By: Tyler Ballesteros-Willard

The CHL Top Prospects Event in Moncton was well represented by highly skilled draft eligible players that have truly risen to the occasion this season and did not disappoint in the game itself as well as the on-ice testing. The game was closely competitive, only a 3-1 score in which an empty net goal was scored.

In this article, we will be reviewing players from this event from all leagues and positions. From the QMJHL, Maxim Massé and Raoul Boilard have truly risen to the occasion physically and mentally. From the OHL, rising stars Liam Greentree, Beckett Sennecke, Sam Dickinson, Zayne Parekh, as well as Henry Mews have truly displayed their reasons why they deserve top be 1st round draft picks. From the WHL, the formidable faces Tij Iginla, Berkly Catton, Charlie Elick, and many more from the CHL will be highlighted due to their impressive display.

Starting from the QMJHL, we have Chicoutimi star forward Maxim Massé. The goal scoring power-forward is on pace to have a 30-goal season while having a physical net-front presence. When it came to the on-ice testing, even though he may have not had the most outstanding performance, he truly displayed his acceleration in the 30M Forward Skate by earning himself 3rd place with a time of 4.063 seconds. This test truly correlated to him having excellent long strides which created maximum acceleration. When it came to his performance for Team Red, he truly showed why he truly can be havoc in front of the net for Team White’s Carter George and Dawson Cowan. Even though he did not score, he truly showcased his lethal and heavy shot as he made the goaltenders make very difficult saves. What he will need to work on is his stickwork as he did take a tripping penalty in which that has been a major theme of his season. Even though there are some inconsistencies in his defensive game, NHL teams should not look away to what he brings offensively and physically.

When it comes to major risers from the QMJHL draft class, Raoul Boilard of Drakkar truly showcased an unforgettable performance in the Top Prospects Game and testing. Boilard had a point on all 3 goals for Team Red in which he scored a crucial game winning goal by crashing the net, as well as an empty net goal. His play truly showcased why he is seen to have high offensive IQ as he can cause havoc for any player in any situation. Even though he is not a big player, he is for sure one of the fistier players on the ice as he truly shows a desire to win as it was seen on one of his goals against Spokane Chiefs goaltender Dawson Cowan. What he will need to work on is to build more muscle so he can be more stable on his feet, which will help him improve his agility in the future.

Speaking of chaos, this translates to one of the goaltenders who faces it on a daily basis in the OHL. That is Owen Sound Attack goaltender Carter George. When it comes to really keeping his composure in chaotic moments, George shows great poise as he does not scramble all over the place, which for a goaltender is a very positive attribute. During his play, he stopped 10 of the 11 shots he faced in which the goal he gave up, was a very difficult one-timer from Ben Danford of Team Red. He displayed great flexibility and most importantly, he displayed great focus which he was not very distracted, even when there was a lot of traffic in front of him. When it comes to showing improvement, an aspect could be that he could improve his foot speed at getting to post to post in order to become stronger at stopping the very difficult cross crease shots.

One of the true bright spots of Team White from the OHL is Windsor Spitfires captain Liam Greentree. When it comes to having size and special puck skills, Liam truly showcased it throughout the season, as well as showcasing it in the Top Prospects Game. When it came to the reaction tests by selecting lanes in milliseconds, Liam earned himself 4th place which is very impressive. This shows that he has excellent decision making and instant reaction time which truly shows in his timing at making big plays. When it comes to unique playstyles, for a bigger player, Greentree is one of the silkier and more creative players with the puck which makes it very challenging for the opponent due to his reach and active mind. Not to mention, Greentree was the one who scored for Team White due to his excellent release. If it was not for Liam Greentree, “Ordinary Day” would not have played during the prospects event. When it comes to signs of weakness, the main aspect that Liam will have to work on will be his agility and lateral movement in his skating. Yes, he is a bigger guy which is normal for a player like him to be slower at, but it is something that he can work on throughout the season to be even more effective.

