The busy season continues, with lots to report on in the prospect world. The CHL Top Prospects Game was last week, while the North American League Prospects Tournament field was just announced. Toss in the American League’s All-Star Game and there’s a lot to cover off, so let’s look at some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
COLUMBUS – Despite some high-profile cancellations, a lot of players are happy to be at the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus this weekend. For some, it’s the chance to treat friends and family to a grand experience. For others, it’s the camaraderie on the ice. But Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may also sneak in some time to do some fact-finding in Ohio.
The CHL Top Prospects Game runs tonight in St. Catharines, Ont., home of the Ontario League’s Niagara IceDogs. The all-star contest features the best major junior players available for the 2015 draft and this year has the potential to be a high-scoring affair. That’s because the top goalies have been dropping like flies and one replacement (Ottawa’s Liam Herbst) is being rushed in so last-minute that he wasn’t even in St. Catharines yesterday during the on-ice testing portion.
With that in mind, here are 10 players who could have very highlighty nights, wooing both NHL scouts and hockey fans in general. These aren’t necessarily the best 10 players overall, but they’re all fun to watch.
In past years, the captains for the CHL Top Prospects Game have been two of the highest-ranked players for that year’s NHL draft – Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart, for example.
And while Connor McDavid will wear the ‘C’ for Team Orr, his opponent on Team Cherry is a bit more under-the-radar.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year if you’re an NHL scout, as all-star games for draft hopefuls are in full swing. Last week, the United States League held its Top Prospects Game, while this week the CHL takes its turn. Though the USHL game was a bit lopsided (a 7-4 contest that was never close), many players stood out. And injuries in the CHL have given some previously overlooked players a second chance. Let’s take a look at some of those kids and more in our weekly wrap-up of players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Timo Meier, RW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
You could say that Meier has been lucky to line up beside two of the most dynamic teenagers in the world this year – Kevin Fiala on the Swiss world junior team and Nikolaj Ehlers with Halifax – but there’s a reason the talented right winger earned those plum assignments: He’s pretty good in his own right, as evidenced by the 25 goals and 56 points he has put up for the Mooseheads in 37 games.
“I had a good start to the season, it’s going pretty good,” Meier said. “We’re a young team and we’re improving every day. It’s been fun so far.”
The Swiss may have bombed out at the world juniors, but Meier showed a lot of great attributes and he’ll be back to defend his country’s honor next year as well. In the meantime, the late 1996 birthday is honing his skills in the Quebec League as he prepares for the NHL draft.
“It’s a fast league, with a lot of fast players,” he said. “It’s really intense. I can improve my game a lot in this league.” Read more
When Boston University needs a boost, the Terriers know where to find it. Freshman Jack Eichel has been money for the team all season long, leading the Terriers in scoring and coming through in the clutch. The latest example came this weekend with B.U. facing off against UMass-Lowell in a game that would decide first place in Hockey East.
The Terriers got a power play in overtime and that’s when Eichel went to work. Fast-forward to 1:45 in the clip below to see Eichel win the faceoff and then moments later blast home the winner:
The Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel NHL draft showdown is a towering monster, thanks in various parts to their amazing skill levels, an insatiable media appetite and social media. They’re being touted as better than Taylor Hall-Tyler Seguin, the dynamic duo that topped the 2010 draft board. As for their careers, however, they have many miles to skate to rank with the best-ever No. 1-2 tandems.
That distinction is held by Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne, who occupied the top slots in 1971. Montreal nabbed Lafleur first, following Sam Pollock’s legendary machinations; the Habs GM pried the No. 1 pick out of California a year earlier, then traded Ralph Backstrom to Los Angeles to help prop up a flagging Kings squad when it appeared they might finish last overall. The dipsy-doodling worked, as Los Angeles moved past the Seals, cementing the top choice for Montreal. Read more
If you think drafting teenagers into the NHL is a difficult task, imagine what GMs in major junior have to deal with. Those teams have to scout players who are only 15 (and 14 in the case of the WHL) and could still have growth spurts that will change their bodies completely.
Which brings us to London Knights right winger Mitch Marner. When he was taken 19th overall in the 2013 OHL draft, Marner came in at just 5-foot-7.5 and 130 pounds. Sure, he had a great resume with Toronto’s Don Mills Flyers, but what if he didn’t get much bigger?