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Point leaders among CSS-rated players

11.18.2010 / 3:30 PM ET

With the NHL's Central Scouting preliminary rankings still fresh in everyone's mind, now's as good a time as any to take a look at each of the three Canadian Hockey Leagues and the United States Hockey League and compare those ratings with the top scorers.

Of course, what does it mean? Not much when you take into consideration defenders aren't asked to be goal-scorers and players competing for teams that are struggling are at a disadvantage. But, it is fun to take a look at where some of the top-rated prospects are in terms of production in their respective leagues.

Ontario Hockey League

Ryan Murphy, Kitchener, 20 games, 11-24-35, 8th CSS, 4th in scoring

Ryan Strome, Niagara, 21 games, 10-23-33, 4th CSS, 8th in scoring

Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener, 20 games, 17-14-31, 1st CSS, 10th in scoring

Alexander Khokhlachev, Plymouth, 20 games, 9-19-28, 12th CSS, 14th in scoring

Daniel Catenacci, Sault Ste. Marie, 22 games, 10-15-25, 16th CSS, 18th in scoring

Western Hockey League

Ty Rattie, Portland, 23 games, 14-25-39, 3rd CSS, 2nd in scoring

Sven Bartschi, Portland, 23 games, 16-17-33, 2nd CSS, 4th in scoring

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer, 22 games, 5-25-30, 1st CSS, 10th in scoring

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Sean Couturier, Drummondville, 26 games, 14-20-34, 1st CSS, 5th in scoring

Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John, 23 games, 15-15-30, 2nd CSS, 10th in scoring

Phillip Danault, Victoriaville, 23 games, 11-16-27, 4th CSS, 17th in scoring

United States Hockey League

Rocco Grimaldi, USNTDP, 19 games, 14-10-24, 4th CSS, 1st in scoring on USNTDP

Reid Boucher, USNTDP, 18 games, 6-7-13, 13th CSS, 3rd in scoring on USNTDP

J.T. Miller, USNTDP, 17 games, 2-11-13, 2nd CSS, 4th in scoring on USNTDP

Tyler Biggs, USNTDP, 17 games, 6-4-10, 1st CSS, 5th in scoring on USNTDP

*Seth Ambroz, Omaha, 8 games, 2-2-4, 3rd CSS

*Scott Mayfield, Youngstown, 10 games, 1-2-3, 4th CSS

* - Have played fewer games in USHL in order to compete for U.S. Selects Team.

--Mike G. Morreale

Preliminary Central Scouting ratings released;

Oilers' Eberle warns not to get too hyped-up

11.16.2010 / 11:00 AM ET

They're here…

Yes, the day every prospect prognosticator and player wishing to hear his name announced at the Entry Draft craves. The NHL's Central Scouting service on Tuesday unveiled their preliminary North American and European ratings for the upcoming draft in St. Paul, Minn. It's the first of three big ratings' installments -- a midterm release in January and final release in April are forthcoming.

A special thanks to those gentlemen over at Central Scouting, who do a fantastic job at compiling these lists for the benefit of the 30 NHL franchises. I especially want to commend the boys who spend countless hours on the road yet still find the time to return a phone call or email at the drop of a hat whenever a question arises about a potential star in the making.

The preliminary rankings, which include the top 25 skaters and most coveted goalies from the OHL, WHL, QMJHL and the USHL, may be accessed off the main story that ran on NHL.com Tuesday morning. There are also sidebars on those top-ranked European standouts and those in the collegiate ranks, including two from Boston University and two from the University of Wisconsin.

For those players checking in for the first time to learn where they stand, my suggestion is to not get too wrapped up in having a number attached to your name. Continue playing hard while conducting yourself in a professional manner.

I recently had an opportunity to chat with Edmonton Oilers 20-year-old rookie Jordan Eberle about the preliminary draft lists.

Eberle, of course, was drafted in the first round (No. 22 overall) in 2008 by the Oilers. If you'll recall, he was told he would be an early choice in the WHL bantam draft but, despite great numbers, scouts shied away because of his size (5-foot-8, 145 pounds at the time). He ended up falling all the way to the seventh round, where the Regina Pats grabbed him 126th overall. He'd go on to score 70 goals and 130 points in two seasons -- that's hard work.

Eberle's advice to those starry-eyed prospects:

"I remember (the preliminary lists) clearly," Eberle told NHL.com. "It's something as you go through your draft year … there's so many ups and downs but I think the big thing is you can't get too hyped up and focused in on all of that stuff.

"It really affects your game. You see guys rated high and they worry way too much about their ranking and all that stuff and they start dropping," he continued. "The thing is to just play your game, don't worry if you're high or low. I mean, I'm a seventh-round draft pick in bantam so I don't think that the draft is really … if you're a good enough player people are going to find you, it's as simple as that."

No better words spoken.

--Mike G. Morreale

USA wins third straight gold medal

11.15.2010 / 9:15 AM ET

Jimmy Mullin scored his team-leading sixth goal 16:07 into the third period to rally the U.S. Junior Select Team to a 6-4 victory over Canada East in the championship game of the 2010 World Junior A Challenge on Sunday at Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton, B.C.

Mullin, who was drafted in the fourth round (118th overall) by the Tampa Bay Lightning last June, scored his decisive goal just 40 seconds after Austin Czarnik (2011 draft eligible) had tied the game for Team USA. Czarnik, who scored twice in the game, was named Team USA's player of the game while defenseman Scott Mayfield (2011 draft eligible) and Mullin were named to the tournament all-star team. Mayfield, who has been maintaining a monthly blog for NHL.com, was also named the tournament's most valuable player.

"Our goal for the entire tournament was to climb the mountain," said U.S. coach P.K. O'Handley. "We were naturally concerned, down 4-1. But we stuck with our plan and came out on top. This was one of my best hockey experiences of my coaching career."

Canada East had taken a 4-1 lead with a pair of goals in the first five minutes of the second by Scott Wilson (East's player of the game, 2011 draft eligible) and Matthew Peca (2011 draft eligible) but the U.S. responded to pull within one on goals by Sam Warning (2011 draft eligible) and Brian Cooper (2011 draft eligible) to close out the middle period.

Michael Parks' empty-net goal with 1:24 remaining sealed the deal while U.S. goalie Casey DeSmith (2011 draft eligible), who replaced starter Zane Gothberg (10 saves in 25 minutes) early in the second period, turned aside all eight shots he faced. Jordan Ruby made 37 saves in the loss for Canada East and was one of three easterners named to the all-star team. He joined defender Tyson Wilson (2011 draft eligible) and forward Evan Rodrigues (2011 draft eligible), who co-led the tournament with 7 points.

Russian forward Mikhail Girgorenko (2012 draft eligible) earned the other all-star forward spot.

In the bronze medal game, Switzerland scored an 8-3 victory over Canada West as 14 different players notched at least one point. Gregory Hofmann (2011 draft eligible) scored twice in the victory.

The Swiss broke open a 2-2 game in the third with six unanswered goals in a span of 11:43 by Reto Schappi  (2011 draft eligible), Manuel Holenstein (2011 draft eligible), Joel Vermin (2011 draft eligible), Romain Loeffel (Swiss player of the game, 2011 draft eligible), Gaetan Haas (2011 draft eligible) and Hofmann. Canada West goalie Matthew Krahn (2011 draft eligible) was named best player for his team.

--Mike G. Morreale

Canada East vs. USA in World Jr A Challenge final

11.14.2010 / 01:10 PM ET

The United States and Canada East won semifinal-round contests on Saturday and will face-off in the gold-medal game on Sunday at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C.

The U.S. defeated Canada East, 6-1, on Nov. 8 in its first game of the preliminary around.

Team USA, which has won two straight World Junior A golds, received a goal and one assist from Garrett Allen in the opening 11 minutes of the game and Jimmy Mullin scored his tournament-leading fifth goal via a penalty shot in the third period as the Americans rolled to a 5-1 victory over Canada West.

"I was very pleased with our start tonight," said Team USA coach P.K. O'Handley. "I know it sounds cliche, but this game was just another step. We need to remain focused (Sunday) and compete like we did tonight."

The U.S. took a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the game when Caleb Herbert knocked in a rebound goal. Only three minutes later, Allen, of Delafield, Wis., extended the lead 2-0 with a goal.

