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McDavid, linemates excel in Top Prospects Game

by Mike G. Morreale

ST. CATHARINES, Ontario -- The focus was on Erie Otters center Connor McDavid at the 2015 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Meridian Centre on Thursday.

But it was his linemates, left wing Timo Meier (Halifax Mooseheads) and right wing Travis Konecny (Ottawa 67's), who combined for three goals and three assists to lead Team Bobby Orr to a 6-0 victory against Team Don Cherry.

"It's the luck of the draw if you click at these games or not," Konecny said. "It's hard coming together but it's definitely not hard playing with [McDavid and Meier]. They make it easier for everyone around them; you just have to wait and when the puck hits your stick put it on net."

That's precisely what Konecny, No. 26 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, did. He connected for two goals and one assist and was named player of the game for Team Orr.

Meier, No. 12 on Central Scouting's midterm rankings, had a goal and two assists.

The 5,300 in attendance, including the 250-plus NHL scouts, did get plenty of McDavid. The No. 1-ranked skater on Central Scouting's midterm report exhibited the speed and superior smarts that have made him the projected No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft.

"This was just part of the process," McDavid said. "Now I'll just look to have a good second half of the season with the Otters and hopefully we can make a run [to the Ontario Hockey League championship]."

The 6-foot-1, 209-pound left-handed shot finished with one assist and a plus-3 rating, but generated several excellent opportunities and created plenty of open ice for Meier and Konecny by drawing defenders to him.

"He had one assist, but I look at the little things he was doing," Konecny said. "He was definitely opening up ice for us, creating chances and driving the net. You never know when Connor is going to drive to the net, and when he does, it opens up the trailer and that happened to me."

Konecny's goal 5:33 into the third period, a wrist shot from the slot, gave Team Orr a 3-0 lead. The goal was set up by a great pass from defenseman Ivan Provorov (Brandon Wheat Kings), who also played a solid game.

Ryan Pilon (Brandon Wheat Kings), Nathan Noel (Saint John Sea Dogs) and Paul Bittner (Portland Winterhawks) had the other goals for Team Orr. Starting goaltender Nick McBride (Prince Albert Raiders) stopped 11 shots in 29:17 of action. His replacement, Liam Herbst (Ottawa 67's), made 21 saves in 30:43. Herbst's best stop came with less than five minutes left in the second and his team ahead 2-0 when he made a superb right pad save against Mitchell Stephens (Saginaw Spirit) on a breakaway.

The All-Western Hockey League second line for Team Orr, which consisted of Bittner, Jansen Harkins (Prince George Cougars) and Glenn Gawdin (Swift Current Broncos), showcased great speed and puck pursuit.

Team Cherry starting goalie Samuel Montembeault (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada) stopped 15 of 17 shots. Michael McNiven finished with eight saves on 12 shots. Center Dylan Strome (Erie Otters) was named the player of the game for Team Cherry.

Strome and McDavid, teammates in Erie, took the game's opening faceoff.

"He was a little more serious so I didn't really want to joke around too much but it was good to see him do so well in a game like this," McDavid said.

Said Strome: "He'll probably tell you he won the faceoff but I don't know. He played well and I'm happy for him. But it's not fun if you don't get the win. It was good going up against him."

Team Orr opened a 2-0 lead in the first on goals by Pilon at 12:30 and Meier at 19:46. Pilon's defensive partner in Brandon, Provorov, stood up Team Cherry forward Daniel Sprong at the blue line before Pilon picked up the pick down his left wing. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound left-hand shot, No. 31 in Central Scouting's midterm rankings, slapped a shot from low in the left circle that beat Montembeault inside the short-side post.

Provorov (one assist, plus-3), a member of Russia's silver medal-winning team at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, was a force along the blue line for Team Orr. He is No. 10 on Central Scouting's midterm list.

"He's a tremendous skater," Pilon said of Provorov. "He's a one-man breakout machine. He gets the puck and he breaks it out of the zone and he's good in all aspects. He can take the body like he showed there, and he has scored some highlight-reel goals."

Meier made it 2-0 with 13.4 seconds left in the first when he deflected home a shot from McDavid.

"Playing with those two guys was great. They moved the puck well," McDavid said. "I thought my game was all right. I had a couple of chances that I wish I buried but it really doesn't matter."

Konecny made the play happen when he checked Filip Chlapik (Charlottetown Islanders) off the puck before feeding McDavid to begin the transition.

"Every player in their draft year wants to prove they can be the best that they can be," Konecny said. "I try not to look at the rankings. I'm just going to do what I can to get a team to like me and just hope I can go as high as I can [in the NHL Draft]."

There have been 265 players from the past 19 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game who have been selected in the first round of the NHL Draft since 1996. A total of 17 players from the 2014 game were chosen in the first round, including defenseman Aaron Ekblad at No. 1 by the Florida Panthers.


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