2014 NHL Entry Draft: CHL Champions Crowned

Robby Fabbri has been soaring up draft boards with his play so far. - Terry Wilson

With the conclusion of the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL playoffs, we review the draft eligible prospects on the six teams that were in action and preview the upcoming Memorial Cup between the three champions and the host London Knights.

Here at LBC, we've been following the top prospects in the CHL throughout the playoff rounds. (Playoff Preview, Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, and IIHF U18 Worlds)  With all of the top 10 prospects out of contention, we now shift our attention to those prospects who were, and still are, in play.

QMJHL

Series Review - The Val-D'Or Foreurs and Baie-Comeau Drakkar went the distance, as Val-D'Or topped Baie-Comeau in 7 games. Detroit Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha scored the series-clinching goal in the final minute of the 3rd period of Game 7, after Val-D'Or forfeited a three-goal lead. This series was very momentum-based, as Baie-Comeau won Game 1, then lost games 2 and 3, then won games 4 and 5, before Val-D'Or took games 6 and 7 to capture the series.

Val-D'Or

RW Nicolas Aube-Kuebel (NHLCS - 40) - Aube-Kubel is a smaller forward who plays a smart, fast, gritty type of game.  He is always moving his feet and uses his speed to keep himself in the right position and to contend for pucks.  He's not overly flashy with the puck and usually makes good, quick decisions while in traffic.  He's not afraid to go to the front of the net, and has an above-average shot he can use to his advantage.  He plays smart in the defensive zone, but could use a little more work on his positioning.

Aube-Kubel had a solid regular season (GP 65 - G 22 - A 31 - P 53 - PIM 61 (+/-) -1) where he showed some flashes of his offensive upside.  In the playoffs, his two-way ability was more prominent (GP 24 - G 4 - A 9 - P -13 PIM 20 (+/-) 10), but the drop in offensive production may be an indication that against tougher competition, Aube-Kubel might have trouble producing.  Regardless, he played solid hockey in the QMJHL playoffs, and will most likely go early in the second round of the draft.

LW Louick Marcotte (NHLCS - 198) - Marcotte is an overage player and is essentially in his last year of eligibility for the NHL Draft, and for playing in the CHL.  This year, he showed he could put up above-average offensive numbers, but he did so while playing with Anthony Mantha, a known sniper. Of course, while toiling in Prince Edward Island before joining the Foreurs, Marcotte was playing on a rebuilding team with little talent to help him, but his point production this year does seem to be more a result of playing on a talented team than as an indication of his skill level.  He's a smaller forward who will usually play smarter than his opponents, and makes the right play the majority of the time. There isn't anything particularly spectacular about his skill set.

It's probably safe to say that Mantha and Marcotte led the Foreurs to the QMJHL championship.  Throughout the regular season, Marcotte had solid numbers (GP 67 - G 42 - A 58 - P 100 - PIM 47 (+/-) 34), and carried his production over into the postseason (GP 24 - G 12 - A 25 - P 37 - PIM 12 (+/-) 16).  A team may take a chance on Marcotte late in the draft, anywhere from the 5th to 7th rounds.

Baie-Comeau

D Alexis Vanier (NHLCS - 112) - Vanier is a big, intimidating defenseman who can punish opponents who get too close to him.  He has a great hockey IQ, the ability to win battles along the boards and in front of the net, and a willingness to block shots and make the right plays.  In the offensive zone, he has a cannon of a shot and has decent passing ability.  His first passes out of the zone are usually effective in breaking the puck out.  The only knock on Vanier, however, is big; he's nowhere near NHL-ready with his skating ability.  On the rush, he is very susceptible to being beaten wide, and even in the zone has trouble keeping up with faster opponents. He's essentially a boom or bust prospect. If his skating pans out, he'll be a sturdy NHL defenseman , if it doesn't, he won't be able to keep up with the speed at the top level.

Unfortunately for Vanier, he played through most of the regular season with a shoulder injury, and when it required surgery, he ended up missing all of the playoffs.  His production throughout the regular season was pretty good for a more defensively-oriented defenseman (GP 61 - G 15 - A 21 - P 36 - PIM 52 (+/-) 11), but it should be noted that he played on a talented team.  Vanier will most likely see a club take a chance on him anywhere from the 3rd round to the 5th round.

