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.
TORONTO -- Anthony Mantha of the Val-d'Or Foreurs comes from a rich hockey background. His grandfather, Andre Pronovost, won four Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens during a 10-season NHL career that started in 1956-57. His three great uncles -- Claude, Jean and Marel Pronovost -- all played in the NHL.
Mantha had led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 50 goals this season, so as he told NHL.com, "It's in the family."
A 6-foot-3.75, 190-pound right wing listed at No. 10 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2013 NHL Draft, Mantha certainly is a lot bigger than his grandfather, who measured in at 5-9 and 185 pounds. But the legend of his grandfather's success, including Stanley Cups in 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960, looms large.
"There's no words to describe those moments," Mantha said his grandfather would say. "It's really the moments that he reminds himself of the most, and he tells his sons and grandchildren."
Mantha said he's never tried on any of his grandfather's championship rings for a simple reason.
"I hope I'll get my own in the next few years," he said.
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."
Dale Hunter and the London Knights seem to make a habit out of this "developing top NHL prospects thing," don't they?
Bo Horvat is one from a handful of talented players who were integral parts of this year's OHL champion and Memorial Cup participant, and he's also a top prospect in the 2013 NHL Draft class. What sets him apart from the rest of the field is that he excels as a consistent two-way player, and is a responsible presence in the middle of the ice.
His leadership and playmaking ability at both ends of the rink makes Horvat a selfless player who has no problem setting up his teammates for scoring opportunities and making physical plays to benefit his team. Though he only posted 30 points in the 2011-2012 season, Horvat doubled his point production with 61 points this past year, including tripling his goal total from 11 to 33. He was also one of the best players in the faceoff circle in the OHL this season, winning 60 to 70 percent of faceoffs every game.
Horvat has proven that he can adapt to any situation. He’s seen time on the power play, even strength and on the penalty kill. His on-ice presence makes his teammates better in every zone and in the offensive zone, Horvat’s attention to detail allows him to see passing lanes and think ahead of the play.
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.'"
TORONTO -- Every kid who ever picked up a hockey stick at some point pretended to be the player to score the championship goal at the buzzer.
London Knights forward Bo Horvat, No. 15 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2013 NHL Draft, got the rare opportunity to live the dream in Game 7 of the Ontario Hockey League finals.
With the Knights and Barrie Colts tied in the waning seconds of regulation, Horvat banged in a bouncing cross-ice pass just as the final buzzer sounded.
"Griff [Seth Griffith] made a nice play to dump it in and get it in deep," Horvat told NHL.com, reliving the moment. "I think there was five seconds left when he did that. It came around to [Alex] Broadhurst and he got along the wall and just fired it out front as fast as he could. Fortunately it made a couple bounces and came right to me and all I had to do was put it in."
TORONTO -- Ryan Hartman is right-handed, but that arm hasn't done much for him this season.
The Plymouth Whalers forward sustained a nasty skate cut to his right wrist during an Ontario Hockey League playoff game April 9 that needed surgery to repair and sidelined him for two weeks.
That came after he sustained a torn labrum in his right shoulder in late December, an injury he was able to play through. He finally had surgery two weeks ago.
Despite the injury, Hartman had 23 goals and 60 points in 56 regular-season games and four goals and two assists in nine playoff games. He also had two goals in seven games to help the United States win the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"It [shoulder injury] happened the first game after Christmas in Saginaw," Hartman told NHL.com. "I was driving the net, got hit from behind, run in to the crossbar. It happened three times throughout the year. Just something … it was definitely an injury you could play with, but something I wanted to get fixed at the end of the year."
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Simply put: the timing was right for George Matthews.
One of the most recognizable faces and voices in Blue Jackets history made the decision to move on to the next chapter of his life today, officially stepping away as the team’s radio voice after 12 seasons.
Matthews will relinquish full-time radio play-by-play duties with the team, but plans to call a limited number of Blue Jackets games during the 2013-14 season and will take part in future team initiatives.
Matthews called the 1,000th game of his NHL career this season when the Blue Jackets played the Phoenix Coyotes on Feb. 16 at Jobing.com Arena – a deserving milestone for a man who has enjoyed a remarkable career that began years ago as a part-time broadcaster on Prince Edward Island.
“This has been a very difficult decision, but one I have been contemplating for some time and one that is in the best interest of my family and me,” Matthews said in a statement issued by the team. “I want to thank the McConnell family and Doug MacLean for giving me the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of calling games in the NHL, as well as all of the players, coaches and staff I have worked with over the years and the great Blue Jackets fans who have made this a truly memorable part of my life.”
A schoolteacher turned broadcaster of 37 years, Matthews' career began in maritime Canada calling games for little to no pay, eventually landing a job with the Prince Edward Island Senators of the AHL. His longtime friend and former Blue Jackets president/GM Doug MacLean gave him his first opportunity at an NHL job in 1998, and as the cliche goes, the rest was history.
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."
The last name alone gets your attention, but there's a lot more to Max Domi’s game than just his hockey pedigree.
His on-ice play has drawn eyeballs than his last name as of late, and that's good news for the son of former NHL agitator Tie Domi, who enjoyed a 16-year career as one of the toughest enforcers in the NHL. Max and his London Knights teammates came tantalizingly close to a Memorial Cup title for the second year in a row, but bowed out in the semifinal to eventual champion Halifax.Domi is consistently one of the hardest workers on the ice, winning nearly every face-off circle match up and one-on-one battle every game. When he crashes the net, he is a force to be reckoned with.
Though he's one of the smaller players in the 2013 draft at 5-foot-9, Domi’s play lures larger defensemen out of position, leading to key scoring chances and opportunities for creative passes. His puck handling ability allows him to dangle defensemen and create offense that otherwise wouldn't seem possible, and a keen hockey sense makes him an excellent playmaker.