In the final Prospect Faceoff for the 2014-15 season, we feature a matchup too good to be true, as Connor McDavid looks to close out the OHL Western Conference Final against Darnell Nurse and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Meanwhile, the semi-finals continue in the WHL as top prospects collide. In the AHL, two forwards clash in a make-or-break Game Five.
Connor McDavid (Erie) vs. Darnell Nurse (Sault Ste. Marie) – OHL
All eyes have been on the series between OHL Western Conference giants, the Erie Otters and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The highly anticipated matchup has pitted the current face of the OHL going one-on-one against a potential future teammate at the next level, just four months removed from winning a gold medal together at the 2015 World Junior Championship.
Connor McDavid has done it all for the Erie Otters this season, proving why he will be the clear first overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft. He has rarely been challenged during his OHL career, but a return to the playoffs against a team hungry to avenge last season’s playoff defeat will thrust McDavid into the spotlight once again. He torched the OHL this season with an absurd 120 points in just 47 games. The barrage has continued in the playoffs, as McDavid leads the OHL in scoring with 36 points in 13 games. On a team without one of their top defenseman due to suspension and four rookies playing regular minutes, Erie has leaned heavily on their captain in this series.
Darnell Nurse has been waiting for this matchup for the last calendar year, after the Otters eliminated the Greyhounds from playoff competition last season. One of the premier defensemen in the OHL, Nurse often logs over 30 minutes per game. That trend has continued, especially on home ice as the Greyhounds will take advantage of the last change at home to match Nurse up directly against McDavid. That strategy could be a wise one, as Nurse and the Greyhounds had held McDavid to just two points in two regular season games this year. Nurse enjoyed another successful regular season, scoring 10 goals and 23 assists in 36 games. One major spot where Nurse improved this season is with his defensive game, a trend that will need to continue if the Edmonton Oilers prospect wishes to shut down a future teammate.
Adam Tambellini (Calgary) vs. Ivan Provorov (Brandon) – WHL
In a clash of teams expected to be where they are, there is an intriguing matchup of two players who may be lined up directly against each other. For the Calgary Hitmen, an overage forward injected newly found offense to his game, leading his team to another semi-final appearance. Meanwhile, a player regarded as a potential top-10 draft pick this summer responds for the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Earlier this month, Adam Tambellini was named the CHL Player of the Week following a four-game week where he had 11 points. The success is nothing new for Tambellini this season, as the tricky forward put up 47 goals and 39 assists in 71 games, more than doubling his career highs. Fast forward through the playoffs, and the New York Rangers prospect not only leads Calgary in playoff scoring, but the entire WHL as well. His 12 goals and 13 assists in just 15 games is a nice feather in the cap of a player primed to carry his family’s name into the professional ranks.
One the trendiest defenseman available for the 2015 NHL Draft, Ivan Provorov shot up the rankings this season and has picked up some accolades of his own along the way. He finished fourth among WHL defenseman in scoring with 15 goals and 46 assists, executing his offensively gifted talents on a consistent basis. In the playoffs, the talented Russian has two goals and eight assists in 13 games. Provorov participated in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and won a silver medal at this year’s WJC.
Ryan Spooner (Providence) vs. Danny Kristo (Hartford) – AHL
The Providence Bruins benefited from their parent club, the Boston Bruins, missing the playoffs. One player in particular enjoyed some success at the NHL level, before boosting the Bruins playoff chances in the AHL. Providence is locked in a best-of-five series against the Hartford Wolf Pack, where one well-known prospect is hoping to help his team advance.
One forward who has flirted with a full-time job in the NHL is Bruins prospect, Ryan Spooner. The former OHL standout has split time between professional levels over the last three seasons, but this year in particular was kind to him. Spooner was a midseason call-up and played honest minutes with the injury to Patrice Bergeron, producing eight goals and 10 assists in 29 games. With Providence, Spooner had 26 points in 34 games and currently is tied for the team lead in playoff scoring with three points in four games.
While he has yet to make his NHL debut, Hartford winger Danny Kristo has been a consistent performer at the AHL level. He surpassed his previous career-high point total by three this year, scoring 46 points in 72 games. Kristo has made use of his tremendous speed, working the puck wide and trying to create off the rush. In the playoffs, Kristo leads the Wolf Pack in scoring with three points in four games, a continuation of his regular season success.
Tobias Lindberg (Oshawa) vs. Josh Ho-Sang (Niagara) – OHL
The Oshawa Generals finished off their series over the Niagara IceDogs, advancing to the semi-finals with a 4-2 win. Cole Cassels (VAN) was involved in every goal, finishing with a hat-trick and one assist. Tobias Lindberg (OTT) picked up an assist on one of Cassels goals, and was difficult to contain down low along with his linemates, Mike McCarron (MTL) and Michael Dal Colle (NYI). Josh Ho-Sang (NYI) presumably finished his OHL career scoreless, and was awkwardly denied a final shift of the game when a coach physically grabbed him off the ice, pulling him back on the bench.
Dmytro Timashov (Quebec) vs. Daniel Sprong (Charlottetown) – QMJHL
The Charlottetown Islanders season came to a conclusion last week in a 5-2 loss with their backs up against a wall, resulting in a series sweep for the Quebec Remparts. Surprisingly, Dmytro Timashov did not score for only the third time in 11 playoff games, but Remparts forward Guillaume Gauthier tallied three times in the victory. Daniel Sprong replied with a goal for the Islanders, his seventh goal in 10 playoff games.
Nikita Scherbak (Everett) vs. Adin Hill (Portland) – WHL
After being on the wrong end of a 5-3 defeat in game one against Everett, the Portland Winterhawks awoke from a slumber to win four straight games. Adin Hill played a major role in those games, winning two of them in overtime and never letting in more than three goals after the early series anomaly. In the deciding Game Five, Hill stopped 31 of 33 shots for his eighth win in the playoffs. Everett Silvertips forward Nikita Scherbak was a difficult player to contain, assisting on both Everett goals in their season-ending 3-2 loss.
Cooper Marody (Sioux Falls) vs. Robert Carpenter (Sioux City) – USHL
With an opportunity to advance to the USHL semi-finals, Cooper Marody and his Stampede teammates rose to the occasion with a 6-1 win over Sioux City. Marody finished with one goal and two assists, the same stat line as linemate Logan O’Connor. Lekkas Stefanos stopped 21 of 22 shots to earn the win, watching on as his teammates launched 54 shots at Sioux City. Robert Carpenter did not hit the scoresheet, finishing with a -1 rating.
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