CHL NHL Top Prospects Game standouts and disappointments, Lawson Crouse rant, underrated Timo Meier and always mesmorizing Connor McDavid…
A busy week at the rinks has these ramblings coming in on Friday morning rather than Thursday. I apologize for that; however, with the focus on the CHL NHL Top Prospects Game, you’ll get first-hand analysis of the upcoming top prospects from the 2015 NHL Draft. After heading to the Meridian Centre rink early Thursday morning to catch the Team Cherry and Team Orr practices, I spent the afternoon writing up profiles for many of these kids. I will be releasing my updated 2015 NHL Draft Rankings early next week so stay tuned.
Dedicated solely to the Top Prospects Game (TPG), these ramblings will hit on some players who impressed and underwhelmed. You can preface this information by reading my player-by-player breakdown that was posted earlier this week.
Top 5 Forwards…not named Connor McDavid
The fact that the following Top 5 forwards come from Team Orr speaks to how dominant this team was and how much trouble Team Cherry had creating any meaningful chances.
5. Glenn Gawdin – There’s a lot to like about Gawdin’s game with all of his standout abilities stemming from a strong hockey sense and determined work ethic. In a game full of slick attacking forwards, Gawdin was a great complementary player in the offensive zone on the right wing of Jansen Harkins and Paul Bittner. Smart quick decisions allowed him to move the puck quickly up ice and his defensive positioning and quick stick created a lot of problems in the neutral zone, causing plenty of turnovers. Destined for a Top 75 selection.
4. Paul Bittner – With several live viewings of Bittner in my books (with mixed reviews), I felt Bittner had a strong game. As a big power forward, Bittner played to his strengths well in the game, battling along the boards and driving north-south. Bittner doesn’t have the skating agility to evade checkers at top speed but his sense allows him to move the puck quickly or play a simple yet effective chip-and-chase game into open ice. Consider him a late first to early second round pick.
3. Nick Merkley – Honestly, I didn’t necessarily “love” Merkley’s game in St. Catharines but it was easy to see what type of player he’ll become. Blessed with good anticipation skills and creative vision, Merkley operates as a slick playmaker. In a one-game “all-star” exhibition, these types of players may find it difficult finding instant chemistry with their new linemates (Lawson Crouse and Blake speers). I wish he was a bit bigger but his offensive gifts make him a favourite to be picked in the Top 15, with consideration for Top 10.
2. Timo Meier – Before the puck dropped on this game, I knew I’d love Timo Meier. After watching him live for nearly two weeks straight in Toronto at the 2015 WJC, Meier quickly became a favourite of mine. With news coming in yesterday that #TimoTime would line up alongside Connor McDavid (and sniper Travis Konecny), Team Orr had assembled the best line in the game. Blending an impressive compete level, slick in-tight puck skills, crafty vision and a deceptively quick release, Meier is the perfect winger for a top scoring line. His hockey intelligence compliments high-end skill (Connor McDavid) and his ability to do the grunt work ensures that he comes out on the right side of puck battles more often than not. He’s been in my Top 20 for the last month and he’ll move up in my new rankings next week.
1. Travis Konecny – After watching Travis Konecny for several years (dating back to his pre-OHL draft years), I’m quite comfortable at his strengths and weaknesses. He’s struggled to start his draft year after putting a lot of pressure on himself (being named captain of the 67’s was unnecessary added pressure, in my opinion) but recently, his game is starting to come around. In Thursday’s TPG, Konecny looked re-energized for the first ti