The CHL Top Prospects Game took place in Kitchener, Ontario recently, where the top players from the Western, Ontario and Quebec Major Junior leagues showcased their talents for scouts and general managers alike.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
It’s natural for the top name to get all the attention as Shane Wright displayed why he deserves to be taken first overall. He got the scoring started early in the game all while showing us his playmaking, vision and awareness. In the end he was named Player of the Game for Team Red. There’s no doubt he impressed, but he wasn’t the only one to stand out.
Here are five other names that made a name for themselves at the CHL Top Prospects Game.
Central Scouting Ranking: 33rd (among NA skaters)
Named Player of the Game for Team White with a goal and an assist, Moosejaw Warriors winger Jagger Firkus was displaying some great chemistry with Mississauga Steelheads centre Owen Beck and Jake Karabela of the Guelph Storm throughout the game. He isn’t the tallest or strongest (5-foot-10, 154 pounds), but he is an extremely dangerous offensive talent and playmaker. He has a tremendous shot and quick release as he has 33 goals in the WHL, good for 14th overall. Once again, it was on full display during the top prospects game.
He was able to tie the game up on a highlight reel. Firkus entered the zone in a one-on-one situation. He was able to make a quick move to get around the defender and then was able to unleash his wicked wrist shot past Igor Zhigalov to tie the game. Firkus even earned an assist on Karabela’s goal to give Team White a 2-1 lead. His speed was a major factor all game, especially in transition, as he was extremely quick and agile. I’m amazed at how he’s able to play at such as high pace and take control of a situation. He’s currently ranked as a possible early second round pick, but his play at the showcase could push him into the first-round conversation.
Central Scouting Ranking: 61st (among NA skaters)
The Storm centre was Firkus’ line mate and he pushed the pace extremely well as they were the most dangerous line for Team White. Currently in the top-10 in rookie scoring in the OHL (43 points) and fourth in assists (32), Karabela is a great puck distributor but he also displayed excellent vision and speed.
Karabela was the victim of a very nice glove save from Zhigalov on a short-handed opportunity. However, he would not be denied the second time around. Firkus returned the favour as Karabela was sent in on a breakaway. He did a great job to settle down a bouncing puck and he got closer to the net, he made a slick move to catch Zhigalov out of position and was able to sneak it by him to gain the lead. The hands and patience that he showed in tight shows that strong offensive skillset every time he steps on the ice.
Whether he moves up in the rankings remains to be seen as he could stay as a third or fourth round pick. But, the potential and skill is there for him to be on a team’s radar.
Central Scouting Ranking: 2nd (among NA goalies)
Despite giving up three goals in the game, I really liked Ivan Zhigalov’s play in goal. He was beat on a laser of a shot from Firkus, he had to deal with a breakaway on the second and an odd-man rush off a turnover at the blue line on the third goal. Despite that he still stood tall in net and made some really key saves when he needed to, including a fantastic glove save on Karabela.
While Tyler Brennan of the Prince George Cougars might be the potential top goaltender in this year’s draft, Zhigalov could make things interesting. He’s posted impressive numbers for the Sherbrooke Phoenix this season going 22-6-1. Despite having a .892 save percentage, he has allowed 2.71 goals against in a league that is known for it’s offensive power. He showed great movement and poise in the crease and doesn’t panic with traffic in front of him. The athleticism that he showed during the showcase is a reason why teams should line up for him at the 2022 NHL Draft.
Central Scouting Ranking: 10th (among NA skaters)
Once viewed as a top-15 prospect in the scouting world, Gatineau Olympiques defender Tristan Luneau’s stock took a slight hit at the beginning of the season. He was still recovering from off season surgery and didn’t have the start that he would like as his offensive game didn’t take off until a month into the season. However, that consistency and production has since come alive as the season went on.
With his play at the Top Prospects Game, Luneau should see his stock rise and get back to where he was previously in the rankings. He made some excellent passing plays, had great positioning defensively and was engaged physically along the boards. He embodies the same qualities like that of Drew Doughty, as Luneau is an extremely confident and well-rounded defender that plays with an edge. While he didn’t register a point, his strength and two-way play was on full display.
While outside sources have him as a late first or even a second-round, Luneau did a great job to remind us that he’s well worth being a top-15 or top-20 pick.
Central Scouting Ranking: 26th (among NA skaters)
Kind of an unknown heading into the game in terms of notoriety compared to Brennan and Zhigalov or even Mason Beaupit, but Reid Dyck stole the show when he entered the game for Team Red. Dyck was busy, as he stopped all 23 shots that came his way and wasn’t fazed at all with the amount he faced. He displayed great movement and was really calm in net since coming in midway through the second period. He tracked the puck extremely well through traffic and didn’t panic when the chances mounted. He made a number of difficult saves, including a nice glove save coming into the game and a sequence of three straight stops in the third period.
He’s not ranked high on Central Scouting and he doesn’t have the best numbers with the Swift Current Broncos (4.13 GAA, .889 SV%) of the Western Hockey League, but he stood tall against the best of the best for this draft class. While he may be a late round selection, he definitely caught the attention of scouts that may warrant more looks and a higher spot in the rankings.
Honourable mentions of players who stood out: Antonin Verreault, Nathan Gaucher, Matthew Savoie, Danny Zhilkin, Isaiah George, Ty Nelson, Noah Warren, Josh Filmon
Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.