January 18-19, the Air Canada Center will host the 16th annual Home Hardware Top Prospects game. In that time we've seen nine players that were later selected with the first overall pick including Chris Phillips, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier, Rick Nash, Marc-Andre Fleury, Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, and Taylor Hall.
In 2010, we saw no less than 16 players in that game selected in the first round on the NHL Entry Draft, including the top 5 picks, Hall, Tyler Seguin, Erik Gudbranson, Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter.
There are some that feel it is an unfair advantage to players in the CHL. There are others that feel it's not even the best of the best of the Canadian Hockey League.
While it is an event made up of players from the 3 Canadian major junior leagues, i wouldn't characterize it as unfair. Sure the NHL has some input as to who they'd like to see participate in what is basically an all-star game, and rightfully so. While i assume that most teams have a general idea of where they slot players, especially right after the World Junior Championships, it helps provide the finishing touches.
Let's face facts. The CHL is the largest contributor of talent to the NHL. And there are such a vast number of players that could play for Team Canada in the WJC, that only 1 draft eligible player made that squad. Compare that to Sweden who has 6. I don't for a moment suggest that the WJC should be a staging grounds for the NHL, we already have the Ivan Hlinka for that where players from around the world participate. But again, there are players in Canada who you could make a case for to be on that squad that don't make it.
And while an argument can be made that it's not even the best of the best, we have to remember there are only 40 spots available. And as in any sport that has an all-star game, there will always be debates about player A being left off in favor of player B.
This is what E. J. McGuire had to say to ohl.com
“Each year the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is a highly anticipated event that is circled on the calendars of all National Hockey League Scouts and General Managers,” said Director of NHL Central Scouting E.J McGuire. “This is the only event of its kind where the best NHL draft eligible players from across the CHL are assembled for on ice competition resulting in tremendous skill and intensity with the opportunity for players to perform before the eyes of all 30 NHL teams in attendance.”
One could make an argument for Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67's to be on the roster. But consider that he was ranked 18th by Central Scouting from the OHL. With only 24 forward positions available on the 2 squads, how do you, as an NHL scout or GM, want to see him in a game where there are forwards from the WHL and QMJHL ranked higher that you'd like to see there? I can say I am surprised he was left off of the roster, but not shocked.
I am however, completely amazed at the omission of Alexander Khokhlachev of the Windsor Spitfires. The speedy rookie forward was ranked 12th by Central Scouting, one spot below fellow Russian Vladislav Namestnikov. who by the way, made the roster. There are many who believe that right now, Khokhlachev should be ranked ahead of Namestnikov.
To make matters even more surprising, the 12th ranked Khokhlachev was also passed over for Rickard Rakell (14th), Daniel Catenacci (16th), Lucas Lessio (17th) and Mark Scheifele (19th).
Along with Khokhlachev and Prince (18th), Stefan Noesen (13th) of the Plymouth Whalers are the only 3 top 20 ranked OHL players not playing in the game.
The system may not be perfect, and may never be. But it will be an exciting game for fans nonetheless. And it will provide NHL scouts and General Managers the chance to see 40 of the best at one time, in one game.
At this time, i would like to wish everyone a very Merry and safe Christmas, and remember, please don't drink and drive. Also, remember those that are no longer with us at this time.
And special thoughts at this time of year go out to both Canadian and American troops who are overseas who protect our very right to celebrate at this time of year. Merry Christmas to our brothers, sisters, our heroes.