Chicago, IL — So how have the Chicago Blackhawks prospects done in the CHL Memorial Cup? Well lets start with Nathan Noel and Matthew Highmore and their Saint John Sea Dogs whose journey has now come to an end.
In a battle of teams that had not won a game between the Sea Dogs and the Seattle Thunderbirds the Sea Dogs dominated in a 7-0 landslide which earned them the right to go to the Memorial Cup Semi Final. Noel had an assist in this game and Highmore ended the game with two apples.
Unfortunately they had to face the fire power of the Erie Otters again and while they had a better game versus the Otters than the 12-5 drubbing they took they none the less were eliminated from the tournament 6-3.
Nathan Noel ended the event with one goal and one assist in four games and Matthew Highmore ended the tourney with three assists. Congrats boys on a great season and being QMJHL Champions.
My overall thoughts on Nathan Noel was that he is all heart. He reminded me of Andrew Shaw, smaller yet plays a physical game especially in the corners and along the boards. Noel is more of a defensive player used on the penalty kill and he was centering the third line for Saint John which is the checking line.
I see him going to the IceHogs and there everyone will love this guy as he projects a team first all the way.
Matthew Highmore was centering the first line and was used on the power play. The thing about Highmore’s game is he is physical and is always by the oppositions net which is always a good thing.
He ended the tournament with a 50% face-off percentage but it was noticeable in the last game against Erie he won almost every face-off in the defensive zone which everyone can use that skill.
I think Highmore will need some seasoning in Rockford but can be an impactful net front presence and power forward if he works on it. He has really good speed which is a huge asset.
The next game was a battle of the unbeaten teams when the Erie Otters took on the host team Windsor Spitfires for the opportunity to get a pass to the Memorial Cup Final.
I was hyped to see this game. I wanted to see how well both Graham Knott and Alex DeBrincat did against a familiar OHL foe that is very good. Now neither player hit the score sheets and the Spitfires totally frustrated the high powered Otters.
The Spitfires totally blanketed the Otters forwards and their goalie was insanely good that night. DeBrincat had a rough game physically as he was targeted for sure. In fact he had to leave at one point but did make it back into the game.
Since we get a rematch of these two teams for the final I am curious to see how DeBrincat will now make adjustments to deal with no space and time and his response. Welcome to the world of Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin.
This is great preparation for the NHL, becauses believe me there will be even less time and space there and the physicality will be even more ramped up and if your lucky enough to make NHL playoffs that is off the charts intensity so best get ready now if you want a championship at the highest level of hockey.
The encouraging thing for Blackhawks fans is it seems that DeBrincat can take the physical play pretty well and even dishes it occasionally. He and the Otters seemed ready for battle when they downed the Sea Dogs 6-3 in the Semi final to punch their ticket to the final.
We all know how talented DeBrincat is offensively but what I’ve been impressed with is his two way game and his defensive responsibility. In fact in this game he managed to clear a puck away from his crease that got past his goalie and was sitting there ripe for the pouncing.
Good on you Alex for being that down low as a forward acting like a defenseman that will endear you to coach Quenneville for sure. It is little things like that the coaches notice and will keep you in Chicago.
DeBrincat is used in all situations but really shines on the power play where they use him in the high slot where he can tip or pass or just let that rocket of a shot he has go. What is very noticeable about DeBrincat is his hand eye coordination is top notch which explains the high slot positioning.
His line with Dylan Strome and Warren Foegele is just fun to watch as they work off each other. This line ended up this game with two goals one each by Strome and Foegle and four assists three of which came from DeBrincat.
Two of his assists were on Taylor Raddysh power play goals and the other apple was on Dylan Strome’s goal. I think it is highly likely that DeBrincat can make the jump straight to the NHL from the CHL.
I will have a more definitive opinion on him after the final and as I stated earlier how he bounces back and responds against a more NHL like defensive structured team with tight checking, blocking shots, great goalie and clogging up of the neutral zone.
The Erie Otters just have so many scoring threats and fire power it’s hard to keep them suppressed for too long. The final should be a good one against Graham Knott’s Spitfires who seemed like the only team that found a formula to slow them down.
Graham Knott is having a good tournament himself. He currently has two goals and one assist in three games played. Knott played in one less game due to their beating the Otters and not having to play a semi-final game.
Knott’s game is pretty simple he is straight up a power forward on the RW. He is big powerful and just a menace in front of the net with his 6’4″ frame. He screens a lot of shots and for that alone he is impactful in games that may not show up on score sheets.
I need to see more of Knott to give an opinion on if he is ready to go straight to the NHL or not. Sunday I will be watching him and DeBrincat closely. The game thankfully will be on NHL Network at 6pm CT. I would recommend tuning in if your interested at all about the future of the Blackhawks.
With the Blackhawks out of the playoff in what seems like an eternity since we saw them, I am so glad that the NHL Network broadcast the Canadian Sportsnet telecast in the United States of this Memorial Cup.
Not just because I’m not that interest in the NHL playoffs but because it gives us in the States a chance to see the CHL prospects for our teams that we don’t normally get a chance to see. I don’t recall the NHL Network ever broadcasting this before. We can see players on NCAA teams but not generally the CHL.
I’m sure I am not the only one who can’t travel to Erie, PA or Saint John or Windsor although I’m sure those are grand destinations work always seems to get in the way. So thank you NHL Network and Sportsnet so we can get to see these incredibly talented young men continue their journeys to making their NHL teams.
To all the Chicago Blackhawk prospects Good Luck! Those remaining in the tournament and those out we look forward to seeing you either in Rockford or Chicago hopefully.
I will do a final wrap up blog after Sunday’s game to put a bow on this tournament and give a final opinion on DeBrincat and Knott’s game and how they will transition to the NHL and some hidden gems that I spotted that maybe teams should consider drafting this June.
One thing we do know is that one of the Chicago Blackhawks prospects will be a Memorial Cup Champion what an accomplishment.