Prospect Faceoff: QMJHL’s leading scorer faces a test, other key head-to-head matchups for the weekend ahead

By David Hahn

Kyle Connor - Youngstown Phantoms; William Lagesson - Dubuque Fighting Saints

Photo: Youngstown Phantoms forward and 2015 prospect Kyle Connor goes head-to-head with Dubuque Fighting Saints defenseman and Edmonton Oilers prospect William Lagesson this weekend (courtesy of Youngstown Phantoms/Brandon Anderson/BA Photos)

 

Three CHL matchups, plus an NCAA head-to-head and a USHL weekend series featuring a top 2015 prospect highlight the prospect matchups in this week’s Prospect Faceoff feature.

Conor Garland (Moncton) vs. Laurent Dauphin (Chicoutimi) – QMJHL

This weekend in the QMJHL will feature one game where two top scorers will match up against each other. For Moncton, an out-of-nowhere story reigns supreme as the Wildcats look to return to the top of the league. Chicoutimi has had an up and down season, but for them, one player in particular can always be relied upon to produce.

The Moncton Wildcats have the Memorial Cup in their sights, thanks in part to a break-out season by diminutive forward Conor Garland. With 24 goals and 68 assists on the season, Garland’s QMJHL leading totals have opened NHL eyes despite his 5’8”, 170-pound frame. He has scored two or more points in an astonishing 26 games this season. He is currently riding a seven-game assist streak, after posting an 11-game assist streak earlier this season. Garland’s name has come up in MVP discussions, and with a six point gap between himself and the second leading scorer in the league, it’s not hard to see why Garland is opening eyes for the Wildcats.

Laurent Dauphin has been a measure of consistency for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. The Arizona Coyotes product is already approaching his career highs in goals after matching his career high in assists this past weekend with 32. Dauphin, the Sagueneens leading scorer with 55 points, has picked up at least one point in all but nine games. Chicoutimi doesn’t have a lot of secondary scoring, so Dauphin’s numbers are more impressive knowing that he has faced top talent every game.

Danton Heinen (Denver) vs. Mark MacMillan (North Dakota) – NCAA

The latest USCHO poll has the University of North Dakota ranked as the second-best team in the nation. They will host the ninth ranked Denver Pioneers this weekend in a pair of games that features two former BCHL standouts.

Danton Heinen was the BCHL Rookie of the Year and the captain of the Surrey Eagles last season before being drafted in the fourth round by the Boston Bruins. Heinen has quietly led the Pioneers in scoring, while sitting third in NCAA freshman scoring behind Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. His 10 goals and 19 assists in 26 games have him in the top 30 in NCAA scoring. More remarkable for Heinen is his work under pressure, notching two memorable game-winning goals over Boston College and Wisconsin.

Like Heinen, Mark MacMillan is a former BCHL (Coastal) Rookie of the Year. He was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the fourth round in 2010. MacMillan currently leads North Dakota in goal scoring with 15, a total that also has marked a career high in his senior season. He has enjoyed six multi-point games this season and has recorded at least one point in five of his last seven games.

Giorgio Estephan (Lethbridge) vs. Haydn Fleury (Red Deer) – WHL

Two players who are recovering from disappointing starts to the season are both trying to continue producing for their teams. One Lethbridge forward is looking to continue his hot streak, but will run into a towering presence for Red Deer in an intriguing WHL weekend game.

The Lethbridge Hurricanes started off the season cold, winning just once in their first 16 games. Hurricanes forward Giorgio Estephan matched his team’s output early on, scoring only four points in the entire months of October and November. That stretch included a five-week run where Estephan was held completely off the scoresheet. In the 20 games since then, he has scored 11 goals and 18 assists in an unpredictable recovery. The former fourth overall WHL Bantam Draft selection is one of the hottest commodities to keep an eye on as the season continues.

An imposing force on the blueline, Haydn Fleury has experienced his own renaissance this season. After being selected seventh overall by the Carolina Hurricanes, Fleury was sent back to the Red Deer Rebels following a promising rookie tournament and training camp. His offensive numbers remained behind last year’s trajectory, and he was among the final cuts for Canada’s U20 WJC team in December. To date, Fleury has tallied three goals and 17 assists in 44 games for Red Deer, respectable numbers for a team that is expected to contend for a WHL title.

Pavel Zacha (Sarnia) vs. Tyler Bertuzzi (Guelph) – OHL

The Sarnia Sting will attempt to get back on track this weekend, thanks to a talented Czech Republic native. The Guelph Storm, meanwhile, are fighting for home ice advantage in the playoffs riding the performance of one recognizable forward.

The Sarnia Sting made Pavel Zacha the first overall selection in this year’s CHL Import Draft, and almost immediately stories popped up saying that he was not going to report. Fast forward three months later, and Zacha was in Sarnia ready to go. Zacha currently has 23 points in 26 games, having missed time away with two suspensions, an injury, and his participation in the World Junior Championship for the Czech Republic. A top-ranked prospect for this year’s NHL Draft, Zacha is a polarizing and dangerous player that makes Sarnia a difficult team to play against. He’s a true wild card heading into the draft and one of the most mysterious players to follow in the OHL.

Where Zacha is still a bit of an unknown, Tyler Bertuzzi has been a model of production and consistency for the Guelph Storm. He may be a recognizable name due to his family ties or Detroit Red Wings draft status, but Bertuzzi has made a name for himself as the Storm’s leading scorer with 75 points through 52 games this season. Capable of taking over a game, Bertuzzi set a Guelph record by recording seven points in one game against London this year. Despite graduating significant contributors from last year’s championship squad, Bertuzzi has helped to keep the Storm alive and well in the playoff race.

William Lagesson (Dubuque) vs. Kyle Connor (Youngstown) – USHL

Two ’96-born players will face off against each other in a pair of USHL contests this weekend, with the two players taking far different routes. The Dubuque Fighting Saints have played stingy defense, led by an import defenseman who took an unusual route to the league. For Youngstown, one of the USHL’s brightest young forwards will suit up in hopes of helping the Phantoms catch Dubuque in the standings.

A native of Gothenburg, Sweden, William Lagesson is a physical defender that took a bit of an unusual route to North America. After featuring for Frolunda’s junior system, Lagesson was selected by Dubuque in the 2014 USHL Entry Draft, then by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2014 NHL Draft. Lagesson has displayed his responsible game for the Saints. This season, Lagesson has posted one goal and 11 assists in 31 games. He recently committed to UMass Amherst for next season, a major addition for the Minutemen.

Kyle Connor enters his third season in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms, coming off an All-Star caliber season the year prior. Connor has played in all situations for the Phantoms, totaling 18 goals and 26 assists in just 36 games. Those point totals rank him third in USHL scoring, where he has continued to use his speed to create dangerous scoring chances. Connor committed to the University of Michigan when he was just a freshman in high school, and is slated to begin there this fall. He is eligible for the NHL Draft this summer, where he has been ranked as a potential first round pick.

Prospect Faceoffs from 2/6-2/7

Darnell Nurse (Sault Ste. Marie) vs. Connor McDavid (Erie) – OHL

The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds drove into Erie and came away with a decisive 6-1 win. The Greyhounds were paced by Anthony DeAngelo’s one goal and three assist effort. Darnell Nurse assisted on a second period Sergey Tolchinsky goal while playing significant minutes directly against Connor McDavid. For Erie, McDavid assisted on the Otters lone goal, a power play marker finished by Nick Baptiste.

Mason McDonald (Charlottetown) vs. Marvin Cupper (Shawinigan) – QMJHL

Two of the top goaltenders in the QMJHL faced off this weekend, with only one of them finishing the game. Mason McDonald went the distance, stopping 39 of 40 shots in the Charlottetown Islanders’ 5-1 win over Shawinigan Cataractes. Daniel Sprong enjoyed a three-point night for the Islanders, including his 26th goal of the season. Marvin Cupper stopped 19 of 22 shots through two periods for the Cataractes before being pulled to start the third period.

Rourke Chartier (Kelowna) vs. Ryan Rehill (Kamloops) – WHL

The Kelowna Rockets extended their winning streak to nine games in regulation with a 5-3 victory over the Kamloops Blazers. Rourke Chartier’s 42nd goal of the season and three-point effort led the way for the Rockets. Tyson Baillie, Cole Linaker, and Nick Merkley each tallied two points in the win. For Kamloops, captain Matt Needham’s goal and assist wouldn’t be enough. Ryan Rehill was held without a point and was an even plus/minus.

Mario Lucia (Notre Dame) vs. Devin Shore (Maine) – NCAA

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish visited Maine this weekend, coming away with a 4-4 draw and 5-1 victory. In the first game, Vince Hinostroza’s second three-assist game of the season helped the Irish maintain pace in a back-and-forth affair. Devin Shore’s second period goal put the Black Bears ahead 4-3, but three minutes later Mario Lucia pounced on a rebound to tie the game at four. In the second game, Hinostroza and Lucia combined to score four points as Notre Dame potted three goals in 1:24 to secure the win.

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey