January 20, 2010
The Top Prospects Game -- oh, excuse us, the 2010 Home Hardware CHL Top Prospects Game -- will be played tonight in Windsor and broadcast on Sportsnet in Canada and NHL Network in the U.S.
For the uninitiated it's a critical draft showcase in front of roughly 200 scouts for the top young players in the OHL, WHL and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. It's also a nice excuse to delay dealing with that Patrice Cormier unpleasantness for a few extra days ...
There are many reasons to watch tonight. We now provide you with seven decent-to-OK ones.
The pedigree for this event is well-established: Seven players who went on to become first-overall picks in the NHL Draft competed in the top prospects game: Chris Phillips(notes), Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier(notes), Rick Nash(notes), Marc-Andre Fleury(notes), Patrick Kane(notes), and Steven Stamkos(notes). All 16 CHL players selected in the first round of the 2009 draft played in last year's game.
So it's your chance to say, "Hey, I remember when such-and-such scored in the prospects game before being drafted by the Hurricanes/Oilers/Bruins." Or, at the very least, it's a chance to see your next generation Marcel Hossas and Petr Taticeks before they unfortunately become Marcel Hossa and Petr Taticek.
2. Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin
This month, Hall of the Windsor Spitfires usurped Plymouth Whalers star Seguin as the top North American prospect as ranked by NHL's Central Scouting Bureau. Spitfires Coach Bob Boughner sees Hall as "little bit more dynamic with the way he dominates games with his speed," but acknowledges that Seguin is a "great playmaker."
They're captaining opposite teams tonight, and hopefully this storyline is advanced with some offensive fireworks from one or both. Seriously, we need Team Taylor and Team Tyler campaigns before the draft this summer; hell, it's worked for "Twilight" and Conan O'Brien.
3. Cam Fowler would like to join the party, thank you
Hall and Seguin have the buzz and, most likely, places in the Top 2 next summer. Fowler, Hall's Windsor teammate, is the top defensive prospect on the board; so if we get ourselves another Matt Duchene(notes)/Victor Hedman situation for whoever owns the No. 2 pick, perhaps Fowler could still move up. Which is sort of what he told the Detroit News:
"They're a couple of dynamic players," Fowler said. "You can't take anything away from them. I think they deserve to be where they are. But a lot of scouts are saying it's really tight in the 1-2-3. This is a huge game for me. I've got to make sure I perform just as well as those guys do. The elite players step up in big game so that's the challenge for me (tonight)."
4. Because Emerson Etem represents the L.B.C.
Etem, a center for Medicine Hat, is from the hockey hot bed known as Long Beach, Calif. From Canwest:
Medicine Hat Tigers forward Emerson Etem comes from Long Beach, Calif., and actually launched his hockey career on an outdoor rink near the beach.
"My brother was playing roller hockey and I happened to get at it," Etem said. "When ice hockey got big, I started that, and ever since, I've been progressing up the ranks."
Going coast to coast, former Windsor Spitfire Andrew Yogan of the Erie Otters was born in Boca Raton, Fla.
"Anytime you can represent your country on a big stage like this, it's a privilege," said former Spitfire Austin Watson of the Peterborough Petes, who calls Ann Arbor, Mich., home.
They are among five American players in the game, including Windsor Spitfires defenceman Cam Fowler, who recently helped Team USA dethrone Canada at the IIHF world junior championship
No doubt Long Beach residents will be glued to their sets tonight watching
anything other than the hockey prospects game.
5. Don Cherry makes Bobby Orr richer
The coaches for this game are, of course, the legendary Don Cherry and Bobby Orr for the 11th time. Orr has a 7-3 advantage. Grapes spoke with NHL.com about his coaching rivalry:
Coaching against Bobby Orr: "Bobby Orr, it's getting ridiculous. Last year in Oshawa I thought I had a pretty good team. I'm starting to think maybe it is the coaching. Not too successful the last three years.
Is there a wager on the game?: "Yeah, I got the hundred bucks but I'm getting tired of paying it."
Can anyone read Don Cherry quotes without using Don Cherry's voice in their heads? Just checking.
"There's no foolin' around."
6. Another Beukeboom, thank the Hockey Gods
Jeff Beukeboom is one of the greatest hockey names in the history of puck. On that, there can be no debate. So what does that mean for Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Brock Beukeboom, who not only has the classic name but a level of alliteration his father never did for the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers? Greatness, that's what.
7. Finally, a little thing we call Nino-mania
Please recall world juniors (yes, even you, Canadians) in which we first learned of the sensation that was Nino Niederreiter. The Portland Winterhawks forward was a revelation, scoring six goals and helping the Swiss finish fourth in the tournament. Last night during the CHL skills competition, he pulled off a trick shot that's had fans buzzing around the hockey world today:
We don't know what he'll do next for Team Orr. But we do know this: Nino-mania is running wild. Whatchu gonna do when Niederreiter runs wild on you, brother?