Tuesday, November 19th, 2014
November marks an extremely busy time for junior hockey in the prospects world given that many international events and evaluations are informally occurring.
Monday night kicked off the annual Subway Super Series that pits the Russian National Junior Team (albeit, a much different looking one that is sent to the World Junior Championships over the Holidays) against three “all-star” teams from the QMJHL, OHL and WHL. The QMJHL Team defeated the Russians 3-2 in an entertaining game and witnessed Habs prospect Charles Hudon score twice and add three points. Lightning top prospect Jonathan Drouin put on a stickhandling show and was the offensive catalyst all night long picking up assists on all three goals. His ability to dissect opposing teams and buy time with the combination of slick elusiveness and puck wizardry opens up so much ice for his linemates. In that sense, Drouin operates much like Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. Drouin and Hudon skated on a line with Red Wings’ prospect Anthony Mantha, who has quickly become the Canadian Hockey League’s most dangerous sniper racking up 24 goals and 54 points in only 23 games for Val d’Or. Mantha finished the game with one goal (game winner) and an assist and the line combined for three goals and eight points.
Jonathan Drouin razzle dazzle…
On the other side of the puck, 2014 NHL Draft eligible skater Ivan Barbashev, who skates with the QMJHL Moncton Wildcats, was very impressive. He owns great size, unleashes his shot with authority and accuracy and can dominate possession with his rangy wingspan. Barbashev is projected to be first round selection in the upcoming draft and currently leads his Wildcats in scoring with 31 points in 23 games. His teammate Vladimir Tkachev was equally impressive showcasing some slick puck skills, a strong net drive and speed to burn. Tkachev is also available in the 2014 NHL Draft and the buzz has already started after a strong game one performance that included the following highlight reel goal (making Flyers’ 2013 1st round selection, Samual Morin, look silly).
Maple Leafs Frederik Gauthier was strong defensively but he doesn’t excite me one bit on the offensive side of the puck. He’s going to be great in the face-off circle which is valuable. As a closet Leafs fan, I am hoping that sometime soon the team decides to take a chance on drafting an offensive forward to add to their system.
The next Subway Super Series game takes place Wednesday evening as Russia looks to even the series 1-1 versus the QMJHL. All games broadcasted on Sportsnet.
I released the newest edition of Youngblood, a series I have been releasing monthly that highlights OHL prospect news. Have a look as it includes a Q&A with the exceptional Sean Day (defenseman who received exceptional status), my latest 2014 NHL Draft Rankings for OHL players, OHL Draft prospects to watch and the roster (released today) of Team Ontario Under-17 squad.