The Leafs still having draft picks means it’s time to care about the CHL Top Prospects Game

Jon Steitzer
2 years ago
The trade deadline is barely in the rearview mirror, and we’re already shifting our focus towards the draft. Well, not entirely, but the CHL Top Prospects Game is certainly a significant event, and considering the Leafs went into the trade deadline with a 1st, 2nd, and 7th round pick heading into the deadline, it’s pretty impressive that they’ve come out of it still holding the 1st and 7th, and only downgrading slightly from the Leafs pick in the 2nd round to the Jets pick in the 3rd round. Presumably, the Leafs can still chase the same caliber of prospect, they just might not get their first choice.
In the past few years, there haven’t been a lot of CHL players coming into the Leafs’ organization. The 2020 draft involved a lot of worry about whether the CHL teams would play at all, and the Leafs avoided picks. Last season, the Leafs held few picks and opted to pick up Ty Voit, their only CHL pick. This year is much more of a business as usual type of season, with the significant exception of prospects playing in Russia. There’s no shortage of uncertainty of what will happen in that regard, and perhaps that could lead to more teams prioritizing players in North America and Western Europe.
That brings us to the Prospects Game, a game that might not hold a whole lot of significance for scouts and GMs, but one of those events that serve as an introduction to top draft picks for fans who might not follow junior hockey as closely as some of the draft and prospect aficionados. With the World Juniors being cut short and rescheduled for after the draft, this really is a chance to learn about players that we will soon become increasingly more opinionated on. And at the very least, see how some of the prospects’ skill sets compare amongst their peers.
The game features some interesting high-end talent like Shane Wright, Conor Geekie, and Matthew Savoie, which as Leafs’ fans we’ll worry more about the possibility of facing them regularly within the Atlantic division instead of thinking the Leafs have a realistic shot at acquiring them in July.
From a more realistic perspective of players, it may be worth forming an opinion on, I’d keep an eye out for Owen Beck, Tristan Luneau, and Nathan Gaucher as prospects that could be available when the Leafs pick in the first round. Others like Owen Pickering, Luca Del Bel Belluz, Maveric Lamoureaux, Pavel Mintyukov, Denton Mateychuk,  and Kevin Korchinski are also projected to go in the middle part of the first round.
Of course, the player that we should certainly consider from a Leafs’ perspective is the Soo Greyhound center, Bryce McConnel-Barker:
28th ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting’s Midterms
NHL Central Scouting: Plays a competitive and intelligent two-way game … powerful skater with the strength to protect the puck and fight through contact … has the speed to challenge wide with a strong and accurate shot off the rush … good use of stops, starts, and quick cuts to create space while also maintaining puck control … goes hard to the net with and without the puck … good hands and body positioning in tight … can hold off defenders and make plays in traffic … reads play well without the puck, tracks and pressures it effectivity in all areas … plays physical and finishes hits … relentless forecheck to create turnovers and rushed plays … backtracks and defensive zone break-ups to negate chances against … smart defending angles … well rounded and can be used in all situations. (via Top Prospect Game website)
The game will be played tonight at 8 pm ET (unfortunately up against the Leafs Next Gen game featuring the debut of Giordano and Blackwell) and can be seen on TSN or you can make your way down to Kitchener to see the prospects in person.

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