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McDavid, Strome among elite at Top Prospects Game

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

ST. CATHARINES, Ontario -- Erie Otters captain Connor McDavid headlines an impressive list of 2015 NHL Draft-eligible prospects set to impress at the 2015 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Meridian Centre on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, SN, TVA Sports).

The pressure of performing in front of an estimated 250-plus NHL scouts shouldn't be cause for concern for McDavid. He's been under the microscope the past three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, and recently helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in a title game played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

TOP PROSPECTS GAME ROSTERS

TEAM CHERRY

GOALTENDERS:

^Callum Booth, Quebec (QMJHL)
Samuel Montembeault, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)
*Michael McNiven, Owen Sound (OHL)

DEFENSEMEN:

*Rasmus Andersson, Barrie (OHL)
Brandon Carlo, Tri-City (WHL)
Vince Dunn, Niagara (OHL)
*Brendan Guhle, Prince Albert (WHL)
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

GOALTENDERS:

^Mackenzie Blackwood, Barrie (OHL)
*Liam Herbst, Ottawa (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)
*Glenn Gawdin, Swift Current (WHL)
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)
Nicholas Merkley, Kelowna (WHL)
*Nathan Noel, Saint John (QMJHL)
Nicolas Roy, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
*Blake Speers, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
^Pavel Zacha, Sarnia (OHL)

*- injury replacement
^- injured and unable to participate

McDavid, who will serve as captain for Team Bobby Orr, is the No. 1-ranked prospect on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters eligible for 2015 NHL Draft.

Competing against Otters teammate and good friend Dylan Strome in the Top Prospects Game is a bit of a concern for McDavid, however.

"It'll be weird; he's one of my best friends," McDavid said. "I find him hilarious and can hardly take him seriously so it'll be different lining up against him. But fun."

Strome, No. 5 on Central Scouting's midterm list, knows slowing down McDavid is going to be a tall order. He'll be trying his best as an alternate captain for Team Don Cherry.

"It's definitely going to be fun; he's probably the best friend I have in Erie and he's a great guy and we share lots of laughs," Strome said of McDavid. "But when it comes right down to it we both like to win so there's definitely going to be no friends on the ice."

So the battle lines have been drawn. McDavid has 21 goals and 60 points in 23 games for Erie this season; Strome has 28 goals and 80 points in 43 games.

"It's the best draft-eligible players against the best draft-eligible players so it'll be a good test, game and good measuring stick for scouts," McDavid said.

The 20th annual event will include 40 of the top 2015 NHL draft prospects playing in the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. All 40 Canadian Hockey League players competing in the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game are listed on Central Scouting's midterm rankings, including 32 of the top 60 skaters.

"These types of games are important and you've got to go at them as focused as you can and try to block out as much as you can," Strome said. "At the same time you have to enjoy it and have fun because if you're too worried about the media and what people think about you and what you're saying, you're not going to have as good a time. You also won't play as well as you should so you have to relax and enjoy the moment."

Kingston Frontenacs left wing Lawson Crouse, who teamed with McDavid at the WJC and is No. 4 on Central Scouting's midterm list, will represent Team Orr.

"All eyes are going to be on you and you're competing against the top players eligible for the draft so we're taking pride in that and we're going to do our best," Crouse said. "There's a lot of value in a game like this. You're playing against the top players so you want to battle and there's a lot of people watching so everyone is going to be taking a lot of pride each and every shift."

London Knights center Mitchell Marner, No. 7 on the midterm rankings, leads all Canadian Hockey League players with 90 points in 42 games. NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr compared Marner to Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle.

"I think we all know what is at stake so we want to go out there and show that we are the best players in this age group and willing to do it as a team; this is not a one-man event," Marner said. "If you win it's better for the team and for yourself so it's important to just go out there and play your game."

Marner has been playing sensational in his second full season with the Knights. He leads the OHL in goals (34), assists (56), points and plus/minus rating (plus-37).

"I think this is the type of game that was made to impress the scouts," Marner said. "You want to show the scouts that you can compete against the best and that you can be the best. You really want to show that you can be higher in the rankings than you're listed; that's a big part."

The Top Prospect Game traditionally has featured a number of players who would go on to be first-round NHL draft picks. The 2014 Top Prospects Game had 17 players who went in the first round of the 2014 draft, including eight of the top 10 players picked.

Among them was defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who was picked No. 1 by the Florida Panthers. Ekblad was the 12th player to go from the Top Prospects Game to the first pick of the draft, and seventh in the past eight seasons, following Patrick Kane (2007, Chicago Blackhawks), Steven Stamkos (2008, Tampa Bay Lightning), John Tavares (2009, New York Islanders), Taylor Hall (2010, Edmonton Oilers), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011, Edmonton Oilers) and Nathan MacKinnon (2013, Colorado Avalanche). Nail Yakupov, taken by the Oilers with the first pick of the 2012 draft, was unavailable for the game because of an injury.

"This is going to be a fun process," McDavid said. "When you look at some of the names that have come through here it's pretty remarkable."


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