The U.S. had beaten Canada West in the last two gold medal games. The loss means Canada West will not be playing for a gold medal for the first time in the tournament's five-year history. Zane Gothberg made 27 saves for the U.S. Allen was named player of the game for the Americans and Dylan Walchuk was best player for Canada West.

The U.S. was 1-for-6 on the power play and Canada West went 0-for-9 -- the U.S. has allowed only one power-play goal in 21 shorthanded situations in the tournament.

Canada East, meanwhile, knocked off previously unbeaten Switzerland, 4-2, as team player of the game Nick Huard scored twice and Jordan Ruby made 39 saves.  

Canada East received goals by Huard and Maxime Dumond in the second period to grabe a 3-1 lead over Switzerland, which will battle Canada West in the bronze medal game on Sunday.

Swiss forward Ryan McGregor, whose late goal in the first had pulled his team into a 1-1 tie, was named Switzerland's player of the game.

--Mike G. Morreale  

Canadian contingent advances to semifinals

11.12.2010 / 9:00 AM ET

Canada West and Canada East each scored quarterfinal-round victories on Thursday to advance into the medal round of the 2010 World Junior A Challenge at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C.

Canada West, which will play the defending champion, United States, in the semifinals on Saturday (7:30 p.m. PT), received a power-play goal by Nolan Kaiser at 5:18 of the third period to snap a 2-2 deadlock and Matthew Krahn made it stand behind 31 saves en route to a 3-2 victory over Sweden. Dylan Walchuk and Ben Gallacher also hit for Canada West and Linus Hulstrom and Sebastian Dyk connected for Sweden. Kaiser was selected as Canada West's player of the game and Dyk was named top player for Sweden, which outshot the Canadians, 33-22.

In the other quarterfinal game, Matthew Peca and Evan Rodrigues scored 42 seconds apart in the second period to give Canada East a four-goal cushion before Russia began a rally only to fall one-goal short, 4-3. Canada East will now face Switzerland in the other semifinal on Saturday.

Matt Chiarantano and Zach Hyman -- Canada's player of the game -- also hit for Canada East, which received a 35-save performance by Jordan Ruby. Mikhail Grigorenko, who scored two goals in the third period to pull Russia within one with over 11 minutes remaining, was named his team's best player in the contest.

Friday

Sweden vs. Russia (consolation game)

Saturday - Semifinals

Canada East vs. Switzerland

Canada West vs. United States

--Mike G. Morreale

Day 3 at World Junior A Challenge

11.11.2010 / 8:40 AM ET

The United States remained unbeaten and Canada West scored its first victory during the third day of preliminary-round action at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge on Wednesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C.

The U.S. received two points apiece by Seth Ambroz, Max Gaede, Cason Hohmann and Sam Warning, who each scored once, and goalie Zane Gothberg turned aside 32 shots as the Americans secured a spot in the semifinal round by wrapping up first place in Group A with a 5-1 victory over Sweden.

Gaede, Hohmann and Ambroz all scored in a span of 7:25 in the second period to give the United States a 4-1 advantage. Jimmy Mullin also connected for the U.S., notching his tournament-leading fourth goal. Ambroz, a likely top 15 draft pick in June, was named the Player of the Game for the Americans. Ambroz is blogging for NHL.com this season.

Filip Gunnarsson, who had an assist, was named Player of the Game for Sweden, which received its lone goal off the stick of Alexander Lagerstrom. The U.S. will have Thursday and Friday off before Saturday's semifinals while the Swedes (0-2) will face Canada West in Thursday's quarterfinal round.

In the other preliminary contest held Wednesday, Grayson Downing and Dylan Walchuk scored third-period goals to snap a 2-2 tie and give Canada West a 4-2 triumph over Russia before 3,497 in attendance.

Russia, which yielded 52 shots to Switzerland one night earlier, allowed 53 shots to Canada West. Russian goalie Oleg Dyatlov made 49 saves and was named Player of the Game for his team. Downing received similar honors for Canada West, which will next face Sweden. Russia will battle Canada East.

--Mike G. Morreale

Day 2 at World Junior A Challenge

11.10.2010 / 8:25 AM ET

Canada East rebounded from a disappointing opening-day loss and Switzerland won its second straight contest during preliminary round action of the 2010 World Junior A Challenge on Tuesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C.

The Swiss, who are making their first-ever appearance in the tournament, defeated Russia, 5-1, to clinch first place in Group B and solidify a spot in Saturday's semifinals. With the victory, Switzerland has now beaten last year's silver medalist -- Canada West -- and bronze medalists.

The teams combined for 91 shots to set a World Junior A Challenge record for one game, two more than the previous mark of 89 set by Germany and Belarus on Nov. 11, 2006. Switzerland outshot Russia, 52-39. Gaetan Haas (2011 draft eligible) scored a pair of goals in a 61-second span early in the third period to give Switzerland a 4-0 advantage. Russian goalie Denis Perevozchikov (2011 draft eligible) made 47 saves, including 16 in the opening 20 minutes. Perevozchikov, incidentally, plays for Bars Kazan back home.

Goalie Remo Giovannini (2011 draft eligible), who made 38 saves, was named Player of the Game for Switzerland and Maxim Shalunov (2011 draft eligible) received similar honors for Russia.

Canada East, which lost to the U.S. on Monday, received a goal and three assists from their Player of the Game, Evan Rodrigues (2011 draft eligible), while Jordan Ruby (2011 draft eligible) turned aside 34 shots in a 6-2 verdict over Sweden. Canada East connected for the opening four goals of the game in the first period before Sweden's Christian Nyman (2011 draft eligible) and Pontus Netterberg (2011 draft eligible) pulled Sweden to within 4-2. Netterberg, a product of HV 71 in the Swedish Elite League, was named Sweden's Player of the Game.

--Mike G. Morreale

Day 1 recap of World Junior A Challenge

11.09.2010 / 9:01 AM ET

The U.S. Junior Select Team and Switzerland each notched victories in the preliminary round of the 2010 World Junior A Challenge on Monday at the South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton, B.C.

Jimmy Mullin (Lightning), named the Player of the Game, scored three goals and goalie Zane Gothberg (Bruins) made 23 saves, including three breakaway attempts, to lead the Americans to a 6-1 victory over Canada East.

"We ran into some penalty trouble early, but started to find our game in the second and third periods (when the U.S. outscored CE, 6-1)," U.S. Junior Select head coach P.K. O'Handley said. "We've been working hard to develop chemistry, and we hope to bring this energy throughout the rest of the tournament."

The U.S., which will next face Sweden on Wednesday, has won the last two WJAC golds. Canada East, which received its lone goal off the stick of Evan Rodrigues (2011 draft eligible), is slated to play Tuesday against the Swedes. U.S. captain Colten St. Clair (2011 draft eligible) and teammates Ryan Dzingel (2011 draft eligible) and Garrett Allen (2011 draft eligible) all had two assists.

The U.S. roster, incidentally, is made up entirely of players from the United States Hockey League.

Switzerland, meanwhile, had a memorable debut in the tournament after scoring a 5-4 victory over Canada West when Nicholas Steiner (2011 draft eligible) connected for the game-winner while on the power-play 1:45 into overtime. Canada West actually erased deficits of 3-0 and 4-2 with a four-goal third period. Penticton native Mark MacMillan (Canadiens) scored twice in the third as CW pulled even before the game entered OT.

Swiss forward Ryan McGregor (2011 draft eligible) was named Player of the Game for the victors and MacMillan received similar honors for Canada West.

The Swiss return to action Tuesday against Russia. The Russians will then meet Canada West on Wednesday in the preliminary-round finale.

Monday, 8 November, 2010

CAN E 1 - USA 6

CAN W 4 - SUI 5 (OT)

Tuesday, 9 November, 2010

SWE - CAN E

SUI - RUS

Wednesday, 10 November, 2010

USA - SWE

RUS - CAN W

--Mike G. Morreale

Landeskog: No ordinary European

11.08.2010 / 10:00 AM ET

If not for the face, you would swear Gabriel Landeskog were American.

Read about him right here!

That's because his English is that good. It was something he was determined to learn when he turned 3 back in his native Stockholm, Sweden. Not only was he determined to perfect the English language, though, but enhance his chances at becoming a high-end prospect at the 2011 Entry Draft by playing the North American style at a very young age.

