There are a lot of expectations surrounding the potential first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, and delivering in Team Canada’s opening day of camp was one of them.
The mission should be considered a success for Nathan MacKinnon.
I came into the game with high expectations for Mackinnon, and he certainly did not disappoint. Mackinnon’s performance left a stronger impression on me than anyone else in the entire game. He was a constant threat and created a buzz every time he touched the puck.
Mackinnon is an extremely explosive and powerful skater which allows him to either blow by defenders or at the very least put them on their heels. He did this on a few occasions and created a handful of scoring chances. The Halifax Mooseheads standout also dazzled the crowd with his lightning fast hands during his shootout attempt.
Despite the added pressure, he didn’t show any signs of nervousness or inexperience. He also held his own in the physicality department, not throwing a lot of checks, but dealing with physical pressure effectively and using his strength to fight off opponents in the corners. In my mind, Mackinnon has definitely given himself a leg up for a roster spot on Team Canada.
MacKinnon wasn’t the only draft eligible impressing either. Cue Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers, a player I’ve seen plenty of the last few years.
Shinkaruk had a very strong performance in the opening Red vs. White game. He seemed to be playing like a guy that had nothing to lose. He was a beast in the corners using shifty skating and body positioning to create offensive possession for his team.
Despite being one of the smallest forwards at camp, he made himself a big problem for the opposition by driving the net on a consistent basis and showing a willingness to engage in the physical game. This style eventually led to a nice goal in the slot that beat the goalie clean.
He showed off his good shot a few times, and also the ability to get it off while at top speed. Shinkaruk didn’t make a huge impact defensively, but was responsible for the most part. On a few occasions he seemed a bit too eager to jump to the attack, leaving his defensive responsibilities behind. Shinkaruk’s strong performance will certainly leave Team Canada’s management with a tough decision come cut down day.
Unlike his aforementioned teammate and linemate in Halifax, Drouin was unable to stick out in this game. I also came into this game expecting big things from Drouin, but shift after shift I came away wanting more.
That being said, he also showed signs of what has made him such a highly sought after prospect. What impressed me the most about Drouin’s game was his ability to control the puck and move it as if he had the puck on a string. He was able to dish out a few beautiful cross-ice saucer passes and quick one-touch passes to create chances.
What was also evident in this outing was his elite hockey sense and on ice awareness. His chemistry with Mackinnon definitely worked in both players’ favors today. Unfortunately I felt as though Drouin could work on his acceleration as well as his defensive zone coverage and overall intensity. He spent too much of his offensive zone time on the perimeter and for the most part he avoided the high traffic areas. At this point I have a hard time seeing him making this team.
Monahan, on the other hand, didn’t do a great deal to help his cause of making the team, he certainly did not do anything to harm his draft status.
Monahan came as advertised; big, fast, strong, and smart. Even among some of the best players in all of junior hockey, he didn’t look out of place at any point. I didn’t feel as though Monahan was a dominant defensive presence, but he was a reliable one, using his physical traits to claim ice, and his positional smarts to consistently thwart his opponents.
Monahan’s offensive game was limited for the most part, but he showed the ability to control the cycle and go to the dirty areas to create chances. He didn’t show anything in this game to suggest that he will be an elite scorer, but his all-around package is one that scouts and fans alike should be very excited about.
The good news for Drouin and Monahan? They’ve still got time to display their wares and are right back on the ice later today.
The good news for MacKinnon and Shinkaruk? They get the opportunity to prove again that they aren’t a one-game wonder in this camp.