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McDonald, Peplinski to coach at Top Prospects Game

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Lanny McDonald and Jim Peplinski, who captained the Calgary Flames to the 1989 Stanley Cup, will serve as opposing coaches at the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

The game, which will feature 40 of the top players from the Canadian Hockey League eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, will be played Jan. 15, 2014 at Scotiabank Saddledome.

"These are the next stars of tomorrow and we will be very proud to be a very small part in helping them get to the top," McDonald said. "Obviously with all the [NHL] scouts here we know how important it is so we are not taking this lightly. We obviously want to win but we want to showcase the talent more than anything."

Peplinski, who will coach Team Cherry, spent all 11 of his NHL seasons with the franchise in Calgary after being drafted by the Atlanta Flames in the fourth round of the 1979 NHL Draft (No. 75). He had 161 goals and 263 points in 711 games. He currently works for the Flames as vice president of business development.

Former Flame Paul Reinhart will be Peplinski's assistant. Reinhart's son, Sam Reinhart of the Western Hockey League's Kootenay Ice, is one of the top prospects for the 2014 draft and barring injury will be part of the game.

McDonald will coach Team Orr at the event. It will be the fourth time he's participated in the Top Prospects Game. He spent his final eight NHL seasons (1981-89) with the Flames and set career bests of 66 goals and 98 points in 1982-83. He served as captain his final six seasons and retired after winning the 1989 Stanley Cup.

Two of McDonald's teammates from that Stanley Cup team, forward Joel Otto and goaltender Mike Vernon, will serve as assistant coaches.

After helping coach the event in 1999, 2001 and 2008, McDonald knows the contest isn't an all-star game, even though it will feature star-level talent.

"When you think about how much is on the line, 19 first-rounders [for the 2013 draft] came out of the 40 players that played the game last year," McDonald said. "There's a lot of pressure and a lot on the line."

Eleven players who have participated at the Top Prospects Game have gone on to be selected No. 1 in the draft while 248 players from the event have been selected in the first round since 1996, representing 47 percent of all players picked by NHL clubs in the first round.

Its importance is something Calgary Flames forward Sven Baertschi can attest to.

Baertschi, 21, participated in the event in 2011 before the Flames selected him at No. 13 in the 2011 draft.

"It was the first time I really got a sense of what's really going on here in North America and how excited people are for the draft," Baertschi told "All the scouts and all the GMs are there. It's a lot of pressure on a young player but you've got to not think about it and have fun. I believe it was one of the most fun things I've done in hockey."

There's pressure on McDonald and Peplinski too. The former teammates have placed a healthy wager on the outcome of the game.

"Lanny's going to pick a charity and I'm going to pick a charity and we're going to put together a group," Peplinski told "I would think there would be a minimum of $25,000 that will go to one of the charities that we pick. This has come about kind of quickly. So give us a week and we'll be more clear on that."

The wager is just an extension of the competitive nature of the Top Prospects Game and the group of Flames alumni.

"We play pick-up hockey once a month," Peplinski said. "Joel and I are typically on one team and Lanny and the rest of the guys. You wouldn't believe how hard guys go to win these silly games and there's nothing on the line. This is a little bit different. We'll have some fun but it will be serious."

McDonald may be a Top Prospects Game veteran, but Peplinski thinks he has the early advantage.

"Let's face it, Lanny broke into the League in '74 and it was dump it in, around the boards," he said. "I mean, the [Maple] Leafs? What were they doing, right? I've had the benefit of being with a championship organization from Al MacNeil to Bob Johnson. The stuff that rubbed off on me, all I've got to do is come up with 10 percent of that and I think I can probably spank him."

Rosters for Peplinski and McDonald will be announced at a later date.

NHL teams are polled to select the top 40 draft-eligible players from across the WHL, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. NHL Central Scouting will split the group into two teams.

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