Thursday, January 18, 2007

A galaxy of stars and that was just behind the bench

The Top Prospects game for 2007 took place on Wednesday night at Le Colisee in Quebec City. An annual showcase of young talent available for the NHL entry draft later this year. With the forty top youngsters in Canadian Junior hockey on the ice at Le Colisee, there wasn't a scout worth his weight in hockey pucks that had not booked a ticket to Quebec City for the big event.

However, there were a couple of interesting absences to the annual event, the usual coaches of the showcase game are one Donald S. Cherry and Robert G. Orr, neither were behind the bench on Wednesday, described by the CHL as unavailable for the night. Conspiracy theorists will be busy compiling their essays on why the change was made when the game went to Quebec, with even Cherry himself suggesting that his appearance might have turned the game into a circus, detracting from the showcase that it's supposed to be for the kids.

So with the two regular guns holstered, the QMJHL pulled out a few big guns of their own to stand behind the bench and offer guidance to the looksee kids. Legendary coach Scotty Bowman, joined long time Quebec favourite Jacques Demers and current Quebec Remparts coach Patrick Roy behind the bench of the home white squad, while former Nordique head coach Michel Bergeron, long time NHL coach Pat Burns, who looked pretty good considering his recent health troubles joined Benoit Groulx the coach of the Gatineau Olympics behind the Red team bench.

In the end the final score was 5-3 in favour of Team Red, which got off to a fast start and had to hold off a spirited comeback by the White squad. Of the fourty players that took to the ice, the two on the Red Team that made the most impact and probably increased their draft level significantly were the Remparts Ruslan Bashkirov who picked up two goals in the game and Akim Aliu of the Sudbury Wolves of impressed Burns with his size and his determination on the ice.

Over on the White Team, Jacques Demers was waxing eloquently about Colton Gillies and Brandon Sutter, son of former NHLer Brent Sutter, as players on his team that impressed.

While its only one game, it's a chance to step up your game a bit on a national stage and give the scouts a reason to make hotel reservations in Rimouski, North Bay and Prince Albert during the winter to keep up with their prospects.

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