Thursday night, the hockey world converged on nearby St. Catharines, Ontario for the annual CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. The brand new Meridian Centre, home of the Niagara Ice Dogs, was the site of the yearly showcase for the best draft-eligible junior players in the Canadian Hockey League.
Team Orr (coached by Bobby) defeated Team Cherry (coached by Don) by a 6-0 score. But the score doesn’t matter. Everything Connor McDavid did does. It’s a chance for young players to stand out among their peers with NHL scouts filling the building.
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Some quick thoughts, including a podcast with my esteemed colleague Chris Ostrander from the Two In the Box:
- Connor McDavid was the best player on the ice. He wasn’t the leading scorer, he wasn’t most valuable player, he’s just clearly the most skilled guy there. I wonder if he “jumped off the screen” to those watching at home.
- When the CSS rankings got released this week, there was some chatter/outrage over Lawson Crouse being ranked ahead of Mitch Marner, who’s been putting up ridiculous numbers in London. Getting a chance to see them together, I’m coming around to seeing why Crouse is ranked higher. He’s not the type of player who’s going to rack up points, but he can generate offense and be a force in all facets of the game.
- Former Sabres general manager Darcy Regier was in the house. He was sitting four rows in front of me. He makes an appearance in the podcast below.
- Also spotted: Sabres legend Donald Audette. Audette is now an amateur scout for the Montreal Canadiens.
- Paul Bittner was really good for most of the game. He’s ranked 19th among North American skaters and might be in play for a late-1st/early-2nd. I’d be cool with it.
- It’s a shame Ivan Provorov won’t be available in a position the Sabres will be picking. He’ll go around 10-15. He’s gonna be a stud.
- It’s a shame that the Sabres as an organization don’t do more with the IceDogs. They’re in their market. They should be playing a preseason game in St. Catharines each year. But then again, hard to sell Sabres to Canada when #WeAreBuffalo.
- Still not sure I know how to say Travis Konecny’s name, but I really liked him. Him and Timo Meier were good, despite their linemate (McDav-something?) not really being all that generational.
- Guy I liked: Nathan Noel. Scored a goal late, but just has that indescribable that-guy-looks-like-an-NHL-player quality about him. Not super impressive, just seems to have it.
Here’s a quick podcast we did during the second intermission:
It should’ve been expected.
For many in Buffalo feeling conflicted about the merit of the tanking that’s totally not going on this season, tonight was the first glimpse at the prize waiting to be claimed: Connor McDavid.
And the Erie Otters forward showed why.
In front of a large crowd at First Niagara Center (announced at 11,391 and realistically around 9,000), McDavid and his teammates put on a show, with Erie defeating the Niagara IceDogs by an 8-4 final.
The first period was enough for people to see, as McDavid tallied three assists and showed his flare on almost every shift, propelling the Otters to a 4-2 lead. He’d add a goal in the third to push his point total through the first 10 games of the season to 29 (9+20), extending his league lead.
McDavid’s linemate Alex DeBrincat (2016 Draft eligible) scored twice, as did Kurtis MacDermid (LA Kings free agent signing). Troy Donnay, Patrick Murphy and Shaun Bily also scored for the Otters, who sit 9-0-0-1 on the season.
Niagara’s Jordan Maletta (undrafted) had two goals, while Graham Knott (2016 Draft eligible) and Cody Payne also scored for the visitors from across the border.
Buffalo native Stephen Dhillon ended up getting cleanup duty in the IceDogs’ goal, stopping 11 of 13 shots in 27:09, just his second OHL appearance.
Some thoughts on the night:
- I’ve seen Connor McDavid play four times. He has 15 points in those four games. This was an average night for him. It’s incredible.
- Lots of talk about Erie’s Dylan Strome (who could also be a top-5 pick in this summer’s draft) heading into tonight, warning fans not to forget about him. To be honest, he looked solid, you can see the talent, but he was unremarkable. Hard to stand out when you’ve got #97 on your team, but he reminded me of the times I saw Niagara’s Brendan Perlini last season. Perlini was targeted as a top 10 pick, and went in the first round to Phoenix, but never really stood out or showed star quality. I’m sure I’ll see Strome again, but first impression wasn’t great. Read the rest of this entry