The Top Prospects Game will showcase the Canadian Hockey League's top 40 NHL draft-eligible players for the 2014 NHL Draft, featuring talent from the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"I don't think you will find one scout say this game will dramatically influence their position on a specific player, but a good performance always bodes well," NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr said via a conference call on Thursday. "The players in this game were voted in by the NHL teams, so now those teams will get an opportunity to see them play."
Reinhart will captain Team Cherry, which will be coached by Jim Peplinski. The alternate captains will be defenceman Roland McKeown of the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) and forward Ivan Barbashev of the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL).
Ekblad will wear the "C" for Team Orr, coached by Tim Hunter. The alternates are forward Jake Virtanen of the hometown Calgary Hitmen (WHL) and forward Nikolaj Ehlers of the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL).
"I want to shut down Sam," Ekblad said. "I want to make sure he doesn't score any goals, so that's my main goal for now. Of course winning the game is also important, and I want those bragging rights over him."
Both Reinhart and Ekblad are not only A-rated prospects on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list for the 2014 draft, but participated in the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship for fourth-place Canada. Reinhart had two goals, five points and a plus-3 rating in a top-six role for Canada coach Brent Sutter, and Ekblad had one goal and two points in a top-four role along the blue line for his country.
"I don't think I've ever played against Aaron, so it'll be exciting. I may have to fight him once or twice," Reinhart said, tongue in cheek.
Reinhart, a 6-foot-0.75, 185-pound right-hander, has 16 goals and 50 points in 33 games for Kootenay in the WHL. He's in his third full season with the Ice and has 81 goals and 199 points in 176 career games with the team.
He led the Ice last season in goals (35), assists (50) and points (85). He not only captained Canada's team that won the gold medal at the 2012 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka, but also wore the "C" for Canada's World Under-18 National Team that garnered gold. At the U-18 World Championship in Sochi, Russia, Reinhart had three goals, seven points and a plus-7 rating on a line primarily with Morgan Klimchuk (Calgary Flames, No. 28, 2013) and 2015 draft-eligible prodigy Connor McDavid.
Reinhart has quite the hockey pedigree.
Max Reinhart, 21, was taken by the Calgary Flames in the third round (No. 63) of the 2010 draft. The only defenceman of the trio, Griffin Reinhart, 19, was selected No. 4 by the New York Islanders in 2012. His father, Paul Reinhart, who will serve as an assistant coach for Team Cherry, was chosen No. 12 by the Atlanta Flames in 1979.
"My brothers have had a huge impact on my career," Sam Reinhart said. "It's not so much what they've said as it's been just watching them both handle their draft years. I learned a lot watching what they experienced."
Ekblad (6-3.5, 216), who has 10 goals and 25 points in 29 games in the OHL, served as the captain for first-place Canada at the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka this past summer. He was also captain of Team Ontario at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and finished as the second-highest scoring defenceman at the tournament with six points (two goals, four assists).
Ekblad was granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada to be eligible for the 2011 OHL priority selection draft as a 15-year-old -- a year younger than the standard age of 16. He was selected No. 1 in 2011 by the Colts in the OHL priority selection and had 10 goals and 29 points in 63 games to earn OHL Rookie of the Year honors.
"Me, Sam and all the other players at this game have a special bond; we're all fighting for top honors in this year's draft," Ekblad said. "It's going to be an exciting time and obviously to play against Sam is going to be exciting."
2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Rosters
Team Cherry (Coach Jim Peplinski)
Goalies: Ty Edmonds, Prince George Cougars, WHL; Alex Nedeljkovic, Plymouth Whalers, OHL.
Defence: #Roland McKeown, Kingston Frontenacs, OHL; Alexis Vanier, Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL; Haydn Fleury, Red Deer Rebels, WHL; Anthony DeAngelo, Sarnia Sting, OHL; Aaron Irving, Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL; Jacob Middleton, Ottawa 67's, OHL.
Forwards: Chase De Leo, Portland Winterhawks, WHL; Robert Fabbri, Guelph Storm, OHL; Nick Ritchie, Peterborough Petes, OHL; Matt Mistele, Plymouth Whalers, OHL; *Sam Reinhart, Koontenay Ice, WHL; Nikita Scherbak, Saskatoon Blades, WHL; Daniel Audette, Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL; #Ivan Barbashev, Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL; Michael Dal Colle, Oshawa Generals, OHL; Ryan MacInnis, Kitchener Rangers, OHL; Nikolay Goldobin, Sarnia Sting, OHL; Conner Bleackley, Red Deer Rebels, WHL.
Team Orr (Coach Tim Hunter)
Goalies: Mason McDonald, Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL; Julio Billia, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, QMJHL.
Defence: Alex Peters, Plymouth Whalers, OHL; Brycen Martin, Swift Current Broncos, WHL; *Aaron Ekblad, Barrie Colts, OHL; Julius Honka, Swift Current Broncos, WHL; Ben Thomas, Calgary Hitmen, WHL; Aaron Haydon, Niagara IceDogs, OHL.
Forwards: Eric Cornel, Peterborough Petes, OHL; Brendan Perlini, Niagara IceDogs, OHL; #Jake Virtanen, Calgary Hitmen, WHL; Jared McCann, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL; Brendan Lemieux, Barrie Colts, OHL; #Nikolaj Ehlers, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL; Clark Bishop, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL; Josh Ho-Sang, Windsor Spitfires, OHL; Blake Clarke, North Bay Battalion, OHL; Leon Draisaitl, Prince Albert Raiders, WHL; Sam Bennett, Kingston Frontenacs, OHL; Spencer Watson, Kingston Frontenacs, OHL.
* - Captains
# - Alternate captains
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer