Team Orr shows its skill

By Ken McKenna

If the second night of the 2010 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Windsor, Ontario is about impressing the nearly 200 scouts in attendance at this event, the first night is mostly about one thing – fun. Fun for the players, fun for the fans attending the event, and even some good-natured ribbing between celebrity coaches Don Cherry and Bobby Orr.

On this night, it was Team Orr that came away victorious in this competition, posting a 23-17 win over Team Cherry. For one night, at least, Orr maintains his bragging rights from last season’s event.

The skills competition this year consisted of five seperate contests, including a new competition added this year, the Showdown Breakaway Contest. Players are hand-picked to take part in each contest, with the team having the winning individual player earning a point and the winning team earning another point for the top overall score in that contest.

The Fastest Skater competition featured the potential top pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and local hero Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires. Hall took the early lead in this contest with a lap of 14.42 seconds, but was eventually bested by one of the top Russian-born prospects in this draft year, the Barrie Colts’ Alexander Burmistrov. Burmistrov won with a time of 14.2 seconds, earning one point for Team Orr. Team Cherry earned a point for having the top average time, getting the evening off to an even start.

Next up was the Hardest Shot contest, where each contestant has the speed of two shots timed with the fastest shot being the winner. Another OHL prospect, defenseman Brock Beukeboom of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and son of former NHL defenseman Jeff Beukeboom, won this contest with a shot clocking in at 92.4 miles per hour. Beukeboom earned one point for Team Cherry, with that team also earning the extra point for the overall team score. Advantage Cherry, 3-1, but it would end up being his only lead of the night.

Team Orr bounced back in the next contest, the Shooting Accuracy test, where each shooter has to take out four targets attached to the net. The WHL boasted the most accurate shooter in this competition, forward Quinton Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors. The competition actually went to an extra session, with the shooters being moved further away from the net in each round. Howden potted the winner from just inside the blueline, earning one point for Team Orr. Team Orr also earned a point for the overall score in the contest, knotting the Skills Competition at 3.

The newly-added Showdown Breakaway Contest came next. Creativity was the name of the game in this competition, with contestants allowed to make any move they desired except picking the puck up and throwing it into the net. A panel of celebrity judges scored the competition based on creativity, originality, degree of difficulty, execution, showmanship, and the actual scoring of a goal.

While many of the shots attempted were not much removed from what you would see in a standard shootout, several of the players dipsy-doodled and did a bit of showboating for the judges and fans. Two players in particular, Andrew Yogan of the OHL‘s Erie Otters and Nino Niederreiter of the WHL‘s Portland Winterhawks, seemed to embrace the creative aspect of this contest, making several deft moves in their respective bids to beat the opposing goaltender. As it turned out, both Yogan and Niederreiter advanced to the second round, along with Jeff Skinner of the Kitchener Rangers and Louis-Marc Aubry of the Montreal Juniors. Skinner earned the point for Team Orr by scoring the only goal of the second round. Team Orr also took the point for the overall score, putting that team up 5-3 heading into the final showdown.

The night ended with some good, old-fashioned pond hockey in the Three-on-Three game. The teams played two 15-minute periods without a clock stoppage. With no hitting in this contest, it was truly a wide-open affair that featured the goaltenders as cannon fodder. Team Orr ourscored Team Cherry, 18-14, to seal the victory. Yogan netted the most goals in this game, putting five past Team Orr’s goaltenders. John McFarland of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves scored three for Team Cherry.

All told, it was an entertaining night for those in attendance at the WFCU Centre. Will the scouts take anything away from this competition? Possibly. But most of their attention will be focused on Wednesday night’s game. Instead, the players and fans were able to kick back and experience something that doesn’t necessarily happen much during the regular season. Fun.