Can anyone beat Vancouver Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko? Mackenzie MacEachern and the Michigan State Spartans are going to try to break Demko’s second long shutout streak of the season. The CHL Canada Russia Series continues this week, as Ottawa 67’s captain Travis Konecny is hoping to stay hot. Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Cody Donaghey will try to slow down Conor Garland’s assault on the scoresheet, while Brendan Guhle will attempt to do the same against Jayce Hawryluk. In the SHL, two of the league’s youngest players go head-to-head in a matchup of a late-round pick versus a 2016 draft-eligible.
Mackenzie MacEachern (Michigan State) vs. Thatcher Demko (Boston College) – NCAA
In this week’s feature faceoff, Mackenzie MacEachern leads 4-3-1 Michigan State into a tough matchup against No. 2-ranked Boston College , who are riding a seven-game winning streak.
Mackenzie MacEachern is the straw that stirs the drink for the Spartans, and when he is at his best the team has picked up pivotal victories over Lake Superior State and New Hampshire over the last two weeks. MacEachern, a third round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2012, has flanked team captain Michael Ferrantino and Mason Appleton (WPG) on the team’s first line, with the trio combining for 23 points in their first eight games together. MacEachern, in particular, has been especially good of late, using his vision and creativity with the puck to create one goal and three assists in last weekend’s sweep over New Hampshire. With a much more difficult opponent on the docket, it will be interesting to see if MacEachern can break through in a big game.
Thatcher Demko is putting up historically impressive numbers and is ready to claim the title of top goaltender in college hockey. The Vancouver Canucks prospect is putting up “video game” numbers thus far, as the junior goaltender is currently sporting a 0.67 goals-against average and a .974 save percentage. It is almost unfair at this point, as Demko has yet to hit the bench, having played every available minute. Most impressive is his six shutouts this season, including two separate three-game shutout streaks. His current streak of 183:25 minutes is intact, which included 60 total saves in back-to-back wins over Maine, resulting in his second-straight Warrior Player of the Week honors. It is unprecedented territory, as Demko is one of two goaltenders in NCAA history to log six shutouts in seven games, only two behind Cory Schneider’s record of eight in one season with plenty of hockey remaining.
Travis Konecny (Team OHL) vs. Damir Sharipzyanov (Russia) – CHL Canada Russia Series
The Ottawa 67’s captain made a good case as to why the Philadelphia Flyers should keep him, but ultimately Travis Konecny lost out in the numbers game and was returned to Ottawa. Playing with a chip on his shoulder, Konecny is a dynamic, do-it-all forward for the 67’s. He has been difficult to play against, as Konecny’s blazing speed and high-end skills with the puck have created a number of opportunities for his linemates. He currently sits sixth in OHL scoring with five goals and 21 assists, but will take a break from league action to join Team OHL in the CHL Canada Russia Series. Konecny has excelled on the international stage, having already represented Canada at the U18 World Championship, and will hope to again earn the attention of Hockey Canada as he tries to earn a spot on Canada’s U20 squad.
After sitting out the first month of the season due to a wrist injury, Damir Sharipzyanov returned to the Owen Sound Attack lineup and is heating up. Known as a physical, shutdown defender, the Los Angeles Kings prospect has steadily improved with the puck on his stick in each consecutive season. He makes solid decisions with the puck on the breakout, and even scored a highlight-reel goal this past weekend to certify his return to the lineup. Through eight games in the OHL this season, Sharipzyanov has one goal and three assists, including a +3 rating. The Nizhnekamsk, Russia native will suit up for his home country in the Canada-Russia series this week, as he too tries to garner national attention.
Cody Donaghey (Halifax) vs. Conor Garland (Moncton) – QMJHL
After suffering a pair of minor injuries in October, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Cody Donaghey needed a little taste of his past in order to kick start his season. Now with his third team in three years, Donaghey recently scored the overtime, game-winning goal over the Quebec Remparts, one of the teams that formerly employed his services. It was a feel-good moment for Donaghey, and the goal marked his first of the year and perhaps a look at things to come. Capable of putting up points and playing a solid brand of defense, Donaghey must take a step forward for the Halifax Mooseheads if they wish to return to the playoffs.
With 129 points last season, it would be a surprise if Conor Garland could do anything close to that in what most expect to be his final season in junior hockey. Garland, a fifth round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in the 2015 NHL Draft, was selected in his second year of draft eligibility. It was a tremendous vote of confidence for the diminutive winger, who is off to another ridiculous start this season. With 11 goals and 25 assists in his first 16 games played, Garland just might be able to win his second consecutive scoring title . If he continues his torrid scoring pace, the Scituate, MA native could find himself as a member of the United States’ U20 team as the holiday tournament approaches.