OHL

Series Review - As expected, the Guelph Storm only needed five games to knock off the North Bay Battalion.  What wasn't expected, however, was the dramatic fashion with which they would do it.  After winning Game 1 in overtime, and losing Game 2 in overtime, the Storm "stormed" on to win three in a row, including a decisive 10-1 victory in Game 4.  Most of the fireworks occurred in Game 5, where Kerby Rychel of the Columbus Blue Jackets scored twice in the final five minutes of the game, including the game-winner with 26 seconds left, to finish off the Battalion and bring the championship to Guelph.

Guelph

C Robby Fabbri (NHLCS - 21) - Fabbri is by far the most talented 2014 draft prospect who not only took action in the championship round, but will also be playing in the Memorial Cup.  Fabbri is a smaller forward with tremendous offensive ability, shown best by his slick hands, quick shot, and explosive skating ability.  He also is a player with a high hockey IQ, and is capable of covering his own zone to the necessary degree.  His size truly is his only pitfall, if he was two inches taller, he would be considered a top-10 pick.

Fabbri's regular season production showed defensive responsibility coupled with offensive explosiveness (GP 58 - G 45 - A 42 - P 87 - PIM 55 (+/-) 45) and that type of production carried over into the playoffs (GP 16 - G 13 - A 15 - P 28 PIM 12 (+/-) 16).  The further Guelph goes, the better things look for Fabbri.  He is playing on a stacked, mostly overage team, but is showing that his size isn't going to hold him back when he gets to the pros.  He will definitely go in the first round of the draft, possibly in the top 15.

D Phil Baltisberger (NHLCS - 197) -As a sturdy defenseman on the back end, Baltisberger has exceeded expectations this year.  He isn't high-end offensively gifted, but will consistently make the right pass out of the zone and help his team dominate puck possession.  He's adept at keeping opponents away from his own net, and has the good size and skating ability needed to do this.  Playing on Guelph may have inflated his numbers, and there's still questions as to how his game may transition to the NHL level.

Baltisberger showed his defensive prowess much more than his offensive ability in both the regular season (GP 57 - G 1 - A 14 - P 15 - PIM 36 (+/-) 25) and in the postseason (GP 20 - G 2 - A 3 - P 5 - PIM 20 (+/-) 18).  There might be more there offensively, but it's hard to say, as he doesn't need to be counted on in that role due to the loaded nature of the Storm's roster.  Baltisberger may be a stretch to take earlier than the 5th round, but he could end up being a steal late in the draft's 6th or 7th round.

North Bay

C Michael Amadio (NHLCS - 69) - Amadio is a big player who isn't afraid to use his size to push the puck to the net. He plays more of a grinder/checking line forward role, and is quite effective at it.  One thing that was very obvious in the way that North Bay plays is the strong focus on defensive responsibility, and Amadio bought into that system very well.  The 18-year-old forward could become a productive third line player in the NHL.

North Bay plays a team style of game similar to that of the '96 Panthers, where everyone worked effectively as a unit and there were no real superstars on the team.  Amadio statistics reflect this, as he had decent regular season production (GP 64 - G 12  - A 26 - P 38 - PIM 14 (+/-) 15), and was able to carry some of that over into the playoffs (GP 22  -G 4 - A 5 - P 9 - PIM 2 (+/-) -10).  The biggest knock regarding his numbers would be the drop in plus/minus during the postseason, as he was strongly negative.  North Bay scraped by teams in the playoffs, and there were games along the way where they got blown out. It will be interesting to see whether Amadio's draft stock dropped, or if he still goes somewhere from the 3rd round to the 5th round.

LW Zach Bratina (NHLCS - 186) - Bratina is a player who appears to be offensively gifted on the surface, but seems to have trouble producing numbers.  Overall, he is a player that not a whole lot is known about, as he has coasted under the radar of scouts up until now.

