Prospect Impressions returns as Eichel, McDavid shine and Matthews, Veleno tab firsts

By David Hahn
Connor McDavid - Edmonton Oilers

Photo: Edmonton Oilers forward prospect Connor McDavid made his semi-official debut in an Oilers uniform in Edmonton’s first preseason game on Sept. 21, 2015 (courtesy of Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)



In performances you would expect from the first and second overall picks in the 2015 NHL Draft, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel led their respective teams to prospect tournament victories. There were also a pair of firsts, as 2016 hopeful Auston Matthews tallied his first goal in Zurich, Switzerland and Joseph Veleno, the first exceptional player from Quebec, scored his first QMJHL goal. Meanwhile, Calgary’s crease is loaded, but Jon Gillies is making sure he’s not forgotten, and another former prospect goaltender has a little fun with what’s left of his offseason in a remake of a cult-classic film.

Excitement for a top prospect’s arrival is growing in Edmonton as Connor McDavid is already looking like the first overall pick should. McDavid participated in the Young Stars Classic, and enjoyed a quality debut in his first appearances for the Oilers. Ever the creative phenom, McDavid skated behind the net and surprised everyone with a fantastic behind-the-back pass and followed that up with another speedy cross-crease effort later on.

It didn’t take long for Jack Eichel to introduce himself to the Buffalo faithful. The second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft led the Sabres past the Boston Bruins in the finale of the team’s rookie tournament hosted at the First Niagara Center. The NHL’s new three on three overtime should help games come to a conclusion before the shootout, and Jack Eichel proved exactly why with this tremendous overtime winner.

The next prospect in line at the top of everyone’s rankings is Auston Matthews, who is taking the road less traveled to the NHL. Matthews decided to head to Europe to play in the National League A, the top level of hockey in Switzerland. It was a curious choice, but perhaps Matthews could become a trail blazer for young men that feel they need a bigger challenge against older players than collegiate or junior hockey can provide. Matthews had to wait until his 18th birthday before he could officially join the Zurich Lions, and didn’t waste any time in scoring his first goal.

Joseph Veleno, the first player from Quebec to be granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada, scored the first goal of his QMJHL career at just 15 years of age. Veleno joined John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid and Sean Day as the fifth player to receive exceptional status for early entry into major junior hockey.

The Calgary Flames crease sure is crowded this time of year, and with Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, and Joni Ortio all on one-way contracts, prospect goaltender Jon Gillies will have to wait for his chance at the NHL level. Gillies is fresh off an NCAA Championship and Tournament MVP award, and recently showed why he was a star with Providence College. Take a look as Gillies guided the puck wide with a tremenous diving pad save in the Flames 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets prospects.

While Hockey’s Future typically focuses on the future and prospects looking to break into the NHL, it’s nice to take a look back in time and appreciate the history of the game. The movie “Slap Shot” has become a cult classic in most hockey circles, and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins recently paid homage to the film. Watch his impersonation of Denis Lemieux and the movie’s opening segment in a hilarious redux of the original.


Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey