Prospect Impressions: CHL contingent shines, Finnish goalie scores, individual efforts from top prospects

By David Hahn
Matt Strome - Toronto Marlboros

Photo: 2015 OHL Cup hero Matt Strome is expected to be a high selection at the 2015 OHL Priority Selection that takes place on April 11th (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

 

All three CHL leagues kicked off first round playoff action, and three teams in particular received contributions from top prospects. Also, an obscure goaltending prospect is a social media sensation thanks to a rare feat. This week’s Prospect Impressions is loaded with talent, take a look at the best prospect plays-of-the-week.

The Prince George Cougars have gone down two games to none against the Victoria Royals in first round WHL playoff action. That said, both games have been competitive thanks in part to the uber-creative Jansen Harkins. The Cougars have been paced by the 2015 draft-eligible, who has enjoyed a solid season. In 70 regular season games, Harkins scored 20 goals and 59 assists to go along with a +7 rating. Harkins was named as the Cougars’ Most Valuable Player through regular season play, a testament to his value as the NHL Draft approaches. NHL Central Scouting ranked the blue collar, two-way forward 18th in their midterm rankings.

In the playoffs, most hockey teams can pinpoint one specific moment that energizes a team. In the first period in their first playoff game against the powerhouse Brandon Wheat Kings, Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Tristan Jarry made an unthinkable save en route to a 4-1 victory. Jarry, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, had to wait two years to get his chance, and the wait has been worth every minute. As one of the top goaltenders in the WHL, Jarry’s 2.74 goals-against average and .907 save percentage are both good for top 10 in both categories. The Oil Kings will need Jarry to repeat his game one performance if they want to repeat as WHL champion.

Unless you have been on social media, are an astute Minnesota Wild fan, or follow Finnish hockey, you probably haven’t heard of Kaapo Kahkonen. All that changed when Kahkonen launched a puck clear across the ice to score at the conclusion of a playoff game. The Minnesota prospect has spent the season with TuTo, an organization out of the Finnish second-league, Mestis. There, Kahkonen posted a 2.11 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage in 47 regular season games. While most of the attention in Finland has fallen squarely on Juuse Saros (NSH), this goal by Kahkonen has been the talk of the town.

The first overall selection in the 2014 QMJHL Entry Draft belonged to the Saint John Sea Dogs, and the team took defenseman Luke Green with the pick. He has not disappointed, helping the Sea Dogs return to the playoffs. In 60 regular season games, Green scored 6 goals and 30 assists, including five point streaks of three games or more. As one of the top prospects for the 2016 NHL Draft, Green’s stock is rising thanks to his first playoff goal.

When you look at the Niagara IceDogs roster, the immediate names that stand out are former first round NHL picks Josh Ho-Sang (NYI) and Brendan Perlini (ARI). However, Carter Verhaeghe‘s phenomenal season is plenty noteworthy. Named as the IceDogs most outstanding player thanks to a 33-goal, 49-assist season, Verhaeghe has continued his run as one of the most underrated players in the OHL. While his team might be down two games to one against the Ottawa 67’s, Verhaeghe’s game-breaking ability leaves Niagara with a chance to win most games.

During a difficult and rumor-laden season, Sonny Milano was one of a few bright spots for the Plymouth Whalers. In the Whalers final season in Plymouth, Milano led the team in scoring with 22 goals and 46 assists in 50 games. It was a trying season, but Milano’s effort carried that momentum over to the Springfield Falcons, where Columbus Blue Jackets fans caught a glimpse of what he is capable of. While the team was on the wrong side of a 6-3 loss in their playoff push, Milano’s offensive game was on display, perhaps foreshadowing where he will begin next season.

First there was the Sutter’s, then came the Staal’s, and now the Strome family is making noise with their three young men. Ryan Strome is enjoying a career season with the New York Islanders, while Dylan Strome just capped off an OHL scoring title, and youngest brother Matthew Strome appears ready to transition to the OHL himself. The GTHL Toronto Marlboros captain scored the overtime goal to win the 2015 OHL Cup, just hours removed from Dylan’s OHL scoring title. Matthew is eligible for the upcoming 2015 OHL Priority Selection, as well as the 2017 NHL Draft.

More Prospect Impressions coming your way next Monday!

Prospect Impressions – 3/23/15

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey