Top Prospects Game Day: Orr vs. Cherry at the ‘Dome

Well, the Calgary Flames are off today, but there’s a big game brewing at the Scotiabank Saddledome. It’s the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, featuring 40 of the top draft-eligible players playing in either the WHL, OHL or QMJHL. Well, except for Sam Bennett – Central Scouting’s new #1 projected pick – as he’s out with an injury.

A good many past Flames picks showed their wares at the Top Prospect Game. Amongst them? Sean Monahan, Morgan Klimchuk & Eric Roy (2013), Brett Kulak & Coda Gordon (2012), and Sven Baertschi & Tyler Wotherspoon (2011). Others in the game are former first rounders Leland Irving (2006), Dion Phaneuf (2003), Brent Krahn (2000) and Oleg "Freakin’" Saprykin (1999).

The puck drops at the Saddledome just after 7pm. You can be there live on the cheap, or you can watch on Sportsnet. Either way, tune in! Here’s a quick look at who’s suiting up. If they’re ranked in the Top 30 by International Scouting Service or NHL’s Central Scouting, It’ll be noted.


Team Cherry will be coached by former Flame Jim Peplinski, with Paul Reinhart, Mark Hunter and Nick Kypreos serving as assistants. 

#35 Ty Edmonds [G]
#39 Alex Nedeljkovic [G]

#2 Ronald McKeown [D] – 15th CSS, 11th ISS
#3 Alexis Vanier [D]
#4 Haydn Fleury [D] – 6th CSS, 8th ISS
#7 Anthony DeAngelo [D] – 10th CSS, 23rd ISS
#21 Jacob Middleton [D]
#24 Aaron Irving [D]

#9 Chase de Leo [C] – 26th CSS
#19 Robert Fabbri [C] – 25th CSS, 24th ISS
#20 Nick Ritchie [LW] – 7th CSS, 13th ISS – Brett’s brother
#22 Matt Mistele [LW]
#23 Sam Reinhart [C] – 4th CSS, 2nd ISS – Max & Griffin’s brother, Paul’s son
#27 Nikita Scherbak [RW] – 24th CSS
#28 Daniel Audette [C] – Donald’s son
#66 Ivan Barbashev [C] – 12th CSS, 18th ISS
#71 Michael Dal Colle [LW] – 5th CSS, 4th ISS
#72 Ryan MacInnis [C] – 30th ISS – Al’s son (remember Al MacInnis?)
#90 Nikolay Goldobin [RW] – 14th CSS, 25th ISS
#91 Connor Bleackley [C] – 14th ISS

Lines, per morning skate:

Dal Colle – Reinhart – Barbashev
Audette – De Leo – Scherbak
Bleackley – MacInnis – Ritchie
Goldobin – Fabbri – Mistele

McKeown – Vanier
Irving – Fleury
Middleton – DeAngelo


As you’ll begin to see, there’s a pretty wacky degree of variation in terms of how Central Scouting and ISS see players. Red Deer’s Connor Bleackley – who is quite good – isn’t a Top 30 North American skater by Central Scouting, but he’s 14th overall by ISS. Ryan MacInnis faces a similar distinction. In terms of consensus top (or nearly-top) picks, the guys to watch on Team Cherry are Red Deer’s Haydn Fleury, Oshawa’s Michael Dal Colle and Kootenay’s Sam Reinhart.

Baie-Comeau’s Alexis Vanier is a physical beast (6’4", 215 lbs), as are Peterborough’s Nick Ritchie (6’2", 225 lbs) and Ottawa’s Jacob Middleton (6’2", 200 lbs). It’ll be interesting to see how these bigger guys can keep up with the fast, skill forwards of Team Orr. In terms of smaller forwards, they have Daniel Audette (5’8", 177 lbs) and Chase de Leo (5’9", 177 lbs).


Team Orr wll be coached by former Flame Tim Hunter, with Mike Vernon, Joel Otto and Doug MacLean serving as assistants.

#29 Mason McDonald [G]
#30 Julio Billia [G]

#2 Alex Peters [D]
#4 Brycen Martin [D] – 20th CSS, 29th ISS
#5 Aaron Ekblad [D] – 3rd CSS, 1st ISS
#6 Julius Honka [D] – 13th CSS
#27 Ben Thomas [D] – Hitmen blueliner
#28 Aaron Haydon [D] – 28th CSS

#10 Eric Cornel [C] – 23rd CSS
#11 Brendan Perlini [LW] – 8th CSS, 6th ISS
#18 Jake Virtanen [LW] – 9th CSS, 9th ISS – Hitmen forward
#19 Jared McCann [C] – 11th CSS, 15th ISS
#21 Brendan Lemieux [LW] – Claude’s son (ex-Flame Jocelyn’s nephew)
#24 Nikolaj Ehlers [LW] – 22nd CSS, 20th ISS
#61 Clark Bishop [C]
#66 Josh Ho-Sang [RW] – 18th CSS, 19th ISS
#72 Brayden Point [C]
#91 Blake Clarke [LW]
#92 Leon Draisaitl [C] – 2nd CSS, 7th ISS
#96 Spencer Watson [RW]

