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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Shines Under The Spotlight

I sat at the Air Canada Center and thought to myself, I hope people are watching this game at home because the crowd in the self proclaimed Center of the Hockey Universe was smaller than what you get at some Ontario Hockey League games. But those that attended or watched on TV were treated to some excellent performances.

Team Cherry came out guns ablazing in the first period, outshooting Team Orr 13 - 3. But Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Liam Liston kept Team Cherry off the board. While Team Cherry was on a power play, Scott Harrington  slipped and fell at the blue line and Daniel Catenacci  took off with Ryan Murphy in pursuit. While Murphy closed the gap ever so slightly, he couldn't catch the winner of the fastest skater at the skills competition and Catenacci beat Chicuitimi goaltender Chris Gibson to give Team Orr a 1-0 lead. And that's how the first period ended.

Sven Bartschi put Team Orr up 2-0 on a high light reel goal. But it wasn't the goal that was the high light but the unbelievable pass by Ryan Nugent Hopkins who saucered the puck in the air and dropped on the ice right onto Bartchi's stick. Jonathan Huberdeau of the St John Sea Dogs scored moments later to put Team Orr up 3-0 before the teams changed goaltenders halfway through the period.

Shane Prince, who is second in the OHL scoring race and was named to the team to replace the injured Gabriel Landeskog scored for Team Cherry to cut the lead to 3-1. That's how the second period would end.

After a couple of patented end to end rushes by Ryan Murphy, it was clear the 17 year old Kitchener Rangers defenseman was going to take over the game.  But while he sat on the bench at the end of his shift two more Sea Dogs added to the score sheet for Team Orr. Nathan Beaulieu and Zack Phillips scored less than a minute apart to put the game out of reach.

Just over a minute later, Vincent Trocheck scored to make it 6-1. Dougie Hamilton scored on the power play with just under two minutes remaining and a laser of a shot with pin point accuracy to close out the score.

Nugent-hopkins finished the game with two assists. his puck control, passing, amooth skating, every thing you have heard about him, was top notch and he was named team Orr's player of the game. On the other side, Murphy showed his elite skating and rushing abilities, setting up chances and was named Team Cherry player of the game. He got knocked around at times, but he also threw the body himself.

Sean Couturier was solid in his own end and other than a few shifts where he and his linemates dominated in the offensive zone, he was a non factor. Two pleasant surprises were David Musil and Stuart Percy. Both were rock solid defensively for Team Orr especially Musil, who has been dropping in the rankings since the beginning of the season. He also had a fight when he came in in defence of Nugent-Hopkins. As for Percy, he made safe plays all night, moving the puck out of his zone with ease.

Personally. of the guys i don't get to see outside the OHL i was disappointed in Couturier's game. Somehow i expected more. But i was more than impressed with Nugent-Hopkins, Musil and the four Sea Dogs in the game. But one game is hardly anything to base a judgement on and for many of the NHL GM's in attendance, it was their first look at some of these players. Going forward until the Memorial Cup, they'll get plenty more looks to make a judgement on.

It's just the tip of the ice berg and no one made their final list up after last nights game.

Congrats to all 40 players. You provided us with great entertainment.

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