Last night, I was able to attend the CHL Top Prospects Game. The game featured three players who could be the first three selections in the 2013 NHL Draft: Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, and Jonathan Drouin. As a Halifax Mooseheads season ticket holder, I’ve been able to see lots of MacKinnon and Drouin this season, but this was my first opportunity to see Jones in action.
This was not your typical all-star game–there were lots of big hits and even a couple of fights. (Surprisingly, Curtiz Lazar of the Edmonton Oil Kings was involved in one of those fights.) I’m not sure how much a prospect’s performance in one exhibition game will sway a scout’s opinion of him, if any. Regardless, here are the grades I’d give to the Big Three.
Seth Jones – A
Jones was solid for Team Orr, leading his team to a dominating 3-0 win. (The score could have been much worse, if not for some spectacular saves by Team Cherry goalie Tristan Jarry.) The Portland Winterhawks defenceman is a big guy (listed as 6’4″, 206). He had a couple of dangerous shots on net and at least one good body check. One of his shots led to a goal off of the rebound, giving him one assist. Jones did have trouble on one shift in the third period when he had a couple of opportunities to get the puck out of the defensive zone but couldn’t. My overall impressions of Jones are that he’s a guy who seems to be able to do everything well and who projects to be a top-pairing defenceman in the NHL. Obviously, if he’s taken first in the draft, the hope is that he’ll be a number one defenceman.
Nathan MacKinnon – B
MacKinnon had a few excellent opportunities to score, but couldn’t hit the net with his shots. (Team Cherry was out-shot 36-20. Team Orr goalie Philippe Desrosiers faced only 4 shots in 28:39.) He also had some trouble covering his man in the defensive zone. MacKinnon showed some flashes of brilliance, but never really got much done all night.
Jonathan Drouin – B+
Perhaps the highlight of the game for Drouin was his bit hit on Jones. I’ve seen him throw a few body checks this season, but to knock down the much bigger Jones was surprising. Like MacKinnon, Drouin had some great scoring chances, but couldn’t put the puck in the net. Both Drouin and MacKinnon were minus-2 (while Jones was plus-1).
Hopefully the Oilers will make the playoffs and won’t have an opportunity to draft Jones, MacKinnon, or Drouin. But if they did happen to win the draft lottery again, who would I want the Oilers to select? Edmonton’s biggest need is on defence, so the obvious choice is Jones. Center is also a need, and MacKinnon would look very good on the Oilers’ roster. But, again, hopefully the Oilers won’t find themselves drafting first overall again this year.
One defenceman who did catch my eye was Nikita Zadorov (6’4″, 228). I guess someone that big is hard to miss. Neate Sager of Buzzing the Net said that Zadarov “might have been the best defenceman in a white jersey.” Would the Oilers have any interest in this huge Russian defenceman? Central Scouting currently has Zadorov ranked 30th among North American skaters.