Kelly Friesen

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Kelly Friesen is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports

  • Meet the main men of 2016 Memorial Cup and future NHL stars

    There is no shortage of elite talents set to take part in the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup. The tournament includes some of the NHL’s top prospects such as Toronto Maple Leafs prized pick Mitch Marner, Philadelphia Flyers draft choice Ivan Provorov and San Jose Sharks first-rounder Timo Meier.

    Beyond NHL-drafted players, Red Deer will see some of the 2016 NHL draft’s top prospects. London Knights forward Matthew Tkachuk and defender Olli Juolevi are the top two prospects in the tourney. Brandon Wheat Kings blueliner Kale Clague is another high-end prospect while teammate Nolan Patrick is a 2017 draft phenom.

    Without further ado, here’s a look at the tournament's top 10 future NHL stars. The puck drops on the tournament Friday night in a matchup between the host Red Deer Rebels and London Knights.

    1. Mitch Marner, centre, London Knights – The Thornhill, Ont., native is the hottest scorer set to lace up the skates in the Memorial Cup. He led the OHL in playoff points and averaged 2.44

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  • Scouts preview 2016 NHL draft’s top goaltenders

    Carter Hart has asserted himself as one of the top goalies in the 2016 NHL draft class. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)Carter Hart has asserted himself as one of the top goalies in the 2016 NHL draft class. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

    Unlike the 2015 NHL draft, which saw the Washington Capitals pick Russian netminder Ilya Samsonov with the 21st overall selection, it appears a goaltender won’t don a sweater in the first round of the 2016 draft.

    “We don't believe that there are any early selections (in this year’s draft class),” says International Scouting Services head U.S. scout Phil Myre.

    Nonetheless, the 2016 draft class doesn’t lack potential No. 1 goalies just because there aren’t any first-round locks. After all, New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist and Nashville Predators veteran Pekka Rinne weren’t selected until the seventh and eighth rounds respectively in their draft years. It goes to show that predicting the future of an 18-year-old goalie is easier said than done.

    Everett Silvertips sophomore Carter Hart and Swedish product Filip Gustavsson are regarded as two of the top netminders in the draft. Hart asserted himself as an elite goalie in the WHL this season, posting a .918 save percentage and 2.14

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  • WHL final preview: Experience gives Wheat Kings edge on Thunderbirds

    Matthew Barzal and the Thunderbirds take on the Wheat Kings in the WHL final. (Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)Matthew Barzal and the Thunderbirds take on the Wheat Kings in the WHL final. (Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)

    The Brandon Wheat Kings and Seattle Thunderbirds are set to square off for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. The series kicks off on Friday at Brandon's Keystone Centre.

    Even though the Thunderbirds have dominated all three of their series, the Wheat Kings are favoured to win the WHL championship. The odds swing in Brandon’s favour because of their notable edge in experience and desire for redemption. They made it to the championship series last year, but the Kelowna Rockets embarrassed them in a four-game sweep.

    The Wheat Kings knocked the Memorial Cup hosts, the Red Deer Rebels, out of the playoffs in five contests in Round 3. They defeated the Moose Jaw Warriors in five and Edmonton Oil Kings in six in their previous two series.

    The Thunderbirds, meanwhile, swept the Rockets in their conference final matchup. They bounced the Everett Silvertips in five and the Prince George Cougars in four in the first two rounds.

    Despite only facing each other once in the regular-season, Brandon and Seattle

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  • WHL bantam draft: Kootenay Ice pick Alberta native Peyton Krebs 1st overall

    The Kootenay Ice picked Alberta product Peyton Krebs first overall in the 2016 WHL bantam draft. (Greg Krebs)The Kootenay Ice picked Alberta product Peyton Krebs first overall in the 2016 WHL bantam draft. (Greg Krebs)

    At a time when the province is under the duress of wildfires, the 2016 WHL bantam draft brought smiles to the faces of many Albertans. The Energy Province saw the top three selections in the draft plucked out of its own backyard.

