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Vancouver Province article (Richmond NHL prospect happier to play golf on draft day)

June 19 2008 at 7:28 AM
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N. W. Bruin  (Login NW_Bruin_GM)

 
Richmond NHL prospect happier to play golf on draft day

"If you're not going where you're supposed to go you're just sitting there tense and nervous," says Brandon McMillan

Ben Kuzma, The Province

Published: Thursday, June 19, 2008

Judging by the admiration NHL scouts have for Richmond native Brandon McMillan, you'd think he'd be in Ottawa this weekend for the entry draft.

Not so.

Even though the Kelowna Rockets winger will likely leap from the third to the second round - several teams will jockey for position to land the swift-skating, two-way performer - he's staying back home in the Okanagan.


The Kelowna Rockets' Brandon McMillan streaks in on a breakaway as Chilliwack Bruin Jadon Potter gives chase

"I just think it's a lot of hype for just one day," said McMillan, 18, a product of the South Delta hockey association and ranked 78th overall by The Hockey News. "It's an exciting day, but if you're not going where you're supposed to go you're just sitting there tense and nervous.

"I'd rather be out in the sun in Kelowna, golfing or something like that."

McMillan did admit he'll watch the first round Friday because teammates Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers will be first-round selections, but that's about it. And that's not surprising.

McMillan's demeanour is much like his game. Far from a flashy player, he relies on speed, strength and accountability with and without the puck. After a 41-point WHL season, the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder was also a member of Canada's under-18 team that won gold in Russia last April. He had a goal and two assists in the tournament.

Called upon to play key minutes for Team Canada coach Pat Quinn - including penalty-killing and shutdown roles late in games - McMillan proved he could one day blossom into a responsible third-line NHL player and have a lengthy career.

"I love this kid because he's just that," said one NHL scout. "He even played a little bit of the point on the power play when they [Rockets] had injuries and is a very solid two-way player.

"He's not exceptional offensively, but he's exceptional defensively and to me this [second round] is where you take him. He's not going to be a high-end guy, but he's going to play 10 to 15 years."

Two developments played a key role in McMillan's rise. In the second year of bantam, he switched from defence to forward and, during his Grade 10 year, McMillan realized that the 207 pounds he was packing were too much.

First, the switch from defence.

"I just like to score goals," he said. "Being a forward you skate a lot more, but playing defence got the defensive mind going as well. That's why I think I'm a good two-way player."

McMillan got his weight down to 185 pounds by working on his legs and core strength. Power-skating lessons also added quickness to a strong stride.

"Probably my best asset is my speed and using it even when I don't have the puck," he said. "That's huge because you've got to be able to backcheck and you have to be able to forecheck to get into the right positions."

McMillan cites Steve Yzerman as an idol because the former Detroit Red Wings star was able to add a defensive component to his game when many labelled him a one-dimensional player.

That comparison didn't surprise another NHL scout, whose club will interview McMillan a second time in Ottawa.

"He's a bit of a sleeper," said the scout. "He has real hockey sense and is extremely smart. And he has a good change of speed that you don't see all the time. He'll burst through holes and score some big goals at different times."

Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton said another reason for optimism with McMillan is his durability. The winger missed just one game last season and is expected to vie for a roster spot with Canada's world junior team.

"I don't know if we've seen the best of him, scoring-wise," said Hamilton. "When he becomes a little more polished he'll be better because he whole game is speed."

Rockets coach Ryan Huska noted that many scouts didn't realize how well McMillan skated this past season. He won the skating competition at the national prospects camp and proved on the under-18 world stage that he could excel.

"He's explosive and dangerous and that makes him an interesting pick," said Huska. "That's why he's getting a lot of attention."

Like any other prospect, there's a real curiosity about McMillan. At the NHL combine last month, he was hit with a wild question during the interview process with 16 teams.

"The weird one was: 'What would I do if one of the guys on my team was hitting on my girlfriend,'" he recalled. "I said: 'I'd try to work it out.' You don't want to get mad."

No. Just even.

bkuzma@png.canwest.com




© The Vancouver Province 2008

 
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Van Prov article (Draft: A quick look at the top six B.C. - born prospects heading in)

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June 19 2008, 7:32 AM 

Draft: A quick look at the top six B.C.-born prospects
heading into this weekend's bonanza in Ottawa

Ben Kuzma, The Province

Published: Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hockey writer Ben Kuzma previews B.C. players for the NHL entry draft this weekend in Ottawa. Rankings courtesy of TSN, The Hockey News (THN), International Scouting Service (ISS), McKeen's Hockey (MH), Central Scouting Bureau (CSB).

