Editor’s note- Dominic Tiano traveled to Quebec City for the 2017 CHL Top Prospects Game and filed this report on some of the top players for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago this coming June. Thanks to Dom for putting his thoughts down and let us echo the support for the people of Quebec and everyone affected by the tragedy there.- KL
Let me start off by saying that I am deeply saddened by the shootings late Sunday evening at a Quebec City Mosque. There was a division among the ranks whether the game should proceed. After increased security and assurances from Quebec City Police, and meeting with the players and their families Monday morning, Canadian Hockey League Commissioner David Branch said the game would be a go.
Our thoughts remain with the families that lost loved ones and those still battling in hospital.
Before we get to the game, let’s look at some of the testing that took place on Sunday (From the CHL press release).
Alex Formenton of the London Knights, ranked 24th by NHL Central Scouting in their Midterm Rankings, finished atop the overall standings in the on-ice portion of the tests which included forward and backward sprints, reaction, weave agility, and transition agility each performed with and without the puck. Defenceman Antoine Crete-Belzile of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (ranked 66th by NHL CS) finished second in on-ice tests, followed by fellow rearguard Markus Phillips of the Owen Sound Attack (ranked 62nd by NHL CS) in third position, forward Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads (ranked 2nd by NHL CS) in fourth, and Michael Rasmussen of the Tri-City Americans (ranked 6th by NHL CS) finished fifth in the skating drills.
Defenceman Jacob Paquette of the Kingston Frontenacs (ranked 90th by NHL CS) led the way in off-ice tests conducted earlier in the day which included strength testing, agility runs, sprints, and various leg power evaluations. Forward Morgan Frost of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (ranked 29th by NHL CS) finished second in off-ice tests, and Owen Tippett of the Mississauga Steelheads (ranked 4th by NHL CS) finished in third position. Formenton also finished near the top in off-ice tests landing in fourth place overall, followed by Isaac Ratcliffe of the Guelph Storm (ranked 20th by NHL CS) in fifth.
In specialized Sport Testing for goalies, Michael DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires claimed top honours in an array of reaction, agility, and movement challenges.
As for the game, Team Orr came into this contest having won six straight. The streak came to an end as Team Cherry took this one, by a 7-5 score.
Fans and scouts alike got what they wanted as Nolan Patrick (Brandon Wheat Kings),heavy favorite for the number one pick for the 2017 National Hockey League entry draft, took the opening faceoff against Nico Hischier (Halifax Mooseheads) who many consider the prospect most capable of supplanting Patrick. The two went head-to-head aplenty during the contest.
Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph Storm) opened the score for Team Cherry, skating into the Team Orr zone and dropping a no-look bank pass Antoine Crete-Belzile (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada) who fed it across the blue line to Henri Jokiharju (Portland Winterhawks) as Ratcliffe headed to the front of the goal. Jokiharju fired a shot that hit a pile of players in front and Ratcliffe, with his long reach was able to get to the puck first and fire in the opening goal at 6:21 on a power play.
Sasha Chmelevski (Ottawa 67’s) tied things up at one 8:36 into the period. Chmelevski forced a turnover at the Team Cherry blue line by knocking the puck deep into the zone off an attempted Artyom Minulin (Swift Current Broncos) rush. Chmelevski beat Minulin and took it back to the dot, where he pulled an inside-out move and fired a laser shot over the shoulder on Team Cherry goaltender Ian Scott (Prince Albert Raiders.
Team Cherry took a 2-1 lead at 12:35 of the period when Pierre-Olivier Joseph (Charlottetown Islanders) would send the puck behind the goal to Robert Thomas (London Knights). Thomas would take it to the faceoff dot and fire a shot goaltender Alex D’Orio (St John Sea Dogs) could not glove down and Antoine Morand (Acadie-Bathurst Titan) fired home the rebound.
Just 1:44 later, Jacob Paquette (Kingston Frontenacs) kept the puck in the Cherry zone off a faceoff and sent it behind the net to Cody Glass (Portland Winterhawks) who returned it back to Michael Rasmussen (Tri-City Americans)– he fired a shot and then banged in the rebound about waist high, showing off some fancy hand-eye coordination.
Hischier put Team Orr ahead 4:55 into the second period. Patrick lost control of the puck just inside his own zone and it ended up in the skates of Kailer Yamamoto (Spokane Chiefs) who kicked it over to Nikita Popugaev (Moose Jaw Warriors). Popugaev found Hischier going in all alone and the star tucked a nifty little backhand in five-hole.
The celebration lasted all of five seconds however. MacKenzie Entwistle (Hamilton Bulldogs) caused a turnover at the Team Orr blue line, skated into the zone, and fired a shot glove side to beat D’Orio. Jokiharju was given an assist on the play.
The two teams traded goals at 8:09 and 8:55 of the period. Maxime Comtois (Victoriaville Tigres) put Team Cherry up 4-3 with assists going to Owen Tippett (Mississauga Steelheads) and Patrick. Yamamoto tied it at 4, with assists to Hischier and Paquette.
The teams changed goaltenders at the halfway mark with Michael DiPietro (Windsor Spitfires) coming in for Team Orr and Stuart Skinner (Lethbridge Hurricanes) for Team Cherry.
Gabriel Vilardi then beat his Windsor Spitfires’ teammate to put team Cherry up to stay at 17:24 mark of the second period. Vilardi banged in a rebound from a Morand shot. As he skated away, he turned back and gave DiPietro a big smile.
Tippett put Team Cherry up by two at 11:28 of the third period. Patrick, from the left-wing boards, sent a puck down to the goal line to Tippett, who then skated out in front and fired a shot past DiPietro.
With DiPietro on the bench at 18:10 for an extra attacker, Team Orr pulled within one. After Patrick lost the puck in his zone, Hischier fired a shot wide of the goal. Morgan Frost (Soo Greyhounds) got to the puck first and chipped it in front of the net. Stelio Mattheos (Brandon Wheat Kings) pounced on the loose puck and fired it upstairs.
Going hard to negate an icing, Entwistle caused a turnover, Ivan Lodnia (Erie Otters) picked up the puck and sent it to Jake Leschyshyn (Regina Pats) who hit the empty net.
Hischier was named player of the game for team Orr while Jokiharju was named player of the game for Team Cherry.
Others that stood out were D Nicolas Hague (Mississauga Steelheads) Yamamoto and Entwistle.
In closing, I just want to say the it can’t come soon enough that Quebec City gets an NHL franchise. The Centre Videotron is an amazing arena and would be tops in the NHL. And the fans are the best.
Bien fait Québec
(Team Cherry captain and No. 1 overall candidate Nolan Patrick. Image credit: Vincent Ethier/CHL Images)