His production during the regular season was slightly above average (GP 58 - G 12 - A 18 - P 30 - PIM 75 (+/-) 8). Unfortunately, these numbers didn't necessarily carry over into the playoffs (GP 14 - G 0 - A 6 - P -6 - PIM 4 (+/-) -3).  Bratina may not be drafted this year, or may go very late in the 6th or 7th rounds.

D Kyle Wood (NHLCS - 191)- Wood is a big defenseman who has shown solid two-way potential.  He has great size that he uses to his advantage, and an above average hockey IQ.  The book on him is a little lacking because he missed the first half of the season due to injury, but Wood will most likely be a solid defender for North Bay in the future with a very solid chance to make it at the NHL level.

Wood's production during the regular season (GP 33 - G 2 - A 10 - P 12 - PIM 21 (+/-) 15) was decent, and he seemed to step it up slightly in the playoffs (GP 22 - G 2 - A 8 - P 10 - PIM 6 (+/-) 6).  I think Wood is better than his Central Scouting ranking would indicate, and wouldn't be surprised to see him go in the 6th round, even though he is projected to be taken in the 7th.

WHL

Series Review - The Edmonton Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks went seven games in a series that saw different sides of each team prominently displayed throughout each stage of the matchup  Portland opened the series with two straight wins at home. Edmonton came back to even things 2-2 when they had the home ice advantage.  The Oil Kings used that momentum to post a Game 5 road win before Portland managed to force a Game 7 with an overtime victory on Edmonton's home ice in Game 6.  In the end, it was the Oil Kings who would prevail, beating the Winterhawks 4-2 in Game 7, without the late game heroics prominent in other series-clinching games.

Edmonton

C Brett Pollock (NHLCS - 34) - Pollock has shown that he is capable of generating offense, and has seen his draft stock rise immensely because of it.  A hard worker, the young pivot has become a genuine top-6 threat for the Oil Kings, and looks capable of being a solid player in that role at the NHL level.

Pollock put up very respectable numbers during the regular season (GP 71 - G 25 - A 30 - P 55 - PIM 36 (+/-) 18), and saw his production carry over into the playoffs (GP 21 - G 11-  A 8 - P 19 - PIM 10 (+/-) 11).  Pollock is a very solid player who works hard and produces results admirably.  He should go either late in the 1st round or early in the 2nd round.

D Dysin Mayo (NHLCS - 82) - Mayo is offensively-gifted and brings tons of skill and plenty of speed from the back end.  He can be very similar to Kris Letang (not in matters of potential, but in matters of playing style) in the way that he can be a game-changer with explosive offensive rushes which will occasionally lead to defensive lapses.  He has gotten better at picking and choosing his points of attack, something that will continue to improve with maturity.

Mayo's numbers in the regular season were solid (GP 63 - G 7 - A 28 - P 35 - PIM 50 (+/-) 17), but in the playoffs he really excelled (GP 21 - G 3 - A 12 - P 15 - PIM 10 (+/-) 12).  Mayo has shown he can be a dangerous player in big games, and it wouldn't be surprising if he goes in the 2nd round, though he may slide as far as the 4th round.

D Aaron Irving (NHLCS - 90) - Irving is a big, intimidating force on the blue line who may still need work on his foot speed and decision-making.  He generally makes the right pass coming out of the zone, and has an above-average shot.

Irving was good in the regular season (GP 63 - G 9 - A 21 - P 30 - PIM 88 (+/-) 21), but seems to have lost his way offensively in the playoffs (GP 21 - G 0 - A 2 - P 2 - PIM 10 (+/-) 1).  The offensive drop off is the likely reason for for the barely positive plus/minus rating, and may be a bit of a concern heading into the draft.  Irving will most likely go in the 3rd round, but could drop down to the 5th.

LW Edgars Kulda (NHLCS - 145) - Kulda is an overage player making a huge splash with Edmonton this year.  He has shown that he can be a very strong top line player, and that he has the offensive tools to contribute consistently.  Kulda plays on Edmonton's first line with Curtis Lazar and Brett Pollock. Because of this, his numbers are probably slightly inflated, but he still has shown a good hockey IQ and nice hands in traffic, as well as an above average shot and strong play-making ability.

