NHL hopefuls take to the ice in Halifax
Published Wednesday, January 16, 2013 6:45PM AST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 16, 2013 6:46PM AST
More than 10,000 fans are expected to make their way to the Halifax Metro Centre to watch 40 of Canada’s best junior players hit the ice in the hopes of proving they belong in the NHL.
“This game is actually very important. It’s not just an all-star game,” says Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones, who was named the No. 1 skater among North American players eligible for the draft.
“Everyone is going out there to prove to scouts and fans what they can bring on a team and why they should be drafted.”
Jones will be trying to stop forwards like Halifax Moosehead teammates Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon during tonight’s CHL Top Prospects Game.
“It’s for sure a big game,” says Drouin. “All the scouts are here. The GMs are here, so it’s a game you could prove you’re one of the best 95 players.”
Most players played with or against one another at the World Juniors earlier this month.
“It’s one more chance to show how you can play under pressure and play against the best players,” says Mike McPhee, coach of Team Orr.
The stands were dotted with scouts during Wednesday’s practice.
“It gives scouts an opportunity to compare players against one another in areas of speed, work ethic, battle hard, show us they want to be ranked high,” says Paul Gallagher, a scout for the Florida Panthers.
“I’m going to work hard, move the puck around, and hope for some good things to happen,” says Nathan MacKinnon.
It’s matchups like the one between MacKinnon and Drouin against Jones that scouts and fans alike will be watching.
“Forwards want to find a way around defenceman, and defenceman have to find a way to make sure forwards don’t get that advantage,” says Craig Button, a scout and TSN analyst.
He says it will be a tough game because players have something to prove as they move one step closer to fulfilling the dreams they had as youngsters.
“When you’re 12 years old, you have this dream of playing in the NHL, it’s far away,” says Button. “For these guys participating in this game, it’s very close.”
All 10,500 seats are sold for tonight’s CHL Top Prospects Game. The puck drops at 8 p.m.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant