The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is just one outing in a season littered with games scouts frolic to in order to catch a glimpse of the top draft eligible talent 2012 has to offer.
But that’s not to say a positive single-game performance cant either shake a misconception about a prospect or make scouts aware of a dimension of one’s game that had previously gone unnoticed, especially against a high level of talent.
While a hat-trick by Mikhail Grigorenko would be exciting, it isn’t likely to help the Russian rocket up the rankings. Grigorenko has already solidified himself as one of the top forwards available in Pittsburgh come June. That said, a sensational showing from a lesser-known or struggling prospect will go a long way.
Perhaps that idea holds strongest for Windsor Spitfires defenseman Nick Ebert.
No prospect has fallen from preseason expectations as much as the six-foot-one, 195-pound Livingston, NJ. native. Projected last season as a potential top-5 pick, Ebert is now fighting to maintain his status as a potential first round pick.
Criticized for spreading himself too thin and trying to do too much, Ebert hasn’t produced much offensively, a glaring crack in the game of a defenseman who is considered offensively gifted. After 11 tallies in 63 games last season playing behind Ryan Ellis, Ebert has just three goals and 25 points in 49 contests this year.
The danger with Ebert at the Top Prospects Game is that he attempts to do too much again in light of the fact he’s struggled thus far this season.
Gianluca Curcuruto is another OHL defenseman whose draft status can be strengthened by a strong showing at the event. That’s not to say the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds blueliner has been playing poorly.
But Curcuruto hasn’t been as offensive as expected. A slow start to the season for the Richmond Hill, ON. product has not been corrected. With just 15 points in 47 games, the once projected first round pick has slipped out of the top-30.
Production has been the big question mark surrounding Raphael Bussieres, in his third season of QMJHL action with the Baie-Comeau Drakker.
After starting the season with an incredible 37 points in 33 games, Bussieres has just one assist in his last 10 games. To say the native of Longueuil, QC has struggled mightily in the offensive zone in the last month as teams have keyed in on the six-foot, 175 pound forward.
Many have begun to question which Bussieres, who is just one goal and one point shy of his single-season career-highs, is the one to believe.
Martin Frk of the Halifax Mooseheads may have already responded to his questions. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League standout has struggled this season, albeit with good reason.
Frk missed the first three months of the year after suffering a concussion in the preseason. In fact, the injury has limited the Czech import to just 16 games this season. While he’s picked up his play as of late and has eight goals and 14 points since returning,
A strong showing at The Top Prospects Game can help Frk put question marks surrounding his health and performance to rest, especially after missing out on the World Junior Championship.
Calgary Hitmen Chris Driedger can also use the event not to answer questions, but make some noise of his own.
After suffering an ankle injury in the offseason, the start to Driedger’s season was delayed. Upon returning, Driedger was lights out before falling back to Earth. More recently, Driedger has found the winning formula and has been one of the CHL’s hottest goalies on major junior’s hottest franchise.
While his numbers aren’t sparkling with a 2.68 goals against average and .900 save percentage, Driedger has played better than statistics would suggest. An injury replacement of Malcolm Subban, Driedger has the opportunity to dazzle on the grand stage.
Much like the 39 players that will be accompanying Driedger, the opportunity to play at the CHL Top Prospects Game can be an eye opening experience for both scouts and players alike.