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5 things learned from CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier show why they lead Central Scouting's midterm ranking

by Mike G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

QUEBEC CITY -- Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skaters for the 2017 NHL Draft in its midterm ranking, showed why scouts value them so highly during the 2017 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Videotron Centre on Monday.

Patrick (6-foot-3, 198 pounds), No. 1 on Central Scouting's midterm list, had two assists and won 12 of 16 faceoffs to help lead Team Cherry to a 7-5 win against Team Orr at the 22nd annual showcase that featured 40 of the top 2017 draft-eligible players from the Canadian Hockey League.

Hischier (6-1, 176), No. 2 on Central Scouting's midterm list, had a goal, two assists and finished 8-of-16 on faceoffs. He was named most valuable player for Team Orr.

Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph), Antoine Morand (Acadie-Bathurst), MacKenzie Entwistle (Hamilton), Maxime Comtois (Victoriaville), Gabriel Vilardi (Windsor), Owen Tippett (Mississauga) and Jake Leschyshyn (Regina) scored, and defenseman Henri Jokiharju (Portland) had three assists for Cherry.

Tippett, No. 4 on Central Scouting's midterm list, scored a power-play goal off a pass from Patrick to give Cherry a 6-4 lead 11:28 into the third.

Ian Scott (Prince Albert) and Stuart Skinner (Lethbridge) combined to make 30 saves for Cherry.

Kailer Yamamoto (Spokane), Sasha Chmelevski (Ottawa), Michael Rasmussen (Tri-City) and Stelio Mattheos (Brandon) had goals for Orr. Alex D'Orio (Saint John) and Michael DiPietro (Windsor) combined for 29 saves.

Here are 5 things we learned from the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game:


Hischier triggers top line

Orr's line of Hischier, left wing Nikita Popugaev (Prince George) and right wing Yamamoto were exceptional all game. Popugaev, No. 18 on Central Scouting's midterm ranking, had one assist. Yamamoto (No. 17) had a goal and an assist.

Orr assistant coach Dominique Ducharme, who coached Nathan MacKinnon and Nikolaj Ehlers during three seasons with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, likes what he sees in Hischier.

"He's in the mix with those guys," Ducharme said. "I think he plays a complete game. He has a really mature game and is quick with skills and vision. He's a complete player."


Patrick satisfied with effort

Patrick has been limited to 11 games because of a groin injury that kept him out for 35 games. He returned to Brandon's lineup Jan. 13 and has four goals and four assists in five games. Now that he's healthy, he said he's looking forward to the second half of the season.

"It's nice to be back playing in any game," Patrick said. "I felt I started slow, but as the [Top Prospects Game] wore on I got better."

Cherry coach Simon Gagne said he likes what he sees in Patrick.

"He's got the size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds), the speed and skills," Gagne said. "It's a tough game for everyone; there's a lot of pressure. Sometimes you try and do a little bit too much. I thought he did well in the third [period] and his line got a big goal on the power play. He has a lot of potential in the future for sure."



Forwards Matthew Strome and Entwistle became the first two Hamilton players to make the CHL Top Prospects Game. The team moved from Belleville, Ontario, to Hamilton last season, but no player was invited to the 2016 game.

Strome, who represented Team Orr, is No. 19 on Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters. He's the youngest brother of New York Islanders forward Ryan Strome and Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome. Ryan (2011), Dylan (2015) and now Matthew have played in the Top Prospects Game but never on the winning team.

Entwistle, No. 35 on Central Scouting's midterm list, had a goal, an assist and was plus-1 for Cherry.


European invasion

Four skaters at the Top Prospects Game were starring outside North America last season.

Sarnia center Adam Ruzicka (No. 27) played in his native Slovakia and Jokiharju (No. 22) in Finland. They were on Team Cherry for the Top Prospects Game. Hischier was in his native Switzerland and Team Orr teammate defenseman Eemeli Rasanen of Kingston (No. 57) was in Finland.

Jokiharju was named MVP for Team Cherry.

"It was unbelievable to win MVP," Jokiharju said. "I thought I had good chemistry with my defense partner, Antoine Crete-Belzile (Blainville-Boisbriand) and we played well."

CHL on- and off-ice test results

London forward Alex Formenton, No. 24 on Central Scouting's midterm list, finished first in the on-ice testing, and Kingston defenseman and Kingston defenseman Jacob Paquette (No. 90) was best in the off-ice testing conducted by Sport Testing on Saturday at Videotron Centre.

Formenton (6-1, 162) finished first in transition agility and weave agility, second in transition agility with puck and reaction with puck, and third in weave agility with puck.

Paquette (6-3, 207) was third in vertical jump, left hand grip strength, and right hand grip strength.

DiPietro, No. 7 on Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American goaltenders, finished first in testing among players at his position after a strong showing in reaction, agility, and movement challenges.

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