The 2005 CHL Top Prospects Game was promoted throughout the hockey world as a battle between Sidney Crosby and Gilbert Brule. Unfortunately, a number of factors derailed this match-up, including Crosby skipping the showcase due to an injury and Brule dropping down to #6 in the NHL Central Scouting Mid-Season Rankings.
While Brule couldn’t control those factors, he could control his performance during the two days, which was fantastic.
“We have maintained all year that Brule was the 2nd best forward prospect in the world and his performance here solidified that opinion”, said Mark Seidel, Chief Scout for ISS. “The ability to rise up and perform the way he did shows that he not only has the physical tools to be a star but he also has the character to excel under this pressure to become a superstar in the NHL”.
Although Brule was unquestionably the star of the game with 3 goals and 1 assist, there were other players that impressed during their visit to the West Coast:
Radek Smolenak, Kingston (OHL) (ISS ranking: 37; CSB ranking: 42): Smolenak was a late addition to the roster, but he displayed great offensive awareness and was instrumental throughout the game. Although questions abound about his foot speed, his offensive abilities were very prevalent.
Alex Bourret, Lewiston (QMJHL) (ISS ranking: 14; CSB ranking:19): Bourret was a physical force with a questionable hit on Bobby Ryan and a heavy check on Marc Staal. Although he isn’t tall, his stocky frame and overall skill set impressed the onlookers.
Devin Setoguchi, Saskatoon (WHL) (ISS ranking: 25; CSB ranking: 12) Setoguchi played well all over the ice and demonstrated his physical presence while creating offense on the forecheck.
Chris Lawrence, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) (ISS ranking: 27; CSB ranking: 26): Lawrence played very well with Brule and demonstrated to the scouts the overall skill set that could make him a first rounder.
Ryan O’Marra, Erie (OHL) (ISS ranking: 7; CSB ranking: 17): O’ Marra was very impressive in the skills testing and showed great hands and the ability to beat guys one-on-one throughout the game. He still needs to use his big body better but he had a good performance.
Kenndal McArdle, Moose Jaw (WHL) (ISS ranking: 78; CSB ranking: 8): McArdle turned in a performance that earned him the MVP Award for Team Davidson. He capitalized on a couple of scoring chances and did a lot of subtle things all over the ice. His physical play was very good and although the Davidson squad was shorthanded due to Crosby’s injury and Bobby Ryan being forced to leave, McArdle did his best to keep the game competitive.
Although the NHL types won’t put a season’s evaluation into one game, there were a few players who didn’t help their cause with sub-par performances:
Devereaux Heshmatpour, Oshawa (OHL) (ISS ranking: 83; CSB ranking 49): Heshmatpour has great size and strength but being beaten cleanly in the 150’ sprint by a goaltender and then barely beating other goaltenders in the lap times increased the concerns over his foot speed.
Luc Bourdon, Val D’Or (QMJHL) (ISS ranking: 12; CSB ranking: 4): Bourdon displayed a tremendous assortment of talents during the Skills portion of the event, but during the game he was directly responsible for a couple goals and made questionable defensive decisions all night.
Alexandre Vincent, Chicoutimi (QMJHL) (ISS ranking: 3rd among goalies; CSB ranking: 2): Vincent’s best performance was during the 3-on-3 exhibition but he really displayed a lack of mobility and agility during both the Skills as well as the game. His size allowed him to cover a lot of the net but his side to side coverage and his ability to challenge didn’t show well during the week.
Overall, it was another outstanding opportunity for the scouts and teams to look at the 40 marquee prospects. But at the end of the day, Gilbert Brule showed everybody why he was the featured attraction.