2015 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game: Six lesser known players to watch

By Ken McKenna
Ivan Provorov - Team Orr - 2015 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

Photo: Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ivan Provorov has been a top offensive performer in his first WHL season for a Wheat Kings squad that should have a deep run in the WHL playoffs (courtesy of Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

 

As in any all-star affair, the 2015 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game features two teams of very talented players, albeit none of them old enough to order an alcoholic beverage at the local pub.

This year’s CHL event in particular features a strong crop of junior hockey talent, right up there with the group of prospects that competed in 2013. The obvious talents, like Connor McDavid, Mitch Marner, and Dylan Strome, have already been heavily covered through the first half of the 2014-15 season. Any hockey fan that doesn’t have at least a basic idea of the talent of those players hasn’t been paying attention.

But given the depth of the 2015 NHL Draft prospect pool and the abundance of talent taking part in this year’s Top Prospects Game, there is always a few names that will be overlooked no matter how good a season these players might be having.

As a service to the readers of Hockey’s Future, here is a list of six players – three from Team Cherry and three from Team Orr – that would be worth focusing on during tonight’s game, whether you are in attendance at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, ON or simply watching the game from the comforts of home. The six players included in this list

Team Cherry

Anthony Beauvillier, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
CSS Mideterm Ranking – 49 NA Skaters

Beauvillier has been named the captain of Team Cherry for this game, and given his skill set, it isn’t surprising that he has received that honor. He is a “motor” player, one with a hard-working approach to the game who never quits on a play. Stopping at this point of his description would consign the Sorel, QC native to a third- or fourth-line role in the NHL were he to arrive there, but there is also offensive ability mixed in with the grit as is indicated by the fact that he leads the Cataractes in scoring with 66 points (31G, 45A) in 45 games. Beauvillier’s size is not ideal – he stands at 5’10” and 181 pounds – but there is little question that the talent and determination are abundant enough that he can overcome his current size deficiencies.

Brandon Carlo, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
CSS Midterm Ranking – 16 NA Skaters

While size might be an issue for Beauvillier, it is decidedly not an issue for defenseman Brandon Carlo. The nearly 6’5″ and 198-pound Carlo is not hindered by that size, however, as he is adept at rushing the puck up ice but can also use his agility to defend against oncoming attackers. Carlo had a solid showing at the 2015 World Junior Championship for Team USA, and the scouts have taken notice by moving him up the rankings for the 2015 NHL Draft.

Samuel Montembeault, G, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
CSS Midterm Ranking – 3 NA Goalies

With both Mackenzie Blackwood and Callum Booth missing the Top Prospects Game, Montembeault becomes the top-ranked goaltender taking part in this game. Montembeault has the height (6’3″) that many NHL teams now value in a goaltender, and he makes good use of his butterfly style of goaltending in being able to cover both the lower portion of the net while also having the vertical size to cover a good portion of the upper half of the net. Montembeault is second in the QMJHL in both goals-against average (2.62) and wins (22), and now has the opportunity to shine against the best CHL talent in his age group.

Team Orr

Timo Meier, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
CSS Midterm Ranking – 12 NA Skaters

It can safely be said that Meier is, in scouting parlance, a “riser”, i.e. a player who is rapidly climbing the rankings after entering the season as somewhat of an unknown quantity. The fact that the Swiss-born Meier is ranked among the top 15 North American skaters with still half a season to go is a testament to his how far and how quickly he has come since the start of the season. Meier performed well for Switzerland at the 2015 World Junior Championship, and is currently ranked 14th overall in the QMJHL in scoring. His combination of skill, smarts and speed has scouts believing that Meier could arrive in the NHL sooner rather than later.

Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
CSS Midterm Ranking – 13 NA Skaters

Probably one of the top playmakers taking part in this game, Merkley has turned in a strong first half of the 2014-15 season for the Rockets. He is third in the WHL in scoring, and is poised to help a strong Kelowna club make a run at the WHL championship and perhaps the Memorial Cup. Merkley’s skill is setting up goals, but he can score a few, as well. The Calgary, AB native is another slightly built, playmaking wonder, but it would be foolish to dismiss the talented Merkley simply due to his slight build.

Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
CSS Midterm Ranking – 10 NA Skaters

In his first season in the WHL, the Russian-born Provorov has displayed his offensive chops as he is the leading rookie scorer in the league at this point of the season. Not unlike Meier, he has been rising up the ranks as the season has progressed, although Provorov was a bit more of a known quantity coming into the season given that he competed in the USHL last season. Provorov has posted 41 points (11G, 30A) in 40 games for a Wheat Kings squad that should challenge for the WHL championship in the Spring. Perhaps the epitome of a power play quarterback among those taking part in this game, Provorov also has enough defensive chops to be considered a good, all-round defenseman with definite offensive upside.