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POSTED ON Friday, 06.27.2014 / 11:00 AM
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer / 2014 Draft Central blog
1.FLA

Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)

The defenseman of the year in the OHL is an excellent all-around skater for his size (6-3, 213). Plays a two-way game and passes with authority; very reliable and will challenge for an NHL roster spot in training camp.

  2.BUF

Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert (WHL)

Has a Jaromir Jagr-like toughness to his game; difficult to knock off the puck with his size (6-2, 208) and strength. The native of Germany plays an effective two-way game, and had 38 goals, 105 points in 64 games.

  3.EDM

Samuel Bennett, C, Kingston (OHL)

Named top prospect in the CHL, the Mike Richards clone is an exciting player because of his combination of skill, speed and tenacity. Bennett has a fantastic shot, which helped him total 36 goals and 91 points in 57 games.

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POSTED ON Friday, 05.31.2013 / 10:30 AM
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer / CBJ Today



TORONTO --
Is there any doubt that the words "bike test" are enough to make any top draft-eligible prospect uneasy in the week leading up to the fitness portion of the NHL Scouting Combine?

It's a frozen moment in time for any blue-chip athlete looking to make an impression on NHL scouts and general managers. The heart starts beating faster the moment those technicians duct tape both feet to the pedals in preparation for those two infamous bike tests -- the Wingate Cycle Ergometer and VO2 Max.

Those familiar with the VO2 Max, which measures the endurance capability of a player's heart, lungs and muscles, knows it happens to be the most grueling of all the endurance tests conducted by York University for the benefit of the 30 NHL teams.

The Wingate peak power output test measures the explosiveness of a skater and could provide critical information in learning how quickly a player might be able to begin a transition up ice.

Last year, just one player lasted at least 14 minutes on the VO2 -- Swedish defenseman Hampus Lindholm, who was drafted sixth overall by the Anaheim Ducks.

NHL Central Scouting's No. 1-rated North American skater in 2012, Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting, lasted 12:25 on the VO2.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 05.30.2013 / 5:00 PM
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer / CBJ Today



TORONTO -- Simply put, defenseman Ryan Pulock of the Brandon Wheat Kings is a warrior.

Despite missing considerable time in 2012-13 with a fractured orbital bone and then a broken wrist, he impressed the scouts enough to earn a No. 12-ranking on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top 2013 NHL Draft-eligible North American skaters.

"He does everything well," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com. "He's got the hardest shot I've seen in years. He's so smart. The thing that's even more impressive is I've seen him take seven or eight super hits -- body checks and hip checks -- laying guys into the boards. He's got all the tools to be a top pick."

Sullivan went as far as to say that Pulock has an NHL-caliber shot right now.

"He's got one of the hardest shots not only in the Western Hockey League, but would have one of the hardest in the NHL," Sullivan said. "Don't laugh … it's that good."

It was only a season ago Pulock finished third among Western Hockey League defensemen with 60 points, while also finishing with an eye-popping plus-43 rating, in 71 games. In 61 games this season, he had 14 goals -- including seven on the power play -- 45 points and a minus-7 rating as one of the leaders for a relatively young Brandon squad.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 05.30.2013 / 12:30 PM
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer / CBJ Today



TORONTO --
While Medicine Hat Tigers forward Hunter Shinkaruk will enter the 2013 NHL Draft with an open mind, he admits it's only natural for him to want to hear his name announced as early as possible.

"I'm not really out to set a number where I think I'm going to go, but obviously I want to go as high as possible in the first round," Shinkaruk told NHL.com. "I feel like I've had three good years in Medicine Hat, and the scouts have seen me and know what I'm all about. I'd like to go in the No. 6-to-15 range at the draft, but a lot of things change on draft day. Either way, it'll be an exciting day for me and my family."

