A bevy of the Canadian Hockey League’s best NHL draft-eligible talent took to the ice in Guelph, Ontario on Thursday evening, and what a game it was.
Offence was the name of the game for the participants of the 2018 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, as both Team Cherry and Team Orr graced the ice with incredible speed, skill and ability. Headlined by Filip Zadina and Andrei Svechnikov, the wealth of talent on display at the Sleeman Centre was a sight to behold, as both sides traded spectacular tallies before Team Cherry ultimately skated away with a 7-4 victory.
However, as is always the case with this event, a number of players stood out while others failed to do so.
In this year’s edition, a relative unknown, a promising defender, and a consensus top prospect stole the show, yet each did so in a unique manner. In doing so, each of these promising prospects significantly increased their value ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft, which is, of course, the ultimate goal of this tantalizing showcase.
So, who were the three best players to take to the ice in the 2018 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game?
Current Team: London Knights (OHL)
While opinions of London Knights defenceman Evan Bouchard vary wildly, the young defender did his very best to cast aside his detractors during the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. And, I have no doubt that most would vehemently agree that Bouchard did exactly such, as his play for Team Cherry was crucial to not only capturing the contest but keeping Team Orr’s talented forwards at bay.
For Bouchard, his success on the Sleeman Centre’s ice began in his own zone, where the Oakville, Ontario native was calm and composed while in possession of the puck. Refusing to move the disk unless a clear lane developed, Bouchard’s ability to see the ice and to make clean, crisp outlet passes allowed his forwards to consistently gain entry into the opposing zone with ease.
Once in his opponents’ end, Bouchard acted as a stabilizing force on the blue line, pressuring opposing wingers in order to hold the zone before forcing his strong shot through traffic. What’s more is that Bouchard’s commitment to playing a two-way game was undeniably evident, as his unrelenting work-ethic regardless of the score spoke wonders about his personal drive and motivation.
When the game came to an end, Bouchard had collected a whopping four assists alongside five shots on goal. Further, Bouchard was named as Team Cherry’s player of the game, outdueling a number of deserving individuals in the process.
Current Team: Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Aidan Dudas was not named to the original CHL/NHL Top Prospect Game’s roster. Instead, he was named as a replacement when it was announced that Ottawa 67’s forward Kody Clark would not be able to attend the event due to an injury.
However, once the game had come to a close, it had been made abundantly clear that Dudas was more than deserving of his presence within Team Cherry. A workhorse for his team whose feet seemingly failed to stop moving, Dudas was a puck-hound who forced turnovers and, in turn, generated a wealth of scoring opportunities.
— Shayne Pasquino (@shaynepasquino) January 26, 2018
Used in a variety of situations, Dudas displayed an energetic style of play which placed pressure upon opposing defenders and allowed his teammates to gobble up loose pucks. In addition to his drive and incredible compete-level, Dudas impressed on the scoresheet by netting two beautiful goals, one of which came on a breakaway and the other as the result of a tantalizing individual effort on his part.
In all, Dudas was an electrifying presence who consistently created havoc and created legitimate scoring opportunities for his team. Sure, he is slightly under-sized given his 5-foot-7 frame, however, what Dudas lacks in stature he more than compensates for with heart, as his willingness to compete with players of intimidating size clearly illustrated his desire to thrive.
Current Team: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Although Rasmus Dahlin is widely expected to be selected first overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, Zadina remains determined to challenge the promising Swedish defender for the momentous distinction. And, on Jan. 25, 2018 in Guelph, Ontario, Zadina landed yet another major blow, as he once again schooled his competition owing to an incredibly determined and consistent effort.
For Zadina, his stellar play began the moment the puck fell to the ice, as he was persistent in his pursuit of the puck and endlessly crafty once in possession. Blowing past his opposition en route to the goal, Zadina developed a number of high quality scoring chances with apparent ease and was quick to set-up open teammates in high percentage scoring areas.
WATCH THIS: 5️⃣ goal second period at #SWTP.
— CanadianHockeyLeague (@CHLHockey) January 26, 2018
In addition to these proven abilities which have long contributed to his strong overall game, Zadina continued to shoot the puck with both frequency and authority. Logging a game-high seven shots on goal, Zadina was in no way afraid to release his wicked wrister when he saw fit and was able to net two impressive goals as a result. In fact, while his opening tally resulted from a terrific release in the slot, Zadina’s second marker occurred as the result of terrific work and determination, as the native of Pardubice, Czech Republic was able to bang in a loose puck from his knees.
In short, Zadina was nothing short of exceptional throughout the 2018 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Fresh off of a terrific performance at the 2018 WJC in which he scored seven goals in seven games played, Zadina’s efforts for Team Cherry have once again boosted his value as an NHL prospect, which is now surely greater than that of Barrie Colts star Andrei Svechnikov.
- Kevin Bahl: One goal and one assist, +1 rating, Team Orr player of the game.
- Ty Dellandrea: Two goals in :20 seconds, a new Top Prospects Game record.
- Ryan Merkley: One assist, +1 rating, and consistent threat at both ends of the ice.