The World Under-17 Hockey Challenge pits two countrymen against each other as the tournament comes to a conclusion this week. There is also a pair of international talents going one-on-one for the first time in their careers in the OHL, while another strong European is leading the way for his squad against one of the most feared forwards in the QMJHL. In the WHL, two of the league’s top defenseman are a big part of their respective team’s success, while a pair of college forwards who once scored in bunches try to re-ignite their games in this week’s Prospect Faceoff.
Joel Teasdale (Canada Red) vs. David Levin (Canada Black) – World Under-17 Hockey Challenge
The top 1999-born players from across the globe have traveled to British Columbia to participate in the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. The tournament represents the first international competition for these young men, and is a great stepping-stone towards their respective countries U18 and U20 junior teams. Canada has three teams competing in the tournament, and two of them line up this week in semi-final action.
Joel Teasdale currently leads Canada Red in scoring with two goals and three assists so far. He has been a key contributor, having scored a crucial power play marker against Russia in the opening game of the tournament. The Beloeil, QC native plays his club hockey with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the QMJHL, where he had four goals and four assists in his first 15 games in the league. The 12th overall pick in the 2015 QMJHL Entry Draft, Teasdale’s stock for the 2017 NHL Draft is rapidly rising, and will continue to do so if he can get Canada Red through this game and on to the finals this weekend.
Canada Black will respond with David Levin, who has just one assist through round-robin play. Overall, the team has had difficulty preventing goals, and has been stuck in their end more than they would like. Despite the deficiencies on the defensive side of the puck, Levin has been dangerous and someone to keep an eye on. As the first overall pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection, a lot has been expected of the young man and he has delivered. Also with four goals and four assists for the Sudbury Wolves, Levin’s interesting background has not overshadowed his hockey prowess.
Alexander Nylander (Mississauga) vs. Pavel Jenys (Sudbury) – OHL
David Levin’s Sudbury Wolves are in action this weekend, where they will have to defend against one of the most electric playmakers in the league, Alexander Nylander. Already drawing rave reviews with his tremendous one-on-one ability, Nylander has been a regular on the OHL’s highlight reel so far this season. His 10 goals and 11 assists have him in the top 10 in OHL scoring, and he is eight points clear of the next highest rookie scorer, Max Jones of the London Knights. With a strong family connection in the Toronto area with his father, Michael, an assistant coach with the Mississauga Steelheads and older brother William making waves in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies, Alexander is certainly worthy of Rookie of the Year consideration already.
Another interesting European competing in the OHL is Pavel Jenys, who was a late addition to the Sudbury Wolves this season after the Minnesota Wild kept him for a long look at training camp. Jenys played in eight AHL games last year, where he picked up three assists after the OHL season came to an early conclusion. Jenys’ addition to the team was a major pickup for a team that desperately needed a veteran presence following a 12-win 2014-15 season. Capable of using his 6’3”, 200-pound frame, Jenys is a competitive two-way center who has four goals and six assists through 16 regular season games so far.
Haydn Fleury (Red Deer) vs. Brycen Martin (Saskatoon) – WHL
If Haydn Fleury has his way, the opponents wouldn’t be able to gain the zone easily on his side of the ice. One of the WHL’s most-feared physical players, Fleury has a career highlight reel full of big hits all over the ice. The Carolina Hurricanes made Fleury the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and are patiently awaiting his arrival in Raleigh as this will certainly be his final season in junior. He has been a consistent performer for the Red Deer Rebels, and should figure into the mix for the Canadian World Junior team next month.
Now in this fourth season in the WHL, Brycen Martin is playing his first full year with the Saskatoon Blades after he was acquired in a mid-season deal from the Swift Current Broncos. Martin is on pace for a career year offensively, and is playing some of the best hockey in recent memory. As a capable two-way defender, Martin has the ability to rush the puck himself and setup a play in the offensive zone, a really nice quality to have for a team that likes to push the pace. The Buffalo Sabres prospect has two goals and nine assists through his first 15 games, and is well on his way to surpass his career-high of 37 points.
Filip Chlapik (Charlottetown) vs. Alexis Pepin (Val-d’Or) – QMJHL
There’s no question that Filip Chlapik is the go-to guy for the Charlottetown Islanders. The team has been struggling to score goals this year, and has relied upon Chlapik in all situations as he has taken on more responsibilities. Emerging as a team leader, the young Praha, Czech Republic native is currently leading the team in scoring with 17 points. With a little over a month until the World Juniors begin, Chlapik hopes to lead Charlottetown to a few more wins before he tries to make his home country’s team.
