January 24, 2024

What we learned at the 2024 CHL Top Prospects Game

The 2024 Top Prospects Game offered a glimpse at what the 2024 NHL Draft has to offer from those chasing their dream in the Canadian Hockey League.

And, while 40 took part in the annual showcase, a few managed to stand out amongst the rest.

Granted, the Top Prospects Game is a one-off showcase and does not fix, nor undo, half a season’s worth of sample size for the scouting community. But that also doesn’t take away from the fact that, for 60 minutes, the spotlight shined brightest on a select few who embraced the challenge.

Here’s what we learned at the 2024 CHL Top Prospects Game:

The stage wasn’t too big for Boilard

Raoul Boilard, who is among the most productive draft-eligible players in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, put himself at the forefront of the conversation of who impressed at the Top Prospects Game, scoring twice and adding an assist en route to being named player of the game for Team Red. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound center netted the game-winner when he poked a loose puck over the goal line six minutes into the third period, and iced the win with an empty-netter.

The production should be no surprise. Boilard has 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) in 45 games for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, and iced a game that scouts on the QMJHL circuit have seen with regularity. He’s tracking to be plucked within the second round of the 2024 draft.

“Boilard was very impressive,” Quebec-based FCHockey scout Joey Fortin Boulay said. “He really stood out with his play with the puck and his quick processing. He made effective plays every time he was controlling the puck, activating from the wall and going to the middle. I already knew it was his bread and butter, but he executed it even better against tougher competition and at one of the most important stage for his draft stock”

Iginla is ready for the National spotlight

Boilard put up the points, but Tij Iginla might’ve turned in the performance of the night. The Kelowna Rockets standout was buzzing all game long and, although he came away pointless and logged a minus-1 rating, Iginla was a threat to create scoring chances on almost every single shift. His work through the neutral zone and ability to deceive the opposition in the offensive zone was broadcast Nationwide.

Those who knew the name and saw the stat line — 55 points (31 goals, 24 assists) in 40 games with the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League — learned that Iginla is more than just the son of a Hockey Hall of Fame forward.

“Iginla was one of the more dangerous forwards in this game, always seemingly finding a way to put his mark on the game with a variety of tools but, most importantly, a strong hockey IQ,” FCHockey scout Aaron Vickers said. “He was able to dictate and control the pace of the game with the puck on his stick and recognized what was available to him and what he needed to do to further facilitate the play. The stage certainly wasn’t too big for a player rising up the ranks, and perhaps carrying some additional pressure from what’s printed on the name-bar.”

Yakemchuk is a top-tier defenseman in this draft class

Carter Yakemchuk of the Calgary Hitmen has been an intriguing prospect to discuss given the package wrapped around his 6-foot-3, 201-pound frame. The mobile, active defenseman had a modest stat line — three shots, with one of the dangerous variety, and a minus-1 rating — but Yakemchuk led several charges deep into the Team Red zone, flashing some soft hands that compliment the other facets of his game that have already solidified him as a projected first-round pick in 2024.

What Yakemchuk showed that didn’t show up in the boxscore, though, is that the sky is the limit on both his potential and potential draft standing to the point where it’s not out of the question to question whether or not he should be considered in the group of blueliners that sit in high standing in 2024. Yakemchuk, who has 42 points (18 goals, 24 assists) in 40 games in the WHL, is a true play-driver from the back end is knocking on the door to join the likes of Zayne Parekh, Sam Dickinson, Artyom Levshunov, and Anton Silayev in that top tier.

“Yakemchuk put everyone on notice how impactful his skating can be,” FCHockey scout Shaun Richardson said. “He attacked off the offensive blue line, he had great footwork in the defensive zone, and a nice combination of being tough to play against in open ice or along the wall.”

Matecha is going to climb amongst the goalie ranks

Lukas Matecha isn’t going to be the first goalie off the board when the 2024 draft rolls around, but that doesn’t mean his stock can’t rise. Matecha, who was passed over in 2023 after spending the season with HC Dynamo Pardubice in Czechia’s U20 circuit, has been steadily garnering attention and rising up the charts this season with his 2.93 goals-against average and .912 save percentage with the Tri-City Americans in the WHL.

His body of work at the Top Prospects Game certainly won’t hurt. Matecha was the only tender of the four to be perfect in his 30ish minutes of work, kicking out all 19 shots faced from Team White — with many being of the highlight-reel variety. His performance re-enforced why NHL teams were eager to see him in the exhibition.

“I thought Matecha really showed that he can take away the bottom of the net and battle through screens and traffic,” Richardson said. “He was calm in the crease, challenged shooters, directed pucks away from dangerous areas, and still had the hand speed to make quick reactionary saves when needed. It’s Matecha’s athleticism that makes me feel he has the potential to rise through the ranks of the 2024 draft class. With each viewing, he shows more of his athletic ability and I think we could be just scratching the surface of where his game could go.”

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