Leadership is often one of the first things teams discuss when evaluating prospects, and for Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters and Timo Meier of the Halifax Mooseheads, both players will adorn new letters this year. In the WHL, a surprising early cut from training camp faces off against a diminutive forward, and two draft-eligible players from the NAHL, as well as two Ottawa Senators prospects lead their teams into weekend action.
Vince Dunn (Niagara) vs. Dylan Strome (Erie) – OHL
The Niagara IceDogs are going to have their hands full when they visit the Erie Otters this weekend, the only undefeated team left in the OHL. The IceDogs are going to counter Dylan Strome’s 2015-16 OHL debut with Vince Dunn, a recent second round pick of the St. Louis Blues. Dunn is a beautiful skater that has strong puck moving abilities, but it is his underrated defensive abilities that will need to be on display if the IceDogs hope to knock off the Otters. While there is plenty of hockey to be played until December, these two might be teammates for Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championship that takes place through the holiday season in Finland.
Erie counters with Dylan Strome, who recently was assigned back to the team from the Arizona Coyotes, who selected him third overall in June. Strome returns to the team with a different letter on his jersey, as he becomes the 11th full-time captain in team history. He replaces Connor McDavid, who is off to Edmonton, but his loss and the blow of other graduates has not affected the team as much as had been expected. After winning the OHL scoring title last year, it will be interesting to see what Strome can do now that he is leading the way.
Gabriel Gagne (Victoriaville) vs. Timo Meier (Halifax) – QMJHL
With the Victoriaville Tigres and Halifax Mooseheads both below .500, this is an important weekend matchup for both teams to attempt to right the ship.
Standing at 6’5”, Gabriel Gagne is an intimidating force who plays a physical and often brutally challenging style to play against. As a second round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, a lot has been expected of Gagne, but his overall development has been slow except for one ability, goal scoring. Gagne managed to find the back of the net 35 times last season, and if he can reproduce those numbers and maintain his physically dominating game, Ottawa may be enticed to offer him an entry-level contract.
As the other end of the ice will be another physically brutal player to compete against in Swiss native Timo Meier. The San Jose Sharks made him the ninth overall pick in June’s draft, and promptly returned him to junior after a quick training camp. Back in Halifax, the Mooseheads made him their new captain following Ryan Falkenham’s departure. Meier exhibits a strong sense of where to be, and will be focusing on improving on his offensive totals while maintaining his penchant for finishing checks and being a pest. Meier’s game is more than just that of an agitator, as referenced by his 90-point regular season in 2014-15.
Jaedon Descheneau (Kootenay) vs. Ivan Provorov (Brandon) – WHL
Jaedon Descheneau has already logged 264 games played in the WHL and is in the midst of his fifth and final year in the league. He has been a consistent scoring threat for the Kootenay Ice, including three consecutive 30-goal seasons. As a fifth round pick of the St. Louis Blues in the 2014 NHL Draft, Descheneau has been working hard to dispel the thought that his diminutive stature is going to hold him back. As a leader and veteran in the WHL, he appears primed to surpass his career-high of 98 points in one season
Opposing him this weekend will be the intimidating presence of Ivan Provorov, a gifted defenseman who returned to Brandon slightly earlier than expected. After the Philadelphia Flyers returned him to junior, Provorov wasted no time in re-acclimating to the WHL. To date, he leads the WHL in scoring by a defenseman with one goal and six assists in five games. Provorov is an enigmatic and supremely talented offensive weapon who has been especially hard to contain on special teams. While his scoring prowess is notable, so too is his quickly-developing stick and body use, skills that will need to be at the top of their game in order to keep Descheneau off the board.
Erich Fear (Springfield) vs. Jack LaFontaine (Janesville) – NAHL
Two players who have been listed on NHL Central Scouting’s initial “Ones to Watch” list line up against each other in the North American Hockey League this weekend.
Erich Fear has an appropriate last name for his skillset. Standing at 6’5” and weighing in at 220 pounds, Fear is a defensive defenseman drawing early attention with his impressive stature and reach. He joined the Springfield Jr. Blues this season after two successful campaigns with the Chicago Mission program, a program that developed successful NHL defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien and John Moore.
