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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Keep playing terrible, Arizona: It’s your best hope for the future

Ryan Kennedy
Arizona has been struggling (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Just as the season was dawning, I had a conversation with Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith about expectations. The Canadian Olympian laid out the battle plan for his squad pretty succinctly:

“The past couple of years, our consistency has not been where we want it to be,” Smith said. “Our main focus is everyone knowing their role on the team.”

Taking a peek at the team’s recent results, that has not come to fruition. The Coyotes dropped their eighth straight home game last night, 5-1 to Nashville and are languishing near the bottom of the NHL standings – only Carolina and Edmonton are worse.

Should the Coyotes fire coach Dave Tippett, or make some moves to shake up the roster? Nope. From where I’m sitting, this team should just keep on keepin’ on.

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Forget Mike Babcock speculation: Focus on Tyler Myers

Tyler Myers  (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mike Babcock is vehemently denying rumors he’s on the verge of re-upping with the Detroit Red Wings as the highest-paid coach in the NHL and GM Ken Holland isn’t saying much of anything one way or the other. So where does that leave us? Well, your trusty correspondent is inclined to believe that before long, Babcock will sign in Detroit and continue his outstanding coaching career in Detroit.

From what I’ve been told, the one factor more than anything that was important to Babcock was whether or not the Red Wings have an opportunity to be a contending team for the long-term. During the Red Wings prospect tournament in Traverse City, I had a long talk with Holland after we picked the Red Wings to miss the playoffs and even he acknowledged the fans were beginning to ask questions.

“Has he lost his touch?” Holland asked rhetorically. “Is he a doofus?” Read more