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Wednesday, 01.14.2009 / 11:45 PM / CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Blog

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Jan. 14 - 11:45 p.m.

First, John Tavares is OK. Just a sore shoulder. He didn't talk to reporters, but one intrepid scribe caught Tavares as he was getting in his car to go home. Had both his arms in the sleeves of his coat, so no sling on his arm. Just sore he said before driving off. So that's that.

Second, the game -- lots of hitting, lots of pushing and shoving. These guys were serious out there. It was really good to see. Cody Eakin was really impressive. The Swift Current forward can fly around the ice, and the physical stuff doesn't bother him. He got into it with Zack Kassian, who's a moose, and Taylor Doherty, who's a behemoth at 6-foot-6. After Doherty was called for boarding Tavares early in the third period -- before his injury -- Eakin took a poke at Doherty, who responded by elbowing Eakin in the head. Eakin laughed about it afterward.

"I think he was trying to hit me in the chest, but his arms start higher than my head," Eakin told me.

Also was a bit of the Bob and Don show after the game, as Bobby Orr and Don Cherry met the media after the game. Orr said his coaching had no impact on his team winning tonight. Cherry responded by saying his coaching had no effect on his team losing.

All in all it was a fun event. The GM Centre is a great little building. Not too big, good sightlines. And the CHL's PR staff, led by Paul Krotz, was terrific to work with. My only suggestion to improve things? Next year's game should be in Miami, Phoenix or Las Vegas.

Thanks for hanging with the blog again. Look for some stories off some really fun kids coming soon to NHL.com.

Jan. 14 - 9:45 p.m.


Bad night for John Tavares. Looks like the projected top pick in the draft hurt his right arm or shoulder, and missed the last 12 minutes of the game. I'll be back if I can find out more.

Jan. 14 - 8:20 p.m.

End of the first period nearly saw the first fight of the game. John Tavares slashed Taylor Doherty, the 6-foot-8 defenseman from the Kingston Frontenacs. Both started the second in the penalty box.

Team Cherry dominated the first period, getting the first nine shots of the game. Team Orr didn't get its first shot until about 7 minutes was left in the first, but they scored three goals on six shots to take a 3-0 lead. Cody Eakin, Taylor Beck and Levko Koper scored in the last five minutes of the first.

Andrej Nestrasil scored for Team Cherry with just under 30 seconds left.

The second period is underway. Back with more later.

Jan. 14 -- 7:20 p.m.

The teams are on the ice for introductions. A standing ovation for John Tavares in his return to Oshawa.

Bobby Orr introduced as "the greatest hockey player of all-time." And he was referred to as No. 2, the number he wore as a player with the Generals.

Tavares is wearing the captain's C for Team Orr, Evander Kane is captain for Team Cherry.

Nathan Lieuwen will start in goal for Team Cherry, Olivier Roy for Team Orr.

More as the game goes.

Jan. 14 -- 11:50 a.m.

Team Cherry is on the ice for their practice. Here are the lines and defense pairings.

Landon Ferraro-Jimmy Bubnick-Ethan Werek
Nazem Kadri-Zack Kassian-Carter Ashton
Matt Duchene-Evander Kane-Andrej Nestrasil
Alex Hutchings-Michal Hlinka-Jordan Caron

Taylor Doherty-Eric Gelinas
Stefan Elliott-Dmitry Kulikov
Tyson Barrie-Simon Despres

The only other note from this morning's talk with Bobby Orr was how impressed he was with Ryan Ellis. To paraphrase Orr, Ellis' 5-foot-9, 183-pound build is going to hold him back from being a star in the NHL, they're sorely mistaken. Ellis went from being a power-play specialst for Canada at the World Juniors to a top-pairing defenseman by the time the tournament ended, and his star has continued to rise.

Earlier in the season we wrote about how Ellis could become the second player in the last 63 years to lead the OHL in scoring. Missing games for the World Juniors and Top Prospects has rendered that a near impossibility, but he's still eighth with 51 points, which still tops all defenseman, despite him having played just 33 games, or nine fewer than Windsor teammate Rob Kwiet, who's next with 49 points in 42 games.

Scouts I talked to at the World Juniors say Ellis is a first rounder, but probably bottom half of the first round. He was ranked No. 15 in Central Scouting's midterm rankings, but I can't help but think another impressive show tonight and he could move up.

More later.

Jan. 14 -- 10:40 a.m.

Back at the GM Centre watching Team Orr's morning practice. Here are the lines Coach Orr likely will use tonight:

John Tavares-Cody Eakin-Philippe Paradis
Scott Glennie-Brayden Schenn-David Gilbert
Peter Holland-Michael Latta-Taylor Beck
Levko Koper-Ryan O'Reilly-Marcus Foligno

Defense:
Brayden McNabb-Jared Cowen
Charles-Olivier Roussel-Tommi Kivisto
Calvin de Haan-Ryan Ellis

Not sure who will start in goal, but Olivier Roy and Scott Stajcer certainly will both play.

Back with more from Team Cherry's practice later this morning.

Jan. 13 - 10:10 p.m.

Call it a Skills Night Sweep for Team Cherry. The Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster led his team to a 6-4 win in the skills competition, and 5-3 victory in the three-on-three game that followed.

The star of the night in a losing effort, though, was Shawinigan center Philippe Paradis, who won the hardest shot contest, had the sweetest move of the penalty shot relay and scored twice in the three-on-three game for the losing Team Orr side.

