Whalers Mitchell Heard Earns Invitation to Leafs' Rookie Camp
TORONTO - Centre Mitchell Heard and defenceman Dave Cowan could be the bargain basement specials at next month’s Maple Leafs’ rookie camp.
“I’ve been overlooked my whole life,” the undrafted Heard said Tuesday after the roster for the four-team tournament in Oshawa was released. “I wasn’t picked in the OHL, either. But I’ve put on size (now 6-foot-2) and I’m going to make the most of the opportunity.”
Heard, who is from Bowmanville by way of the Plymouth Whalers, was the unexpected offensive star of Toronto’s prospect camp in early July, with four goals in three games. That took some sting away when he didn’t get his name called at the NHL draft in St. Paul, Minn., despite 50 points in 66 OHL games.
“(GM/coach) Mike Vellucci gave me a shot in Plymouth and I just kept plugging away,” Heard said. “I’m a two-way centre, I protect the net first and then the offence will come.”
Cowan will be hoping this audition lasts a lot longer than the 2010 rookie camp. Early in the tourney in London, he was steered into the end boards while battling a Penguins’ freshman, dislocated his arm and missed the whole season. But at 6-foot-4, the Leafs aren’t going to let the blueliner from Robert Morris University near Pittsburgh get away, without seeing if he can use that size effectively. Cowan, born in Calgary, will be turning 26 this year, so it’s a big chance.
There will be 25 draft picks and tryouts at GM Place in Oshawa from Sept. 10-13 in advance of the main Toronto camp at the MasterCard Centre. The Leaf rookies will be playing fellow youngsters from Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Chicago.
MORE J.T. MILLER - Nick St. Denis of the Pittsburgh Press-Republican features Miller:
LAKE PLACID — J.T. Miller grew up a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, but he'll be putting that aside for now.
The 18-year-old was selected by the New York Rangers 15th overall in the first round of the 2011 National Hockey League Draft. The Rangers, like the Penguins, take up a fifth of the league's Atlantic Division.
But Miller is just fine with joining forces with his childhood division foe. After all, living out a lifetime dream and getting paid handsomely for it will have that effect.
"I like the way they play, and they've got a lot of talented guys," the East Palestine, Ohio native said of the Rangers. "I think I'll fit in well."
Miller, who is participating in the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp at the Olympic Center this week, earned a scholarship to the University of North Dakota.
However, Miller decided to forgo collegiate play and sign with the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers, who drafted Miller in 2009.
The 6-1, 207-pound power forward is eligible to play in the American Hockey League, the NHL affiliate, this season, but doing so would waste a year of the entry-level NHL contract he signed last Thursday.
"I talked to the Rangers about it, and my parents and my advisor, and we got to the decision after the draft once everything went down that Plymouth was the best spot for me to get to my goal, which is get to the NHL faster," Miller said.
FIVE NATIONS CUP: Team USA defeated the Czech Republic, 5-1, last night in the their opening game of the 2011 Under-17 Five Nations, being played at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor. Whalers pup Danny Vanderwiel played in the game for Team USA and did not figure in the scoring. The United States plays Germany tonight at 7pm.
MEMORIAL OF IVAN HLINKA: Team USA defeated Russia, 5-4, in overtime on Tuesday and will play Slovakia on Wednesday. Canada defeated the Czech Republic, 6-1, on Tuesday. The Whalers' Tom Wilson drew an assist in the game. Canada will play Switzerland on Wednesday.