Tentative lines, per morning skate:

Point – Bishop – Virtanen
McCann – Ho-Sang – Perlini
Watson – Draisaitl – Lemieux
Cornel – Clarke – Ehlers

Ekblad – Honka
Peters – Martin
Thomas – Haydon


Consensus top players here are Barrie’s Aaron Ekblad, Niagara’s Brendan Perlini, Calgary’s Jake Virtanen and Prince Albert’s Leon Draisaitl. Sam Bennett (1st CSS, 3rd SS) would’ve been on this team, too, but he’s injured. If you’re counting, that means Team Orr is quite stacked. Heck, look at that blueline! Ben Thomas, who’s been superb for Calgary this year, is a third-pairing guy here. That’s depth.

Remember all the gigantic defenders on Team Cherry? Well, Team Orr has some smaller, skilled forwards in Halifax’s Nikolaj Ehlers (5’11", 163 lbs), Moose Jaw’s Brayden Point (5’9", 160 lbs) and Kingston’s Spencer Watson (5’9", 170 lbs).


No doubt about it, we’ll see some future Calgary Flames draft picks at this year’s Top Prospects Game. The big question is who’ll get picked, and debating that will probably dominate the months of April and May around these here parts.

Based on mid-term draft rankings, one might expect Team Orr to have the edge in the game. But one-shot games like this are chemistry experiments, and Team Cherry has a lot of strong forwards and big bodies to counter Team Orr’s talented blueliners and smaller, skilled forwards.

    • seve927

      Wow, they really like drafting high. 3 or 4 more top 3 picks and that rebuild will be moving into stage 2 – 10 years flirting with a playoff appearance. Patience Oiler fans, patience.

      Heat come back from a 3-1 deficit in the 3rd, Granlund with the winner in overtime (rare day game today for some reason). Sven with another forgettable outing – no points, -1, 3 shots. Knight 2 assists and +2.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Yeah schmuck – why dont we have a look at the Oilers Trades today.
      Worry about your own Joke of a team.

      The Oilers indeed got better in Net and the 4th line. For what ?

      Devan Dubnyk ? Typical Flames fan mouth piece.

      • SmellOfVictory

        What makes you think that Scrivens is better than Dubnyk? They’re the same age and have similar career numbers. Scrivens has had a good stretch of games for LA so far this season, and that’s it.

      • Lober

        Upgraded in net hah… You think playing behind the Kings D and Oilers D is the same thing? Wait until Scrivens has a sub .900 the rest of the year with the oil.

      • Bean-counting cowboy

        Interesting quirk is that there are many of us Flames fan that are hoping the Oil improve down the stretch. If you draft higher and steal the player we all wanted, we will be pissed.

        I have many Oiler fans as friends and we used to razz each other to no end but now I find myself actually offering words of encouragement like “I know man, it sucks; but the Flames suck too, so there’s that” and, “it has to get better with all that talent”, “don’t give up hope”.

        However unfortunately I don’t think these moves make the Oilers appreciably better. And I say unfortunately because I am actually hoping they do.

        Scrivens is a career backup with similar numbers to Dubnyk with a stellar few months playing behind the best posession team in the league (

        Trading Dubnyk is the prototypical “sell low” move. His worst career year is not the time to extract maximum return. Granted his contract status played into this, but I see this as a swap. Hendricks won’t add enough extra value to push the Oil further into the win column given where the Oil’s leaguewide posession numbers stand.

        The Oil may squeak a few extra wins if Scrivens is currently “hot” while Dubnyk was not, but over the long run when the PDO settles towards 100, there won’t be a marked difference.

        • Lober

          i like the Scrivens trade! It improves the chances of the loser Oilers winning a few games and perhaps bolting ahead of the Flames? That means Ekblad a Flame!!! Yah Baby!!

  • MonsterPod

    Cool prospect game, but a bit strange, no? Can’t count on much chemistry or structure. So it’s a bit like an all star game, but the boys want to play hard for their future. Hopefully nobody gets injured.

    Sidenote: Iggy has 13 goals, O’Reilly has 17. We need to get Ryan into a Flames sweater. C’mon Burkie!

  • Lober

    Strange that Honka and Ekblad would be on the same unit… they’re both righties.

    Also, anyone else think it’s odd that Draisaitl is somehow the 3rd center on his team? I mean I know they’re tentative lines, but still.

  • Burnward

    I’m not sure what the point of the Oilers moves were today.

    Unless they improve the real issue…the team defence, what’s the reason behind dealing goaltenders? The way that team is structured, I wouldn’t be shocked if Scrivens gets shelled too.

    And that Hendricks deal looks pretty bad to me. Won’t break a team…but certainly not worth dealing a potential starter for.

    At least they get a little more experience, but it seems like dancing around the real problems.

    Hope we do better when we start to make moves.

    Anyone else have a different take?