One of the most feared players in the QMJHL, Alexis Pepin has unleashed devastating hits and has been a big reason why opponents need to keep their head up when he is on the ice. While he is not known as a scorer, Pepin plays an underrated offensive game by protecting the puck and working hard off the cycle. Pepin is susceptible to chasing opponents while trying to hit them, but has taken the direction of the Foreur’s coaching staff and recommendations by the Colorado Avalanche in stride.
Frederik Tiffels (Western Michigan) vs. Sean Kuraly (Miami) – NCAA
Western Michigan University hits the road this weekend and will play a pair of games against Miami University. The weekend tilts feature two players that are having down years by their standards and will need to kick it into high gear.
Frederik Tiffels was one of college hockey’s breakout stars last year, finishing with 11 goals and 10 assists in his freshman season. The Cologne, Germany native hasn’t been able to duplicate his production, and has just two points in the first seven games this season. Tiffels was a late-round selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins and is a physical, two-way forward who needs to show some more flash with the puck on his stick in order to turn around his season.
Another player struggling in the early going is Miami University’s Sean Kuraly, who is a proven scorer that has been snake-bitten in the first month of the season. Kuraly, who has 37 goals in his college career, has yet to score this year and has just one assist so far. He plays a heavy game and certainly impacts it on both ends of the ice, but much more is expected of the newly-minted captain. While the offense hasn’t clicked yet, the Boston Bruins prospect gets plenty of ice time and will have a great chance to get on the board against a run-and-gun Western Michigan squad.
Prospect Faceoffs from 10/30-31
Jack Dougherty (Portland) vs. Noah Juulsen (Everett) – WHL
As expected, this weekend’s game between the Portland Winterhawks and Everett Silvertips was a defensive battle. Featuring two of the WHL’s premier defenders, Portland improbably came out ahead with a 2-1 win, despite being outshot by a nearly three-to-one margin. Everett launched 38 shots on Portland’s Adin Hill, who stood tall earning first-star honors ahead of Paul Bittner, who scored his fourth goal of the year and Caleb Jones, who added two assists. Jack Dougherty and Noah Juulsen left an imprint on the game with their defensive prowess, but both players finished with all zeros in major statistical categories.
Michael McNiven (Owen Sound) vs. Vili Saarijarvi (Flint) – OHL
In a similar defensive battle, Michael McNiven again took control of the Owen Sound Attack’s net and put up a phenomenal performance. The Montreal Canadiens prospect stopped 32 of 33 shots, earning first-star honors en route to improving his record to 8-5-1-1 on the season. Owen Sound’s offense was led by Jaden Lindo, who added a goal and an assist in the win. Flint’s Cullen Mercer answered by scoring his third goal of the season, and Alex Nedlejkovic stopped 24 of 26 shots, dropping to 2-3-0-0 since returning from the Carolina Hurricanes training camp. Vili Saarijarvi was held off the scoresheet, a rare occurrence for one of the OHL’s top-scoring defensemen.
Martins Dzierkals (Rouyn-Noranda) vs. Joseph Veleno (Saint John) – QMJHL
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are running away with the league at the top of the standings. The team has scored a staggering 89 goals through their first 19 games, and picked up another win over Saint John this weekend by a final score of 5-2. Team captain Francis Perron had four assists, including one special power play marker scored late by Martins Dzierkals. Saint John had a difficult time getting quality scoring chances, but Jakob Zboril finally broke a scoreless streak with his first goal of the year. Joseph Veleno missed the game as he was attending the World U17 Hockey Challenge.
Quentin Shore (Denver) vs. Ian McCoshen (Boston College) – NCAA
Despite losing top prospect Jeremy Bracco to the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, Boston College proved they have plenty of depth remaining, narrowly sneaking away with a 4-3 victory on a late Matt Gaudreau goal. Austin Cangelosi and Miles Wood each had one goal and one assist to pace the Eagles, and Ian McCoshen added an assist on the power play. Denver University’s Danton Heinen scored twice and added an assist, and Dylan Gambrell has three assists to lead the Pioneers. Quentin Shore had a slow night, finishing without a point and a -1 rating.
Daniel Vladar (Chicago) vs. Kieffer Bellows (USNTDP) – USHL
Outshot by a total of 39-31, Daniel Vladar did everything he could to earn a point in the standings for the Chicago Steel. In regulation, Graham McPhee and Zach Walker had the goals for Team USA, and Karch Bachman and Grant Gabriele responded for Chicago. Vladar stopped 37 of 39 shots, helping to take the game into overtime. Kieffer Bellows was held without a point in regulation, but scored in the shootout to give Team USA the 3-2 victory.
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