Landeskog did just that. After starring at Djurgarden in the Swedish Elite League at the tender age of 16 years, 90 days, Landeskog took his show to Kitchener in the Ontario Hockey League last year, producing an impressive 24 goals and 46 points in 61 games. He was named captain of the team this year, a sure sign he not only speaks the English language, but can relay any message of importance in a clear and concise manner. He wants to be regarded as the prototypical power-forward, following in the footsteps of former Swede Peter Forsberg and current stars Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom.

"Both (Franzen and Holmstrom) are role models, they've won cups and that's someone you want to look up to," Landeskog told NHL.com. "The strength Johan Franzen brings to the game and how strong he is low in corners is something I can learn from. Holmstrom is very good he is in front. Having a similar role in Kitchener, I try to study that to the best of my ability."

Landeskog told me he doesn't think the path he took to the Canadian Hockey League should be the same for every European player. But, he did go on to say that learning the North American style at a young age was of great importance to him.

"I'm really happy I came over here a year ago," he said. "But saying that, there are a lot of different paths you can take to the NHL and get to that level you want. Some players prefer the Swedish Elite League and go that route. I felt like I wanted to show Sweden and other young players this is possible too; a path you can take.

"Players ask me all the time how the life and hockey is over here," he continued. "I always recommend it and if that's what you want to do, it's not going to make you a worse hockey. It has strengthened me as a person and a player. I've learned a lot about the lifestyle and how playing 68 games plus playoffs is a bonus. It's a lot of games and that's the type of schedule you want to have if you want to reach the next level."

--Mike G. Morreale

Sound advice for 2011 draft prospects

11.03.2010 / 01:00 PM ET

In case you missed it, Edmonton Oilers amateur scout Stu MacGregor offered plenty of interesting insight into his job and what it entails. Read it right here.

MacGregor is in his eighth season with the Edmonton Oilers scouting staff and fourth as the organization's head amateur scout.

He's responsible for the team's amateur scouting staff and is usually the one working the table at the NHL Entry Draft for the Oilers.

"When I'm not on the road, I'm usually completing and reading reports on the players that our scouts have filed and then following up with our scouts via email or phone," MacGregor told NHL.com. "I have to be cognizant that we have the proper coverage in all the leagues and where the players appear to be for that particular league. I also have to be conscious of our budget and work with it."

In addition to that administrative work, MacGregor is also one heck of an evaluator of future talent. Here's some advice he had for those draft-eligible players entering the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.

NHL.com: What would be your advice to those high-end prospects in the 2011 Draft?

MacGregor: "I would just tell them to enjoy it, it's a great experience, and it should be a lot of fun -- the greatest time of your life. Just try to work as hard as you can and keep your head up. Keep trying to push forward. Don't worry about what people are saying. Do as you're told by your coach and work hard and, most importantly, enjoy the whole experience."

NHL.com: What's the best tip you can offer a player about to enter his first interview with an NHL team?

MacGregor: "I just think a player going into that just needs to be himself. Offer conversation and try to step forward as an individual. Show them that you're a good person and interested in the process, interested in the people you're talking to. Have your head up and look people square in the eye."

--Mike G. Morreale

Scholastic stargazing at NIT Tournament

11.02.2010 / 12:20 PM ET

The two Minnesota high school rosters for the Bauer National Invitational Tournament scheduled Nov. 5-7 at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope, Minn., have been confirmed.

Two teams -- Minnesota White and Minnesota Red -- were selected using players from seven regular-season Elite League squads. Players were notified of their selections on Oct. 31 -- Trick or Treat!

High schools in Edina, Benilde-St. Margaret's and Grand Forks Central (N.D.) are among the scholastic teams possessing three players in the annual event.

For a complete schedule, click here. In addition to the two Minnesota squads, six other teams will compete in the eight-team tournament, including prep powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary's, Michigan U-18 White, Massachusetts All-Stars, Manitoba Prep, Northwood School (N.Y.) and an all star team from Dallas.

There are a few Minnesota kids competing in the event rated as 'B Players' by NHL's Central Scouting Service. Keep in mind, a 'B' rating represents a potential 2011 selection in the third-to-fifth round in the Entry Draft.

Those players include forwards Joe Labate (Holy Angels) and Tony Cameranesi (Wayzata) of Minnesota White and forwards Steven Fogarty (Edina) and Kyle Rau (Eden Prairie) of Minnesota Red. The Shattuck-St. Mary's roster will likely include 'B rated' forward Tanner Sorenson and defenseman Mike Reilly.

The only 'A' rated player from the Minnesota high school ranks, left wing Mario Lucia of Wayzata HS, is currently on loan to the U.S. Under-18 National Team Developmental Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. Lucia will not be participating in the NIT Tournament.

I'll have more information as it becomes available.

If you haven't already seen it, NHL.com's Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's 'players to watch' list is out. Get it here.

--Mike G. Morreale

Drummondville's Sean Couturier -- Let the buildup begin

10.29.2010 / 3:36 PM ET

So if the NHL Entry Draft were held tomorrow, odds are Drummondville center Sean Couturier would be the No. 1 overall selection.

At least that's the gut feeling. It seems scouts like his tough two-way acumen and the confidence within. It certainly doesn't hurt being ranked sixth in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 25 points, including 11 goals, in 19 games.

At this point in the season, Couturier's agent, former NHLer Gilles Lupien, would prefer not to have his client speaking with reporters. So, I spoke to Lupien about his budding prospect, who led the QMJHL in scoring in 2009-10 with 96 points (41 goals) in 68 games.

Lupien compared Couturier to a young Darryl Sittler, the former Toronto Maple Leaf, Philadelphia Flyer and Detroit Red Wing inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989.

"He's a bright kid, he gets 95's in school, he's a brainer and quiet guy and doesn't say much," Lupien said of Couturier. "He's the type of guy who sits in the room, like a Bob Gainey and doesn't say much but shows by example. He's like a Joe Thornton, that silent type, and Darryl Sittler. Sittler was like that. He's tall and appears slow-moving but then, all of a sudden, poof, he's out like a rocket like Sittler."

Lupien has limited Couturier's interview requests during the early stages of the season in order to minimize the pressure of his draft year.

"I just want him to concentrate on being the best player he can be right now," Lupien said.

--Mike G. Morreale

Draft Fodder Friday

10.29.2010 / 2:47 PM ET

If you haven't already checked out Adam Kimelman's report on the players to watch this season in the Western Hockey League, you can find that right here.

I recently had a great conversation with the head amateur scout for the Edmonton Oilers, Stu MacGregor. While the veteran talent-evaluator wasn't about to reveal any secrets, he did tell me that Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL is really opening some eyes. Strome has 8 goals, 24 points and a plus-3 rating in 14 games this season.

Strome, draft eligible next June, was a 'B List' player on the NHL's Central Scouting 'Futures List', but will undoubtedly be at or near the top by the time the preliminary rankings are released in mid-November. If you haven't yet seen Strome's highlight-reel goal against Plymouth, check it out here.

MacGregor informed me how the most "interesting experience of his scouting career" took place last season when he was routinely reporting on Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. As we know, the decision would ultimately be Hall, but it was only after countless meetings and viewings.

In other news, Gabriel Landeskog, who is also high on 2011 draft lists, was named team captain for the Kitchener Rangers on Oct. 24. Landeskog was Kitchener's Rookie of the Year in 2009-10 after notching 24 goals and 46 points in 61 games. He was the youngest player -- at 16 years and 90 days -- to play for  Djurgarden in the Swedish Elite League during the 2008-09 campaign.

"I play a lot like Jarome Iginla and Mike Richards," Landeskog told NHL.com. "They're kind of my role models. I look a lot at how they play and I kind of try to be like them. They're good leaders and good role models for me."

--Mike G. Morreale

E.J. McGuire talks 2011 Entry Draft

10.28.2010 / 2:46 PM ET

How tough is it at this point in the season to pinpoint one prospect capable of living up to all the hype as the first overall choice in the 2011 Entry Draft in June?

So tough that even E.J. McGuire, the Director of NHL's Central Scouting, admits there is no consensus No. 1 -- for now.

