Kelly Friesen

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Kelly Friesen is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports

  • Colts blueliner Aaron Ekblad could be Florida bound. (OHL Images)

    In a year without a consensus top prospect, the Florida Panthers will dictate how the draft floor domino effect will start as their ball was picked at the annual NHL draft lottery.

    Only behind the Buffalo Sabres (25 per cent), Florida (18.8 per cent) had the second best odds of winning the lottery. It's ultimately fitting that the Panthers jumped over the Sabres to capture the top pick because they finished 30th overall last season, but drafted second as the Colorado Avalanche won the 2013 lottery.

    This is the second time in the history of the franchise that the Panthers hold the first overall selection. In 1994, they chose Ed Jovanovski with the top pick.

    Here is a look at how the lottery affected the draft and a projection of the top 10 selections.

    1. Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad, defence, Barrie Colts (OHL) – Since Florida is loaded up front with Alexsander Barkov, Jonathon Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, Ekblad is a no-brainer for the Panthers hockey brass. The 6-foot-4,

    Read More »from Aaron Ekblad the perfect fit for draft lottery winning Florida Panthers
  • NHL draft tracker: Jayce Hawryluk, Brandon Wheat Kings

    Hawryluk is ranked 37th by NHL CSS. (WHL.ca)

    Following in the footsteps of Columbus Blue Jackets winger Matt Calvert and Dallas Stars first-rounder Scott Glennie, Jayce Hawryluk is the Brandon Wheat Kings’ latest highly-touted NHL draft prospect to hail from Manitoba.

    “I do feel fortunate (to stay in my home province),” says Hawryluk, who’s a native of Roblin, Man. “It’s nice to not have to move far away and get to be around family here. Some guys have to move far away from their homes, so I was happy when I got the chance to play in Brandon.”

    Hawryluk came into his sophomore season feeling some pressure on his shoulders. Besides the obvious pressure that comes with a draft year, the 18-year-old knew the rebuilding Wheat Kings were counting on him to help lead the offense after his 43-point rookie season.

    “I did feel a little bit of pressure,” says Hawryluk. “I knew we didn’t have a first-round pick or anything in our forward group, so guys like me would be expected to produce. But I have tried not to think about that and just

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Jayce Hawryluk, Brandon Wheat Kings
  • NHL draft tracker: Brett Pollock, Edmonton Oil Kings

    Brett Pollock is the Oil Kings' top ranked draft prospect by Central Scouting (WHL.ca)

    Edmonton Oil Kings forward Brett Pollock wasn’t exactly on many NHL scouts’ radars at the beginning of the year. He was coming off a 44-game rookie season where he only scored two goals and four points on a limited fourth-line role.

    As his sophomore season has progressed, though, Pollock has continued to make headway in draft rankings. The proof is in the pudding in how the 18-year-old jumped to 34th among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting Service’s final ranking; he hurled over 37 prospect from his previous 71st mid-term ranking.

    The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Pollock's breakout year, which entailed notching 25 goals and 55 points in 71 contests, came together largely because his role with the Oil Kings significantly changed. He went from playing sparingly to being a key offensive contributor in their top six. This opportunity did come about for Pollock because Edmonton lost several key forwards in the offseason to the pros, but he also earned it by showing up to camp in good

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Brett Pollock, Edmonton Oil Kings
  • Jordan Papirny saves the day for Wheat Kings: Wednesday’s 3 Stars

    Jordan Papirny has stood on his head in the Wheat Kings' blue paint (WHL.ca)

    No. 1 star: Jordan Papirny, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

    The Wheat Kings will live to see another day thanks to Papirny’s outstanding play in the blue paint. The rookie goalie, who turns 18 tomorrow (April 10), turned aside 49 of 51 rubber bullets against the Edmonton Oil Kings in the 5-2 affair to force a Game 5. As the Oil Kings fired on all cylinders, he held the Wheaties in the game in the first 40 minutes by stopping 38 of 40 shots. The Edmonton native went on to get in front of all 11 pucks that came his way in the third period.

    Papirny has ultimately solidified himself as a genuine No. 1 goalie in the second-round series. He has been the Wheat Kings’ best player in all four games despite having a 195-shot workload. As the 24th ranked North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting Service, the odds are against him to have his name called at the 2014 draft, but his impressive showing may be enough to earn a rookie camp invite.

    Richard Nejezchleb (2G-1A, +2), John Quenneville (1G-1A,

    Read More »from Jordan Papirny saves the day for Wheat Kings: Wednesday’s 3 Stars
  • NHL draft experts’ take on class of 2014: ‘Ekblad is the slam dunk’

    Sam Reinhart is at the top of many 2014 NHL draft rankings (Larry MacDougal, The Canadian Press)

    The 2014 NHL draft class doesn't follow the same storyline as the last handful of entry drafts.

    Albeit some of the recent draft classes don't seem as cut and dry with hindsight vision, the storylines have been mainly based around two-horse races such as Nathan MacKinnon vs. Seth Jones in 2013, Nail Yakupov vs. Ryan Murray in '12 and Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin in 2010. There was other top-notch talent in those respective drafts such as Jonathan Drouin last year and Alex Galchenyuk in 2012, but the consensus was they were not in the running to go first overall.

    Read More »from NHL draft experts’ take on class of 2014: ‘Ekblad is the slam dunk’
  • Curtis Lazar's Oil Kings are up 3-0 on the Wheat Kings. (Larry MacDougal, The Canadian Press)

    The Edmonton Oil Kings have told the fat lady to warm up her chops, as they have a commanding 3-0 series lead on the Brandon Wheat Kings.