Kulda had good regular season production (GP 66 - G 30 - A 30 - P 60 - PIM 57 (+/-) 34) but really stepped it up in the playoffs (GP 21 G 10 A 12 P 21 PIM 12 (+/-) 14).  His age is a concern, as he is a year older than most of the other prospects in the draft, but a team may take a risk on him late in the 4th round, though it's possible he falls back to the 6th round.

Portland

C Chase De Leo (NHLCS - 36) - De Leo is a small forward who plays with a lot of speed and intensity, similar to Robby Fabbri, though he lacks the hands and finesse that Fabbri has.  He plays a very solid two-way game.  The concerns about De Leo would be his size and the translation of his game to the NHL.

De Leo was highly productive in the regular season (GP 72 - G 39 - A 42 - P 82 - PIM 36 (+/-) 49) but saw his production drop ever so slightly during the postseason (GP 21 - G 10 - 9 - P 19 - PIM 6 (+/-) 17).  As an undersized player, taking him is a bit of a risk, but an NHL team may feel that he is worth grabbing as high as the 1st round.  If not, he should slip to somewhere in the 2nd round.

RW Alex Schoenborn (NHLCS - 78) - Schoenborn is a solid prospect, with good size and strength, solid two-way play, and decent offensive upside.  He plays mostly 3rd-4th line minutes in Portland, but  makes the most of them, displaying toughness and grit whenever he's on the ice.

Schoenborn had an average regular season, considering the ice time he got (GP 72 - G 18  - A 18-  P 36 - PIM 121 (+/-) 19), but fizzled out in the playoffs (GP 21 - G 3 - A 2 - P 5 - PIM 41 (+/-) -1), which most likely hurt his draft stock. He still has shown the ability to be a third line grinder, and will probably go somewhere in the 3rd round, though he could fall to the 4th.

C Keegan Iverson (NHLCS -85)  - Iverson is a big power forward with a bit of an intimidation factor to his game.  He has an above-average shot, and moves into high-traffic areas often.  He's not afraid to go to the dirty areas, and will often be the one coming out of the boards with the puck.

Iverson had good regular season production on Portland's third line with Alex Schoenborn (GP 67 - G 22 - A 20 - P 42 - PIM 70 (+/-) 16), but experienced the same drop in production that Schoenborn did in the playoffs (GP 21 - G 4 - A  4 - P 8 - PIM 12 (+/-) -1).  Iverson could go late in the 3rd round, but will most likely be selected in the 4th or 5th rounds.

C Dominic Turgeon (NHLCS - 97) - The son of former NHLer Pierre Turgeon, Dominic exhibits some of his father's offensive capabilities while playing a solid two-way game. Turgeon is a bigger forward, and usually finds ways to use his size to his advantage in both ends of the ice.  Playing for Portland may not have allowed Turgeon to fully show his skill set, as so far, he has been limited to 3rd and 4th line minutes on the team.

Turgeon's production in the regular season (GP 65 - G 10 - A 21 - P 31 - PIM 31 (+/-) 18) was good, considering the minutes he played, and he managed to carry it over to the postseason for the most part (GP 21 - G 2 - A 6 - P 8 - PIM 18 (+/-) 0).  Turgeon could be a bit of a sleeper in the draft and is certainly a high risk, high reward type of prospect due to the lack of playing time he got this year.  If a team that wants to take a flyer on him, he could go in the 3rd round, or drop to as late as the 5th round.

MEMORIAL CUP

Preview - The champions of the three leagues (Guelph Storm, Edmonton Oil Kings, and Val-D'Or Foreurs) will play each other and the host London Knights of the OHL in a round robin tournament to determine seeding, with the top team advancing to the final, the middle teams advancing to the semifinal, and the last place team being eliminated. London hasn't been a strong team this year, and are only in the tournament because they are hosting it, definitely not on merit. Look for them to be last after the conclusion of round robin play.  As for the semifinal and final matchups?  I predict Guelph over Val-D'Or in the semifinal, and Guelph over the Edmonton Oil Kings in the final to win the Memorial Cup.

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