The 5-foot-11, 179-pound centre was sensational in the 7-4 victory. He used his phenomenal speed and agility to fly past opponents, including Central Scouting Service’s top ranked prospect Seth Jones on his second of the night.
Humble and modest, MacKinnon pointed out his slow start to the game in post-game interviews.
“I thought I had a pretty slow first period,” he said. “Marty [Frk] managed to get on the board and that kind of set the tone for us. The next 40 minutes I thought we controlled most of the play. Portland, they're a dangerous team.”
“I tried to cut to the middle and then fake and go wide,” added MacKinnon on his second goal. “I didn't realize it went in at first.”
MacKinnon feels his club sent a message that Halifax is one of the best teams in the CHL, not just the QMJHL.
“We definitely earned a little more respect I think, obviously coming from the Q, soemtimes we get looked down upon a bit,” he said. “I think we definitely had a good game and sent a message.”
It's too early to suggest MacKinnon hurdled Jones in the draft rankings, though. It is, after all, only one game. One can't forget Jones easily outplayed MacKinnon at the world junior championship.
Scout’s take: “He was going to the net well today,” said Ross MacLean, head scout for International Scouting Services. “He showed a lot of speed and acceleration and was dialed into the puck in the offensive zone. He took advantage of situations more than making things happen.”
Jonathan Drouin also looked sharp for the Mooseheads. The 5-foot-11, 176-pound winger opened up space and created countless scoring chances, adding one marker to his stats sheet.
Scout’s take: “Drouin showcased his silky smooth puck play and vision,” said MacLean. “He made a lot happen from the perimeter. He seemed to earn more space and respect from Portland players as the game went on and took advantage of that.”
Although it was a far cry from one of his best showings, Seth Jones didn’t necessarily have a poor game. His mistakes were just more scrutinized because of MacKinnon’s spectacular performance. Following a strong start to the match, which included a goal, the 6-foot-4, 206-pound defenceman lost a couple of one-on-one battles and was out of position at times.
Scout’s take: “Jones started off strong, playing in both directions, scoring a goal, ad showing his ability to read the plays on either side of the puck,” said MacLean. “He used his size well and was able to steer opponents. But he fell off in the second period and was exposed wide a couple of times by Drouin and Mackinnon for goals and scoring chances. He was good but not spectacular. He didn’t have his best showing.”
Mooseheads puck-stopper Zachary Fucale, who is ranked No. 1 among North American goaltenders by NHL’s Central Scouting Service, held his own, but didn’t standout, stopping 37 of 41 shots for a .902 save percentage. He made some key saves and let a couple past him he could have stopped. But at the end of the day, Fucale did what he had to do to get the win, which was outperform Winterhawks goaltender Mac Carruth.
Nicolas Petan had a strong game alongside St. Louis Blues second-round pick Ty Rattie and Nashville Predators prospect Brendan Leipsic on the Winterhawks’ top line. The 5-foot-9, 166-pound centre went hard to the net and cycled the puck well with his linemates. On the scoreboard, however, he only mustered one apple.
The Winterhawks Danish sensation Oliver Bjorkstrand had a quiet night. He didn’t make any noticeable mistakes, but also didn’t make any offensive plays that stood out.
London Knights vs. Saskatoon Blades
Despite not registering a point in the Knights' 3-2 win on Friday, May 17, London’s Max Domi shinned the brightest among draft prospects. Domi showcased his outstanding nose for the net and foot speed. The 5-foot-10, 194-pound winger also played with a noticeable edge. He finished his checks and on one occasion rocked Blades winger Shane McColgan, knocking the wind out of him.
Bo Horvat, who is ranked 15th by NHL’s Central Scouting Service, played a strong two-way game. He helped the Knights keep pucks deep and pressured the Blades to move the puck in his own end. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound forward's top play was a neutral zone turnover that led to the Knights’ second goal of the night. He stripped the puck off Blades defenceman Duncan Siemens and went on to setup Seth Griffith.
Nikita Zadorov used his 6-foot-5, 228-pound stature to his advantage, knocking pucks away with his long stick and forcing opponents to the outside. The Russian defenceman also played hero in the third period by pinching in on the power play to score the game-winning marker.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen
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