Prospect Impressions: Top 20 highlights begin featuring Konecny, Marner, and more

By David Hahn
Mitch Marner - London Knights - 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup

Photo: London Knights forward and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner is currently the leading scorer at the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup Tournament, posting 13 points in just three games (courtesy of Rob Wallator/CHL Images)

 

 

Throughout this season, Prospect Impressions has been the home to a number of fantastic plays made by some of the brightest young hockey stars in the world. With last week’s special goaltending issue, we saw some of the best saves of the year. Now, it’s the skaters turn to strut their stuff.

In this first edition of a four-part series, we count down the Top 20 highlights of the season. Who do you think will end up number one?

Honorable Mention: John Scott

The fans wanted him in, the players wanted him in, but NHL executives fought it all the way until the end. Eventually, fan favorite John Scott set foot on the Bridgestone Arena ice for the 2016 NHL All-Star Weekend and made a lasting impression on everyone. Known for his pugilist tendencies, Scott earned an invitation from fan voting. Despite the NHL’s attempt to keep him out through an AHL assignment and subsequent trade between Arizona and Montreal, Scott was embraced by his peers and attended the event anyway.

The story took an interesting turn when Scott took advantage of the new three-on-three format and snuck down the ice for a breakaway opportunity. He wasted no time putting it home, and eventually won the All-Star Game MVP Award. As a reward for winning MVP, he recently picked up a brand new minivan, which will certainly come in handy for his new twin girls!

20. John Gruden

Rochester, MI native John Gruden played last season in the storied Honeybaked U16 program that has churned out a number of alumni, most notably Ryan Kesler, Tim Gleason, and David Booth. Gruden scored 16 times this season, and this one was definitely his best.

Gruden will head to the U.S. NTDP junior program next season. His future has yet to be decided, as he has a verbal commitment to play for Miami University in Ohio. That said, Gruden was recently selected by the perennial powerhouse London Knights program in the OHL. Regardless of where he ends up, we could be seeing him in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft.

19. Sam Bennett

We’re only scratching the surface of what Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett can do. The former Kingston Frontenacs forward was a prolific scorer in the OHL, and put together a very respectable season in his first full campaign in the NHL. Bennett scored 18 goals this year, with a remarkable four of them coming in one game against the Florida Panthers.

Bennett etched a place in the history books for himself, becoming the first Flames player since Jarome Iginla to score four times in one game in a Flames jersey. He also was the youngest to achieve that feat. Not only were the four goals impressive, his fourth was a fine effort that finds it’s way onto our Top-20 list.

18. Colton Parayko

The St. Louis Blues struck gold when they selected 6’5″, 215-pound defenseman Colton Parayko from the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the AJHL. His speed, shot, and playmaking are off the charts for a player of his size, and in this game against the Calgary Flames, the Alberta native produced something special to remember for a while to come.

It is not often that a player his size dangles around the opposition, but add in the element of passing to yourself, and then roofing a complicated backhand, and you have a recipe for a top play.

17. Travis Konecny

Philadelphia Flyers prospect Travis Konecny experienced the first trade of his career when he was part of a major deadline deal between the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and Sarnia Sting. Joining his new club in Sarnia, Konecny’s first weekend in with that club couldn’t have been any better.

Coming off a hat trick in his first game with the organization, Konecny followed that up by scoring an elite-level shootout goal to secure the win for the Sting. He finished the regular season with 23 goals and 33 assists with Sarnia alone, good for 101 points. Konecny almost made the Flyers out of training camp last year, and if he continues to display skills like this, he will have a good shot next season.

16. Mitch Marner

The Toronto Maple Leafs picked a good one when they selected Mitch Marner fourth overall last summer. Since then, all Marner has done has amassed 300 points in the regular season and playoffs combined, guided the London Knights to an OHL Championship, and won the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player. The accolades could continue to roll in if the Knights can win the Memorial Cup, too.

At this point in Marner’s career, there is not much left to prove in junior hockey. Adding to his own personal highlight reel, Marner carved up the Niagara IceDogs defense with a filthy kick deke and then finished it off with a creative dance around the goaltender.

Stay tuned for the next set of highlights next week, right here at Prospect Impressions!

1 – 5 | 6 – 10 | 11 – 15 | 16 – 20 | Saves

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey