With the All Star break starting tomorrow, the NHL has a fairly heavy slate of games this evening - including the Colorado Avalanche at home to the Minnesota Wild. For those of use with an eye towards the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, tonight also marks the annual CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
The first round of this year’s draft is very heavy on USNTDP players - add to that guys like Kaapo Kakko and Vasili Podkolzin - and tonight's top prospect game is missing a lot of the guys that will be drafted in the top-10 this coming June. That said, here are a lot of good players playing in the game and thanks to the Avalanche holding four picks in the top-65, Joe Sakic and the scouts in Colorado will have their eyes on all of them.
There are a number of incredibly intriguing prospects playing in tonight’s game, here is a look at some names you should become familiar with (I’ll cop to my overwhelming OHL bias right now):
Nolan Foote - LW - Kelowna Rockets
After a down season, Foote has bounced back this year producing at a point per game rate. He’s big, strong and thrives in his ability to protect the puck when he has it on his stick. Foote already has an elite shot and is going to be able to score at the next level.
He’s not overly fast but knowing that’s his shortcoming, Foote has spoken about improving his foot speed. He’s got a lot of drive and will work intensely to improve his game.
He’s not one of the fastest players in the prospect and doesn’t have the high-end ceiling of a lot of his peers, but he’d be one of the safer picks in the top-50 - a lot like Martin Kaut last year. He’s going to be an NHLer, he just might top out as a middle-6 guy.
Thomas Harley - LD - Mississauga Steelheads
Harley is a very polarizing player. Some have him as the best prospect in the OHL whereas he drops down to the 50s for others. He’s a lot like Ryan Merkley - without the off ice issues - in that Harley has high-end offensive skills from the blueline but has shown inconsistent play in his own end.
He’s a much better NHL prospect than Merkley, but he’s not being treated as such. He’s got high-end offensive skills. He’s incredibly hard to push off the puck and has the ability to lead the rush in a way you don’t often see from a defender his age.
At 6’3 and 190lbs, Harley has the frame to put on some mass and be a very strong physically down the road. He already know how to use his size although he doesn’t deliver big body-checks, Harley is strong in front of the net and along the perimeter of his own zone.
Nathan Légaré - RW - Baie-Comeau Drakkar
The sixth overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL draft, Légaré is having a breakout season as a sophomore with Baie-Comeau. His 34 goals in 45 games put him second in the league behind teammate Ivan Chekhovich. Légaré has a nose for the net, putting himself in positions where his teammates can get him the puck. In tight around the net, he has excellent finishing skills, able to get the puck past the goalie with a quick and precise shot.
Légaré is a ferocious forechecker, using his skating ability to put pressure on the defencemen, he also does an excellent job of taking away options and forcing them towards his teammates. He’s not overly big, but at 205lbs, he’s got the strength to be an effective power-winger in the NHL.
He’s been flying up draft boards this season and will likely end up being selected in the second round.
Nathan Légaré with another great game (1 goal, 2 assists). He showcased his great offensive instinct, positioning and powerful shot throughout the game. Definitely a big riser for the #2019NHLDraft ! pic.twitter.com/fjFuJjM7U7— Andy Lehoux (@Andylehoux1) October 27, 2018
Jake Lee - LD - Seattle Thunderbirds
One of the youngest players in this year’s draft (he won’t turn 18 until the end of July) but Lee is already 6’2 and 216lbs. He is a big, strong defender who knows how to use his assets to play a very physical game. You’d think he projects as a traditional stay at home shutdown defender, that is until you see him skate.
He’s a really good skater that can move the puck. He’s been asked to play a big role in Seattle and is thriving as the kind of two-way defender that is perfect for today’s NHL.
Lee is currently ranked outside of the top-50 but he’s the kind of player that a team falls in love with - for good reason - and is selected higher than the rankings would dictate.
Connor McMichael - C -London Knights
Playing for the London Knights, Connor McMichael is ranked in the 25-35 range for most but he is a guy that could very well fly up the board on draft day - the way Ty Dellandrea did last year. He is a natural center with decent size that is scoring at a high level during his second OHL season.
McMichael’s best asset is his mind. He is an incredibly smart player that uses his instincts to be successful in all three zones. He’s a really good skater with good straight-away speed but also has the edge-work and soft hands necessary to be creative as an east-west player.
Phillip Tomasino - F - Niagara IceDogs
Tomasino is a very dynamic offensive player that has good speed and high-end creativity with the puck. He is a great skater with soft hands, and is able to create his own offense though heavy traffic. He uses puck possession to create scoring chances for himself, but he is also a confident and creative passer with high-end playmaking ability.
He is a tenacious forechecker that has great awareness without the puck. Tomasino uses his quickness to disrupt opposing defenders and uses his quickness to create turnovers.
Tomasino has 22 goals and 47 points in 44 games playing for a very strong Niagara team that is going to go deep in the OHL playoffs.
As a right-shooting forward that is most natural at center, Tomasino is likely to be drafted in the top-31 and could end up being the first OHLer off the board.