1. KYLE BEACH (Kelowna)

C, Everett, WHL

Slotted: 10th (TSN), 13th (ISS)

Size: 6-foot-3, 203 lbs.

Stats: GP: 60, G: 27, A: 33, Pts: 60

Skinny: Power forward with a mean streak (222 PIM) who has a nose for the net and isn't afraid to drop the gloves.

Scouts say: "This could be the best player in the draft. Tough as nails. He can snap and that can be a good or bad thing."

2. COLTEN TEUBERT (White Rock)

D, Regina, WHL

Slotted: 13th (HN), 14th (MH)

Size: 6-foot-4, 185 lbs.

Stats: GP: 66, G: 7, A: 16, Pts: 23

Skinny: Another tough customer (135 PIM) who makes opposition forwards pay a price and is an intense blueliner.

Scouts say: "These are the kind of players who get you into the playoffs and the kind who help you win in the playoffs."

3. JUSTIN SCHULTZ (Kelowna)

D, Westside, BCHL

Slotted: 58th (TSN), 38th North American skater (CSB)

Size: 6-foot-1, 163 lbs.

Stats: GP: 57, G: 9, A: 31, Pts; 40

Skinny: A year removed from midget hockey, adjusted to steep learning curve with great speed, vision and puck skills.

Scouts say: "He's really smart offensively and defensively. Knows when to move the puck at the right times."

4. GEORDIE WUDRICK (New Westminster)

LW, Swift Current, WHL

Slotted: 53rd (HN), 71st NA skater (CSB)

Size: 6-foot-3, 204 lbs.

Stats: GP: 66, G: 20, A: 24, Pts: 44

Skinny: Skates well for a big player, but had an average year and will likely be a possible project. Needs to show up more.

Scouts say: "His determination from shift to shift and battling through ups and downs has to be more consistent."

5. BRANDON McMILLAN (Richmond)

LW, Kelowna, WHL

Slotted: 78th (HN), 48th NA skater (CSB)

Size: 5-foot-11, 185 lbs.

Stats: GP: 71, G: 15, A: 26, Pts: 41

Skinny: Considered a sleeper pick because of good smarts and skating and ability to play a strong two-way game.

Scouts say: "He's very good at both ends of the ice and he'll be a real solid player for a long term in the NHL."

6. BRODIE REID (Vancouver)

RW, Burnaby, BCHL

Slotted: 85th NA skater (CSB)

Size: 6-foot, 185 lbs.

Stats: GP: 60, G: 52, A: 35, Pts: 87

Skinny: Second in goals and fifth in points, a budding power forward who managed 18 goals on the power play.

Scouts say: "Likes to shoot the puck and has a pretty good release. Good vision, especially on the power play."




© The Vancouver Province 2008

 
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Vancouver Sun article (Getting ready for the Beach)

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June 19 2008, 7:38 AM 

Getting ready for the Beach

Iain MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun

Published: Thursday, June 19, 2008

OTTAWA - The Vancouver Canucks love Kyle Beach. But probably so do at least a couple of teams ahead of them in Friday's National Hockey League entry draft.

A year ago, Beach had an outshot shot to become the second or third over-all pick behind Steve Stamkos. Now, the physical centre from Kelowna is merely the second most talked about player available. This is interesting.

But add the Canucks to the story -- they pick 10th, which is where The Hockey News ranks Beach -- and the likelihood the 18-year-old will be the first British Columbian chosen, and the 18-year-old who plays for the Everett Silvertips becomes a truly fascinating case study for prospects with a past.

"He's the type of player you're afraid to pick, but also the type you're afraid to pass on," one B.C.-based NHL scout told The Vancouver Sun. "He may not be a good player for your team, but he'll be a good player for someone."

You may have heard that Beach has issues. Sorry, had.

Six times Beach was ejected from minor hockey games in the Okanagan, and he received a six-game suspension for bumping an official during a midget tournament. His reputation for undisciplined play caused Beach to slide to 10th in the Western Hockey League's 2005 bantam draft after he'd been considered a possible first pick.