Summer transfer rumors involving Janesville Jets goaltender Jack LaFontaine suggested that he was on the way to the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, but these proved to be false. Kitchener’s loss ended up being Janesville’s gain, and LaFontaine has been off to a hot start. Through five games, he has a 3-1-1 record with a 1.58 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage with two shutouts. Those are impressive numbers for one of most anticipated goalies available for the 2016 NHL Draft, and this test against a division rival will be a good one to keep an eye on.
Christian Jaros (Lulea) vs. Filip Ahl (HV71) – SHL
Christian Jaros is expected to make his 2015-16 SHL debut with Lulea this weekend after starting the year on loan with Asploven HC in the Allsvenskan. Jaros is a crafty and nimble defender that may very well line up directly against Filip Ahl. The Kosice, Slovakia native moved to Sweden as a bright-faced 16-year-old in order to challenge himself and continue his development. Not known for his offense, he still has the ability to move the puck and make a simple outlet pass, qualities that will need to be under control to pick up a win this weekend.
Filip Ahl has grown up in HV71’s junior system and is spending the year split between there and the SHL team. Ahl is a competitive winger who has demonstrated offensive ability as one of the top scorers over the last two seasons in the SuperElit league. The transition to the SHL has been a bit of a difficult one, but it’s not very often that younger players are afforded significant ice time and responsibility in the SHL. In fact, when he made his SHL debut last season, he was the youngest player in team history. That said, Ahl is a dangerous scoring threat who has to be respected, and is worth keeping an eye on to earn a contract as a prospect of the Ottawa Senators.
Ryan MacInnis (Kitchener) vs. Kyle Capobianco (Sudbury) – OHL
The Kitchener Rangers sure were happy to see Ryan MacInnis back in the lineup after returning from Arizona Coyotes training camp. MacInnis scored in the first period to finish off a nice cycling play, and later assisted on the game-winning goal in Kitchener’s 4-2 win over the Sudbury Wolves. David Levin, the Wolves’ first overall pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection, added one goal and one assist. Kyle Capobianco was held without a point and finished with a -1 rating.
Rourke Chartier (Kelowna) vs. Dysin Mayo (Edmonton) – WHL
In an exciting game that showcased what the WHL is all about, Kelowna and Edmonton combined for 80 shots on net, with Kelowna coming out on top on the scoreboard by a final of 5-3. Rourke Chartier had a major impact in the game, opening the scoring five minutes into the game and followed that up by assisting on Cole Linaker’s game-winning goal. While the game score indicated that the game was close, Edmonton struggled at even strength and Dysin Mayo had a rough night, finishing with a -1 rating.
Nicolas Roy (Chicoutimi) vs. Nicolas Aube-Kubel (Val-d’Or) – QMJHL
It was a tale of two stories this past weekend when Nicolas Roy, a massive power forward, faced off against a smaller, skilled winger in Nicolas Aube-Kubel. The latter came away with the victory and first-star honors after potting his fourth goal of the season to go along with two assists. Roy did not find the scoresheet for Chicoutimi, but won 12 of 19 faceoffs and finished with an even rating in their 4-1 loss.
John Marino (Tri-City) vs. Tanner Laczynski (Chicago) – USHL
In the USHL, players who have a higher pedigree should stand out, and that’s exactly what happened with John Marino this past weekend. The Edmonton Oilers draft pick put one home on the power play and logged quite a bit of icetime against Chicago, who couldn’t match the Tri-City Storm’s attack in a 2-0 loss. Chicago played without a key cog in their attack, Tanner Laczynski, who missed the game due to injury.
Oscar Dansk (Rogle BK) vs. Jens Looke (Brynas IF) – SHL
Rogle and Brynas locked up in an exciting early-season affair, with Brynas coming out on top, 4-3. Brynas was led by a pair of former AHL veterans in Greg Scott and Anton Rodin, who combined with Philadelphia Flyers prospect Oskar Lindblom to produce points on all four goals. Jens Looke didn’t see much ice time during the game and finished with an even rating. For Rogle, Oscar Dansk’s hot start cooled off a little bit as he turned aside 24 of 28 shots in the loss.
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