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Get to know your 2018 NHL Draft Prospects

We’ve seen what they can do on the ice, but what do we really know about them?

Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

I wrote about the actual Top Prospects game yesterday, we saw how they played, and what they did, and the final scores ad the highlights, but when it comes right down to things, what else can we learn about these young men?

Lucky for you, I was there to bother them with questions.

Alexis Gravel, G

Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
24GP - 3.28GAA - .896sv%

Played for Team Orr in the Top Prospects game and the less said about the game the better, and he’s Central Scouting’s top ranked North American goalie in this year’s NHL draft. There was one sticking point in his bio that I couldn’t get over.

“His nickname is Young Gravy”.

Young Gravy? Young Gravy?! So, after practice on Thursday morning I asked the media coordinator to get Gravel for me. I had to find out what Young Gravy was all about.

Q: So, what does Young Gravy mean? Are you a Thanksgiving focused hip-hop artist on the side?

A: Oh...[laughs]..Well, my team mate on Halifax (Benoit-Olivier) Groulx, he showed me the video ‘Mr. Clean’ by Yung Gravy and he just keeps calling me that.

He said I dare you to put it on in the room, and I said sure, I’ll do it.

(I’m a little disappointed he doesn’t rap about turkey and mashed potatoes)

Kirill Nizhnikov, RW

Sudbury Wolves, OHL
42GP - 7G - 17A - 24Pts

He was traded to the Sudbury Wolves, but it’s fine, he’s used to long drives. As a kid his dad would drive him almost 200km three times a week to the closest hockey program to play and practice.

Q: Why did you travel so far? Was it the best program you could play in?

A: No, it was the closest one.

Q: It’s a lot of dedication for a father to make those long drives, he’s a better dad than me. After growing up with such long travel, are you happy to not be in the WHL, where your road trips could last a week to get to Portland?

A: I don’t really know how to answer that? The longest drives we had were in Russia, I had to get up before 6AM drive 200km, play, drive back then go to school. Now the OHL has everything you’d want to travel, it’s really easy.

Xavier Bernard, D

Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL
43GP - 10G - 17A - 27Pts

The defender from the Drummondville Voltiguers fancies himself a good cook. It’s a good talent to have as a hockey player, at least you won’t end up eating out a lot once you’re living on your own.

Q: Do you host dinner parties for your team mates?

A: Aw, no, it’s just something I do with my billet family. I like to do breakfast, and dinner. I’m just good at cooking.

Q: Do you have a favourite dish?

A: No, I’ll cook anything, I like to experiment. I just make what’s in the house.

Q: Have you always been a good cook, or is it a reaction from eating fast food on the bus?

A: No, my mother taught me how to cook. Since I was five years old, we’ve been cooking together., and now I can make anything that’s needed.

Cale Addison, D

Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL
46GP - 7G - 40A - 47Pts

Addison is a big Don Cherry fan, so I had to ask if he’s disappointed to not be playing on Team Cherry.

Q: In your player profile it says tat your favourite movie is Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em...

A: No, that’s a mistake, I said I liked the Don Cherry movie, about him.

Q: Oh, the bio pic, OK. [Looks over his shoulder at CHL PR Paul Krotz] Good job Paul. So, are you considering asking for a trade to Team Cherry before the game?

A: It would be pretty cool, but I’m just happy being on any team here. It’s cool to play and just a great experience here.

He already knows just what to say hen the suits are around.

Gabriel Fortier, LW

Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL
45GP - 16G - 21A - 37Pts

Fortier is a man of a thousand voices, just not ones you would expect. He says he’s good at impressions so I tried to conjol him into doing some, as well as asking about his favourite athlete, Michael Phelps, one of the rare non-hockey players mentioned.

Q: Do you have an imitation of your coach Don Cherry you can do?

A: Oh no, I don’t see him enough.

Q: Is it more teammates?

A: Yeah, and comedians from Quebec, you probably wouldn’t know them.

Q: Ah, no I wouldn’t. You also mention looking up to Michael Phelps, it was rare to see someone mention a non-hockey player.

A: He’s won like, 20 medals in the Olympics. He’s a great athlete, even if he doesn’t play hockey, and I want to be him but in hockey. He’s the top of his field.

