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NHL Draft

5 questions ahead of CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

Rimouski forward Lafreniere, potential surprises among what to watch

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

HAMILTON, Ontario -- Alexis Lafreniere, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skater for the 2020 NHL Draft, will be among 40 players competing at the 2020 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at FirstOntario Centre on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports).

The 6-foot-1, 196-pound left wing was named most valuable player of the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship after he had 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games for first-place Canada.

The 25th annual CHL/NHL showcase will feature nine of the top 10 players on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2020 draft at Bell Centre in Montreal on June 26-27.

There will be 16 different CHL teams represented in the game, including 17 prospects from the Ontario Hockey League, 14 from the Western Hockey League and nine from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The players were chosen by the 31 NHL teams in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting.

Lafreniere will play for Team White coached by George Burnett (Guelph, OHL) and Trevor Letowski (Windsor, OHL). Team Red will be coached by Rob Wilson (Peterborough, OHL) and Vince Laise (Hamilton, OHL).

Here are answers to five intriguing questions heading into the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game: 


1. Is Alexis Lafreniere the clear-cut No. 1 choice in the 2020 NHL Draft?

Yes. Lafreniere left little doubt with his effort for Canada at World Juniors by scoring three goals and three assists in three games after missing two games with a left knee injury. The 18-year-old left wing is in his third full season with Rimouski (QMJHL) and leads the league with 73 points (24 goals, 49 assists) and 29 power-play points (two goals, 27 assists) in 34 games. He has 258 points (103 goals, 155 assists) and a 17.5 shooting percentage in 155 QMJHL games.


2. After Lafreniere, who are three forwards in the game likely chosen top 10 in the NHL Draft?

Center Quinton Byfield (6-4, 215) of Sudbury (OHL), center Cole Perfetti (5-10, 177) of Saginaw (OHL), and center Marco Rossi (5-9, 183) of Ottawa (OHL), each a left-handed shot, are all high-end players. Byfield (No. 2 in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters) of Team Red represented Canada in a minimal role at the WJC, finishing with one assist and averaging 8:41 in ice time in seven games. He ranks seventh in the OHL with 63 points (25 goals, 38 assists) in 33 games for Sudbury.

Perfetti (No. 4), invited to Canada's WJC selection camp but released 14 days before the start of the tournament, is third in the OHL with 69 points (23 goals, 46 assists) in 40 games for Saginaw. He'll play for Team White.

Rossi (No. 5) of Team Red leads the OHL with 74 points (26 goals, 48 assists), 2.31 points per game and a plus-47 rating. He is 57.8 percent on face-offs (387-for-669) in 32 games.


3. Who are the top defensemen to watch in the game?

Erie defenseman Jamie Drysdale (5-11, 175), who impressed for Canada at the 2020 WJC when he had three points (one goal, two assists) and was plus-3 while averaging 11:38 in seven games, is No. 3 in Central Scouting's midterm ranking. The right-handed shot, who will play for Team Red, ranks ninth among OHL defensemen with 35 points (seven goals, 28 assists) in 31 games for the Otters.


4. Who could surprise in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game?

Forwards Mavrik Bourque (5-10, 168) and Vasily Ponomarev (5-10, 178) of Shawinigan (QMJHL), and defensemen Ryan O'Rourke (6-0, 173) of Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) and Thimo Nickl (6-2, 176) of Drummondville (QMJHL), are each capable of leaving a lasting impression. Bourque, Ponomarev and O'Rourke will play for Team White and Nickl for Team Red.

Bourque (No. 24) leads the Cataractes with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) and 18 power-play points (four goals, 14 assists) in 40 games. Ponomarev (No. 29) is fourth among QMHL rookies with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 35 games. O'Rourke (No. 32) has 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) and four power-play goals in 31 games for the Greyhounds. Nickl (No. 51) has 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) and 17 power-play points (five goals, 12 assists) in 36 games as a rookie for the Voltigeurs.


5. Are there any players capable of stealing the show?

Team Red teammates Jack Quinn (6-0, 179) of Ottawa (OHL) and Antonio Stranges (5-10, 172) of London (OHL) could thrive in this type of setting.

Quinn (No. 9), a right wing, has 19 points (16 goals, three assists) in his past 12 games. The versatile right-handed shot has 48 points (30 goals, 18 assists), five game-winning goals and 140 shots on goal in 38 games for the 67's. 

Stranges (No. 39), a left wing, has tremendous offensive upside with his creativity. He has 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists), two game-winning goals and 119 shots on goal in 39 games for the Knights.




GOALTENDERS: Nicolas Daws, Guelph, OHL; Brock Gould, Victoria, WHL

DEFENSEMEN: *Justin Barron, Halifax, QMJHL; Jamie Drysdale, Erie, OHL; Lukas Cormier, Charlottetown, QMJHL; Thimo Nickl, Drummondville, QMJHL; Jeremie Poirier, Saint John, QMJHL; Kasper Puutio, Swift Current, WHL; Donovan Sebrango, Kitchener, OHL

FORWARDS: Quinton Byfield, Sudbury, OHL; Luke Evangelista, London, OHL; Jack Finley, Spokane, WHL; Jean-Luc Foudy, Windsor, OHL; *Hendrix Lapierre, Chicoutimi, QMJHL; Dawson Mercer, Drummondville, QMJHL; Jake Neighbours, Edmonton, WHL; Jacob Perreault, Sarnia, OHL; Jack Quinn, Ottawa, OHL; Marco Rossi, Ottawa, OHL; Antonio Stranges, London, OHL; Justin Sourdif, Vancouver, WHL; Ozzy Wiesblatt, Prince Albert, WHL


GOALTENDERS: Dylan Garand, Kamloops, WHL; Samuel Hlavaj, Sherbrooke, QMJHL

DEFENSEMEN: Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert, WHL; *Daemon Hunt, Moose Jaw, WHL; Luke Prokop, Calgary, WHL; Ryan O'Rourke, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL; Braden Schneider, Brandon, WHL; Christoffer Sedoff, Red Deer, WHL; Jack Thompson, Sudbury, OHL

FORWARDS: Mavrik Bourque, Shawinigan, QMJHL; Brandon Coe, North Bay, OHL; William Cuylle, Windsor, OHL; Tyson Foerster, Barrie, OHL; Ryan Francis, Cape Breton, QMJHL; Ridly Greig, Brandon, WHL; Seth Jarvis, Portland, WHL; Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski, QMJHL; Cole Perfetti, Saginaw, OHL; Vasiliy Ponomarev, Shawinigan, QMJHL; Jaromir Pytlik, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL; *Oliver Suni, Oshawa, OHL; Connor Zary, Kamloops, WHL

*- injured and unable to compete

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