If there is one player among the 40 in Calgary this week for the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game who can relate to the wintery first day of festivities here, it’s probably Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels. Fleury, who will celebrate his 18th birthday in July, is a prairie boy from Carlyle, Saskatchewan.
With 40 of the top junior players from the Canadian Hockey League arriving in this bustling National Hockey League city in wintery western Canada, there is a very solid chance this annual all-star game of sorts will capture plenty of attention from Calgary and area sports fans when Team Cherry faces off against Team Orr in the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday night.
In 1988, shockwaves were sent throughout Canada and California when Canadian icon and arguably the greatest hockey player to ever play the game, Wayne Gretzky, was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. But the after-effects of that trade created a hockey boom in the Golden State and its legacy is still felt more than 25 years later. 29 NHL players have called California home, and an even greater number fill out the ranks of the top North American junior leagues and NCAA collegiate teams.
Forward Anthony Mantha (DET) is the Hockey's Future Prospect of the Month for December. An offensively prolific player since the start of the 2013-14 season, Mantha took his game to another level in December, with 14 points in five QMJHL games and 10 points through the preliminary round of the 2014 World Junior Championship.
Imagine spending two full seasons battling for ice time on a veteran-laden junior hockey team, one that was built to produce high-octane scoring in pursuit of a Western Hockey League championship. And then, when the elite performers finally move on, graduating to professional or Canadian University hockey, your time as a veteran leader emerges as the team is entrenched in rebuilding mode.