It was billed as a skills competition, but Tuesday night’s event served more as a dressed rehearsal for the big show on Wednesday night.
40 of the Canadian Hockey League’s top draft eligible prospects are in Oshawa for the Home Hardware CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game this week and with hundreds of NHL scouts expected to be at the game on Wednesday, the players were happy to shake out some of the nerves during the skills competition on Tuesday.
“Getting the skates on and competing against the other guys gets you into it,” said Matt Duchene of the Brampton Battalion. “It’s a good experience. Obviously there’s a lot of talent out there and it’s a good time. It’s just good to have some fun with it.”
After a tie in the skills segment of the event, Team Cherry skated out to a 5-3 win in the three-on-three game to claim the win. John Tavares played for Team Orr and despite the loss on Tuesday, he said that it was a good opportunity to get a feel for what to expect in the game on Wednesday (7:00 p.m. Eastern on Rogers Sportsnet).
“Just getting comfortable with each other and getting used to the surroundings - it’s good that way,” said Tavares, who received a warm welcome from the Generals’ fans who watched him play almost four seasons in Oshawa. “A lot of guys show off their skills and some tricks and stuff so it’s always a good time. It’s always fun to see the guys show why they’re here.”
The skills competition opened with a dead heat in the puck control relay before Calvin de Haan of the hometown Generals outskated Duchene in the tie-breaker to give Orr an early lead. Nazem Kadri of the London Knights evened things up when he won the individual segment of the event.
Landon Ferraro of the Red Deer Rebels claimed the fastest skater award putting in a fastest lap time of 14.009 seconds. He edged Cody Eakin of the Swift Current Broncos by 2/100ths of a second.
Ferraro said that it was a bit of a surprise to him that he was going to be competing in the fastest skater event.
“I was hoping I was going to get to do that but I didn’t find out I was going to until about 10 minutes before we came out on the ice,” Ferraro said. “It’s the one I wanted to do and I was happy to try and beat all the rest of the guys.”
Philippe Paradis of the Shawinigan Cataractes blasted a 95.7 miles per hour shot that gave him the hardest shot title and Michael Latta of the Guelph Storm knocked out four targets in six shots to claim the shooting accuracy event.
Olivier Roy of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles turned aside all nine shooters he faced in the breakaway relay.
Edward Pasquale of the Saginaw Spirit stopped seven of nine shooters and said that it felt like the goalies were under pressure to make big saves while the skilled group of forwards brought out their best shootout moves.
“It was a little nerve wracking - you went out for warm up and then sat and watched for a while before being thrown out on breakaways - but it was a lot of fun,” said Pasquale, the top rated North American goaltender for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. “It seemed like every time they came down their moves were a lot quicker than normal. There all have good hands and are all danglers here - they know what they are doing.”
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)