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Preview: CHL Top Prospects are on the ice tonight

Keep this rundown handy for the CHL Top Prospects game tonight, as you get started on prospect season.

Russia v Canada - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship
Brett Leason at the WJC. He’s an intriguing overage prospect, you might want to keep an eye on tonight.
Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

The CHL Top Prospects game is tonight (10 p.m. on Sportsnet), and this is always a great opportunity to get a look at many future NHL stars. While I don’t have complete prospect profiles ready as of yet, this post should help you to follow along during the game, while highlighting who to keep an eye on.

Let’s see who can replicate this rush this year:

Team Cherry

Forwards

Dylan Cozens is a 6’3” centre who looks bound to be a top-five pick. It’s rare to see a player of his size who can carry the puck so well, as he was Canada’s best zone entry threat at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament back in the summer. His combination of speed, size, and puck carrying skill allows him to put on a show on a nightly basis in the WHL. He will be one of the most exciting players on the ice in this game.

Peyton Krebs was also one of the tournament’s top centres at the Hlinka, and he could easily sneak into the top ten come draft time. He’s slightly undersized but doesn’t play that way, and he’s scoring at a strong rate this year despite playing on a weak team.

Nick Robertson is a zippy little winger who plays with Semyon Der-Arguchintsev in Peterborough. He was outstanding at the Hlinka, and he’s one of the youngest players in the draft. He’ll probably end up in my top 31, but he could fall in the draft because of his height.

Arthur Kaliyev is putting up incredible numbers with Hamilton, and he owns an outstanding shot. However, there are legitimate concerns about his skating, and this game could help him to prove that he can keep up with top players.

Raphael Lavoie is a 6’4” power forward who is scoring at a point-per-game pace in the QMJHL this season, and is in the top 15 of most lists. I am slightly lower on him, as he’s one of the older players in this class, and I just haven’t been blown away yet.

I’m a fan of Samuel Poulin’s game, as he’s a 6’1” winger who will be able to keep up at the NHL level. I don’t think he’s a future first line player, but I think he could be a solid middle-six winger someday. Jamieson Rees also impressed while playing for Canada, and he could be a nice second or third-round pick. Although he’s undersized, he’s quite clearly a fairly strong puck carrier.

Defence

Bowen Byram, Michael Vukojevic, and Matthew Robertson all played for Canada at the Hlinka. Byram has a chance to be the first defenceman picked in this draft, and he’s a treat to watch. He’s tall and strong enough to take on top competition at the NHL level, but it’s his vision that really stands out, as he’s constantly making smart decisions with the puck.

Vukojevic carries the size and foot speed to be a solid defensive defenceman, but I haven’t been overly impressed with his offensive game. Robertson is the better prospect of the two, as he’s a 6’4” defender who can really move. I’m confident that he will be a first-round selection, but I’m still waiting to see if he’s a high-end puck mover.

I’m excited to watch Thomas Harley and Billy Constantinou. Harley, in particular, is scoring at a strong rate for his age, and I’m still trying to figure out if he will be in my first round.

Team Orr

Forwards

Kirby Dach is battling Cozens on most draft rankings, as both players are big centres who are scoring in bunches in the WHL. Dach played right-wing on a line with Krebs and Alexis Lafreniere at the Hlinka, and his strength and speed allowed him to win a ton of puck battles. He’s a talented net-front guy on the powerplay, a high-end playmaker, and is starting to grow as a goal scorer. He’s a safe bet to be a good NHL player.

We saw Brett Leason at the World Juniors, and he’s two years older than most of his teammates, so we can expect him to be a top player in this game. He has a chance to go in the first round as a double overage player, and I’m interested to see if he can star in this game.

Ryan Suzuki is awfully similar to his brother Nick, as he’s a high-end playmaker who can run a powerplay. He was one of Canada’s best forwards at the Hlinka, and he’s a lock to be taken in the first round.

Connor McMichael is the leading scorer on a stacked London Knights roster, and his ability to play up the middle should make him a first-round pick. Phillip Tomasino is another player who did not make Canada’s Hlinka roster, but I’ve loved what I’ve seen out of him in the OHL this year, as he’s clearly got a lot of skill.

Jakob Pelletier is worth keeping a close eye on, as he’s a first-round talent who could potentially fall because of his height. He will have a great opportunity with Dach and Leason, and he has the speed to keep up with Dach. Sasha Mutala is probably a second-round pick, but I like him as a future middle-six winger who should make Canada’s World Junior team someday.

Defence

Artemi Knyazev and Jake Lee are the two players who I will be watching the most closely here, but this group looks weaker than Team Cherry’s backend. Russia boasted a terrific roster at the Hlinka, and Knyazev sure looked like a first-round pick to me. I’m not 100% sure that he will end up in my top 31, but this game could help him to crawl up my list of draft sleepers.

Jake Lee does not have incredible numbers in the WHL this year, but I’ve barely watched him play, so I’m ready to be surprised. Kaedan Korczak is a 6’3” right-shooting defender who was paired with Byram for Canada, but I just don’t think he’s a strong enough puck mover to warrant a first round selection. Once again, I’m ready to be surprised.

Final Thoughts

I’ll predict a high-scoring win for Team Cherry, though anything can happen in a game like this. I’m interested to see who every scout falls in love with at this game, but there’s a ton of talent coming out of the United States this year. Enjoy the game!