    This series is ultimately a mismatch on paper and it’s proving to be on the ice as well. The Oil Kings blanked the Wheaties 5-0 and 3-0 respectively in the first two games and took the third one 5-2 in Brandon’s own barn.

    It is unfair to knock Brandon, though. They finished seventh overall in the conference for a reason; they are in the process of a rebuild which will likely see them peak in 2016. Therefore, they deserve credit for even making it to the second round of the post-season.

    Goaltending hasn’t been an issue for either team. Oil Kings puck-stopper Tristan Jarry has stymied the Wheat Kings’ offense, posting back-to-back shutouts in the first two games and maintaining a .974 save percentage throughout all three of the matches. Wheat Kings goalie Jordan Papirny, meanwhile, has stepped up his game against his hometown team. The 17-year-old

    Read More »from Oil Kings have Wheat Kings on the ropes: WHL Eastern Conference playoff roundup
  • Chris Tierney’s 5 points lead Knights over Storm: Sunday’s 3 Stars

    Knights' Chris Tierney scored five points against the Storm. (OHL Images)No. 1 star: Chris Tierney, London Knights (OHL)

    Tierney’s five-point night helped lift the Knights to a crucial 7-2 win over the Guelph Storm. The victory ties the series up at one apiece between the MasterCard Memorial Cup hosts and top regular-season squad.

    After Mitchell Marner opened up the scoring for the Knights, Tierney netted his first of the game on the man advantage just over five minutes into the first period. With the score 2-1, the San Jose Sharks prospect notched back-to-back assists on goals from Ryan Rupert and Josh Anderson. The 19-year-old centre went on to close out the game’s scoring with his second power-play marker and third helper on a Brett Welychka goal late in the third period.

    Buffalo Sabres first-rounder Nikita Zadarov potted a goal and two assists from the back end. Meanwhile, Marner and Anderson each racked up a geno and an apple.

    With the shots 34-33 in favour of the Storm, Knights puck-stopper Jake Patterson was a major difference-maker in the game.

    Read More »from Chris Tierney’s 5 points lead Knights over Storm: Sunday’s 3 Stars
  • Prince George Cougars sale completed – report

    Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis is one of the future owners of the Cougars according to reports (CP)It seems it’s only a matter of time before the Prince George Cougars officially change hands.

    A report released by WHL insider Greg Drinnan states Cougars majority owner Rick Brodsky and a group headed by local business owner Greg Pocock and NHL defencemen Dan Hamhuis and Eric Brewer have signed off on the sale. The transaction just needs to pass the league’s due diligence process before going to a vote by the other owners.

    This news comes exactly a month after the Prince George Citizen’s Ted Clarke reported the deal had already been agreed upon. It, however, was later deemed that the transaction wasn’t signed off on at the time of the report.

    The PG Citizen March 3 report:

    The Prince George Cougars have been sold to local businessman Greg Pocock and a group of investors that includes NHL players and former Cougars Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis, say several sources close to the team.

    Pocock is the owner of Prince George Hydromechanical, an industrial cleaning services contractor, and

    Read More »from Prince George Cougars sale completed – report
  • Sam Reinhart's Ice are up against the Tigers. (Larry MacDougall, The Canadian Press)The first round of the WHL’s Eastern Conference post-season didn’t follow the script. Not only did the Kootenay Ice knock off the third-seed Calgary Hitmen, but the Brandon Wheat Kings also swept the second-seed Regina Pats.

    It seemed the Ice would need everything to go their way to pull off an upset against a powerhouse club like the Hitmen. But even though New York Rangers prospect Mackenzie Skapski faltered in between the pipes, Kootenay came out on top of the six-game series largely because Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau were a two-man wrecking crew with 17 points apiece.

    Brandon’s sweep is impressive, but it still doesn’t exactly put in them in the dark horse category. Their series win is more so a testament to Regina’s lackluster effort. The Queen City Kids’ goaltending from Dawson MacAuley and Daniel Wapple wasn’t up to playoff snuff and their thin back end was evident. In addition, the matchup was much closer than the second seed vs. seventh seed picture paints as only eight points separated the two East Division clubs in the standings.

    The Edmonton Oil Kings and Wheat Kings kick off their series on Thursday. The Ice and Medicine Hat Tigers first square off on Saturday.

    Read More »from Battle of the Kings; Tigers claw their way onto the Ice: WHL Eastern Conference second-round preview
  • NHL draft tracker: Jaedon Descheneau, Kootenay Ice

    Kootenay forward Jaedon Descheneau's four points gives him 82 on the season, enough for fifth place in WHL scoring. (CP / Larry MacDougal)Jaedon Deschenau's 98-point season has put him on the NHL draft map. (CP / Larry MacDougal)

    After being passed over in last year's NHL draft despite posting 30 goals and 78 points, Kootenay Ice winger Jaedon Descheneau came into his 18-year-old season with ample motivation to prove his doubters wrong.

    “It was very disappointing to not get picked in the draft,” says Descheneau, who turned 19-years-old in February. “It wasn’t for sure that I’d get drafted, but I knew there was a chance and I was hoping I would. It was tough to take at the time, but I knew I’d get more chances in the future to get drafted or sign a contract. It gave me some extra motivation this year to take what I did last year and just improve on it and show that I deserve a shot from a (NHL) team.”

    Suffice to say, if Descheneau’s 44 goals and 98 points in the regular-season didn’t garner the attention of some NHL scouts, his outstanding first-round playoff showing should have done the trick. He almost averaged three-points per game with seven goals and 17 points throughout the six-game series against the

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Jaedon Descheneau, Kootenay Ice

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