Two of the front-runners to go first overall in the next NHL draft will handle team captain duties for their respective teams at the 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Halifax Mooseheads forward Nathan MacKinnon will serve as captain for the Team Cherry squad on Jan. 16 at the Halifax Metro Centre. Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones will captain the Team Orr side at the annual showcase of the Canadian Hockey League’s top NHL draft-eligible players.
MacKinnon, a 17-year-old from Dartmouth, N.S., was the top Quebec Major Junior Hockey League skater listed by NHL Central Scouting in its preliminary rankings for the 2013 draft. Jones, an 18-year-old American, is the top-ranked Western Hockey League skater.
Central Scouting director Dan Marr is looking forward to seeing the captains go head to head.
“It adds a uniqueness to the event because it matches two highly skilled, motivated and competitive prospects and they both play different positions,” Marr said on a conference call. “The skills, attributes and intangibles of both Seth and Nathan make them worthy captains for their teams.
“They are both so highly competitive and unselfish in the way they utilize their assets, that they’re always leaders by example.”
Don Cherry will serve as head coach for Team Cherry and former NHL player Mike McPhee will be the head coach for Team Orr.
“Don is one of the original builders of this game and the Canadian Hockey League is honoured to have him and Stanley Cup winner Mike McPhee as coaches of this prestigious event,” said CHL president David Branch.
Mooseheads forward Jonathan Drouin and defenceman Darnell Nurse of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds will serve as alternate captains on Team Cherry. Forwards Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67’s and Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers will handle alternate captain duties for Team Orr.
The rest of the 20-man rosters will be announced at a later date.
This will be the 14th year of involvement for Cherry. He coached against Bobby Orr on 11 occasions at this event, including six straight meetings after the debut game in 1996 at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Pat Quinn and Mark Recchi served as coaches for last February’s game in Kelowna. Branden Troock of the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds scored in the final minute of regulation to give Team Orr a 2-1 win.
MacKinnon is tied for second in QMJHL scoring with 43 points in 25 games. Jones leads all WHL rookie defencemen in scoring with 17 points in 24 games.
The Top Prospects game has featured 10 players that went on to be selected with the first overall pick in the NHL Draft. The list includes Chris Phillips, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier, Rick Nash, Marc-Andre Fleury, Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.