  • beloch

    Trading Dubnyk for Scrivens straight-up would be a bit of a sideways trade if you look at their career numbers, but Scrivens is hot this season while Dubnyk is not. If Scrivens continues to be hot, that’s a major boost for the Oil this season. Of course, it’s anyone’s guess how much the King’s defensive corps has had to do with Scrivens’ sv%. Scrivens could struggle in Edmonton. Still, it’s worth the gamble. Picking up Scrivens and a competent bum for their fourth line in exchange for Dubnyk and a third rounder isn’t a bad day’s work really.

    Edmonton has too many incompetent bums (i.e. possession holes) outside of their top 3-4 forwards. Plugging one of these holes is a good start. Alone, this is not going to make the Oilers a playoff team, but if they can replace more holes on the team, perhaps 6-8 of the worst ones… That’s a lot of player movement! This season is a write-off, but clearly the job is so large that getting an early start is a good idea. MacT has quite the stable-cleaning job ahead of him, and I suspect he’s going to be working through the summer and into next season on it! The Oilers at next season’s trade deadline might have very few familiar faces, and that’s a good thing! The only question is, how is MacT going to pay for it all? This off-season is going to be a nail-biter for fans of the Oilers. If MacT doesn’t make the grade, the rebuild could officially fail.

    Us Flames fans are probably going to require a lot of patience over the next few seasons. There’s a lot of promising talent in the org now, but most of it is still years from making a big NHL impact. Some of the players the Flames will need to return to the playoffs might not even be drafted yet! I have a feeling the owners are unwilling to spend to the cap during the worst years of the rebuild. They have a new arena to finance after all! My money is on at least one more year near both the cap-floor and the bottom of the standings.

      • beloch

        I definitely have the feeling too, although only time will tell. I’ve read several articles suggesting that shot-quality isn’t a big factor and shot differentials are a pretty good indicator of team quality. Does this hold when we’re trying to look at goalie quality though?

        I wish I knew of an easy place to find all the scoring chance data for the Kings and Oilers aggregated, just to see, over the course of a couple of seasons, how well their scoring chance differentials track their shot differentials. If, for example, the kings give up significantly fewer scoring chances per shot than the Oilers do, that might suggest they’re an easier team to backstop.

    • Yeah. I think my comment about Honka and Ekblad was the only one since it started.

      How many times can I say “Honka” in one day? HONKA!!!

      To me the most impressive guys were Honka, Ho-Sang, De Leo, and McKeown.

      Reinhart had a really good third and Virtanen had his moments.

      Of course, everyone’s going to have a different take.

  • seve927

    Still don’t see the love for Ekblad. Counted 3 bad giveaways again tonight. Got points, but if you’re going to be an impact defenseman, you’ve got to be dominant defensively. He’s definitely not there, don’t know how he’s projected to be a stud.

    I honestly don’t know what happened to Perlini. I was watching for him, and I think his first shift he put me on the edge of my seat with a rush. In the second and third I wasn’t sure if he was still playing. I did see him going onto the bench once, so I know he played, but I didn’t notice him again. Too many players to watch. Goldobin definitely has some appreciable skill. DalColle and McCann had the nicest goals of the night.

    Really a great game. Excellent value.

  • loudogYYC

    I saw Ekblad & co. in person for the first time tonight. I’ve been on this site long enough to know that 1 showing isn’t enough to make conclusions on any player, but my expectation of Ekblad was higher than what I saw.

    Yeah he had a few mistakes and he didn’t dominate the game, but neither did any of the other skaters. If anything it was a bit of a Goalie show.

    The things about Ekblad that stood out in a less than good way were his pivoting, his acceleration while in movement, and his lack of composure when pressured. Again, this is the first time I’ve ever seen him live and it could very well have been his worst game in a long time, I dunno.

    I also kept my eye on Reinhart and to an extend Draisaitl and basically left the rest to whoever caught my eye.
    Reinhart is cool with the puck and he keeps his head up all the time, kinda reminded me of the Nuge. Draisaitl didn’t stand out to me.

    It was a fun game to watch, and it was cool seeing scouts and GM’s everywhere.

    One more thing, I managed to get Kevin Cheveldayoff’s attention at the end of the game and reminded him that STAJAN! IS! AVAILABLE! Him and his staff laughed, but I sure hope it happens.

    • beloch

      If Winnipeg is going to take any more centers from Calgary, Joker is going to have to have a really strong season to make up for the egg he laid last season.

    • beloch

      The similarities between Reinhart and Nugent-Hopkins are quite apparent to me as well. I think “the Nuge” has a better shot (and probably better vision too) but otherwise.

      I too wasn’t very impressed with Ekblad in this game. It isn’t that he was bad, he just didn’t really do anything for me. Aside from one play where he trolloced Haydn Fleury, Fleury was better.

      Honka was Orr’s best defender. By far. (Martin had some good moments too, whoever he is).

      On a related note, how did ALL FOUR officials miss Julius getting speared in the face?

  • beloch

    Toronto wants a C in return for Kadri? Could involve some kind of a Backlund package….

    Maybe involving Gardiner as well?

    The O break should trigger some of the trades we have been waiting for.