CHL Top Prospects Game: Who are the stars and snubs?

Ryan Kennedy
Alexandre Carrier (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

The CHL Top Prospects Game will be held Jan. 22 in St. Catharines, Ont., at the new home of the Ontario League’s Niagara IceDogs. Don Cherry and Bobby Orr will serve as coaches and yes, Connor McDavid made the cut. With only 40 roster spots available, not every CHLer up for the 2015 draft could be chosen and while there weren’t any huge omissions this year, some players certainly had strong cases for inclusion. So who are the stars and snubs for the game?

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Meet Auston Matthews, the next, next NHL draft phenom

Auston Matthews (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Team USA has won two of the past five world junior championships and based on the talent available to the team, another title soon wouldn’t be surprising. Part of the challenge will be replenishing the roster when the top recruits join the NHL early and it seems like a foregone conclusion that Jack Eichel will be in The Show next season, rather than chasing gold in Finland. Luckily for America, Auston Matthews isn’t eligible for the NHL draft until 2016 – and he may be just as good as Eichel.

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Team Canada hopeful Lawson Crouse leads off The Hot List

Kingston's Lawson Crouse (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

The world junior picture is beginning to clear up as the holiday classic nears. Sweden won’t get Andre Burakovsky from Washington and Canada won’t get Bo Horvat from Vancouver, but the biggest blow may be to the Russians. That’s because Nikita Zadorov has become too integral to the suddenly-hot Buffalo Sabres. The World Jr. A Challenge also has some great talent this year and it’s going on now, so let’s take a look at some of the young players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

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Meet Joe Hicketts, everyone’s favorite Team Canada dark horse

Victoria's Joe Hicketts (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

At 5-foot-8, the deck was always going to be stacked against defenseman Joe Hicketts. But the standout for the Western League’s Victoria Royals is quickly showing the rest of the country what he can do at Team Canada’s world junior camp and the Detroit Red Wings free agent signing is already making the NHL look silly for passing on him at the 2014 draft.

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Connor McDavid has a target return date as Canada’s world junior camp opens

Jared Clinton
Connor McDavid (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

That sound you hear is an entire nation exhaling, as it appears Connor McDavid could be back in time to start the World Junior Championship.

The potential return date for McDavid is Dec. 21, when Canada faces off against Sweden in a pre-tournament game in Ottawa. Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of hockey operations, told the Toronto Sun that the 17-year-old phenom is actually ahead of schedule.

McDavid had his cast removed this week and, for the first time since breaking his hand on Nov. 11, has been cleared to take part in non-contact practices. Arguably the brightest star in junior hockey, McDavid’s return gives the Canadian squad one of the most legitimate scoring threats in the tournament. Read more

The Lethbridge Hurricanes are a mess. Can Kris Versteeg save them?

Ryan Kennedy
Times are tough for Lethbridge (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The Western League’s Lethbridge Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs since 2009, when future NHLers Zach Boychuk, Dwight King, Luca Sbisa and Carter Ashton propelled the Alberta squad to the second round. Since that cohort, only two players have even been drafted by NHL teams – and the latest one now plays for Brandon after a trade request.

But Minnesota pick Reid Duke wasn’t the first to ask out of Lethbridge and the exodus away from the Hurricanes lately has been stunning. Unfortunately, hope for the franchise may still be almost a year away.

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