Cam Hillis

Guelph Storm, OHL
44GP - 17G - 23A - 40Pts

Cam is an excellent hockey player, but it’s not everything he’s focused on (unlike Cape Breton goalie Kevin Mandolese who says he’s not good at any other sport), he’s cycled parts of the Tour de France.

Q: Reading your bio, your favourite memory was scoring against the London Knights. First, let me say that this was the best memory anyone shared. Second, why was that goal the best?

A: It was just a great team effort, it had been a long time since we beat London, so having that memory of helping the team beat them.

Q: You’ve biked to sections of the Tour de France, was that a specific trip to do that, is it your goal to do them all?

A: We were visiting, so me and my dad did them, he’s a cycling fan so we went out while we were in the area and did it. I don’t think he’s going to do the whole course, but maybe if he keeps getting better.

Barret Hayton, C

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL
44GP - 17G - 25A - 42Pts

If you’re going to talk to CHL kids, you have to get the one from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to talk about their amazing point streak.

Q: Tell me about the streak.

A: We were just playing our own game out there, you know we didn’t go out and try to set any records, but we played well and it worked out great for us.

Q: What is it a relief to see it end against Sarnia, who’s second in the OHL rahter than it having been the loss the next night to the last place Firebirds?

A: It was disappointing to end it, it didn’t matter what team it was really, but we’re on our way to a new one now.

Akil Thomas, C

Niagara IceDogs, OHL
44GP - 12G - 38A - 50Pts

This guy is fun to talk to. He’s just jumping into any conversation he can. Being the Niagara IceDogs representative we talked the longest about the team, playing in Florida and Canada, and venturing outside of hockey.

Q: So I share a dentist with the team, and we were talking before the season about how the team would do. I said, well...still rebuilding, 7th place at best. Now you’re fighting with the Barrie Colts for the division lead. I feel silly, but did you always know ahead of time that this was going to be a big season?

A: We don’t think it’s a surprise at all. We knew we should be there and it will be a battle with Barrie. It will only be a surprise to people outside the room, how far we go.

Q: In 2016 the IceDogs surprised a lot of people by getting to the finals, sweeping both Barrie and Kingston. With Hamilton and Kingston being the top picks, do you think it will help being the underdogs?

A: They’re pretty stacked, they both loaded up at the deadline, but we’ve beaten Hamilton already since then. When we’re at our best, we can beat anyone in the league.

Q: With London not being on top of their game, this could finally be the IceDogs chance to go all the way.

A: [Laughs] There’s the history there for sure that we’d like to get past.

Q: You grew up in Florida while your dad was playing down south, and you moved to Toronto at 10. Since you’ve lived in both climates, do you have a preference to maybe be drafted by a warmer team like the Lightning over a cold and dark place, like Winnipeg?

A: [Smiles] Any team that drafts me would be great. It would be great to be somewhere warm....but my dream is to get into the NHL.

Q: In your player bio, you say you have a most vivid NHL memory, compared to everyone else who said it’s their favourite. It’s the Maple Leafs losing to the Bruins in 2013, after being down 4-1. Why does that stick out for you?

A: I am a Maple Leafs fan so...I’ve been in a lot of big tournaments where they ended like that. I can relate to it, so that’s why it’s stuck out to me the most [In 2016 his Toronto Marlboroughs lost the OHL Cup final in double overtime to the York-Simcoe Express, he lead the tournament in scoring with 13 points in 7 games]. The Leafs hadn’t had such a great history until then, and as the Bruins scored once an you just knew that was it.

Q: You have your own apparel company, how did that come together for a teenager?

A: When I was 13, my buddy and I just made hockey T-Shirts, and we got bigger and matured out of the hockey stuff. We wanted to make stuff that would speak to everyone in the world. Two years ago we made Zale official and we’ve been working on it since.

Q: Have you made any sales to your teammates?

A: Oh yeah, lots of Zale stuff in the room.

Q: Will we see Zale IceDogs merchandise at the Meridian Centre?

A: Yeah, we’ve been talking to the team about it, hopefully you will.