For those of you not aware, the CHL Home Hardware Top Prospects game is an event occurring every January, bringing together 40 of the CHL's highest ranked players for the upcoming draft. This year's game is takes place in Edmonton, Alberta at the famed home of the Oilers: Rexall Place.
Since its inception, the game has consisted of a skills competition on a Tuesday night, with the actual game on the following Wednesday. The event is always scheduled mid-week so as to cause the least amount of disturbance with club games, mostly played for on weekends.
I just returned home from the Skills Competition. Here is a recap.
Brandon McMillan from the Kelowna Rockets (44th CSB) showed some tremendous raw speed and even though he stumbled on his last turn he really blew away the competition with a time of 13.8 seconds. Zach Boychuk of the Lethbridge Hurricanes (11th CSB) set the pace as the first skater at 14.3 seconds. Of note: Kyle Robak of the Brandon Wheat Kings (8th CSB) was really motoring and could have challenged McMillan's time but unfortunately fell on his last turn.
Jyri Niemi of the Saskatoon Blades (29th CSB) won this competition with consecutive blasts of 97 MPH. A few guys hit 94 MPH but really Niemi's approuch to his shot was superb and the right player won this event. Towering Rockets blueliner Tyler Myers (6th CSB) did not get an opportunity to shoot although many in the crowd wondered why the 6'7’’ d-man wasn't called up. Myers' teammate Luke Schenn (7th CSB) did record a shot of 94 MPH.
Accuracy in Shooting:
This competition was settled early, very early. The very first player to take part in this event was the Oshawa Generals' defenseman Michael Del Zotto (14th CSB) shot the lights out by going 4 for 4. The best anyone could do from that point was a tie and nobody came close. Del Zotto joked in an interview afterward that his accuracy was developed in part during the practice competitions he often stages with Generals' teammate John Tavares (touted as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft).
Following all of these events, the teams had the breakaway relay. The goalies actually did quite well in this competition and the only goal that stood out was a nice off-the-skate deke by Tyler Cuma of the Ottawa 67's (15th CSB).
Finally, to wrap things up, the teams participated in a mini game of 3 on 3. They played two 10-minute periods in which the buzzer sounded every 40 seconds for a line change. It was quite entertaining although obviously not reflective of how these guys play in an actual game. Definitely a treat for the fans as many fancy, slick moves and passes were attempted and often completed.
You have to feel for the goaltenders in this type of game, they just can't win; especially in the second period in which the teams switched ends and guaranteed a breakaway (if not a 2 or 3 on O) every 40 seconds on the line change.
A good crowd took in tonight's festivities, with an even bigger audience expected tomorrow night. I was told that sales yesterday were over 13,000 with a cap set at 15,100, so we should see a sellout. Over 100 NHL scouts are in Edmonton keeping a very close eye on the future NHLers.
Tune in tomorrow for a full report of the actual game!