When told he'd be competing in the breakaway contest during the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Skills Competition on Tuesday, Sven Baertschi of the Ontario Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks smiled and pointed to his cell phone.
"I'll be phoning a friend," he said.
That friend, of course, is Portland teammate and fellow Switzerland native Nino Niederreiter. After all, it was only last year Niederreiter wowed those in attendance during the same event when he scored a one-handed backhand goal after throwing off his glove to distract the goalie. Niederreiter, a fifth-round draft pick of the New York Islanders last June, lost out to Carolina Hurricanes rookie Jeff Skinner, however.
"I'll have to find a move … and pretty quick," Baertschi said. "I'm probably going to ask Nino for a move. I know a couple, but I'm still going to call him."
The skills competition will include 40 of the Canadian Hockey League's top prospects eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. They'll be divided into four different events including the fastest skater, hardest shot, shooting accuracy, and the breakaway. Following the four events, all participants will have the ability to showcase their skills in a 3-on-3 game.
The competition will open with the top two ranked OHL defensemen in the fastest skater event including Team Orr's Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara IceDogs, ranked seventh by NHL Central Scouting, and Team Cherry's Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers, who is ranked 10th. The hardest shot contest will include a pair of Western Hockey League defensemen in Team Orr's David Musil of the Vancouver Giants, who is ranked 26th, and Team Cherry's Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades, No. 14 on the mid-term ratings. Second-ranked forward Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Team Cherry will compete in the shooting accuracy along with Saint John Sea Dogs' sniper Zack Phillips of Team Orr.
Phillips was ecstatic when informed he'd be included in the shooting accuracy.
"Of any of the things I was doing here, that's the one I would have picked," Phillips said. "If you've ever seen me play, I'm not the best skater, so I really didn't want to be in the fastest skater event. I don't have that hard of a shot, so if it's going to be anything, it would have to be my accuracy. I'm happy I was put in that, so hopefully I'll be able to do alright."
When told Couturier would also be competing in the event, Phillips turned serious.
"You're kidding," he said.
"I think this is going to be a lot of fun," Couturier said. "For the scouts and fans, I'm just going to try and leave a good impression. It's a great opportunity to showcase and compare yourself to the best in North America."
The competition opens with the top two ranked OHL defencemen in the Fastest Skater event including Team Orr’s Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara IceDogs who is ranked seventh by NHL Central Scouting and Team Cherry’s Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers who is ranked 10th. The Hardest Shot contest features a pair of WHL defencemen including Team Orr’s David Musil of the Vancouver Giants who is ranked 26th, and Team Cherry’s Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades. Siemens is No. 14 on the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings.
"I've never done (hardest shot) in a competition before so it'll be different," said Team Cherry defenseman Scott Harrington of the London Knights. "Growing up and shooting pucks in my backyard, I had a radar, but I don't know how accurate that was. It was always nice to compete against yourself and get your shot up there, but it'll be interesting to see how my shot matches up against the rest of the guys. That's what I'm looking forward to the most."
The breakaway competitors include Team Orr's No. 3-rated Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels and No. 4 Bartschi of the Winterhawks. They will try and outperform Team Cherry's No. 24-rated player Tomas Jurco of Saint John and No. 19 Ryan Strome of Niagara. Both Jurco and Strome had highlight-reel breakaway goals this season for their respective clubs.
The showdown breakaway made its debut last season in Windsor.
The best individual score in each event receives a goal for their team, with another goal awarded for the best team average from each event for a total of eight available goals. The 3-on-3 game consists of two 15-minute periods with running time with all goals scored counting towards the overall competition score.
CHL/NHL Top Prospects Skills Competition
Dougie Hamilton, Niagara IceDogs
Shane McColgan, Kelowna Rockets
Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John Sea Dogs
Daniel Catenacci, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Ryan Murphy, Kitchener Rangers
Mark McNeill, Prince Albert Raiders
Tobias Rieder, Kitchener Rangers
Rickard Rakell, Plymouth Whalers
David Musil, Vancouver Giants
Stuart Percy, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Vincent Trocheck, Saginaw Spirit
Reece Scarlett, Swift Current Broncos
Myles Bell, Regina Pats
Scott Harrington, London Knights
Duncan Siemens, Saskatoon Blades
Tyler Wotherspoon, Portland Winterhawks
Lucas Lessio, Oshawa Generals
Zack Phillips, Saint John Sea Dogs
Boone Jenner, Oshawa Generals
Colin Jacobs, Seattle Thunderbirds
Sean Couturier, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Matthew Puempel, Peterborough Petes
Shane Prince, Ottawa 67’s
Phillip Danault, Victoriaville Tigres
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Red Deer Rebels
Brandon Saad, Saginaw Spirit
Sven Bartschi, Portland Winterhawks
Vladislav Namestnikov, London Knights
Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs
Xavier Ouellet, Montreal Juniors
Ty Rattie, Portland Winterhawks
Tomas Jurco, Saint John Sea Dogs
Nicklas Jensen, Oshawa Generals
Ryan Strome, Niagara IceDogs
Mark Scheifele, Barrie Colts
Joe Morrow, Portland Winterhawks
Jordan Binnington, Owen Sound Attack
Liam Liston, Brandon Wheat Kings
Christopher Gibson, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
David Honzik, Victoriaville Tigres