Shinkaruk, No. 6 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters for this year's draft, had 37 goals -- 14 on the power play -- and 86 points in 64 games with Medicine Hat this season. He's the only forward from the Western Hockey League to rank among the top 10 players on Central Scouting's list.

"He got smarter this year and is more deceptive," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "He knew when to get into a crowd and how to get out of it, how to get away from traffic and get open."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 05.30.2013 / 9:00 AM
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer / CBJ Today



TORONTO -- Three days removed from a disappointing loss in the Memorial Cup final, Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones was right back at it Wednesday at the NHL Scouting Combine.

Jones, ranked No. 1 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top draft-eligible skaters, had nine interviews on his first day at the Combine. He'll have eight more Thursday before undergoing his fitness examination Friday at the Toronto International Centre.

Jones told NHL.com he did meet Wednesday with the Colorado Avalanche, the team holding the No. 1 pick at the NHL Draft on June 30 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

"They said there's a lot of hype that goes into [the first pick], and lot of attention and scrutiny as well," Jones told NHL.com. "They asked if I could handle it and obviously I gave them an honest answer. They listened to what I had to say and, I guess, were fine with my response."

Jones also reflected on the remarkable season he experienced as a rookie in Portland this season that ended with a 6-4 loss to the Halifax Mooseheads in the Memorial Cup final Sunday. He praised the top prospects for the Mooseheads, including No. 2 ranked Nathan MacKinnon and No. 3 Jonathan Drouin.

MacKinnon had a remarkable finish with tournament highs of seven goals and 13 points in four games at the Memorial Cup. He had a hat trick and added two assists in the championship game and was awarded the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as tournament MVP.

"That was 100 percent deserved," Jones said. "[MacKinnon] killed us. We didn't have an answer for him. He was phenomenal the whole tournament. He and Jon were both phenomenal, especially in that last game in the finals when they each had five points apiece.

"Nate had the hat trick and they're great players. They are tough to contain and to play defense against. They dominated and it was definitely their tournament."

During the handshake line at the end of the championship, Jones was seen saying something to MacKinnon as the two embraced at center ice.

"I just said, 'See you soon [at the Combine]. Good tournament and it was well deserved.'"

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.29.2013 / 11:30 AM
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer / CBJ Today

TORONTO -- It has to be a bittersweet moment this week for the four players invited to the NHL Scouting Combine from the Quebec Remparts.

That's because Remparts coach Patrick Roy was recently hired as the new coach of the Colorado Avalanche. Roy, who also served as part owner and general manager for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League franchise the past eight seasons, was introduced to the Colorado media on Tuesday during a press conference.

Remparts center Kurt Etchegary, No. 72 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, considered it an honor to be coached by a legend.

"It's a big disappointment for the players and the whole organization because he has so much experience and the Hall of Fame reputation," Etchegary told NHL.com. "But we're also excited for him because we know every coach wants to make the jump to the NHL and get into the big leagues. We all knew he had the potential to get there, so it was just a matter of time before it happened … but we were hoping to hang onto him for another two years."

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.28.2013 / 6:00 PM
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer / CBJ Today




TORONTO -- Sports agent Mark Gandler confirmed to NHL.com Tuesday that his top draft-eligible client, Russian right wing Valeri Nichushkin, has terminated his contract with Moscow Dynamo in order to play in North America next season. But there is a provision.

"If he's not playing in the NHL, he's going to have to play for Dynamo," Gandler told NHL.com. "The termination [of his contract] occurred without compensation to the team. This is what we would owe the team for that provision."

Gandler isn't the only person who is confident the 6-foot-4, 202-pound left-hander will earn a roster spot on an NHL team next season.

Asked how confident he is that he will play in the NHL in 2013-14, Nichushkin said, "100 percent sure."

Gandler said players like Nichushkin don't come around very often and that whichever team selects him at the 2013 NHL Draft in Newark, N.J. is going to be very satisfied. The agent also confirmed that the team drafting Nichushkin will know the terms of the Dynamo contract.

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