Matthew Cairns (Photo by Andy Corneau / OJHL Images)
Matthew Cairns is working on his second OJHL championship in a row – but he's doing it with a new team this time. Meet the gifted 2016 NHL draft prospect, plus kids from the Maple Leafs, Penguins, Jets and more in our weekly wrap.
All hail the Frozen Four champs from North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks stomped all over Quinnipiac in the final and while Vancouver pick Brock Boeser has confirmed his return for another campaign, several free agents are drumming up interest now. Boeser's linemate, Drake Caggiula, helped his cause with two goals in the final, while defenseman Troy Stecher is expected to leave school early for an NHL contract. In the meantime, San Jose won the derby for Lithuanian goalie Mantas Armalis and the Michigan Wolverines lost their two best players to the pro ranks. Read about them and more in our weekly prospect wrap:
Matthew Cairns, D – Georgetown Raiders (OJHL): The Ontario Jr. A League doesn't produce a ton of NHL draft picks these days, but there's always a couple good reps – such as Jake Walman or Jake Evans, in recent years. Cairns will be a flagbearer in 2016 thanks to his big frame (he's 6-foot-2, 190 already) and great skating ability from the back end. His Raiders are in the league final and Cairns is tied for tops among OJHL defensemen with 14 points through 17 games.
Cairns actually won the title last year as a member of the Toronto Patriots, but was traded to Georgetown in the summer, a destination he was quite happy with.
"That was very exciting for me," he said. "Playing in the OJHL, you hear about Georgetown being a premier place to play."
The Patriots had an older defense corps, so Cairns is counted on much more in Georgetown. That can get him in trouble and scouts think he tries to do too much sometimes, but Cairns is aware of that.
"I get kinda carried away on the rush sometimes," he said. "I have to learn to stay in my role."
Cairns would also like to work on his D-zone coverage, but the offensive skills are impossible to ignore, which is why scouts are excited to see what he'll do next season. He has done all he can in Jr. A and his plan for next season is to join Muskegon in the USHL. After that, he's slated to attend Cornell.
"I've always been a good student and that has been a big part of my life," Cairns said. "I wanted to get a world-class education and play hockey, as well."
The Big Red will certainly give him that opportunity and by then, Cairns will likely be ready to make an impact as a freshman. He has definitely had that effect on the Raiders.
In the Pipeline
Mitch Marner, RW (Toronto): Man, Marner makes offense look so easy. His London Knights are facing a tough Kitchener team in the second round of the OHL playoffs, but the silky scorer has been undaunted: Marner has seven points in two wins, which earned him Player of the Week honors.
Kyle Connor, C (Winnipeg): When you lead the nation in scoring as a freshman with 71 points in 38 games, then yeah: you're probably ready for the pros. Winnipeg's gain is Michigan's loss as Connor signed his entry-level deal the other day. Will he need some AHL time? Strength and defensive play may require it, but Connor also has speed, skill and smarts – so maybe not.
Thomas Chabot, D (Ottawa): Chabot's Saint John Sea Dogs have a tricky Cape Breton squad on their hands in the QMJHL playoffs, but the D-man has been making some pretty moves with the puck lately. Chabot had four assists in a Game 3 win and leads the league in blueline scoring with 10 points in eight games.
Daniel Sprong, RW (Pittsburgh): Penguins fans were clamoring for Sprong to get more of a shot under coach Mike Johnston, but the Dutch sensation is keeping Charlottetown supporters happy for now. Sprong leads the 'Q' in playoff scoring with 15 points in nine games. Maybe Mike Sullivan will have a different approach in the NHL next year?
Zach Werenski, D (Columbus): The Michigan standout has now started his pro career with AHL Lake Erie and his new coach is thrilled to have him on board:
“He’s still getting used to the league and his opposition, but he has jumped right into our lineup,” said Jared Bednar. “He’s an elite skater and puckmover and has great poise with the puck. He has all the tools to be a great NHL player.”
2016 Draft Stars
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW – Karpat Oulu (Fin.): So Karpat and Tappara are having themselves quite the semifinal series. Tappara’s Patrik Laine has been getting a lot of well-earned publicity, but Puljujarvi got the last laugh with his game-winning overtime assist to send things to Game 7. JP showed a ton of skill and compete on the play.
Beck Malenstyn, C – Calgary Hitmen (WHL): A power forward-type who had a decent showing in Calgary’s first-round playoff loss to Red Deer, Malenstyn now gets a chance to boost his draft stock as part of Canada’s world under-18 team. He had two goals and a helper to kick off exhibition play in a 7-1 drubbing of the Czechs.
Cam Morrison, RW – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL): It’s a down year for the USHL in terms of prospects, but Morrison has consistently brought the thunder. The Notre Dame commit earned Forward of the Week honors for the second time, finishing the season tied for the second-most points in the league with 66 in 60 games.
Colton Point, G – Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL): The big netminder has been a shutout machine for the Jr. A Canadians, who meet Ottawa in the Central Canada League final. Point is rocking a .955 save percentage and 8-1 playoff record, with four of those wins by goose egg. He’s a Colgate commit and in a draft year without a ton of goalie talent, one to watch for.