It’s tonight, on Wednesday January 23rd, that will take place the 24th edition of the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) annual top prospects game, in Red Deer, Alberta.
This matchup is an excellent opportunity for National Hockey League (NHL) scouts and general managers to evaluate the players evolving in the CHL that are available for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Players such as Anthony Beauvillier, Sean Couturier, Philip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Marc-André Fleury, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nathan MacKinnon all took part in the top prospects game during their time in the QMJHL.
This year, 40 players have been invited to take part in the game, including ten of them that come from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The identity of these players was revealed this past December: Nikita Alexandrov of the Charlottetown Islanders, Samuel Bolduc of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, Maxim Cajkovic of the Saint John Sea Dogs, Colten Ellis of the Rimouski Océanic, Artemi Kniazev of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, Raphaël Lavoie of the Halifax Mooseheads, Nathan Légaré of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Valentin Nussbaumer of the Shawinigan Cataractes, Jakob Pelletier of the Moncton Wildcats and Samuel Poulin from the Sherbrooke Phœnix will all be taking part in the event. Nussbaumer was a late addition to the roster after an injury forced Dillon Hamaliuk of the Seattle Thunderbirds away from the game.
Here is an in-depth and by the numbers look at the QMJHL players who will be in the spotlight tonight:
1- Player took part in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. After representing Switzerland in 2018, Valentin Nussbaumer scored twice and added an assist in the 2019 edition of the tournament that recently ended in Vancouver, B.C. The Swiss lost to Russia in the bronze medal game.
1- Player currently has more than 30 goals scored. Nathan Légaré has found the net 34 times up to this point this season, placing him in second place of the QMJHL’s top goal scorers. He is an important piece of the Drakkar offence as he is currently shooting at a 19.2% success rate and boasts an impressive +28 differential.
1- Player received a trophy at last year’s QMJHL Golden Puck Awards. It was goaltender Colten Ellis who was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. Ellis is enjoying another successful campaign in his second season; he has a .914% save percentage (good for 3rd in the League), a 2.37 goals against average (3rd) and 20 wins (4th) to his name.
2- Players were named assistant captains for the current edition of the Sherwin-Williams Top Prospects Game. Raphaël Lavoie will act as one for Team Orr and Jakob Pelletier will do the same for Team Cherry.
2- Players are currently in the Top 10 of the QMJHL’s scoring race up to this point this season. Nathan Légaré is in eighth place with his 64 points (34 goals and 30 assists) in 45 games, while Jakob Pelletier is in the tenth spot with 60 points (25 goals and 35 assists) in 44 games played.
3- Players received an “A” grade as per the NHL Central Scouting rankings. Raphaël Lavoie, Jakob Pelletier and Samuel Poulin are labeled as first round candidates ahead of the NHL’s 2019 draft.
4- Players took part in the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup tournament. Jakob Pelletier and Samuel Poulin skated to gold with Team Canada, while Artemi Kniazev helped Russia to a bronze medal. As for Maxim Cajkovic, he played under the Slovakian team colors.
4- Players participated in the 2018 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship. Colten Ellis was in net for the Canadians and his teammate Raphaël Lavoie led Canada with his five goals. Maxim Cajkovic scored four goals and had seven helpers for Slovakiam while Switzerland’s assistant captain, Valentin Nussbaumer, scored once to go with his three assists.
5- Players received a “B” grade from the NHL Central Scouting firm. Nikita Alexandrov, Maxim Cajkovic, Colten Ellis, Artemi Kniazev, Valentin Nussbaumer and Jakob Pelletier have a shot at hearing their names called during the second or third rounds of the next NHL entry draft.
7- Players were selected in the first round by their QMJHL teams. In 2017, Samuel Poulin was selected with the second overall pick of the QMJHL Draft by Sherbrooke, Jakob Pelletier was taken third by Moncton and Nathan Légaré went sixth overall to Baie-Comeau. Nikita Alexandrov was also drafted in 2017, but it was during the CHL Import Draft. He was taken 50th overall by the Charlottetown Islanders. During the 2018 CHL Import Draft, Saint John took Maxim Cajkovic with the very first pick, Valentin Nussbaumer was chosen by Shawinigan three ranks later and Artemi Kniazev heard his name called by Chicoutimi at the ninth spot.
The 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game will be broadcasted live tonight at 10 p.m. ET, on Sportsnet. You can also follow the QMJHL on Twitter for live scoring.