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Top draft-eligible talent set for Prospects Game

by Mike G. Morreale

The effervescent Don Cherry predicts an atmosphere reminiscent of a seventh and deciding game in a championship series when the 18th annual Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is held Wednesday at the Metro Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The contest will showcase the Canadian Hockey League's top 40 NHL draft-eligible players, featuring talent from the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The OHL has 16 representatives, the QMJHL has 13 and the WHL will have 11 participants.



Don Cherry

Brian Kilrea
Nick Kypreos
Bert O'Brien

Zachary Fucale, Halifax, QMJHL
Tristan Jarry, Edmonton, WHL

Samuel Morin, Rimouski, QMJHL
Joshua Morrissey, Prince Albert, WHL
Mirco Mueller, Everett, WHL
Darnell Nurse, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL
Eric Roy, Brandon, WHL
Jordan Subban, Belleville Bulls, OHL

Cole Cassels, Oshawa, OHL
Jason Dickinson, Guelph, OHL
Jonathan Drouin, Halifax, QMJHL
Frederik Gauthier, Rimouski, QMJHL
Stephen Harper, Erie, OHL
Ryan Hartman, Plymouth, OHL
Ryan Kujawinski, Kingston, OHL
Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax, QMJHL
Anthony Mantha, Val-d'Or, QMJHL
Zach Nastasiuk, Owen Sound, OHL
Valentin Zykov, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL


Mike McPhee

Dominique Ducharme
Doug MacLean

Philippe Desrosiers, Rimouski, QMJHL
Spencer Martin, Mississauga, OHL

Chris Bigras, Owen Sound, OHL
Madison Bowey, Kelowna, WHL
Seth Jones, Portland, WHL
Jan Kostalek, Rimouski, QMJHL
Shea Theodore, Seattle, WHL
Nikita Zadorov, London, OHL

Justin Bailey, Kitchener, OHL
Oliver Bjorkstrand, Portland, WHL
Max Domi, London, OHL
Anthony Duclair, Quebec, QMJHL
Adam Erne, Quebec, QMJHL
Bo Horvat, London, OHL
Curtis Lazar, Edmonton, WHL
Sean Monahan, Ottawa, OHL
Nicolas Petan, Portland, WHL
Kerby Rychel, Windsor, OHL
Laurent Dauphin, Chicoutimi, QMJHL
Nick Sorensen, Quebec, QMJHLX

"Any time you can gather the top draft-eligible prospects to one venue to compete against one another, it's invaluable to NHL scouts and general managers," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said.

Since the game was introduced in 1996, it has featured 10 players who were selected with the first pick in the NHL Draft: Chris Phillips (Ottawa Senators), Joe Thornton (Boston Bruins), Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay Lightning), Rick Nash (Columbus Blue Jackets), Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning), John Tavares (New York Islanders), Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers).

The first choice in the 2012 draft, Nail Yakupov (Edmonton Oilers) of the OHL's Sarnia Sting, did not participate in last year's game after suffering an ankle injury while playing for Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

The top two players in the running to be selected with the No. 1 pick in 2013 will serve as captains for their respective clubs at this year's event. Halifax Mooseheads forward Nathan MacKinnon will captain Team Cherry and Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones will wear the "C" for Team Orr.

"Having the two frontrunners for the first overall selection at this year's draft, going head to head as captains of their respective teams, is unique because it matches two highly skilled and motivated competitive prospects," Marr said. "They play different positions, but the skills, attributes and intangibles of both players are fantastic. Seth and Nathan are worthy captains for their teams; they are both so highly competitive and unselfish in the way they utilize their assets that they're always leaders by example."

Alternate captains for Team Cherry are forward Jonathan Drouin of Halifax and defenseman Darnell Nurse of the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Sean Monahan of the OHL's Ottawa 67's and Shea Theodore of the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds are alternates for Team Orr.

In addition to three members of the Mooseheads joining forces for Team Cherry (MacKinnon, Drouin and goalie Zachary Fucale), a trio of players from the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts also will play for the team: forwards Anthony Duclair, Adam Erne and Nick Sorensen.

The QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic also have four participants in the game: center Frederik Gauthier and defenseman Samuel Morin for Team Cherry, and defenseman Jan Kostalek and goalie Phiilippe Desrosiers for Team Orr.

The three Halifax players, playing in front of their home fans, figure to be crowd favorites.

"I'm aware of the Halifax support and very thankful to be playing for Halifax, it's a great hockey market," MacKinnon said. "The fans are going to be fired up for the game and it's going to be a lot of fun. The crowd is awesome here, and they support us every game so, for sure, this experience with [Jonathan Drouin and Zachary Fucale] is going to be special. We're going to take a lot from this game."

Cherry, a former NHL player/coach and now a broadcaster, and Stanley Cup champion Mike McPhee will coach the teams. McPhee, who spent nine of his 11 NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, will work the bench for Team Orr, while Cherry will serve as coach for Team Cherry. McPhee won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1986.

In an interesting twist to the game, Halifax coach Dominique Ducharme will serve as one of the two assistant coaches for McPhee on Team Orr. He'll obviously have a pretty good scouting report on the opposition, which includes his Moosehead players MacKinnon, Drouin and Fucale.

"When you're coming down the blue line [against Seth Jones], you better keep your head up," Cherry said. "When Nathan handles the puck, he reminds me of [Jeff] Skinner in a way. He's got that move and the shots and is a fast skater.

"To tell you the truth, I can't remember two better captains in this game. I've had good captains before in [Ryan] Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, but never seen two at the top like this. It's going to be interesting to see these two guys going at it head to head."

The contest in Halifax marks the second time in the history of the game that a team from the QMJHL will serve as host. On top of that, the Mooseheads are in the midst of an unforgettable season with a 35-4-2-1 record.

"To tell you the truth, I can't remember two better captains in this game. I've had good captains before in [Ryan] Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, but never seen two at the top like this. It's going to be interesting to see these two guys going at it head to head."
-- Don Cherry on Prospects Game captains Seth Jones & Nathan MacKinnon

"I know there is high anticipation for the fans there for this game," Marr said. "The fans are going to be loud and proud and know Nathan and teammates Drouin and Fucale will have to play to that hometown pressure. I think [Team Orr captain] Seth Jones and his troops will be motivated to score against them. It should be a truly exciting game."

Jones, a 6-foot-3.5, 208-pound right-shooting defenseman, is coming off a gold medal-winning performance with the United States at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. MacKinnon, a 6-foot, 182-pound center, and his linemate, Drouin, were part of Canada's fourth-place team at the WJC.

"Me and Nathan are obviously two competitive players and there's not really one person who has the edge, but it goes back and forth a little bit," Jones said.

Jones will have a pair of his Portland teammates with him on Team Orr: center Nicolas Petan and right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand. The OHL's London Knights will have three representatives on the Team Orr roster: forwards Max Domi and Bo Horvat and defenseman Nikita Zadorov.

Team Cherry will have two injury replacements on the roster, including defenseman Jordan Subban of the the OHL's Belleville Bulls and forward Cole Cassels of the OHL's Oshawa Generals.

Team Orr also has two replacements, goaltender Desrosiers and forward Laurent Dauphin of the QMJHL's Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Invited to the game but unable to play due to injury are defenseman Ryan Pulock of the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings, forward William Carrier of the QMJHL's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and goalie Eric Comrie of the WHL's Tri-City Americans. Medicine Hat Tigers forward Hunter Shinkaruk, who would have served as an alternate captain for Team Orr, was sidelined by illness.


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