Heading into one of the shining stars from the Western Hockey League is Team White MVP Tij Iginla. Unlike his father Jarome, Tij truly showcased his incredible skating ability. Even though may not have displayed it in the on-ice testing, Tij truly displayed it during practice which his smooth and fast transitioning abilities as well as his excellent speed while turning and doing his crossovers. Even though he may not have gotten a point in a very tightly defensive game, he absolutely generated quite the offense due to his excellent wrist shot from the top of the hashmarks. What makes him so dangerous as well as that with the combination of his amazing shot as well as his relatively fast hands, he truly displays his offensive awareness as he not only understands where the puck is going to be, but he understands how to make himself open quite often in spots where defenders aren’t keeping a close eye on. A weakness that could be worked on could be that he would need to gain some strength in order to enter the physicality level of his player type, as well as becoming a bit more active in the defensive end which he can play a bit too low, leaving the goaltender wide open.

Speaking of tightly defensive game, Sam Dickinson truly was the superstar defenseman of Team Red all around as the most important aspects needed from a defenseman, he displayed it consistently. A player at 6 foot 3, 200 pounds at 17 years old, he is considered to be one of the better skaters in this draft class at his size. When it came to the on-ice testing, Sam came 2nd overall out of the 36 players who have completed the testing which truly displays his incredible skating ability in both directions. When it came to his game performance, he truly displayed his great passing ability as he connected many long stretch passes. When it came to gap control, he was probably the best defenseman in the whole game when it came to stopping the opposing rushes. His underrated shot was truly displayed as well as when he seemed like he was just feathering them for deflections, they had a lot of power to them. At the end of the day, what you gain in Sam Dickinson is a mega package who is truly versatile in all situations. The minor concern in which he will need to work on is getting rid of the puck quicker as he may hold the puck for a tad too long which causes turnovers.

Following up on the loaded defensive prospects on Team Red is Oshawa Generals’ blueline Ben Danford. When it came to sparking secondary offense, he absolutely lighted the lamp with his heavy one-timer that beat Carter George. When it came to the on-ice testing, he displayed great acceleration with and without the puck due to his excellent long strides. Even though many beat him in the agility category, he still displayed great transitioning and momentum. When it comes to demonstrating a complete 200ft game, Ben showed exactly how he can turn defense into offense as he displayed great stickwork and gap control. When Team White created their fast rushes, Ben did an excellent job at turning those rushes into pretzels. On the offensive side, Ben truly displayed his great positional awareness on the ice as he was excellent at providing support to his wingers so he could bump the puck more to either direction. When it comes to finding an aspect of him improving his game, even though his skating is at a high level, his lateral movement while stopping the rushes can get him at a misbalance. Otherwise, it would him getting stronger and wanting to throw more checks.

Transitioning back to Team White’s stars, captain Berkly Catton displayed an incredibly fast paced game at both ends of the ice. Berkly in the on-ice testing showed why he was one of the best at transitioning from forward to reverse and vice versa. This is because of his excellent footwork as well as his full intensity to perfect every stride. When it came to his on-ice performance, he was a major catalyst for Team White when it came to creating offense. He is one of the best at cycling the puck in the offensive zone due to his excellent offensive and positional awareness, but most importantly, this is where his skating was truly displayed. Even though his shot is very good, this wouldn’t be considered his WOW factor as he is truly known for his playmaking and puck handling abilities. Similar to Jack Hughes, the main aspect that he will need to improve in order to be that potential 1st line centerman would absolutely build a lot of muscle in order to be stronger on the puck, but most importantly, for his checks to become effective. When it came to his defensive ability, even though he played the center position well defensively, he can improve his work on faceoffs and be willing to sacrifice a bit more by blocking shots.

Back to the blueliners, one who truly surprised many when it came to his physicality is Ottawa 67’s superstar defenseman Henry Mews. The hometown native truly displayed why he is considered to be one of the smoother skating offensive defensemen of this draft class. In the on-ice testing, Henry earned himself 1st place in both transitioning drills as well as 3rd in the weave agility test. While performing each test, he truly showcased in each crossover he made that there was not one stint that was choppy to the point where it resembled a synchronized orchestra. When it came to on-ice play, even though he did not display any flash to his game, he absolutely showed consistency with the puck due to his excellent offensive mind as well as his poise by keeping calm under pressure. When it came to his physicality, he is displaying that his work ethic by gaining more strength is paying off as he threw many effective checks, one of them open ice on Saginaw Spirit defenseman Zayne Parekh. When it comes to showing possible improvement in his game is that there are stills stints here and there that his gap control is miscalculated even though he has been improving it throughout the season.

Onto one of the steadier defenders on Team Red, a major surprise to many was the steady awareness of Charlie Elick of the Brandon Wheat Kings. When it came to the on-ice testing, Charlie Elick was in the top 5 in all skates when it came to completing all the tests. This truly showed that Charlie truly is consistent on his feet in all situations which allowed him to truly become diversified and more confident in his game. When it came to his in-game performance, there was nothing that really phased him due to his great poise and stickwork at diffusing any offensive situations, especially playing a crucial part on the penalty kill. This was also because of his great size as well which allowed him to have a better reach which it helps him with his gap control work. When it comes to finding any improvements, he can work on, the main aspect is his offense. That being his shot. Even though he has great shot power and understands how to use it, what is lacking is his intent to really shoot the puck as he is very much so a pass first player. This does not help him to a certain degree as forwards later will understand more and more about how Charlie plays the puck. When throwing more pucks to the net, he may become more unpredictable which will keep the opposition guessing.

Speaking of the term unpredictability, Oshawa Generals forward Beckett Sennecke on Team White truly displayed his silky hands and unique mind offensively. Flashing back to the on-ice testing, even though Beckett’s form may not be the best at all means, that did not stop him earning himself 4th best overall out of the 36 skaters who completed the tests. Beckett truly displayed his fast times due to his incredible quick foot speed and edges. For someone who is 6’2, he skates like someone who is 5’10, which for this case is a very positive sign as he may use his size to his advantage in his career. Like Liam Greentree, Beckett may have the best puck skills out of the whole roster list in the top prospects game. During his on-ice performance, he earned himself one assist as he was playing on Greentree’s line. What is so unpredictable about Sennecke is how he uses his arsenal as what is truly unique is that he starts to really mix it up offensively when it comes to his pass/shot ratio which always creates unease for the opposing defenders. What he will need to work on is his strength overall, but most importantly, on his feet. This is because he lacks balance, especially after getting checked. When it comes to his defensive traits, he will need to play a bit higher up on the defensive to not leave the defense wide open and just walk the line with ease.

When it comes to the definition of hard work and displaying full intensity while skating, look no further than Carson Wetsch of the Calgary Hitmen on Team White. When it comes to pure skating, he earned himself 3rd overall in the on-ice testing due to the combination of full extension as well as having incredibly quick feet. When it came to his in-game performance, Carson truly showcased his work ethic by displaying an incredible forecheck which created some turnovers from the opposition. His lightning speed is very difficult to defend off the rush for the opposition. The times he was able to shoot the puck, he made the goaltender try as hard as he could to make every save. When trying to find one word, the one word that would come to mind with Wetsch is pest. The true highlighting part of his game is his work ethic and conditioning. When it comes to weaknesses, the main aspect would be that sometimes, he can play a bit too high up which does not fully provide support to his teammates when it comes to making the breakout pass, otherwise minor inconsistencies such as having a larger desire to block shots can be improved if suggested to him.

Lastly, when it comes to defining the word electrifying back on the blueline, do not look passed rising star Zayne Parekh of the Saginaw Spirit. The Saginaw blueline truly displayed why he is considered to be one of the more hyperactive skating offensive defensemen of the 2024 draft class. In the on-ice testing, Zayne earned himself 1st and 2nd place in both backwards skating. While performing each test, there seemed to be no flaw in his ability to skate in reverse. In fact, his skating seems better when skating at an angle and in reverse instead of just going forward due to his incredible edgework and lateral movement. When it came to on-ice play, even though he did not post a point on the scoreboard, he absolutely displayed flash n dash. The way he was able to weave the puck through the neutral effortlessly is very satisfying due to his forward like hands. When it came to his physicality, this was a major weakness for Zayne as not only he seemed to not have any effective in his checks, but he can get rocked very easily. This is because of his lack in size. Not to mention, in the defensive end, even though he has a greatly active stick, what is not impressive is his lack of desire to play defense which could give hints to NHL teams that he may become one dimensional. Even in the defensive zone, he may start to become lanky at using his reach which allows the opposition to potentially create more space.

When it comes to having a bright young future, all the prospects who participated at the CHL Top Prospects game certainly have a bright future ahead of them as long as they work hard and have the discipline to work on their weaknesses in order to become NHL players one day.


For more detailed information on the 2024 NHL Draft Class be sure to pick up your copy of the 2024 NHL Draft Preview Magazine.