Kelly Friesen

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Kelly Friesen is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports

  • Top 2014 bantam pick Stelio Mattheos is set to join the Brandon Wheat Kings this season. (WHL.ca)Top 2014 bantam pick Stelio Mattheos is set to join the Brandon Wheat Kings this season. (WHL.ca)

    Stelio Mattheos, the first overall pick of the 2014 WHL bantam draft, is entering his major junior career in a unique situation. Unlike most top selections who join organizations going through a rebuild, the Winnipeg, MB., native is joining a stacked Brandon Wheat Kings club.

    The reason the Wheat Kings, who posted a 34-29-6-3 record in 2013-14, were able to draft Mattheos is because of a deal that GM-head coach Kelly McCrimmon made with ex-Saskatoon Blades GM Lorne Molleken in 2012. He acquired the right to swap 2014 first round bantam picks with the Blades in a trade that sent Brendan Walker to Saskatoon.

    Mattheos, 16, feels it works in his favour to join a contender as a rookie rather than a team looking to get back on its feet. He sees the upside in being able to learn from Brandon’s elite forwards such as New Jersey Devils first round pick John Quenneville, Florida Panthers second round pick Jayce Hawryluk and sophomore sniper Nolan Patrick.

    “Getting a chance to play with the type

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  • Scouts give early take on 2016 NHL draft’s top 10 prospects

    Auston Matthews is regarded as the top 2016 NHL draft prospect. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)Auston Matthews is regarded as the top 2016 NHL draft prospect. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    The 2016 NHL draft class is an ideal draft for an organization to beef up its offense. From Arizona product Auston Matthews to Sudbury Wolves import Dmitri Sokolov, it is full of high-end forwards who have size to go along their skill.

    All in all, BTN’s top 10 list includes six forwards who are at least 6-foot-2. Only two of the prospects, the United States National Team Development Program's Clayton Keller and Chad Krys, are below 6-feet.

    Without further ado, here’s a look at an early take on the 2016 draft’s top 10 prospects. Hockey scout Brendan Ross put the ranking together with the help of his Mckeen’s Hockey colleagues.

    1. Auston Matthews, centre, ZSC Lions (National League A) – Matthews heads into the 2015-16 season regarded as the draft’s clear-cut top prospect. He dominated the USNTDP last year, scoring 55 goals and 116 points in 60 games.

    The 6-foot-2, 194-pound forward made an unprecedented move this offseason by choosing to head to Europe for his draft year. He signed with

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  • Max Gildon: Texas star rising in 2017 NHL draft class

    Texas native Max Gildon is one of the top prospects of the 2017 NHL draft. (Dallas Stars AAA U16)Texas native Max Gildon is one of the top prospects of the 2017 NHL draft. (Dallas Stars AAA U16)

    It’s easy for Max Gildon to stand out among the top talents in the 2017 NHL draft class. In addition to having an appealing combination of size, a smooth skating ability and elite offensive skill, the young blueliner hails from Texas, an unorthodox place to find one of the world’s top 1999-born hockey players.

    It all started for Gildon when his grandfather, Larry Smith, introduced to him to hockey at a young age. From there, he began to fall in the love with the game.

    “My grandfather used to pick me up from daycare and take me down to the rink,” says Gildon. “I started to really like the game then when I was a kid. I played other sports, but never had a hard decision to make of quitting one for hockey because hockey has always been my favourite sport.”

    Fortunately for Gildon, Texas’ hockey development began making headway at the same time he was learning the ropes. The Dallas Stars AAA programs have developed an esteemed reputation over time for having the knowledge and resources to

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  • Switzerland-bound Auston Matthews still poised to go 1st overall in 2016

    Auston Matthews will play for the ZSC Lions in Switzerland next season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)Auston Matthews will play for the ZSC Lions in Switzerland next season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    In an unprecedented move, Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 overall selection of the 2016 NHL draft, will spend next season in Switzerland. The ZSC Lions in Zurich announced he signed a one-year contract with the pro hockey club today.

