Prospect Impressions: Mistele, Marner beckon the bears, Sparks makes history, QMJHL goals from Fontaine, Garland, and Veleno

By David Hahn
Garret Sparks - Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo: Toronto Maple Leafs rookie goaltender Garret Sparks has had an eventful year, spending time in the ECHL and AHL before getting his first NHL win and shutout in his first NHL start last week (courtesy of Peter Llewellyn/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

Prospect Impressions is packed full of highlight-reel plays this week. Matt Mistele and Mitch Marner sent teddy bears flying with their goals, while Garret Sparks made history in his first NHL start. Three goals from the QMJHL highlight a great weekend of play in La belle province, plus goals from unexpected sources in minor hockey and Europe, including one perpetrator caught in the act of embellishment.

With one month to go until the 2016 OHL trade deadline, the Sarnia Sting jumped into the fracas by acquiring Matt Mistele from the Oshawa Generals. One year removed from helping the Generals win both the OHL Championship and the CHL Memorial Cup, Mistele will add a veteran presence to the Sarnia lineup. Mistele has scored at a nearly point-per-game pace throughout his career, and has developed a reputation as a hard-working, trustworthy forward. In his first game at his new home in Sarnia, watch as Mistele “makes it rain” teddy bears.

Mitch Marner, the newly-minted OHL Player of the Week, joins Mistele on a short list of players who have queued teddy bears. Marner, who has been on a torrid scoring pace as of late, recently potted his 22nd goal of the season, tying him for the overall OHL scoring lead with linemate Christian Dvorak. With 37 points in his last 12 games, Marner is on pace to reclaim the scoring title from Dylan Strome, one of his best friends since childhood.

Former Guelph Storm goaltender Garret Sparks recently arrived in the NHL and made history in the process. The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t recorded a shutout since Jonathan Bernier shutout the Dallas Stars on December 23rd, 2014. Interestingly enough, an injury to Bernier opened the door for Sparks to get the call. In the AHL, Sparks has the second-highest save percentage in the league and was drawing rave reviews, pushing the envelope for a recall. Sparks stopped all 24 shots in his debut against the Edmonton Oilers, becoming the first Maple Leafs goaltender to record a shutout in his debut in the history of the franchise. Take a look at two of his highlight-reel saves from his first week in the league.

The QMJHL is usually good for a highlight-reel goal or two each week, and in this case we get three. Gabriel Fontaine kicks things off with a fantastic individual effort in Rouyn-Noranda’s 5-2 win over Halifax. Conor Garland was recently left off the preliminary USA World Junior roster, surely a disappointing setback for a highly talented young man. Despite that, Garland will have an opportunity to continue his assault on the QMJHL’s scoring title. In Saint John, Joseph Veleno, the first Quebec player to be granted Hockey Canada’s exceptional status, is starting to heat up and made a sweet behind-the-back pass this weekend.


Ben Hughes was a fourth round pick of the Niagara IceDogs in 2012, and spent 92 games with the team over two seasons. During that span of time, Hughes contributed only 12 points, and certainly wasn’t known for his offense. Now plying his trade in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, Hughes offense has come around and he is now among the most reliable scorers for the Ancaster Avalanche, where Hughes has been capable of scoring ridiculous goals like this one.

Europe has produced some interesting hightlights so far, and this week we add one of the most creative passes of the year. Longtime KHL veteran Alexander Rybakov has been a veteran presence for Traktor Chelyabinsk this season, and this pass fooled everyone in the stadium and setup a goal in creative fashion.

Just ask Sidney Crosby, Nazem Kadri, or Erik Karlsson about it, and they will tell you the key to drawing penalties is keeping your feet moving and fighting through obstruction. Perhaps this SHL skater should take notes on how to correctly draw a penalty, because we are pretty sure this isn’t how to go about it!

 

Last week’s Prospect Impressions feature

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey