2019 NHL Draft

Recap: CJHL Top Prospects Game

Steve Kournianos  |  1/22/2019 |  Nashville  |  

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NASHVILLE (The Draft Analyst) — If Quinn Olson was looking to impress NHL scouts for the upcoming draft, he picked the perfect event to do it in.

A late-additionto this year’s CJHL Top Prospects Game after Alex Swetlikoff joined the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, Olson scored the eventual game winner and added an assist to lead Team West to a 5-2 triumph over Team East.

Olson, a left wing who is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, used a nifty backhand finish off a feed from right wing Kevin Wall that gave the West a 3-1 lead in the second period. Earlier in the frame, Olson’s set-up to defenseman Layton Ahac broke a 1-1 tie.

Team West’s big defenseman Jeremie Bucheler, a Northeastern University recruit, opened the scoring in the first period with a toe drag and wrist shot from the high slot. Team East responded immediately, when defenseman Dakota Betts had his own wrist shot tipped home by right wing John Beaton.

Defenseman Luke Bast increased the West’s lead to 4-1 in the third when he completed a tic-tac-toe passing play by burying home a shot from near the net while on the power play. Team East cut it to 4-2 on a 2-on-1 goal from center Derek Seguin, but Zack Okabe sealed the win with an empty netter.

Team West held the advantage in shots, 37-27. Players of the Game for their respective squads were Team East goalie Gabriel Carrier and Ahac for Team West.

Player Notes

C Alex Newhook (Victoria Grizzlies | 5’10, 195 | 1/28/01): The top-ranked prospect from Canadian Jr. A hockey had yet another quiet prospect event. Newhook is a sublime playmaker who an accelerate under control through the neutral zone, and on several occasions, he was able to quickly transition from defense to offense. He tried to execute several diffuclt passing plays with Victoria linemate Alex Campbell, but the timing was a hair off. One thing that stood out was Newhook’s compete level in his own end. He battled hard for pucks, threw a couple shoulders into bigger opponents, and showed a willingness to sacrifice personal gain for the sake of sound coverage. Scouts may say they expected more from him, but Newhook’s dominant play in the BCHL against top matchups provides plenty of evidence to offset another average performance at a prospect event.

LW Quinn Olson (Okotoks Oilers | 5’11, 170 | 5/9/01): Olson is a hard-wroking winger with soft hands and excellent speed to match a high-energy compete level. He is a dual threat with the puck, meaning he can furnish a hard shot and score in a variety of ways, or assume the role of playmaker and set-up quality chances. Committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Olson was a standpoint as a replacement at the CJHL Top Prospects Game, using a quick first step and anticipation to cut off attempted breakouts that turned into instant scoring chances. Olson can be deployed on both the power play and the penalty kill, and his ability to read plays in the neutral zone and guess correctly on puck travel makes him a threat to counter in an odd-man situation. Strong on his skates with impressive leg drive for a player listed under six feet, Olson can deliver big hits and is not the least bit shy at using his physical strength to battle hard in either open ice, in front of the net or in the corners. Plays a game similar to 2018 Vancouver Canucks draftee Tyler Madden.

RW Zack Okabe (Grand Prairie, AJHL | 5’8, 163 | 1/4/01): A flashy winger who handles the puck with the flair of a schoolyard point guard, Okabe plays a fast, aggressive style. Although he’s not blessed with size, Okabe is strong on his skates and is willing to throw his weight around, to include crashing the net and using his quick hands to make plays with defenders draped over him. Classifying Okabe as a high-energy playmaker wouldn’t be far from the truth, as he is always on the move and looks extremely confident and decisive when he’s handling the puck during the cycle. He does, however, own a quick release and can turn seemingly low-percentage shots from any distance into rebound opportunities for his teammates in front. Okabe, who is committed to St. Cloud State,  is a dangerous 1-on-1 player and is good at drawing attention away from his linemates before exploiting the opening with a quick pass.  He is the type of player you have to pay attention to at all times because he stays in motion and knows where to position himself to bring his excellent shot to bear.

C/W Eric Ciccolini (Jr. Canadiens, OJHL | 5’11, 160 | 1/14/01): A playmaking wizard with excellent puck skills who can stickhandle his way out of any situation. Committed to the University of Michigan, Ciccolini is developing into a responsible 200-foot forward who lends support to his defensemen below the circles. He is used on both the power play and penalty kill, where he uses his soft hands, quick feet sharp vision to corral the puck and get it exactly where it needs to go. What’s impressive about his two-way game is the way he morphs into a different player after crossing center — in his own end, Ciccolini is active, smart and battles for positioning. He knows when and where to plug holes created by vacated teammates. Ciccolini has the knack to differentiate between the time to clear the puck and the time to transition to attack mode. A quick skater, Ciccolini accelerates to top speed in a hurry, but he’s an inside player who uses his agility and smarts to turns a harmless rush to the outside into an inside dash towards the slot. Once inside the attacking zone, Ciccolini can slow dow the pace or use dizzying moves to space and time.

LW Alexander Campbell (Victoria, BCHL | 5’10, 151 | 2/27/01): Campbell’s consistency at high-profile events matches his performance as Alex Newhook’s linemate with Victoria. An elusive threat with a quick-strike mentality, Campbell is capable of turning any shift into an adventure for opponents. The chemistry he has with Newhook is obvious, and they try a lot of backdoor and weave plays that if executed properly, can result in high-danger scoring opportunities. He made a nice zone entry and set-up on a power-play goal in the third period, and he also came close to burying a tally of his own. The question for scouts is simple — is Campbell as a winger capable of carrying a line if taken away from Newhook? It starting to seem more and more like he is.

RW Kevin Wall (Chilliwack, BCHL | 6’0, 191 | 2/1/00): Physical two-way winger from the U.S. who excelled at Salisbury Prep last year but is refining his game to new heights with Chilliwack in Canadian Jr. A. Committed to Merrimack, Wall is a versatile forward who mixes strength with finesse. His was used as a net-front presence and crease crasher in high school, but he’s become more confident handling the puck and is using his passing abilities and vision to shed the moniker that he’s a fire-and-forget power forward. Wall is an average skater in terms of straight-line speed, but he can be nimble and sharp with his movements in tight quarters. Handling the puck with his head up generally nets the desired result, especially off the rush or in odd-man scenarios. Wall is a very good option for both the power play and the penalty kill, and his coaches are comfortable using him in late-game situations. He can intimidate with his hitting and make defenders pay a price for going into the corners, plus he likes to battle hard for positioning in the low slot.

RHD Jeremie Bucheler (Victoria, BCHL | 6’4, 195 | 3/31/00): Overage two-way defender with impressive strength who can be a dominant force when he’s at his best. Bucheler still has a lot to learn about defending his turf, but the potential for a top-four game breaker is revealed on a nightly basis. The issue with Bucheler is putting forth a consistent effort on defense, especially when he decides to make multiple forays without the puck deep into opposing territory. He’s a good skater for his size with a long, powerful stride, and the timing of his step-ups and poke checks is sound. Bucheler whips the puck around the horn with accuracy and can unleash a heavy shot off the pass. He may never be a classic power-play quarterback, but he can be an asset because of his shot and his ability to maneuver around a check.

LHD Mason Snell (Penticton, BCHL | 6’0, 191 | 6/18/00): A Penn State commit, Snell is a draft overager who made the move from the OJHL to the BCHL’s elite prospect factory in Penticton. A nimble and fluid skater who looks graceful maneuvering in any direction. Snell is a one-man breakout who can uses his wheels or his variety of passes to beat back or trap a forecheck. Most of his passes are crisp and tape-to-tape regardless of distance, but he also buys time and space with his stickhandling and poise. He’s improved his play along the boards and in the corners, and the dominant play he revealed at last year’s RBC Cup was no fluke. His ideal size when combined with his quick feet help him neutralize scoring chances near the goal, and he doesn’t venture too far from the slot unless he confident in someone covering for him. Snell can play physical and outmuscle players his own size or smaller from the low slot. He stands out the most on the power play, where he can quarterback a top unit and skate pucks cleanly into the zone. He owns an average shot and defers to the pass quite often.

LHD Layton Ahac (Prince George Spruce Kings, BCHL | 6’2, 188 | 2/22/00): An excellent skater with agility, Ahac is an Ohio State-bound puck rusher who incredibly poised and nimble when faced with a heavy forecheck. His pivots in both directions and cut-backs are sharp, and opponents have a hard time guessing the route he ends up choosing to motor up ice. Ahac’s feet are very quick, and the way he sees the ice and surveys unfolding scenarios allows him to make instant decisions that usually end up on the good side of the scoresheet. You rarely see him rushed into a regrettable position, and the timing of his plays inside the offensive effectively keep cycles going. With his speed and quick reaction time, Ahac looks confident in his risk taking, almost similar to the way Ryan McDonagh played in his early years in Wisconsin. He will join the rush as much as possible, but you also can count on him to create odd-man rushes with his skating alone. Ahac spends a lot of time below the opposing circles and can thread the needle towards the slot or weak side.

LHD Luke Bast (Brooks Bandits, AJHL | 5’9, 167 | 11/20/00): Bast is a North Dakota recruit who comes from a long line of aggressive Brooks puck movers. He is an outstanding skater with top-end speed and a quick first step, and if given the chance, he will look to rush the puck from goal line to goal line. Bast is a smart player who reacts to plays in a timely manner. He is very good at anticipating puck direction and consistently picks off passes. You can count on Bast to orchestrate multiple odd-man rushes that begin inside his own end, but he’s also a danger to opponents while walking the line with the puck — one quick move and he instantly darts into an opening in the high slot. Bast’s passing abilities are excellent, and he can stretch opposing coverages by being a home-run pass threat. His slapper and accuracy are above average for an undersized offensive defenseman, but the release and velocity he generates via the wrist shot is what forces goalies into making tough saves. He makes up for a lack of size and upper-body strength by competing hard and finishing his checks with as much authority as possible. It’s apparent that he’s a student  of the game who takes his craft seriously, and his compete level and work ethic makes him a key cog inside any locker room.