Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad and Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart were named the captains for the upcoming CHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary on Jan. 15.
From teammates to adversaries in the span of a week. Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad and Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart were named the captains for Team Orr and Team Cherry, respectively, for the upcoming CHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary on Jan. 15.
The pair just returned from Malmo, where both played for Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championship, finishing fourth after playoff round losses to Finland and Russia. Although they came home without medals, they at least got some experience.
“We learned a lot of harsh lessons,” Ekblad said. “It’s an unfortunate thing to happen, but one of the positives is being prepared so it doesn’t happen again.”
Reinhart, who got to play with older brother Griffin in the tourney, echoed that sentiment.
“Definitely a lot to take away,” he said. “You know the level of competition going in was going to be a lot different. It’s not a full season, there are many Game 7s to win in a tournament like that.”
Reinhart also noted that with many players eligible to return for next year’s WJC in Montreal and Toronto, Canada will be able to build off this year’s experience.
But to be honest, neither he nor Ekblad will likely be available. As the consensus top two picks in this year’s NHL draft, both players are certainly capable of jumping right into a role with whichever franchise selects them, meaning they might have been one-and-done with the world juniors.
“Sam is an exceptional player with off-the-charts hockey sense,” said NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr. “He always seems to know where the puck is going to be.”
Marr had a similarly glowing review for Ekblad.
“You’re getting a building block for any team,” he said. “He plays the game with authority and he can move the puck.”
Now the two will showcase their very different skill sets on a big stage. Alternate captains for the game include Roland McKeown (OHL Kingston), Ivan Barbashev (QMJHL Moncton), Jake Virtanen (WHL Calgary) and Nikolaj Ehlers (QMJHL Halifax).