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).
SUM IT UP
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.