With the rosters already set for the 23rd annual Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, there was still some logistics that needed to be determined – with one of them being who would captain Team Cherry and Team Orr.
But on Wednesday, it was announced that Spokane Chiefs’ Ty Smith along with Drummondville Voltigeurs’ Joe Veleno would don the ‘C’ for their respective teams when the CHL’s top 40 NHL Draft eligible prospects take to the ice on January 25 in Guelph.
Smith will serve as captain of Team Orr with Jared McIsaac (Halifax Mooseheads) and Andrei Svechnikov (Barrie Colts) playing as his alternates, while Veleno will lead Team Cherry onto the ice with his alternate captains – Evan Bouchard (London Knights) and Ryan Merkley of the host Guelph Storm.
Team Orr: Meet Smith, McIsaac and Svechnikov
Smith will be the first Chiefs player to be named captain at the event, while 13 others from the Spokane franchise have played in the Top Prospects Game.
He’s in his second full season with the Chiefs and has 43 points in 45 games so far this season. Overall, the 17-year-old defenceman from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, has 77 points in 113 regular season games in the WHL.
Defenceman Ty Smith of the @spokanechiefs has been named as the captain of Team Orr for the 2018 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game!#SWTP 📰 | https://t.co/Y8lEapTFop pic.twitter.com/98gthEBEMo
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 17, 2018
“It’s an honour to be selected to be the captain of Team Orr,” he said in a press release from the CHL. “I’ve watched the Top Prospects Game on TV for years now and have watched friends and teammates participate. It was a goal of mine at the beginning of the season to make the roster and to be named captain makes it all that much more special. I’m looking forward to competing against and with many of my buddies from across the CHL as well as meeting some new players.”
Smith is coming off an Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament with Canada where he notched three assists in five games as the team’s alternate captain. Canada went on to win gold.
As for McIsaac and Svechnikov, they too are having big seasons for their respective clubs. McIssac is also a 17-year-old defenceman from Truro, Nova Scotia. He’s in his second season with the Mooseheads in the QMJHL and has five goals and 26 points in 43 games so far. He, too, represented Canada at the Hlinka Memorial tournament where he notched a goal and three points on route to a gold medal.
Svechnikov is in his first year with the OHL’s Barrie Colts. Even having missed a bunch of time due to injury as well as the U20 tournament, the 17-year-old Russian has tallied 26 points in 21 games this season. He also collected five assists in five games at the U20 tournament.
Team Cherry: Getting to Know Veleno, Bouchard and Merkley
On the other side of the puck, Veleno is the ninth Voltigeurs to play in the Top Prospects Game and the second player from Drummondville to captain a team – following Sean Couturier who wore the ‘C’ for Team Cherry in 2011.
“Just to be there with all the other prospects means a lot to me and, to be captain, is something very special for myself,” said Veleno in the press release. “I think it’s a very special event for players like us who will probably end up getting drafted this summer. It’ll be fun, I’m super excited and proud to be named captain!”
The 18-year-old center from Kirkland, Quebec, had 31 points in 31 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs while captaining the team before he was moved to Drummondville where he has 10 assists in eight games.
In 146 QMJHL regular season games, Veleno has 124 career points. He also added four points in four games during the Sea Dogs’ Memorial Cup run in 2016-17 and seven points in five games at the U18 Hlinka Memorial tournament where he helped Canada to gold.
His alternates are both defensemen in the OHL – Bouchard and Merkley. Bouchard is an 18-year-old blueliner from Oakville, Ontario. He was recently named the captain of the London Knights and is leading the team offensively with 50 points in 43 games this season. He won an OHL championship with the Knights in 2015-16 – his rookie year.
As for Merkley, the 17-year-old defenceman has 105 points in 104 regular season OHL games with the Storm. He was part of the gold medal winning Canadian team at the U18 Hlinka Memorial tournament this year and currently has 50 points in just 42 games this season.
All eyes – at least for NHL scouts – will be on the game on Jan. 25, as the top players in the country face-off against each other – led by these six players.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.