By Tina Comeau
When the second of two CJHL prospects games takes to the ice at the Yarmouth Mariners Centre Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. as part of the World Junior A Challenge, like it did in Digby on Saturday evening, the rosters will include the top NHL draft eligible players in the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
Included among them is Yarmouth Mariners forward Morgan Messenger of Barrington.
The prospects game will make for a good game for the fans, but also for the scouts in the stands who will be looking to see what these players have to offer. The prospects games feature players from the CJHL’s five western leagues competing against the top prospects from the CJHL's five eastern leagues. The event includes a two-game total goal series between Team East and Team West in a battle for the President's Cup.
Messenger called it a "really big honour" to be selected for the Team East roster. In Digby on Saturday night, in the game that Team West won 5-0, Messenger was named the player of the game for Team East.
Messenger has been having a strong season with the Mariners. He is ranked third in scoring with 20 points – 11 goals and nine assists in 18 games. He was also named the league’s rookie of the month in September. As well, in the spring he had been drafted in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
It’s only been since last year that the prospects games became part of the World Junior A Challenge. Sunday, Nov. 11 game is at 2 p.m. at the Mariners Centre.
“Every year NHL Central Scouting, as part of their annual process, will identify players from all amateur leagues, so major junior, junior A, college, junior in the US,” explains Kirk Lamb, president of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL). In each of the junior A leagues that play within the CJHL, central scouting, along with the CJHL, identify players that are added onto what is called a watch list.
“Those players then become the foundation for the prospects game,” Lamb says.
“We work with NHL Central Scouting to identify the players they would like to see at the event and we fill the rosters with those players,” says Lamb, who adds if central scouting would like to see other players, even if they haven’t been identified on the watch list, they can be added to the prospects roster if additional spots are available.
Lamb notes that the final rosters for the prospects games may not be entirely a reflection of all of the Canadian junior A players who were identified by NHL Central Scouting. This is because some of these players might have been playing on Team Canada East or Team Canada West during the challenge.
“Those players who are draft eligible but who have made Team Canada East or Team Canada West won’t be participating in these prospects games,” says Lamb.
Still, it doesn’t mean those players won’t be noticed or scouted.
“At the end of the day all we’re trying to do is get our players exposure so I don’t think it’s really that harmful if a player gets exposed via Team Canada East or West rather than in the prospects game,” Lamb says.
And with some of the prospects perhaps playing instead on the Canada East or Canada West teams, it also potentially opens up more spots on the prospects team rosters giving scouts a chance to see even more players.
Asked how the prospects games were received last year after having been added to the World Junior A Challenge lineup, Lamb said it went very well.
“It’s designed for the scouting community. They like the fact that it was at the same time as the junior A challenge because most of the scouts are there anyway and it gives them another game to watch,” he says.