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What's it Like? CHL Top Prospects Game

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I went to see the best the CHL has to offer to this years draft. It was an experience, thats for sure.

I'd trust one of these guys to coach my OHL team. The other is Don Cherry
I'd trust one of these guys to coach my OHL team. The other is Don Cherry
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

"If you build it, they will come"

Well, it's no Memorial Cup, but the CHL awarded the 2015 Top Prospects game to the Niagara IceDogs to host in the brand new Meridan Centre. Located in downtown St. Catharines, it's 5,300 brand new seats (with cupholders!) to bring in events and shows to our fair city.  So far it's slow going, we've had an Allman Brothers concert, City & Colour, and the Tragically Hip are coming in February. This is probably the biggest event yet, until the OHL finals later on in May.

See, this is something we never would have had before.  As much as I love our 85ish year old arena, with its 2 person wooden seats, barn like roof, smaller than regulation size ice, and a 1.5 person wide concourse, we never would have had nice things like this.

I got some tickets to this game and sent the kids to their aunts and headed down to the rink. Am I glad my ticket said 7 and not the actual 7:30 start. An event like this, even with 2 parking garages nearby, it was a nightmare to park at, one 6 story garage filled by 6PM, so good luck to out of towners who got in after that.

I'm not sure what I expected, but I knew it would be different than the usual crowd for an IceDogs game. It's a good crowd, but this event wouldn't have a single focus for the crowd to root on. I've never been to an all-star game or any other unofficial game before. No charity events, nothing. The 1st Winter Classic in Buffalo had that kind of a feel outside the stadium, lots of non-Sabres/Penguins sweaters were to be seen, but once inside it was a Penguins/Sabes game.

Here were the rosters for the game

Team Cherry

Forwards
Anthony
Beauvillier
Centre
Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Filip
Chlapik
Centre
Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Jake
DeBrusk
Left Wing
Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Graham
Knott
Left Wing
Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Mitchell
Marner
Right Wing
London Knights (OHL)
Adam
Musil
Centre
Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Daniel
Sprong
Right Wing
Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Mitchell
Stephens
Centre
Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Dylan
Strome
Centre
Erie Otters (OHL)
Evgeny
Svechnikov
Left Wing
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
Yakov
Trenin
Left Wing
Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Dennis
Yan
Left Wing
Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Defensemen
Rasmus
Andersson
Defence
Barrie Colts (OHL)
Brandon
Carlo
Defence
Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Vince
Dunn
Defence
Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Brendan
Guhle
Defence
Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Noah
Juulsen
Defence
Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Matt
Spencer
Defence
Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Goaltenders
Michael
McNiven
Goaltender
Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Samuel
Montembeault
Goaltender
Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)



Team Orr

Forwards
Paul
Bittner
Left Wing
Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Lawson
Crouse
Left Wing
Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Glenn
Gawdin
Centre
Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Ryan
Gropp
Left Wing
Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Jansen
Harkins
Centre
Prince George Cougars (WHL)
Travis
Konecny
Right Wing
Ottawa 67's (OHL)
Connor
McDavid
Centre
Erie Otters (OHL)
Timo
Meier
Right Wing
Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Nick
Merkley
Centre
Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Nathan
Noel
Centre
Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Nicolas
Roy
Centre
Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
Blake
Speers
Right Wing
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Defensemen
Guillaume
Brisebois
Defence
Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
Thomas
Chabot
Defence
Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Nicolas
Meloche
Defence
Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Ryan
Pilon
Defence
Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Ivan
Provorov
Defence
Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Jérémy
Roy
Defence
Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Goaltenders
Liam
Herbst
Goaltender
Ottawa 67's (OHL)
Nick
McBride
Goaltender
Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

I decided to take my 6 year old son with me, because I thought he wouldn't talk as much, I could watch, and take notes, and some free tickets were the best way to satisfy his urge to go to a game at the new arena. I find it's not worth the $25 to pay to take him otherwise (the "can we go?" questions tend to start by the 2nd period). Of course this turned out to not be true and he actually wanted to watch. But since this was a top tier event, tickets started at $35, there wasn't as many kids, and it was sold out, so he couldn't see past the adults in front of him. So on my lap he went and I have but my memory to rely on.

The pre-game experience was typical. Concessions had an extra table up with Top Prospect hats and shirts, I bought a program because hell if I knew who those WHL and QMJHL players were.

Easy going until we got to our section. Our usual usher was there as well as a man and a women in some super spiffy suits. And ear pieces. Ah, Mounties. Turns out my centre ice 10th row seats were located only a few rows behind the Prime Minister. Win big or go home.

Bones PM

For the Warm Ups each player wore their home teams jersey. It was quite a collection, and my shitty camera phone doesn't do it justice.

TP Warm UP

One section was dominated by scouts & NHL team personnel

scouts

With a pre-game ceremony, we were off to the races. Better people than I can recap the actual game for you, Buzzing the Net and Sportsnet did good jobs covering the game.

Some thoughts one the game play from myself:

  • Team Cherry did a great job shutting down Connor McDavid. They had some top notch defense set up against him, he didn't get many chances.
mcdavid

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

  • Speaking of Team Cherry defense, a great 2nd round pick would be Vince Dunn of the Niagara IceDogs. He had speed and a solid game last night
Dunn

Claus Andersen/Gety Images

  • Despite him being on Team Cherry Evgeny Svechnikov of Cape Breton had a great game too.
  • Daniel Sprong has a great last name
  • Players were falling down all night. It was hilarious.
  • People gasped pretty loudly when McDavid went down and hit the post leg first. He got up alright
  • A player on Team Orr hit the boards leg first and limped off the ice, didn't leave for the room though.
  • That's why this was a better version of an all-star game
  • Ivan Provorov (Brandon) played well for Team Orr
  • All 4 goalies played fantastic, made some amazing saves
  • Lawson Crouse (Kingston) was good in the 1st, but seemed to lumber around the ice. The questions about ranking him #4 are valid for sure.
crouse

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

  • Dylan Strome (Erie) may just outshine his brother
strome

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

  • Travis Konecny (Ottawa) stole the show. He's currently in the mid-20s for pre-draft rankings, but I can see him going much higher if you get a GM who isn't obsessed with size.
konencny

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

  • If I was drafting based on this game alone, I'd go Konecny, McDavid, Dunn, Svechnikov, Provnorov
Team Orr went won the game 6-0. Konecny had 2G, 1A, and stole the show. On Team Cherry getting shut out Twitter had this to say:





I had never been to a game that wasn't Us vs Them for the host city, so I wasn't sure what to expect from the experience. It was doubly odd because this was being held in my home arena and there were some little things that felt off. Sportsnet brought their own MC for the pre-game ceremony that was on TV. When a team scored we didn't have our little traditions we do at IceDogs games; a Ric Flair "Woooo!" after a goal for, everyone shouting "WHO CARES?" after a goal against (makes sense since there was no home/away team).  Mostly seeing OHL games live, I'm not used to TV time outs. Normally we'd have a :30 break for people to scrape the ice around the 10:00 mark, so the TV Timeouts threw off the pace of the game for myself. Especially in the first period where there were not many whistles.  The crowd also took some time to warm up. It was made up of people from all over, I saw WHL, QMJHL, and OHL jerseys in the rink. Having a whole section on scouts probably didn't help the atmosphere either. People were cheering good plays, and big hits, and it got better later in the game, but people really needed to settle on a side to cheer for first.  Not being familiar with many of the players probably didn't help either, this felt like a game pxp announcers would have helped. The CHL brought in this "cheer guy" - running around, starting claps and cheers. I'd mock this normally (I bet they have one in Oshawa), but I get why they did it here.

I'd go again, for sure, but I did feel disconnected from the game. If you're into hockey, and want to watch great players be great players, go and study them. If you're not super hardcore into hockey, I'd save the money and wait for your favourite team to play and go see them.