Scouts eyeing Sea Dogs

Saint John Sea Dogs Eric Gelinas (left) and Michael Kirkpatrick (right) celebrate a goal by Nathan...

Saint John Sea Dogs Eric Gelinas (left) and Michael Kirkpatrick (right) celebrate a goal by Nathan Beaulieu (centre) during the third period of their round-robin Memorial Cup ice hockey game against the Mississauga St.Michael's Majors in Mississauga May 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:13 AM ET

Everywhere Nathan Beaulieu looks in the Saint John Sea Dogs dressing room, there is someone just like him.

The defenceman is one of nine Sea Dogs who skated their way into central scouting’s final rankings for the NHL entry draft in June. It’s an astounding number, as most Canadian Hockey League clubs are happy if one or two of their players earn such an honour.

“We’ve had a lot of hype and a lot of added pressure, but we’ve fed off each other,” Beaulieu said. “I want to win a Memorial Cup first and worry about the draft after that.”

Is that easier said than done?

“Yes, it is,” Beaulieu said. “There are so many people around us, watching us. It’s a distraction for sure, but once you get into a game, it’s not hard to forget about it.”

That nine Sea Dogs are draft eligible makes their run through the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs and into the 2011 Memorial Cup more remarkable. This team has some solid leadership in the form of captain Mike Thomas and fellow overager Michael Kirkpatrick, but in major junior, the unwritten rule is that teams with as much youth as the Sea Dogs don’t win championships.

“We learned a lot from losing in the final last year against Moncton,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “That experience was great for all of these young kids.

“It’s exceptional that we have nine kids listed, but it helps that we have so many, because it makes it not such a big deal.”

Gallant has been careful to not over-emphasize the draft, even though Beaulieu and centre Jonathan Huberdeau are legitimate top-10 prospects.

“We don’t put a lot of stock into it, but I will grab a kid on the ice (during practice) and ask him how things are going,” Gallant said. “We tell them all the time — don’t worry about June, just play your next game.”

Though the Sea Dogs, who would clinch at least a spot in the Cup semifinal if they beat the Owen Sound Attack on Monday night at the Hershey Centre, shape up to be a contender again next season, they failed in their bid to land the 2012 Memorial Cup. Instead, it recently was awarded to the Shawinigan Cataractes.

“Our team could be as good next year as it was this year,” said Gallant, whose players set a franchise record with 58 wins in the regular season. “We were disappointed, shocked. We’re going to have to do it the hard way.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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