummondville Voltigeurs dropped the next four games to lose their series against Gatineau in the second round of the QMJHL playoffs. Couturier, rated No. 6, led his team with 6 goals, and finished tied for the team-lead with 11 points, in 10 playoff games.

Jonathan Huberdeau might just be the most dominant draft-eligible postseason player right now. No. 3 Huberdeau has 10 goals and 11 assists in nine games as the Saint John Sea Dogs are moving on to the third round of the QMJHL playoffs after defeating the Victoriaville Tigres 4-games-to-1. No. 15 Zack Phillips has 7 goals, 16 points; No. 20 Tomas Jurco has 4 goals, 12 points; and No. 5 Nathan Beaulieu, a defenseman, has 11 points and a plus-7 rating. Meanwhile, Victoriaville's Phillip Danault, rated 27th, had a team-leading 15 points, including 5 goals, and a plus-4 rating in 9 playoffs games this spring.

Ryan Strome and Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara IceDogs are in the third round of the OHL playoffs after eliminating the Oshawa Generals in five games. The IceDogs will face the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors in the Eastern Conference Finals -- the teams have combined for a 16-1 record in the playoffs so far. Strome, who jumped from No. 19 at mid-term to No. 8 on the final North American ratings, has 6 goals and 10 points in 9 postseason games. No. 4 Hamilton, a defenseman, has 3 goals, 14 points and a plus-10 rating in the same number of contests.
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