The Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will be well-represented when the 18th annual Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is played Jan. 16 at the Metro Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Canadian Hockey League announced Wednesday that Halifax linemates Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin will join forces for coach Don Cherry to highlight the roster for Team Cherry. MacKinnon was named captain for Team Cherry while Drouin and Sault Ste. Marie defenseman Darnell Nurse were appointed as alternates.
MacKinnon and Drouin are rated No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary league rankings for the QMJHL. Additionally, there's a strong possibility that the No. 1-rated goalie in the QMJHL, Halifax keeper Zachary Fucale, will join his teammates at the game when rosters are formulated via NHL club nominations that should be completed by Dec. 10.
"I'm aware of the Halifax support and very thankful to be playing for Halifax, it's a great hockey market," MacKinnon said Wednesday during a media conference call. "The fans are going to be fired up for the game and it's going to be a lot of fun. The crowd is awesome here, and they support us every game so, for sure, this experience with [Drouin and possibly Fucale] is going to be special. We're going to take a lot from this game."
The contest in Halifax marks the second time in the history of the Top Prospects Game that a team from the QMJHL will serve as host; the other was the 2007 game in Quebec City. Other past cities to host include Toronto (1996-98, 2000, 2011), Calgary (1999, 2001), Saskatoon (2002), Kitchener (2003), London (2004), Vancouver (2005), Ottawa (2006), Edmonton (2008), Oshawa (2009), Windsor (2010) and Kelowna (2012).
"The Halifax Mooseheads have done a great job putting this game together locally in the Halifax market," CHL president David Branch said. "Halifax is a great CHL center and great hockey market and we look forward to the game."
Entering this year's event, the Mooseheads had been represented in the Top Prospects game by 11 players, including 2012 NHL Draft prospects Martin Frk and Andrew Ryan, who competed for Team Cherry coached by Mark Recchi and Ryan Huska last February in Kelowna.
NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr also anticipates an electric atmosphere.
"I attended a couple home games in Halifax and know there [is] high anticipation for the fans there for this upcoming game," Marr said. "The fans are going to be loud and proud and know Nathan and his linemate, Drouin, will have to play to that hometown pressure. I think [Team Orr captain] Seth Jones and his troops will be motivated to score against them. It should be a truly exciting game."
Jones, a 6-foot-3.5, 208-pound defenseman from the Portland Winterhawks, is ranked No. 1 on Central Scouting's list of skaters from the Western Hockey League. He'll serve as captain for Team Orr, alongside alternates Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67's and Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers.
"Me and Nathan are obviously two competitive players and there's not really one person who has the edge but it goes back and forth a little bit," Jones said. "We've never really been in a one-on-one situation."
Former notable Mooseheads Alex Tanguay and Logan MacMillan also participated in this event before being chosen in the first round of the NHL Draft. Tanguay picked up an assist for Team Cherry in a 4-2 win in 1998 before going No. 12 to the Colorado Avalanche. MacMillan connected for Team Burns-Bergeron in 2007 in a 5-3 win before the Anaheim Ducks selected him with the No. 19 pick.
Team Orr coach Mike McPhee, born and raised in Nova Scotia, is pleased that fans in the area will have a chance to witness a great hockey event.
"We're proud in Halifax to host the event for the first time and have a chance to see the top prospects for next year's draft," said McPhee, who spent 11 seasons in the NHL. "I'm honored to coach the Orr team. I was a Bobby Orr fan growing up, but after being drafted by Montreal [in 1980], it took me one shift to hate the Bruins, so I'm not a Bruins fan anymore.
"I'm honored to coach Team Orr and honored to coach against Don Cherry," McPhee continued. "It's a great opportunity for the kids to showcase themselves to all the scouts. I hope they will remember the experience against their peers and, for us, our objective is to make it a memorable game for them."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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