The CHL held its annual Top Prospects Game in Calgary last night, with Team Orr winning 4-3 over Team Cherry in thrilling fashion on a goal by Sault Ste. Marie’s Jared McCann. This was a showcase game for 2014 draft prospects and because it’s so packed with future picks, not everybody has a chance to shine. Talk to scouts and they’ll tell you the game can’t hurt a kid’s stock, but it can help. So who did themselves a solid last night? Here’s a rundown.
Nikolay Goldobin, RW – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Goldobin was buzzing all night, showing off an array of weapons in his offensive arsenal. That included excellent playmaking vision and quick hands. He scored on a nice wraparound and drew two penalties due to his speed, one resulting in a penalty shot that he rang off the post.
Sam Reinhart, C – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Having dropped from his No. 1 perch on a few draft rankings (including mine), Reinhart played like a guy who wanted to prove everybody wrong. The team captain was constantly involved, did well on draws and always seemed to be in the right place to make something happen. He also scored.
Aaron Ekblad, D – Barrie Colts (OHL)
The other captain for the night, Ekblad was a key set-up man from the blueline with two assists for Team Orr and demonstrated why he is the top defenseman available in this draft. He’s so strong and can do a bit of everything back there.
Brendan Lemieux, LW – Barrie Colts (OHL)
Ekblad’s housemate back in Barrie, Lemieux was stirring the pot all night long. He opened the scoring by planting himself in front of the net and was constantly agitating. The left winger looks like he could be a Ryan Hartman type of prospect and based on who his dad is and the style he plays, I would like to coin the nickname Brendan “The Spawn of Claude” Lemieux.
Mason McDonald, G – Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
This is a tough game for goalies, but McDonald was the best of the night, giving up just one goal and really holding Team Orr in the game early when the Cherry boys were dominating possession time. A big netminder who recently joined the rebuilding Islanders, it was good to see how McDonald could play in a meaningful game.
Nick Ritchie, LW – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
A huge kid who has no problem throwing his weight around, Ritchie was a force on the night, banging and crashing around the rink. With his size (6-foot-3, 229 pounds) and nasty disposition, we may just have to start calling him “Juggernaut.”
Alex Peters, D – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Along with goalies, this game isn’t always the best for defensive defensemen, but Peters made his statement with a big hit on Guelph’s Robby Fabbri, defusing a rush by blowing up the Storm center. The shutdown capabilities were evident with Peters.
Jake Virtanen, LW – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Playing on his home ice, Virtanen comported himself well, showing off a complete game that included great backchecking and some nice offensive opportunities.
Michael Dal Colle, LW – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Dal Colle had one of the prettier goals on a laser shot and nearly had another one soon after in the second period. It’s clear why he’s one of the top scorers in the OHL.
Other players that looked solid included Windsor’s Josh Ho-Sang, Halifax’s Nikolaj Ehlers, Saginaw’s Blake Clarke, Saskatoon’s Nikita Scherbak and Prince Albert’s Leon Draisaitl.
And of course, every year there is at least one fight at the game and 2014 was no exception, with Ottawa’s Jacob Middleton taking the ‘W’ over Niagara’s Aaron Haydon.