Brendan Guhle (Prince Albert) vs. Jayce Hawryluk (Brandon) – WHL
Quietly going about his business in Prince Albert, Brendan Guhle has been an underrated piece of the Raiders puzzle. Guhle, a second round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 NHL Draft, is now in his third season in the WHL and has taken on additional responsibilities. The extra ice time has Guhle on a pace to surpass his career high point total of 32, while maintaining his respectable work in the defensive zone. Currently sitting with a +5 rating, Guhle has looked more poised with the puck, and his decision-making has greatly improved. He rejoins the team this weekend after participating in the CHL Canada Russia Series for Team WHL.
Guhle will have his hands full with Brandon Wheat Kings forward Jayce Hawryluk, who was a temporary teammate on Team WHL. Hawryluk is having a good season in his own right, and appears to have added an extra step to his game this season. His offensive production is on pace to surpass back-to-back 60-point campaigns, which would be a step in the right direction for his development as a draft pick of the Florida Panthers. One of the most tenacious forecheckers in the league, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top this weekend.
Axel Holmstrom (Skelleftea) vs. Rasmus Asplund (Farjestad) – SHL
Forgive us if you’ve heard this song and dance before, but the Detroit Red Wings might have found another late-round gem in Alex Holmstrom. Taken 196th overall in 2014, Holmstrom is among Skelleftea’s leading playmakers with eight assists in 16 games. He doesn’t have a goal yet, which isn’t all that unusual for young forwards in the SHL, but he has enough talent to compete and not look out of place. He notched 10 goals and 10 assists last season, and was named as the Swedish Junior Player of the Year. His pursuit to eclipse those totals and accolades is well underway, as Holmstrom is among the best young forwards in the SHL.
One of the youngest players in the SHL is also one of the top Swedish players available for the 2016 NHL Draft. Rasmus Asplund is now in his second year in the SHL, surprisingly earning regular ice time while still just 17 years of age. He has been an energetic and talented part of Sweden’s U18 team, as he captained that squad just one year following his J18 Allsvenskan Best Forward award. He has earned regular playing time alongside Minnesota Wild prospect Joel Eriksson Ek, as the young duo is earning their stripes in SHL competition.
Joel Teasdale (Canada Red) vs. David Levin (Canada Black) – World U17 Hockey Challenge
With three teams in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, two of Canada’s premier 16-year-old squads lined up last week in a quarterfinal matchup. Joel Teasdale picked up an unassisted goal, drawing the game all square after Arnand Durandeau opened the scoring for Canada Black. With the game tied at two late in the third period, Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Josh Brook blasted a point shot home to send Canada Red to the semi-finals. Teasdale’s goal was his only point during the game, and David Levin was unable to respond for Canada Black. In the semi-finals, Canada Red lost to Russia, who advanced to the championship game, where Canada White won gold by overcoming an early 2-1 deficit on the back of a hat trick from the Mississauga Steelheads’ Owen Tippett in a 6-2 final.
Alexander Nylander (Mississauga) vs. Pavel Jenys (Sudbury) – OHL
In what ended up being a chippy Eastern Conference game, the Mississauga Steelheads were too much for the Sudbury Wolves to handle, handing them a 5-1 loss in convincing fashion. Damian Bourne and Thomas Lattavo each scored two goals, and Michael McLeod finished off a fifth on an assist by Alexander Nylander. For the young Swede, that was his only point during the game, as he finished with a +1 rating and four shots on net. Pavel Jenys was outmatched, taking four shots but ultimately being held off the scoresheet aside from a -1 rating.
Haydn Fleury (Red Deer) vs. Brycen Martin (Saskatoon) – WHL
Two of the WHL’s premier defenders led their teams into weekend action, with Brycen Martin and the Saskatoon Blades defending home ice successfully in a 4-2 win over the Red Deer Rebels. Martin picked up a pair of assists and finished with a +1 rating as the fourth-year defender got the better of the head-to-head matchup. Eight players picked up a point for the Blades, and Brock Hamm stopped 33 of 35 shots to pick up his fifth win of the season. Haydn Fleury had a tough evening, failing to register a point and finishing with a -2 rating.
Filip Chlapik (Charlottetown) vs. Alexis Pepin (Val-d’Or) – QMJHL
Charlottetown Islanders goaltender Mason McDonald yielded six goals before being pulled, then backup Guillaume Briand-Briere gave up two more in the Islanders’ worst loss of the season, a disappointing 8-1 affair. Anthony Beauregard, Julien Gauthier, and Anthony Richard each registered four-point nights, but Val-d’Or’s Alexis Pepin was not part of the onslaught as the hulking winger did not pick up a point. Oliver Cooper scored the lone Islanders goal, and Filip Chlapik was a season-worst -4 in a game he and his teammates certainly would like to forget.
Frederik Tiffels (Western Michigan) vs. Sean Kuraly (Miami) – NCAA
Western Michigan’s visit to Ohio was not a friendly one for them, as the Miami Redhawks defended home ice successfully with a pair of 2-1 victories. Sean Kuraly is still searching for his first goal of the year, but did pick up a pair of assists in the second game. Ryan McKay started both games for Miami, improving his record to 5-2-1 with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .937 save-percentage. Frederik Tiffels did not pick up a point in either game, extending his cold streak.