    The Scottsdale, AZ., native ultimately would have signed with the ZSC Lions earlier in the offseason, but he had issues landing a work visa. Zurich’s release claims that there was a bilateral agreement between the United States and Switzerland to authorize his residence permit. It will officially take effect when he turns 18 on Sept. 17.

    "He is something special," Zurich general manager Edgar Salis told the Canadian Press. "He has good speed, good skill — the whole package. We have good players, and with his hockey IQ I think he can feed our guys and fit the team. He brings everything. That was why we jumped on him."

    The signing is a big blow to the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, who selected Matthews 57th overall in the 2012 bantam draft. Many reports

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  • Kelowna Rockets replace Dan Lambert with ECHL coach Brad Ralph

    Brad Ralph (left) with Rockets owner-GM Bruce Hamilton at Kelowna's press conference. (Larry Fisher)Brad Ralph (left) with Rockets owner-GM Bruce Hamilton at Kelowna's press conference. (Larry Fisher)

    Kelowna Rockets owner-GM Bruce Hamilton took a page out of the Edmonton Oil Kings’ playbook to find his replacement for Dan Lambert, who stepped down in early July to become an assistant coach for the Buffalo Sabres. He plucked Brad Ralph out of the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads just as the Oil Kings did with their former head coach, Derek Laxdal, in 2010.

    “We’re really excited,” Hamilton stated in the release. “Brad has a tremendous coaching record. I believe we found someone who fits in with the culture we have here. He fully understands what we expect as an organization. This has been a process that we would have liked to have moved quicker but we feel Brad is an excellent fit for the organization.”

    Ralph, who signed a three-year contract with the Rockets, spent the last three years as Idaho’s head coach following a two-year stint with the SPHL’s Augusta RiverHawks. He doesn’t have any CHL coaching experience, but he did play three seasons with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals in the late

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  • Oilers pick Caleb Jones looks to make his mark in Portland

    Caleb Jones is set to play for the WHL's Portland Winterhawks in his 18-year-old season. (USA Hockey)Caleb Jones is set to play for the WHL's Portland Winterhawks in his 18-year-old season. (USA Hockey)

    A familiar name will be on the back of a Portland Winterhawks sweater next season. Caleb Jones is set to play for the WHL franchise just as his brother, Nashville Predators defenceman Seth Jones, did two years ago.

    The 6-foot, 194-pound rearguard did inevitably consult his brother when deciding whether to go down the major junior or college route, but he made his own decision. He decided the WHL was the best fit for his development because of the extensive 72-game schedule and the league’s track record at getting players to the next level.

    “I talked to him (Seth) about it a little bit to see what he thought,” says Jones, whom the Edmonton Oilers selected 117th overall in the 2015 NHL draft. “He told me what to expect in the WHL and how everything works. But he was supportive of whatever decision I made and knows both routes (WHL and NCAA) are good routes. I decided the WHL was my best option because of the amount of games in the schedule and how it’s second to none at developing NHL

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  • Predators pick Jack Dougherty leaves Wisconsin for WHL’s Portland Winterhawks

    Jack Dougherty is poised to play for the WHL's Winterhawks next year after signing with Nashville. (NHL.com)Jack Dougherty is poised to play for the WHL's Winterhawks next year after signing with Nashville. (NHL.com)

    Portland Winterhawks GM-head coach Jamie Kompon has given his club’s back end an extreme makeover this offseason. Roughly three months after signing Edmonton Oilers draft choice Caleb Jones, the brother of former Winterhawk Seth Jones, he has appeared to land Nashville Predators second-round pick Jack Dougherty.