Never mind. Beach marked his debut for Everett by making a hunchback gesture towards former Vancouver Giant Milan Lucic, who has a curved spine and was merely one of the WHL's most feared players. Beach fought Lucic and in his first two WHL seasons accumulated 28 fighting majors and 418 penalty minutes, none of those for scuffling with teammate Colten Teubert of White Rock during Team Canada's under-18 camp last summer.

The Team Canada incident in Calgary might have gone unnoticed, but for the 80 or so scouts sitting in the stands.

This is how nearly all the stories about Beach begin -- with that shopping list of transgressions and conjecture about his discipline and disposition how a bad reputation might hurt a good player.

"Lots of it doesn't bug me," Beach said before travelling here for the draft that begins Friday evening and continues Saturday. "I take it in and think about it. But at the same time, there's nothing you can do about it. Lots of these stories, I don't even know where they're coming from."

Not everyone is as unbothered as Beach by his reputation.

"It does bother me a little bit because the perception he has gotten is wrong," Silvertip Zach Hamill, the Port Coquitlam centre drafted eighth by the Boston Bruins a year ago, said of his junior teammate. "I think he gets it because of the way he plays. He's such an easy going guy, but because of the way he plays on the ice, people think he's that way as a person. There are 30 NHL GMs who want their players to go out and play on the edge like he does."

And 30 coaches. And 600 peers. And a million fans. But no NHL commissioner.

One of hockey's great hypocrisies is that intimidating, truculent players like Beach frequently are criticized for playing precisely the way they've been exhorted to most of their lives. No one wants a goon to go medieval on someone like Marty McSorley did to Donald Brashear or be stupid like Todd Bertuzzi was against Steve Moore.

But a guy like Beach, who is 6'3" and 205 pounds and still growing, who can skate and score and fight? And -- critically -- is well-behaved and well-adjusted off the ice and gets glowing testimonials from teammates and coaches? Nah, no one in hockey wants a player like that.

"The draft will validate him," Beach's agent, Vancouver-based Ross Gurney, predicted. "Someone is going to recognize how special this guy is. I've had top guys as clients -- Dan Hamhuis (chosen 12th by Nashville in 2001) and Zach Hamill. But there's more talk about this guy than any other player I've had in my portfolio in 10 years."

Every NHL team has interviewed Beach, who in a deep draft top heavy in defencemen stands out for his power-forward game. He had 27 goals, 60 points and 222 penalty minutes in 60 games with Everett this season, but struggled offensively in the second half, which explains his drop in NHL Central Scouting's final North American rankings to seventh from fourth at mid-term. The International Scouting Service, which blends all players, ranks Beach 13th.

"All the teams ask the same questions," Beach said. "It's kind of funny how one or two things will overshadow everything else. I made a couple of mistakes when I was 14, 15, 16 but they've followed me. I understand it's going to take a while to change that. The past year, I think I really made big strides."

The Canucks interrogated Beach twice, once at the scouting combines in Toronto last month and again two weeks ago when scouts Ron Delorme and Harold Snepsts were dispatched to conduct a follow-up interview.

Apparently, they like what they've heard because multiple sources indicate rookie general manager Mike Gillis will likely pick Beach if he gets the chance. But with the 10th selection, that's a huge "if."

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who draft seventh, are keenly interested in Beach. (Conspiracy theorists will note he is the type of player future GM Brian Burke adores). And it's not impossible that Beach could go even higher.

"There's a lot mixed stuff about Kyle Beach," Gillis said. "He seems to be a lightning rod for all sorts of things. People here like him as a player and our interview went well. In the totality of evaluating those type of things [rumours and reputation], you just have to be careful."

Gillis said he wants players who possess character and intelligence. The Canucks also desperately need a big, belligerent, right-shot centre who will go to the net like he means it.

"I feel my interview with Vancouver went really well," Beach said. "If I go 10th and I become a Vancouver Canuck, it's going to be a great honour. I've always been a bit of a Calgary Flames fan. But being from B.C., the Canucks would be a big honour."

Flames fan? Well, that's another strike against him.

imacintyre@png.canwest.com

ONLINE

Go to www.faceoff.com/draft2008 for extra draft coverage, photo galleries and more.




© The Vancouver Sun 2008

 
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