Last night Neutral Zone scouts were in attendance for the CJHL Prospects game in Cornwall, ON. The two teams are separated by eastern and western CJHL leagues and picked by NHL Central Scouting.
Below is a breakdown of each player in the game; their NHL upside; their NCAA or CHL commitment and most importantly how they played here. Overall, we were impressed with the event. It was well run and the players showed they deserved to be there. The West won the game. However, the East held its own which is impressive considering their two best leagues are now “pay to play” leagues; while Western Canada has the two top leagues in the country in the AJHL & BCHL which are both free tuition leagues.
In attendance were over a hundred NCAA, CHL and NHL scouts. Like Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro did last year, Cale Makar, Ian Mitchell and Cameron Crotty made this a worth while event for NHL brass as they are all serious draft picks, especially Makar who is a likely first rounder.
As is customary at Neutral Zone, we did analytics on what leagues the players came from, their ages and their NCAA/CHL status.
NCAA Committed: 20
CHL Committed: 1
5’10” or Under: 8
5’11” – 6’0”: 10
Over 6’2”: 9
#8 Cale Makar (R, 5-11.25/180, Brooks (AJHL), Late ’98)
Makar is currently Neutral Zone’s highest rated NCAA prospect for the 2017 recruiting class and the only 5 star ’98 left on the board. He’s a highly skilled offensive defenseman with elite skating and puck handling ability. He doesn’t have ideal size for a first round NHL pick defenseman, but that goes out the window when you see what he can do with the puck. He has an explosive first step, is able to shake off forecheckers in a few strides and has a quick, elusive stick to navigate through traffic. He probably led all skaters in the game in puck possession time and led several rushes, sprung teammates for breakaways with crafty passes and showed ability to take over in the offensive zone. He has a booming slap shot which he only got off two times (by our count) but it is a rapid release and very powerful for someone of his size and stature. On the defensive front, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he’s small and not overly physical. However, he is tough, he steps up and takes the body and he’s tricky in his own end. He picks off passes constantly because he has great vision and anticipation ability, he has a strong and quick stick check which he used several time here to win the puck battles. At this level he always wins the race to the puck and is quick and shifty enough to make a quick play before the opponent can get to him. As a result, the amount of time he plays defending is much less than the time he is on the offensive. Here he rushed the puck at will, he made people miss skating through the neutral zone and found seams in defense that he could exploit with precision passing. What is most impressive is how he thinks the game and processes the play at full speed; he never has to slow down to make a decision. He does everything at top speed. Makar leads all AJHL defenseman in scoring with 52 points in 38 games and sits at 10th in NHL Central Scouting’s Mid-Term Rankings. There was rumor that he’s being heavily pursued by the WHL, but he has a signed letter of intent to UMass Amherst, so unless something changes that is where he’ll be next fall. Grade: A+ College: UMass Amherst