    The 6-foot-2, 190-pound rearguard, who turned 19 in May, signed his entry-level contract with the Predators today, which makes him ineligible to return to the University of Wisconsin next season because of NCAA regulations. There is a chance he could go straight to the AHL next year, but it seems that isn’t in Nashville’s current plans. The organization said in its press release regarding Dougherty’s signing that he is expected to play for Portland in 2015-16. It’s a good indication that he knew he would be Oregon bound when he signed his contract with the Predators.

    The Cottage Grove, MN., native, who is regarded as a solid all-around defenceman with a good puckhandling

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  • Jost, Fabbro put 2016 NHL draft spotlight on BCHL’s Penticton Vees

    Tyson Jost #10 of Canada White prepares for a faceoff against Finland during the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)Tyson Jost #10 of Canada White prepares for a faceoff against Finland during the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
    The BCHL’s Penticton Vees are poised to be one of the top 2016 NHL draft hotspots. The Junior A club should garner no shortage of draft attention next year with top 1998-born prospects Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro in their lineup.

    Albeit a lot can happen between now and June, Jost and Fabbro are expected to don jerseys within the first 30 selections in Buffalo. If that comes true, it would be a memorable moment for the Vees. There have only been two BCHL teams to have multiple first-round selections in the NHL draft since 1979, when the process switched from an amateur draft to an entry draft.

    It’s not surprising to see Penticton lead the way among Junior A clubs in draft eligible talent. Evident in how the Vees had 16 players with Division 1 commitments in 2014-15, they have developed an esteemed reputation for attracting high-end players who want to go the NCAA route. The club has seen the likes of Columbus Blue Jackets star Ryan Johansen, Pittsburgh Penguins first-round pick Beau

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  • Athol Murray College of Notre Dame proves to be unique hockey hotspot

    Athol Murray College of Notre Dame has built an esteemed reputation in the hockey world. (image credit to Notre Dame)Athol Murray College of Notre Dame has built an esteemed reputation in the hockey world. (image credit to Notre Dame)

    Unlike most prominent minor hockey programs, Athol Murray College of Notre Dame isn’t based in a large city or heavy-traffic area. It’s located in the small village of Wilcox, Sask., the home of roughly 350 people.

    Despite its unique location, Notre Dame has developed a reputation as one of the top hockey programs in the world, let alone Western Canada. It seems the school has at least two or three future NHLers in its development program at any given time. They have played a role in helping mold many young stars such as Jaden Schwartz, Morgan Rielly and Sean Couturier as well as retired greats like Wendel Clark, Rod Brind’Amour and Curtis Joseph.

    The school is best known as a breeding ground for the Western Hockey League. They have had 22 players selected in the past three WHL bantam drafts, including many first-round selections such as Kelowna Rockets sniper Dillon Dube (21st overall, 2013), Moose Jaw Warriors prized prospect Josh Brook (fifth overall, 2014) and Tri-City Americans

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  • Previewing the 2015 NHL draft’s top 10 prospects

    Connor McDavid will officially become an Edmonton Oiler on Friday at the NHL draft. (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)Connor McDavid will officially become an Edmonton Oiler on Friday at the NHL draft. (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

    With the 2015 NHL draft set to get underway on Friday, BTN teamed up with some scouts to preview the top 10 prospects of the draft class.

    It goes without saying that Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are the top two talents in the draft, but there's room for debate beyond the two phenoms. Dylan Strome and Mitchell Marner seem to be the draft’s next best forwards while Noah Hanifin and Ivan Provorv are neck and neck for the top defenceman honour.

    Here’s a look at BTN’s top 10 prospects of the 2015 draft class.

    1. Connor McDavid, centre, Erie Otters (OHL) – The Newmarket, Ont., native needs no introduction, as he’s been hyped as the NHL’s next big superstar since he was in junior high. He has undoubtedly lived up to the heavy expectations laid on his shoulders throughout his three seasons in the OHL. He went out with a bang this past year, tallying 44 goals and 120 points in 47 games, helping the Otters make it to the league finals and capturing a gold medal with Team Canada at the world

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