Who to watch at the CHL Top Prospects Game
It might be the single biggest one-night event for the 2022 NHL Draft.
And it’s tonight.
The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is set to take place in Kitchener on Wednesday, highlighting the top-40 talents eligible for the 2022 draft in a single-game showcase.
Among them will be consensus top pick Shane Wright, and fellow first-round forward candidates Matthew Savoie, Conor Geekie, and defensemen Kevin Korchinski and Denton Mateychuk.
But there are some under-the-radar players you should keep an eye on, too.
Isaiah George – D – London Knights (OHL)
FCHockey Rank: 84
Isaiah George might be flying under the radar a little bit on a strong London Knights team this season. And it might be because of his offensive numbers. In all, George has 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 55 games for the Knights this season. His game isn’t about offense, though.
The 6-foot-1, 194-pound blueliner excels as a defensive specialist who can clear the front of the net and provide a stable pulse on the back end.
“He’s a defensive defensemen who plays with urgency and tends to be more impactful when in the defensive zone,” FCHockey scout Olivia McArter said. “Offensively, he is very strong and very rarely will he let the puck get past him, keeping the play in front of him. Defensively, he challenges well, battles net-front allowing his goalie to have a better view of the play and creates smart blocks and knows when he should use his body or his stick.”
Jordan Gustafson – C – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
FCHockey Rank: 55
Jordan Gustafson might not get the buzz he deserves playing on the same blue line as Korchinski — a potential top-10 pick — but he’s certainly not going unnoticed. Gustafson’s game — steady, smart, reliable — is certainly something that’s coveted, and a translatable set of skills to the next level. He’s also fleet of foot, finishing fifth in the 30M backwards skate in Top Prospects Game testing.
He’s got some punch to his game, too. Gustafsson has 22 goals to go along with 28 assists for 50 points in 55 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds this season.
“Gustafson is one of the smartest, most consistent, and most reliable prospects in this year’s WHL draft class,” FCHockey head Western scout Derek Neumeier said. “He is quietly effective in all three zones on a shift-over-shift basis, though he can also occasionally make something flashy happen with his quickness and puck skill. He’s also a leader who seems to welcome having responsibility placed on his shoulders.
“While he likely won’t be a star player in the NHL, he still has good odds of making that jump eventually and becoming a steady presence that can be trusted highly by his coaches.”
Mats Lindgren – D – Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
FCHockey Rank: 64
Mats Lindgren has been a quiet favorite for the 2022 draft because of the skills he’s able to deploy at the offensive blue line and his ability to break plays out of his own end. True to that form, he has 40 points (five goals, 35 assists) in 59 games for the Kamloops Blazers this season.
Lindgren finished third in combine testing in the 30M backwards skate with puck.
“Lindgren is a crafty, confident defenseman who does his best work at the offensive blue line,” Neumeier said. “He loves to have the puck on his stick, playing keep-away until he can find a suitable shooting lane or pass opportunity. He is strong on his edges, though he could stand to get quicker and more agile in transition.
“With the right focus in his ongoing development he could eventually become a puck-moving defenseman at the NHL level.”
Matyas Sapovaliv – F – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
FCHockey Rank: 58
Matyas Sapovaliv, a product of Jaromir Jagr’s hometown of Kladno, CZE, took some time in adjusting to North American hockey, but has rounded into an offensive threat in the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound forward has translatable size to make an impact too, with the ability to lean on opponent’s at both ends.
Sapovaliv, picked No. 15 in the CHL Import Draft last summer, has 18 goals and 33 assists for 43 points in 57 games for the Saginaw Spirit this season.
“A big, rangy center in his first OHL season after being taken in the 2021 CHL Import Draft by Saginaw, has the hockey IQ and skill level to remain down the middle as a pro,” FCHockey scout Joseph Aleong said. “He has worked hard to improve his skating stride this season and has shown an impressive two-way game that will be in high demand for a player of his stature come draft day.”
Antonin Verreault – LW – Gatineau Olympiques
FCHockey Rank: 70
Antonin Verreault might be one of the more exciting prospects available in the 2022 draft that is ranked outside of the opening two rounds. He’s an explosive offensive talent in many facets. The issue is the 17-year-old is supremely undersized. At 5-foot-8 and under 170 pounds, there will be concerns.
Still, Verreault — selected No. 2 in the 2020 QMJHL Entry Draft — has 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 38 games played for the Gatineau Olympiques this season.
“Verreault is a crafty, smart and dynamic playmaker who highlighted an incredible peripheral vision, outstanding creativity and high-end offensive ceiling,” FCHockey scout Andy Lehoux said. “He possesses the talent to push for an early round selection, but he will need to show that his potential completely overwhelms the size concerns.”