One of the most anticipated events on any NHL scouts schedule has to be the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game where it welcomes a who’s who of NHL GM’s, directors of player personnel and scouts all congregated in one place for one game which features a group of mostly future first and second round draft picks in a ‘non’ all-star game type affair.
While this games importance means little to the overall ranking of prospects by scouts, it can mean a whole lot more to the prospects who are playing in front of their future employers. Every one of these kids is out there trying to prove themselves and show their future bosses what they can bring to the table.
Some brought more than others.
While Team Cherry started the game well, taking the play to Team Orr, they soon fell victim to a hot goaltender in Liam Liston who stopped all 13 shots he faced in the first period. After hitting that wall, there was a lack of overall confidence where rushes turned to more solo efforts which really hurt the Team Cherry cause.
#24 D Ryan Murphy, Kitchener (OHL), Team Cherry
Game Notes: Had the puck on his stick more than anyone else in the rink as he started a half dozen end-to-end rushes demonstrating his elite level vision and skating. Showed his booming shot on the PP as well as patience with the puck. Defensively he was sound using his quick stick and decision making to thwart attackers. You could see the ice was tilted to his side of the rink and away from his partner Scott Harrington, as attackers were trying to burn the smallish, oft overpowered defender along the wall. Murphy did a good job of using solid body positioning and stick work to nullify most chances that came his way.
#5 D Duncan Siemens, Saskatoon (WHL), Team Cherry
Game Notes: Mean and looked like he came to Toronto for one reason, to pick a fight with someone and/or anyone. The smooth skating defender played a safe defensive game at the ACC and let the more offensive minded guys run the offence, instead choosing to hang back and push the physical envelop most of the night. He showed off his very impressive mobility, strong skating stride and sound defensive awareness. Rarely did we see those strong outlet passes but instead he gave it up to forwards who came back deep in the zone looking to wheel with the puck. He made a few nice passes which were not finished off by teammates in showing just a glimpse of his abilities on that side of the puck.
#14 F Shane Prince, Ottawa (OHL), Team Cherry
Game Notes: We would be wrong to not include the games only goal scorer from the Cherry side of things as a top performance, especially since he was not supposed to even be there. An injury replacement for Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers, Prince came flying out of the gates for Team Cherry controlling the games tempo early on and hogging the puck deep in Team Orr’s end. Seemed to disappear for a long stretch of the game before storming back into the limelight with a well-placed shot through the five-hole on Jordan Binnington in the second period. Was moving his quick feet well, maintaining control of the puck and moving it smartly while darting around the offensive zone.
Team Orr was almost the polar opposite of Team Cherry in that they came out and quickly fell back on their heels with Team Cherry carrying most of the play. A momentum swing took place on the first goal as they realized they were ahead while being badly outplayed in the period. After battling a little penalty trouble to finish the first, their skilled and cohesive forward units took it to Team Cherry in waves and the defense really tightened up and stones Team Cherry the remainder of the night.
#33 G Liam Liston, Brandon (WHL), Team Orr
Game Notes: Was solid but relatively unspectacular in blanking the high octane offensive attack of Team Cherry. Maintained composure and even showed a little athleticism on a couple lateral plays. He was lucky to have a strong defense helping him out, especially on one shot that bounced off his shoulder and got behind him only to be knocked from going in the net and out of the zone by Reese Scarlett on an incredible hand eye coordination play. The same play that Catenacci scored on. Still, Liston was able to show that solid positioning and having good rebound control can be effective against the most talented of foes.
#28 D Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John (QMJHL), Team Orr
Game Notes: The big rangy two-way defender handled the puck very well all night making smart passes and reads on when to engage on offence and when to hang back. He was also out to show his physical game as he applied a couple nice open ice hits to opponents skating with their heads down. Made a great pinch from the point for a wicked one-time shot in the slot for Team Orr’s fourth goal of the game. Overall played a very effective game.
#27 D Dougie Hamilton, Niagara (OHL), Team Orr
Game Notes: Big towering two-way beast on skates. He was all over the place in this game but in a good way. He was pinching on offense, back in position on defense, stepping up to make bone crushing hits and even deep in the offensive zone on a few occasions. Showing his improved physical play, he laid people out with strong checks as well as closing off attackers every chance along the wall. Played with strong positional sense and was ‘Johnny on the spot’ to clear pucks out of his zone when things got a little hairy.
#6 D David Musil, Vancouver (WHL), Team Orr
Game Notes: Another big body out there for Team Orr, Musil used his reach and naturally large frame to block shots and close passing lanes on Team Cherry attackers. His willingness to step up and defend his smaller teammates made quite the impression on scouts who got to see a side of Musil that is not always present. His mobility issues, pivots and turns, were exploited on a couple plays but also showed his smart defensive position on multiple occasions. Musil played a strong smart game and did not try to stretch his abilities out of what he is comfortable in doing.
# 5 D Stuart Percy, Mississauga St. Michael’s (OHL), Team Orr
Game Notes: Steady Eddy, nothing flashy about how he preformed, made plenty of smart and strong defensive reads. Percy was Mr. consistent in this game. He showed what scouts have been saying all season long and why every winning team needs this type of smart, effective defensive playmaker. He, as well as Reece Scarlett, made a bunch of small but timely plays such as puck chips and step ups to keep Team Cherry unbalanced on the attack all night. He also showed a willingness to take the body consistently to protect the puck and make a play.
#11 F Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John (QMJHL), Team Orr
Game Notes: Huberdeau played a very impressive game as he consistently applied offensive pressure to Team Cherry until the final whistle. The most impressive display was that after Team Cherry keyed on him physically, Huberdeau still continued to bring his offensive attack, making heady passes and then driving to the net. In a game of best-on-best competition Huberdeau stood out because of his speed, intensity, offensive creativity and impressive vision. Huberdeau has the look of a true #1 NHL centre as he was effective all night long creating offence and opening up ice for his line mates. His second period goal was the eventual game winner for Team Orr.
#9 F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer (WHL), Team Orr
Game Notes: An absolute monster tonight as he was all over the ice making plays on both sides of the puck, stepping up his physical play and showing his character by standing up to much larger competition physically. He made a few big defensive plays in this game that still have NHL scouts talking. Nugent-Hopkins vision, deft stick handling, hockey sense, hard work and fearlessness were all on display in fine form in front of dozens of NHL scouts and GM’s at the ACC. He showed some nice ability cycling the puck and maintaining control in the offensive zone as well as a willingness to drive the net no matter the price. Ryan’s one of those guys who has the puck follow him around the ice and those guys always make an impact in the NHL.
Skills Competition Results:
Fastest Skater Challenge
1). Daniel Catenacci, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 14.017 seconds lap time
2). Tobias Rieder, Kitchener Rangers, 14.068 seconds lap time
3). Mark McNeill, Prince Albert Raiders, 14.132 seconds lap time
Hardest Shot Challenge
1). Myles Bell, Regina Pats, 98.4 mph
2). David Musil, Vancouver Giants, 94.2mph
3). Duncan Siemens, Saskatoon Blades & Vincent Trocheck, Saginaw Spirit, 92.4 mph
Shooting Accuracy Chellenge
1). Matthew Puempel, Peterborough Petes, hit 4 tagets in 5 shots
2). Zack Phillips, Saint John Sea Dogs, hit 4 tagets in 6 shots
3). Colin Jacobs, Seattle Thunderbirds & Shane Prince, Ottawa 67’s, both hit 4 tagets in 7 shots
The Breakaway challenge was dominated by the creativity and hand skills of Saint John forward Tomas Jurco, Red Deer forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Portland forward Sven Bartschi.
Dan Stewart is the scouting director of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!