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McDavid, Crouse headline Top Prospects Game roster

by Adam Kimelman

Top 2015 NHL Draft prospect Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League will play for Team Orr at the 2015 CHL/NHL Top Prospects game, which will be played Jan. 22 in St. Catharines, Ontario at Meridan Centre, home of the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.

CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Rosters

Team Cherry

Goalies -- Callum Booth, Quebec (QMJHL); Samuel Montembeault, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)

Defensemen -- Brandon Carlo, Tri-City (WHL); Vince Dunn, Niagara (OHL); Noah Juulsen, Everett (WHL); Matt Spencer, Peterborough (OHL); Mitchell Vande Sompel, Oshawa (OHL); Jakub Zboril, Saint John (QMJHL)

Forwards -- Anthony Beauvillier, Shawinigan (QMJHL); Filip Chlapik, Charlottetown (QMJHL); Jake DeBrusk, Swift Current (WHL); Graham Knott, Niagara (OHL); Mitchell Marner, London (OHL); Adam Musil, Red Deer (WHL); Daniel Sprong, Charlottetown (QMJHL); Mitchell Stephens, Saginaw (OHL); Dylan Strome, Erie (OHL); Evgeny Svechnikov, Cape Breton (QMJHL); Yakov Trenin, Gatineau (QMJHL); Dennis Yan, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

Team Orr

Goalies -- Mackenzie Blackwood, Barrie (OHL); Nick McBride, Prince Albert (WHL)

Defensemen -- Guillaume Brisebois, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL); Thomas Chabot, Saint John (QMJHL); Nicolas Meloche, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL); Ryan Pilon, Brandon (WHL); Ivan Provorov, Brandon (WHL); Jeremy Roy, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)

Forwards -- Mathew Barzal, Seattle (WHL); Paul Bittner, Portland (WHL); Lawson Crouse, Kingston (OHL); Ryan Gropp, Seattle (WHL); Jansen Harkins, Prince George (WHL); Travis Konecny, Ottawa (OHL); Nikita Korostelev, Sarnia (OHL); Connor McDavid, Erie (OHL); Timo Meier, Halifax (QMJHL); Nick Merkley, Kelowna (WHL); Nicolas Roy, Chicoutimi (QMJHL); Pavel Zacha, Sarnia (OHL)

The Top Prospects Game features 40 of the top players eligible for the 2015 draft playing in the Canadian Hockey League. NHL Central Scouting coordinates the rosters, with input from all 30 NHL teams.

"The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is an event that all NHL scouts and general managers circle on their calendars," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "The 40 players competing in this game were chosen by our 30 NHL clubs and provides a unique opportunity for them to evaluate top CHL talent for the 2015 NHL Draft. This is also a unique opportunity for the players, who can take advantage of the spotlight to promote their play in this exciting and highly competitive single-game best-on-best contest."

The Top Prospects Game will be televised by NHL Network in the United States, and Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

McDavid, considered to be a top-two pick in the draft, is fifth in the OHL with 51 points in 18 games despite not playing since Nov. 11 because of a broken right hand. McDavid currently is skating with Canada, preparing for the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"It's pretty cool," McDavid told of being picked for Top Prospects. "There's been a lot of cool people and names to go through this program and the team and the game. It's obviously a tremendous honor."

Seven of the past eight players to be the first pick of the NHL draft have played in the Top Prospects Game, including Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, the first pick of the 2014 draft.

Joining McDavid on Team Orr is one of his potential teammates at the WJC, forward Lawson Crouse of the Kingston Frontenacs. The 6-foot-4, 211-pound left wing has 12 goals in 24 games. He's regarded for his scoring touch as well as his physical play.

"He's not a dirty player but can hit so hard using those shoulders; he's a man," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "There isn't a defenseman in the OHL that will stop him when he decides he's going to take the puck to the net. He's a big-bodied guy, protects the puck and is solid on his skates. He can see the ice and barrels through everyone. He's got good hands to go along with that big body."

Crouse said knowing NHL scouts and general manager helped select the players for the game makes being part of the Top Prospects Game that much more special.

"That's something we have to look forward to," Crouse told "We're here to play and it's going to be a very competitive game. Everyone is going to be showing what they've got. I know on game day I'll be ready and I’m sure everyone else will be."

McDavid and Crouse are used to playing against each other in the OHL, but being teammates for the past week at Canada's WJC camp has given each a better understanding of the other.

"He's a really special player," Crouse said of McDavid. "He's the complete package. He can do it all. It's been pretty special being with him in this camp so far. Little bit different playing with him than against him. You learn about how nice a guy he is off the ice, stuff like that. I'm fortunate enough to participate in this event and it makes it special when you see that you can play alongside such a great name like Connor McDavid."

McDavid said he's been impressed by the skill set Crouse has shown despite being the youngest player in the camp.

"He's a great player," McDavid said. "He's a very big body, he's a good power forward. He's got some pretty good skill. He's an unbelievable player. I'm for sure happy he's on my team."

Also on Team Orr are two other players who could see time at the WJC. Defenseman Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings could play for Russia and Sarnia Sting center Pavel Zacha has a chance to play with the Czech Republic.

"He's got high-end skill and is an excellent competitor; he plays an excellent two-way game," Edwards said of Zacha. "… He's physical and solid on his skates and can separate guys from the puck."

Team Orr also will feature the leading scorer in the Western Hockey League, forward Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets. The 5-10, 191-pound center has 10 goals and 53 points in 43 games.

In goal for Team Orr will be Mackenzie Blackwood of the Barrie Colts and Nick McBride of the Prince Albert Raiders.

Among the players to watch on Team Cherry is McDavid's Erie teammate, forward Dylan Strome. The 6-3, 187-pound center is second in the OHL with 61 points in 32 games.

"He's a good friend of mine," McDavid said of Strome. "It's hard to take him seriously sometimes knowing him so well. It'll be funny to play him."

Scouts will have a more serious eye when watching Strome.

"He's a strong skater and has got the agility and reach that scouts love," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "Strome and [Boston University center] Jack Eichel are probably the two best puck-protection players in this draft class. Strome is really strong on his feet, protects the puck from any checking pressure and can circle it out from down low."

The only OHL player with more points than Strome will be his Team Cherry teammate, forward Mitchell Marner of the London Knights. The 5-11, 155-pound center leads the OHL with 27 goals and 65 points.

"He's a skilled guy, skates well and plays with energy," Edwards said.

In goal for Team Cherry will be Callum Booth of the Quebec Remparts and Samuel Montembeault of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Montembeault's 2.62 goals-against average is second in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Hockey Hall of Fame member Bobby Orr will coach Team Orr, with Niagara coaches Marty Williamson, Dave Bell and Billy Burke, as well as Sportsnet analyst Doug MacLean, serving as assistant coaches.

NHL broadcaster Don Cherry will coach Team Cherry. Hockey Hall of Fame member Brian Kilrea will be one of his assistants, along with veteran junior hockey coach Bert O'Brien and Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos.


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