Even Paradis said he was surprised by launching the hardest shot of the night, 95.7 mph.

"I said I don't know if I have the best shot," Paradis told me. "There's other guys, 6-5 and 6-4 and 220 pounds. I just go and have fun."

It was even more fun when he saw the readout on the radar gun.

"When I see my shot I say (wow), did I do that?"

In the penalty shot contest, his behind the back, between the legs attempt hit the post, so on a pair of breakaways in the three-on-three game, he twice went 5-hole and twice scored on Edward Pasquale.

If Paradis was surprised at his win in the hardest shot contest, Landon Ferraro was just as surprised to win the fastest skater contest. He barely edged out WHL foe Cody Eakin.

"It was a good time," said Ferraro. "I didn't think I had Eaken beat ... I thought I was falling around the fourth turn. It's harder than I thought, going like that and trying to make a tight turn."

Another nice moment tonight was the fans cheering loudly for John Tavares each time he stepped on the ice. Tavares spent 3 1/2 seasons in Oshawa before his trade to London last week.

"It's always nice to be welcomed back to a place that's meant so much to me in my life and my hockey career," Tavares told me. "I was thrilled to get that response. I thank the fans in this city for everything they've done for me."

Those fans will have one more chance to cheer Tavares tomorrow night in the Top Prospects Game, which can be seen at 7 p.m. ET on the NHL Network in the U.S. and Rogers Sportsnet in Canada.

While there will be all stars out there, it won't be an all-star game. Expect to see some hard hitting and at least one fight. Last year, it was Steven Stamkos and Yann Sauve going at it.

Ferraro is hoping to complete the Team Cherry hat trick.

"We got the win in both skills and three-on-three," he said. "We'll try to finish out the series tomorrow."

Jan. 13 -- 8:15 p.m.

After the individual competitions, Team Cherry leads Team Orr 8-6. The teams were split in the puck control relay, then Red Deer's Landon Ferraro, skating for Team Cherry, won the Fastest Skater contest, turning a lap in 14.009 seconds. Swift Current's Cody Eakin, skating for Team Orr, was a close second, finishng in 14.028. Someone always falls in this event -- I think Steven Stamkos was the guy last year. This year, it was Shawinigan defenseman Charles-Olivier Roussel.

Shawinigan's Philippe Paradis, for Team Orr, won the hardest shot competition, at 95.7 mph. His second shot clocked 91.1, making him the only player to break 90 twice. Chicoutimi's Michal Hlinka finished second for Team Cherry at 93.3.

Michael Latta of the Guelph Storm, skating for Team Orr, won the accuracy shooting event, breaking four targets on six shots. Ethan Werek of Kingston hit four targets on seven shots to help Team Cherry take the team competition.

In the penalty shot relay, Team Cherry won 4-2. Prettiest goal of the event came from Lewiston's Eric Gelinas, who went behind his back and between his legs to beat Owen Sound's Scott Stajcer.

The 3-on-3 is next. This is the event the scouts are most looking forward to.

More in a bit. 

Jan. 13 -- 7:15 p.m.

They're doing the introductions now. Huge ovation for local favorite Calvin de Haan, the Oshawa Generals defenseman. Second-loudest went to John Tavares, who was a General until getting traded last week. Nice to see the fans didn't overlook 3 1/2 years of solid service.

Would have been  nice to see the players give a little wave. Most just stood stock-still. De Haan at least waved his stick a bit.

Don Cherry and Bobby Orr are coaching the teams, so they'll be part of the show.

GM Centre is a neat little building. Seats about 5,000 and the arena is about three-quarters full as we're about to start.

I'll be back with more after the first event, the puck control relay.

Jan. 13 -- 3:25 p.m.

Just came back from the first round of interviews with some of the prospects playing on Team Cherry. I asked one of them, Nazem Kadri about his new linemate.

"I don't know if you've heard of him? John Tavares. Pretty good hockey player," he said with a laugh. Kadri,a natural center, willingly moved to the wing after Tavares was traded to Kadri's London Knights. Considering they each had 3 points in their first game together, it looks like it'll be a pretty fruitful partnership.

Also had the chance to talk with Zack Kassian from the Peterborough Petes. If the blog is a bit off, it's because Kassian broke my hand when he shook it. Might be the strongest player I've ever met -- including NHL guys. He's listed at 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, and he's strong as a bull. I wouldn't want to be the player that got on his bad side.

Well, I have some notes to go over before the Skills Contest tonight. Back with more later.

Jan. 13 -- Noon

So here I am in lovely Oshawa. There's snow on the ground and the temperature is in the negative numbers Celsius (not sure what that equals in Fahrenheit, but I think cold is a good assumption).

I'll be your host tonight for the Top Prospects skills contest. Should be a fun night. Forty of the top players in the three Canadian Hockey Leagues eligible for the 2009 Entry Draft are here, and so are personnel folks from all 30 NHL teams. This will be their chance -- and tomorrow night, your chance -- to see the best of the best go head-to-head.

We've already had one player pull out due to injury -- Edmonton Oil Kings right wing Tomas Vincour is out, replaced by Sudbury Wolves forward Marcus Foligno.

That's it for now. But click back throughout the night as I update feverishly.

And don't forget tomorrow's game can be seen live at 7 p.m. ET on the NHL Network in the U.S. and Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. And I'll be blogging away.
Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

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