    The Kootenay Ice kicked off the draft by choosing Okotoks, Alta., product Peyton Krebs first overall. The 5-foot-11, 163-pound forward lit up the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League this season with 46 goals and 102 points in 27 games for the Rocky Mountain Raiders.

    “Our scouting staff has been watching Peyton Krebs compete at a high level for two years,” said Kootenay’s director of scouting Garnet Kazuik. “He possesses an element of speed and pace that is unparalleled in his draft class. He is a passionate player whose vision on the ice allows the players around him to be better as well. We are excited to welcome Peyton and his family to the Kootenay Ice organization.”

    The Saskatoon Blades pulled off a trade with the Vancouver Giants in order to move up one

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  • NHL scout: “(Patrik) Laine has the biggest upside in the draft”

    Once upon a time, it seemed the eventual winner of the 2016 NHL draft lottery wouldn’t have to think twice about selecting Auston Matthews. He was regarded as the slum-dunk pick because of the combination of his elite skill set, imposing frame and complete game.

    On the eve of the lottery, however, Finnish star Patrik Laine’s strong play has pushed scouts to question the status quo. He’s not only put some space between himself and fellow countryman Jesse Puljujärvi, who is favoured to go third overall at June's NHL draft in Buffalo, but he’s also made a case to challenge Matthews as the draft’s top prospect.

    Although the No. 1 draft slot seems to be Matthews to lose, some scouts believe Laine has the potential to leapfrog the Scottsdale, AZ., native at the upcoming IIHF World Championship tournament May 6 -22 in Russia.

    “I was pretty sure about (Matthews) him going first overall for nearly all the season, but now I'm not so sure and think the World Championship in Russia will finally

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  • Ivan Provorov and the Wheat Kings take on the Rebels in the WHL's Eastern Conference final. (Wheat Kings)Ivan Provorov and the Wheat Kings take on the Rebels in the WHL's Eastern Conference final. (Wheat Kings)

    As expected, the Brandon Wheat Kings and Red Deer Rebels are set to square off in the WHL’s Eastern Conference final. The Wheaties were the top team in the conference this year while the Rebels loaded up at the trade deadline and host the upcoming Memorial Cup.

    After knocking the Edmonton Oil Kings out in two games, the Wheat Kings were on their game in the second round. They ousted the Brayden Point-led Moose Jaw Warriors in five matches.

    The Rebels squeaked by the Regina Pats in an exciting seven-game series following their first round battle with the Calgary Hitmen. They took Game 7 at home in a close 2-1 affair.

    Brandon hosts Games 1 tonight at the Keystone Centre. Here is a preview of the series.

    (1) Brandon Wheat Kings (48-18-4-2, 102 pts) vs. (3) Red Deer Rebels (45-24-1-2, 93 pts)

    Season series: Tie 2-2-0-0. Prediction: Wheat Kings in 6.

    Series in a sentence: Memorial Cup favourites square off against the Memorial Cup hosts.

    Here are some questions to ponder about in the

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  • WHL playoff preview: Second-round matchups in the Eastern Conference

    Brayden Point and the Warriors face the Wheat Kings int he second round. (Larry MacDougal, The Canadian Press)Brayden Point and the Warriors face the Wheat Kings int he second round. (Larry MacDougal, The Canadian Press)

    Albeit there were some hiccups, the first round of the WHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs didn’t include any big surprises. The Brandon Wheat Kings and Red Deer Rebels won their heavily favoured series while the Regina Pats and Moose Jaw Warriors came out on top of their close matchups.

    The Wheat Kings stumbled out of the gate in their first series, as they dropped the first two games to the Edmonton Oil Kings. They pulled up their socks in Game 3, though, and went on to take the series in six matches.

    Moose Jaw’s elite scorers were just too much for the Prince Albert Raiders to handle. Brett Howden, a 2016 NHL draft prospect, led the way with 11 points while veteran forwards Dryden Hunt and Brayden Point racked up 10 points each.