"In mid-November, (Central Scouting) will put out their (preliminary rankings) once we've had a chance to comb the major junior leagues and, from that, we'll usually get our top 1-2-3 guys," McGuire told NHL Live! on Thursday. "There are some top guys from each of the three leagues this year and there's probably one Swedish guy (defenseman Adam Larsson) who'll also be top 5 next year."

While no one player has taken the lead as top gun, McGuire certainly didn't hold back when asked his opinion of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer in the Western Hockey League.

"Ryan is the type of player who goes through traffic -- he's not likeable in a china shop," McGuire said. "I had the pleasure to watch him at the Research, Development and Orientation Camp in Toronto in August and no one executed the long pass better than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He's a bring-the-fans-out-of-your-seat kind of player with all his offensive moves."

Nugent-Hopkins is more of a skilled forward as compared to those power types, according to McGuire. To get more insight into Nugent-Hopkins, check out his blog on NHL.com.

"Early in the season, Sean Couturier is that power-forward type playing with Drummondville in QMJHL," McGuire said. "He's a big, strapping center, tall and rangy, and he might go No. 1 overall."

Sean was born in Phoenix, Arizona, when his father Sylvain Couturier played for the IHL's Phoenix Roadrunners and moved to Bathurst after his dad's retirement. Couturier has drawn comparisons to a young Vincent Lecavalier, although he claims to model his game after Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin. Through 19 games this season, he's produced 11 goals and 25 points.

McGuire also touched on a few players generating a buzz throughout Central Scouting headquarters. Three of the five players he mentioned -- Adam Clendening of Boston University, Shane McColgan of Kelowna in the WHL and Seth Ambroz of the Omaha Lancers in the USHL -- have already been featured on NHL.com.

McGuire also recognized U.S. National Team Development Program member Connor Murphy, a defenseman who is currently sidelined with an ailing back, and David Musil of the Vancouver Giants in the WHL. Musil, also a defenseman, has 2 goals, 10 points and 24 penalty minutes in 16 games with Vancouver this season. He produced 7 goals, 32 points and 67 PIM in 71 contests last season.

--Mike G. Morreale

World Junior 'A' Challenge set

10.27.2010 / 11:45 AM ET

In case you missed it, the rosters for the six-team 2010 World Junior 'A' Challenge in Penticton, B.C., slated Nov. 8-14 have been established. Several players on each roster will likely be selected in the 2011 Entry Draft, so check them out when you have the chance.

Group A

Team USA (gold medalist 2009, '08)

Sweden

Canada East

Group B

Canada West (gold medalist 2006, '07)

Russia

Switzerland

Round-robin play runs through Nov. 10. The semifinal round takes place Nov. 13 and the gold-medal game, shown nationally on TSN and RDS, is scheduled Nov. 14 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Also, 2011 draft-eligible prospect Seth Ambroz of the Omaha Lancers in the United States Hockey League has filed his initial blog on NHL.com. Check it out here.

--Mike G. Morreale

Prepping for St. Paul (Minn.)

10.25.2010 / 10:00 PM ET

No better time to fire up the 2010 Entry Draft blog than right after Central Scouting's initial 'Players to Watch' release for high schools, Canadian provincials and international skaters.

It's the first step in attempting to pinpoint the crème de la crème among draft eligible prospects for 2011. While it's certainly no easy process, it's something the NHL's Central Scouting Service takes great pride in. So with eight months to go before draft day, in St. Paul, Minn., it's time to get informed.

In case you missed it, here are the high school and Canadian provincial players to keep an eye on.

Here are the international players to watch. Of course, Adam Larsson, a defenseman from Sweden, is being touted as the next Victor Hedman (or better).

NHL.com has already featured several future stars, including a few players from the United States Hockey League in Scott Mayfield of Youngstown and Seth Ambroz of Omaha and two from the Western Hockey League in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer) and Shane McColgan (Kelowna). Adam Kimelman has written reports on goalie prospect Christopher Gibson of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Adam Clendening of Boston University.

In case you missed it, NHL.com's list of the top draft-eligible prospects from the USHL also hit the front page of the web site. Get it here!

Four players have also offered to provide NHL.com with a monthly blog that will chronicle their season, start to finish. You can check out a new blog each Wednesday every month leading up the Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center in June.

Scott Mayfield's blog

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' blog

Shane McColgan's blog

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