There has been plenty of discussion following last week's Top Prospects Game at Air Canada Centre in Toronto regarding which players elevated their draft status with better than average performances.
I will say this. I thought all 40 players participating in the event held their own and I really couldn't single out one player who disappointed, that's for sure. The event, sponsored by Home Hardware and presented by the CHL, was a great opportunity for scouts and general managers to get a glimpse of what the future holds for the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.
Right off the bat, I must say that Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Liam Liston performed exceptionally well in his 30:30 of action for Team Orr. Liston, selected in the third round (No. 57 overall) by Brandon in the 2008 WHL bantam draft, made 18 saves on 18 shots. He faced the most rubber of any of the four goalies.
Offensively, couldn't help but be impressed with the Big Four from the QMJHL's Saint John Sea Dogs -- forwards Zack Phillips, Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Jurco (Team Cherry) and defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. Phillips, Huberdeau and Beaulieu combined for 3 goals and 6 points in Team Orr's 7-1 victory over Team Cherry. Jurco wasn't in on the scoring for Team Cherry but he did produce the highest point total in the Showdown Breakaway Challenge and was a video highlight machine on NHL.com throughout the weekend. Read about the skill competition right here.
Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs and Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67's were also impressive for Team Cherry. Prince, filling in for injured Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers, actually scored the lone goal for the losing side off assists from forward Ty Rattie of the Portland Winterhawks and defenseman Scott Harrington of the London Knights. Portland defenseman Joe Morrow and Kitchener's Ryan Murphy, who was named Team Cherry MVP, also exhibited nice composure along the blue line for the losing side.
Team Orr's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2 assists) of the Red Deer Rebels, Daniel Catenacci (1 goal) of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Sven Baertschi of the Portland Winterhawks (1 goal, 1 assist) were also standouts. Nugent-Hopkins was named MVP for Team Orr. Despite not earning a point on the scoresheet, Drummondville's Sean Couturier showcased the two-way game he has been said to demonstrate. Can't forget the spirited fight between Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades and David Musil of the Vancouver Giants, either. Read the game and fight recap right here.
A couple of players who are top prospects but weren't participants in the Top Prospects Game since they don't play in the Canadian Hockey League are U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program goalie's John Gibson and Matt McNeely. Gibson is the No. 1-rated goalie in North America, according to NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings; McNeely is fifth. Read about them on NHL.com.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale