This year's Top Prospect's game in Calgary was definitely a great game to watch. Had a bit of everything. Truthfully, I expected it to be a pretty high scoring game based on the fact that I wasn't confident enough in the goaltending and defense. But that was hardly the case, although a lot of that probably has to do with the strong play of the goaltenders (and the NUMEROUS posts hit).
The OHL had half of the participants in the game (would have had over half had Sam Bennett played), so let's examine the performances of those players. Warning, these performance reports are based on viewing on t.v. and not live, so they're not ideal. But I think it's still worth talking about.
Had a relatively quiet game IMO. He didn't stand out for better or for worse. I would have liked to see him try to use his skating ability to jump up in the play a few times, but he played a relatively safe game.
The casual viewer got a pretty good idea of what DeAngelo is all about. Offensively, he was impressive. He did a great job on the point of the power play and has great vision back there. He was also very aggressive in jumping up in the play 5 on 5. But in his own zone, he was passive at times and did not look terrific.
He didn't get on the score sheet, but I thought he played a terrific game. As always, he was a factor on the forecheck and excelled on the penalty kill. He did a great job of working with whatever line he was on (seemed to play with a bunch of different guys) and did have a couple of scoring chances. I still think he's a great pick in the 20-30 range of the first round.
Thought he was relatively quiet offensively, but was an absolute force physically. He had at least 5 or 6 huge hits, many of them in the offensive zone as he tried to put pressure on opposing defenseman. A few of those hits resulted in turnovers and he really opened up some space for his line mates. That said, he didn't really get much of an opportunity to show his skill with the puck.
Everyone is talking about the clearly staged fight with Aaron Haydon. I get it. Middleton has to prove to scouts that he can play a tough game and profiles as a solid guy in his own end at the next level. I fear that he might have left a sour taste in the mouths of a few though. Even though he finished a -2, I thought he played decently. He had a few nice rushes to showcase his offensive potential (one on the power play) and wasn't really at fault for either of the two goals scored while he was on the ice.
Picked up an assist on the Nikolai Goldobin wrap-around goal, but wasn't very noticeable during the game. I expected him to play more physical and to really get his nose dirty to show he has power forward potential moving forward.
Michael Dal Colle
Scored a beautiful goal on a great shot. Had another shot on a pretty much identical play, hit the post. Was able to show his terrific release and pro scoring potential. Was also able to show that his skating has improved in the last year. Might not have been as consistent of a scoring chance producer as a few other guys in the game, but he still showed strongly.
Thought he had a great game. He definitely showed why it's more important to watch games than just follow stats. His stats in Kitchener haven't been terrific, but he has such great potential. In the game he was able to show that he can be a strong puck carrying centre with great speed and size. Helped to set up a few scoring chances and was even more involved along the wall than I've seen him in the past. I think he's definitely trending up.
Why this game can be dangerous. Goldobin was easily one of the best and most impressive players. He was absolutely electric and showed what he can do when on his game. His speed, creativity, and puck control ability make him a treat to watch. But, for all those loving him after this game, have they seen a game in Sarnia where he was disengaged and floated around the ice, which has happened? His play away from the puck scares me. That said, his game has really picked up the last month or so in the OHL and I plan on seeing Sarnia more in 2014.
I think the only goal you can really fault him on was the first one to Blake Clarke. He didn't quite take the angle away from Clarke who beat him high glove side. It was a great shot too though, so it's obviously nitpicking. But as a goalie who doesn't have elite size, those are the stops he's going to have to make to prove he can continue to find success as he moves up the pro ladder. The other two goals he had little chance on, especially the Ho Sang mid air swat. He made some big saves and had a great poke check to give his team a chance to win. He wasn't the best goalie at the event, but I don't think he did anything to suggest he doesn't deserve to be one of the first goalies off the board come June.
Thought Peters was great. He had a couple of terrific one on one defensive plays that showed his potential to develop into a great stay at home at the next level. Moves well, has size, plays hard, and is smart. All good things. He also never stood out in a negative way with the puck, which suggests he was able to avoid pressure on the forecheck and make good decisions.
Ekblad is generally as consistent as you can get. Thought he played great. Was solid at both ends of the ice, creating chances offensively, while playing generally solid defensively. He did have a few blunders with the puck where he might have been trying to do too much, but he was generally very solid. However, I don't think he was the best defender in the game. Was most impressed by Haydn Fleury. But, he's still a lock to be the first defender taken.
Unfortunately, Cornel wasn't a factor in the game.
Perlini was one of the more disappointing players at the event for me. He's starting to really climb up some draft lists into the top 10 now and he certainly didn't play like that in this game. I've seen him a fair amount this year and I think that was probably the worst game he's played of those games. He just wasn't much of a factor.
Hard to argue against your performance when you score the game winner on a beautiful shot from just outside the slot. His release and wrester are definitely among the best of his age group in the OHL. Like Dal Colle, I'm not sure he was the best player (or most consistent in the game), but he showed well, had some good rushes and gave fans a glimpse of what he's capable of as an offensive player.
Played as advertised. People expecting Claude Lemieux's son, got that. Was all over the ice, getting under everyone's skin. He worked hard in the corners, battled in front of the net and played physical on the forecheck. While battling near the crease on the power play, he scored a very nice redirect. His skating isn't the prettiest but he continues to show that the rest of his game is good enough.
The other participant in "the fight," Haydon played a pretty solid game. He showed how his strong mobility can be very useful in the back end. His line, in particular, always seemed to face a ton of pressure on the forecheck, but he was often able to skate out of it and worked hard to battle in the corners.
Ho-Sang had a fabulous game. Scored a great goal showing his hand eye skill. Then had a terrific pass to McCann for the game winner, showing great vision as he noticed him coming in late. He's worked incredibly hard to improve his game over the past year and I really think he should start receiving consideration for the top half of the first round.
He scored! Clarke scored his first goal in nearly four months, a marker on the power play. It was a beautiful shot as he beat Nedeljkovic glove side. He was pretty quiet otherwise, but he was at least able to show scouts that he's still capable of being a goal scorer.
Didn't seem to have any chemistry with Draisaitl. As a result, there wasn't much to his game on the night, other than one great scoring opportunity where he ripped the puck just over the net from the slot. When he's not hitting the score sheet, he's not really the type of guy you notice.
Keep in mind. If you really want to know what these players are all about, go see an OHL game or two. Judging based solely on this game can be a dangerous thing to do. It's only one piece of the puzzle. HERE is a great article on that. Still a fun game to watch though.