The 2023 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game takes place in Vancouver on Wednesday night. If you hadn’t heard, former Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook will serve as the head coach of the White Team in the game. Also on the White Team’s bench as a celebrity coach: Daniel Sedin. Hopefully Brent can keep his bench’s Sedin separated from Henrik on the Red Team’s bench.
The game features some of the top draft-eligible prospects playing across the CHL this year, so it’s another great opportunity to see how top players perform against their peers. We can watch the game at 9 PM CT on NHL Network in the United States.
We were all blown away with how well Connor Bedard played against players who were one and two years older than him in the World Juniors; he’ll be on the ice with other top draft prospects in this event.
Bedard, unfortunately, is not on Seabrook’s team. But there are some other prospects on Seabrook’s roster worth watching as Blackhawks fans thinking about the team’s four picks in the first two rounds of the 2023 NHL Draft.
A couple weeks ago I profiled a few prospects the Blackhawks might consider outside the top three overall picks in the coming draft. The good news is two of the players I profiled at that time, forwards Cal Ritchie and Koehn Ziemmer, are playing on Seabrook’s team. Unfortunately, Andrew Cristall is not able to participate in the event; he was slated to be on Seabrook’s team as well.
The OHL published the scouting reports on some of the top players in their league participating in the game, furnished by NHL Central Scouting. Here’s what they shared about Ritchie, who I really like if the Blackhawks somehow fall back into the 5-10 range in the draft:
The front-line type of centre that NHL Clubs covet – He’s an NHL skater with excellent offensive tools to generate and finish scoring chances – Can attack and create in multiple ways – Impressive work along the offensive zone boards – Quick and agile moves to create space plus strength to hold defenders and execute through contact – Strong on skates and utilizes counter hits very well – Execution to fit pucks through tight spots and make plays in traffic – Eludes coverage and pops into scoring areas for good looks – Patience with puck in offensive zone, hangs onto it avoiding defenders until options open up – Strong shooter that can get his shot off in gear – Top line player that’s deployed in all special team’s and key situations.
Another player on Seabrook’s team that intrigues me for the Blackhawks’ second pick in the first round is Ottawa 67’s center Luca Pinelli. He’s listed at 5-9 and 165 pounds, but his profile from NHL Central Scouting sounds like the kind of player Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson might circle on his lineup sheet. He has 18 goals and 27 assists in 41 games for Ottawa this season.
The type of player that makes you notice him all game – Plays hard and with a chip on his shoulder – Involved every time he is on the ice and is a difference maker – Highly skilled player that is dangerous as both a shooter and playmaker – Plays on both special teams and is a key contributor – He has taken a huge step in his draft year and has been a key leader on the number one team in the OHL – He is the type of player you don’t like to play against but you love to have on your team.
On the Red Team, Bedard will be joined by a couple forward prospects who might be in play for top ten overall selections, Zach Benson and Coulson Pitre. Here’s what NHL Central Scouting had to say about Pitre, who I haven’t profiled (yet):
Cerebral player, very smart and always in the right positions on both sides of the puck – A strong and highly effective 5-on-5 player that is also used in all key areas and special teams situations – Great poise with the puck, takes his time and makes the right and often creative decisions – Willing to battle and fight through contact – Can fit pucks through tight windows and consistently executes difficult reads with speed- Very nice touch with the puck – Very smart and crafty – Makes lots of subtle, often under appreciated plays in all three zones – Good awareness to feel contact and roll-off – Slippery and difficult to contain in the offensive zone – Able to shoot in stride and changes angles to get shots through – Strong and creative plays off the cycle – Can weave thru offensive zone traffic with the puck and make difficult reads – Fights through abuse and is willing to give it back – Will play physical and battle – Excellent two-way player with great attention to detail – Makes his teammates better.