January 15, 2014
CALGARY — Buzzing The Net’s 3 Stars from the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, won 4-3 by Team Orr over Team Cherry:
No. 1 star: Jared McCann, Team Orr / Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
The 'Hounds star was a fitting person to score the winning goal with 3:29 left, as he roofed a shot over Team Cherry goalie Alex Nedeljkovic to cap an exciting few minutes of end-to-end river hockey. McCann showed off his speed and intelligence for much of the night, turning in a solid two-way outing. He had three shots on goal in the second period when Team Orr wrested control of the contest and scored three times to take the lead.
The Stratford, Ont., native's goal brought much of the crowd of 11,631 at the Saddledome out of its seats. Windsor Spitfires' Josh Ho-Sang carried into the teeth of the defence before making a nifty drop pass to McCann, who scored from the slot.
Six of the game's seven goals were by Ontario league players. Ho-Sang (1G-1A) was among a handful of players who might have upped their draft stock.
It was a Russian to the rescue for Team Cherry, which made a two-goal comeback in the third period after Goldobin and Sam Reinhart were put on the same line. Goldobin jammed in the 3-2 goal on a power play and drew both a penalty shot and a penalty in the third period by unsettling defenders with his slickness and swiftness. The Muscovite who has 68 points for Sarnia also made a cross-crease pass to Reinhart to briefly level at 3-3 at 6:07 to play.
No. 3 star: Aaron Ekblad, Team Orr / Barrie Colts (OHL)
The top defence prospect in the NHL draft class of 2014 was his usual redoubtable self, pulling down first-pairing minutes for the victors while shadowing Reinhart. Ekblad, who had two power-play assists in the middle period when the ice was titled Team Orr’s way, showed off his usual facility for covering about three-quarters in the ice. The 17-year-old from Belle River, Ont., ran Team Orr’s power play and regularly threaded pucks through traffic to the net to create opportunities. The big man had a couple of defensive miscues, but on balance, had a decent night. It might not be the last time he shines on the Saddledome ice.
Ekblad's best play in his own zone might have been a smart read to nix a beautiful setup between Goldobin and Reinhart.
Honourable mention: Mason McDonald, Team Orr / Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
McDonald stopped 14-of-15 shots in the first half of the game, when Team Cherry might have easily built a cushy lead. The 6-foot-4 southpaw displayed excellent post-to-post coverage while defending against some early flurries produced by the Reinhart line. The Halifax native left with the score tied 1-1, with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens' Julio Billia vulturing the win.
Billia stopped 18-of-20 shots and was saved by his goalposts at least twice.
Honourable mention: Brayden Point, Team Orr / Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
The last player added to the game took advantage of his opportunities, providing a nice complement to the top-end scorers on the Orr squad. Point’s slick zone entry created the opportunity for Josh Ho-Sang to score in the second period.
Honourable mention: Aaron Irving, Team Cherry / Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
The lowest-ranked skater in the game on Central Scouting's ranking displayed why NHL scouts, who vote on the 40 players named to the game, requested his presence in the game. Irving helped change the flow of play numerous times with good reads, well-maintained gaps and astute puck movement.
Entertainment value: A
The game started slowly, but the final 40 minutes, riven with about 10 pinged goal posts, were full of end-to-end hockey.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.