WHL Prospect Watch (1/16/2011)

Nugent-Hopkins Takes Top Billing

The NHL Central Scouting ranked Red Deer Rebels forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first among all Western Hockey League players and third overall in its mid-season prospect rankings for the 2011 draft.

“He sees the ice very well and his ability to find teammates is beyond that of the first two players we ranked,” NHL Scouting Director E.J. McGuire said to NHL.com. “That’s not demeaning the top two players among the thousands we watch, but Nugent-Hopkins has good speed and can make great decisions. He’s just not as tall as a lot of people might want him to be.”

The 17-year-old is tied for seventh in the league in scoring with 53 points (12 goals, 41 assists) in 42 games this year. He will captain team Orr in the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Jan. 18-19.

The WHL boasts two other skaters ranked in the top 11 among North American prospects — Portland Winterhawks wingers Sven Baertschi (6th) and Ty Rattie (11th).

Ashton a Hit in Ams Debut

Newly acquired Tri-City Americans forward Carter Ashton (Tampa Bay Lightning) tallied four assists and a goal in his first two games as an American on Friday and Saturday. He notched a goal and an assist in his debut on Friday and picked up three more assists on Saturday.

Tri-City traded for the former Regina Pats star over a month ago, but he represented Canada in the IIHF World Junior Championships, then took time off to rest after the tournament.

“When I got home  [to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan], I rested a couple of days and watched a couple of games online,” Ashton told the Tacoma News Tribune. “I wanted to be here, but I knew I needed the rest. The time off really helped.”

Last year’s 29th-overall pick has 32 points (17-15) in 31 games between Regina and Tri-City this year.

Howse Streak Extended

Calgary Flames 2009 third round pick Ryan Howse extended his goal streak to four games with two goals on Friday and Saturday as his Chilliwack Bruins split the weekend series with the Prince George Cougars. The 5-foot-11 195 pound winger now has 29 goals and 18 assists in 41 games this season.

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