    Red Deer’s trade deadline additions came up big in their five-game series over the Calgary Hitmen. San Jose Sharks pick Adam Helewka (5G-2A) and Boston Bruins first-round pick Jake DeBrusk (3G-2A) combined for 12 points.

    Even though the Pats finished

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  • NHL draft tracker: Sam Steel, Regina Pats

    Regina Pats centre Sam Steel is a potential 2016 first-round pick. (Keith Hershmiller)Regina Pats centre Sam Steel is a potential 2016 first-round pick. (Keith Hershmiller)

    Regina Pats centre Sam Steel grew up in a hockey household in Sherwood Park, Alta. He spent countless hours learning the game and enhancing his skills on his father’s high-end backyard hockey rink with his older brother Patrick Steel, who played Junior ‘A’ with the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles.

    “I’m definitely from a hockey family,” says Steel, who is ranked 29th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting Service. “I grew up with a big backyard rink and used to skate on it all the time. I started playing hockey at like three years old and it’s a game my family loves.”

    In the Queen City, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Steel has been fortunate to be surrounded by many elite scorers. He has laced up the skates with the likes of Calgary Flames first-rounder Morgan Klimchuk and 120-point scorer Adam Brooks.

    “I’ve been lucky to play with lots of skilled forwards in Regina,” says Steel, who possesses elite playmaking abilities and a high hockey IQ. “Guys like Morgan Klimchuk and Braden

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Sam Steel, Regina Pats
  • WHL playoff preview: First-round matchups in the Eastern Conference

    Ivan Provorov's Brandon Wheat Kings are the favourites in the WHL's Eastern Conference. (Wheat Kings)Ivan Provorov's Brandon Wheat Kings are the favourites in the WHL's Eastern Conference. (Wheat Kings)

    After the Kelowna Rockets swept them in the WHL final last year, the Brandon Wheat Kings have their sights set on redeeming themselves and booking a trip to the 2016 Memorial Cup in Red Deer.

    The Wheat Kings struggled out of the gate, but went on a roll down the stretch. They posted an 11-0-2-0 record in their last 13 contests and finished the year with 102 points.

    Brandon’s toughest Eastern Conference competitor seems to be the Red Deer Rebels. The Memorial Cup hosts loaded up at the trade deadline by acquiring many major junior stars such as Boston Bruins first-round pick Jake DeBrusk, San Jose Sharks pick Adam Helewka and overage forward Luke Philip.

    The WHL’s playoff action kicks off tonight as the Wheat Kings and Oil Kings square off. The other three Eastern Conference series begin on Friday.

    Central Division

    (2) Lethbridge Hurricanes (46-24-1-1, 94 points) vs. (7) Regina Pats (36-28-3-5, 80 points)

    Season series: Pats 3-1-0-0. Prediction: Pats in 7.

    Series in a sentence: The

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  • Kootenay Ice win 2016 WHL bantam draft lottery

    Kootenay hopes to draft the next Sam Reinhart with the top pick in the 2016 WHL bantam draft. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)Kootenay hopes to draft the next Sam Reinhart with the top pick in the 2016 WHL bantam draft. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

    The Kootenay Ice’s rebuild received a major boost today at the 2016 WHL bantam draft lottery. The organization was awarded the top selection in the draft after its ball was drawn in Calgary.

    With a 12-53-6-1 record this season, Kootenay missed the playoffs for the first time since moving to Cranbrook, B.C., in 1998. It was the first year of the club’s rebuild after they graduated Buffalo Sabres prized pick Sam Reinhart and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Rinat Valiev last offseason.

    Kootenay began to reload their cupboard at the 2015 bantam draft despite not holding a first-round pick. They drafted Yorkton, Sask., native Keenan Taphorn 34th overall and Notre Dame Hounds product Loeden Schauffler 56th overall. They went on to acquire Kaeden Taphorn, the twin brother of Keenan, in a January trade with the Vancouver Giants.

    The Ice have never drafted first overall as a Cranbrook-based team, but the organization did hold the No. 1 pick when they were located in Edmonton in 1997. They chose

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