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NHL Draft

Dach, Cozens looking to impress at CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

Two of top three North American forwards among 40 scheduled to participate

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

RED DEER, Alberta -- Kirby Dach and Dylan Cozens, two of the top three players in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters for the 2019 NHL Draft, are among the 40 prospects scheduled to play in the 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at ENMAX Centrium on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports).

The game will feature 19 of the top 31 players in Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters for the 2019 draft, which will be held at Rogers Arena in Vancouver from June 21-22.

Dach, a 6-foot-3, 199-pound center with Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League, is No. 2 in the midterm ranking. He leads Saskatoon with 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) in 43 games. Cozens (6-3, 181), a center with Lethbridge (WHL), is No. 3 in Central Scouting's midterm rankings. He is second with Lethbridge with 58 points (25 goals, 33 assists) in 45 games.


[View midterm rankings: NA Skaters | NA Goalies | Int'l Skaters | Int'l Goalies]


Four other players in the top 10 North American skaters will play in the game: No. 4 defenseman Bowen Byram (6-0, 194) of Vancouver (WHL), No. 8 center Peyton Krebs (5-11, 180) of Kootenay (WHL), No. 9 defenseman Thomas Harley (6-3, 188) of Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League, and No. 10 center Ryan Suzuki (6-0, 178) of Barrie (OHL).

Coaching the teams will be former NHL goalie Kelly Hrudey for Team Bobby Orr and "Hockey Night in Canada" host Ron MacLean for Team Don Cherry.

The game will include 15 players each from the WHL and OHL, and 10 from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Here are five questions to consider entering the 2019 Top Prospects Game:


1. Is the pressure on Dach and Cozens to impress as the highest-rated players in the game?

Dach, who will serve as captain for Team Orr, and Cozens, the captain for Team Cherry, are expected to be chosen among the top 10 picks in the 2019 draft regardless of their performance at the CHL Top Prospects Game.

"Dach is a high-end skill player who has come out of the gate very strong," John Williams of NHL Central Scouting said. "He's more of a playmaker but is showing he can score. Cozens continues to play at a very high level. He's a big guy with a scoring touch who can really skate."


2. Which goaltender will look to boost his draft stock with a solid performance?

Colten Ellis (6-1, 185) of Rimouski (QMJHL) at No. 7 is the lowest-ranked player in Central Scouting's midterm list of North American goalies invited to the game. He is 20-11-2 with a 2.37 goals-against average, two shutouts and a .914 save percentage in 33 games. He'll play for Team Orr, along with Hunter Jones (6-4, 196) of Peterborough (OHL), No. 2 on the midterm list of goalies. No. 3 Mads Sogaard (6-7, 192) of Medicine Hat (WHL) and No. 5 Taylor Gauthier (6-1, 193) of Prince George (WHL) will split time for Team Cherry.


3. Who could surprise in the Top Prospects Game?

Shawinigan center Valentin Nussbaumer, No. 60 among North American skaters in the midterm rankings, and London center Matvey Guskov (No. 63) in the midterm rankings, are good candidates. Nussbaumer will play for Team Cherry, Guskov for Team Orr.

Nussbaumer (5-10, 167) had three points (two goals, one assist) and averaged 15:18 of ice time in six games for fourth-place Switzerland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. He has 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 36 games in his first season in North America.

"He's a smart player with good vision and an ability to make plays in traffic," Troy Dumville of Central Scouting said. "He competes and moves quickly to open ice and can score when given an opportunity."

Guskov (6-1, 177) has 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 35 games in his first North American season after previously playing in his native Russia. Scouts have liked his two-way ability, hockey IQ and compete level.


4. Could any prospects boost their draft stock?

London center Connor McMichael (5-11, 172) has been moving up the prospect rankings all season. McMichael went from a C-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting's October Players to Watch list, to a B-rated skater in the December Players to Watch list, to No. 28 among North American skaters in the midterm ranking. McMichael is second for London with 51 points (27 goals, 24 assists), and he's won 54.8 percent of his face-offs. McMichael has been compared to Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan because of his two-way abilities, speed and shot.


5. Which player might receive the loudest ovation?

That likely will be center Oleg Zaytsev (6-1, 186), the only player from host Red Deer (WHL) taking part in the game. Zaytsev is No. 38 in the midterm rankings. Scouts consider him a power forward with good hands, capable of playing a physical game with good compete.

Zaytsev, who will play for Team Cherry, has 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) in 42 games in his first season in North America. He had 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) 48 games for MHK Dynamo Moskva in Russia's minor league last season.




GOALTENDERS: Colten Ellis, Rimouski (QMJHL); Hunter Jones, Peterborough (OHL)

DEFENSEMEN: Artemi Kniazev, Chicoutimi (QMJHL); Vladislav Kolyachonok, Flint (OHL); Kaedan Korczak, Kelowna (WHL); Jake Lee, Seattle (WHL); Nikita Okhotyuk, Ottawa (OHL); Lassi Thomson, Kelowna (WHL)

FORWARDS: Nikita Alexandrov, Charlottetown (QMJHL); Joseph Carroll, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL); Graeme Clarke, Ottawa (OHL); Kirby Dach, Saskatoon (WHL); Matvey Guskov, London (OHL); Brett Leason, Prince Albert (WHL); Connor McMichael, London (OHL); Sasha Mutala, Tri-City (WHL); Jakob Pelletier, Moncton (QMJHL); Ryan Suzuki, Barrie (OHL); Philip Tomasino, Niagara (OHL); Josh Williams, Medicine Hat (WHL)



GOALTENDERS: Taylor Gauthier, Prince George (WHL); Mads Sogaard, Medicine Hat (WHL)

DEFENSEMEN: Samuel Bolduc, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL); Bowen Byram, Vancouver (WHL); William Constantinou, Kingston (OHL); Thomas Harley, Mississauga (OHL); Matthew Robertson, Edmonton (WHL); Michael Vukojevic, Kitchener (OHL)

FORWARDS: Maxim Cajkovic, Saint John (QMJHL); Dylan Cozens, Lethbridge (WHL); Nolan Foote, Kelowna (WHL); *Dillon Hamaliuk, Seattle (WHL); Arthur Kaliyev, Hamilton (OHL); Peyton Krebs, Kootenay (WHL); Raphael Lavoie, Halifax (QMJHL); Nathan Legare, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL); #Valentin Nussbaumer, Shawinigan (QMJHL); Samuel Poulin, Sherbrooke (QMJHL); Jamieson Rees, Sarnia (OHL); Nicholas Robertson, Peterborough (OHL); Oleg Zaytsev, Red Deer (WHL)

*-invited but unable to play due to injury

#-injury replacement

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