CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - There’s a swift learning curve for the NHL draft-eligible hopefuls at the Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects game Wednesday in Red Deer, Alta.
It’s essentially an all-star game, so few of the players have skated together before, but Nikita Alexandrov, when he laces up the skates for Team Orr, is set for the lesson.
“I think at this point we have to talk a lot to each other, get to know each other (as best we can) and get ready for the game,” said the 18-year-old Charlottetown Islanders centre. “I’m really excited for it, looking forward to it.”
The Burgwedel, Germany, native, is one of 40 major junior players hoping to impress NHL teams there to scope out talent at the annual showcase. Game time is 11 p.m. AT.
Teams are divided into Team Orr, coached by former NHL goalie Kelly Hrudey, and Team Cherry, bench-bossed by longtime NHL broadcaster Ron MacLean.
Alexandrov will see a few familiar faces as Quebec City’s Jakob Pelletier (Moncton), Russia’s Artemi Kniazev (Chicoutimi) and Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia’s Colton Ellis (Rimouski) from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League are on his squad.
QMJHL players on Team Cherry include Nathan Legare (Baie-Comeau), Valentin Nussbaumer (Shawinigan), Raphael Lavoie (Halifax), Maxim Cajkovic (Saint John), Samuel Poulin (Sherbrooke) and Samuel Bolduc (Blainville-Boisbriand).
Alexandrov’s head coach Jim Hulton wasn’t sure what the Islanders had when the squad drafted him in the first round of the 2017 CHL import draft.
Hulton, who doubles as Islanders general manager, said associate coach and GM Guy Girouard found Alexandrov through his European hockey connections and heard good things.
Hulton and the coaching staff saw flashes of the youngster’s talent, but he started slow. Then after a trip home at Christmas a rested and re-focused Alexandrov teamed with linemate Brett Budgell amped up his game, finishing the season with 13 goals and 31 points in his last 32 games and leading the Isles in playoff scoring with 17 points in 18 games and into the semifinals for the second straight year.
This season, with 19 goals already and 39 points in 42 games, Alexandrov is second in the Isles in scoring and showing no sophomore slump.
“His work ethic jumps out at me,” said Hulton. “He stays extra to train, works on his skating, his shot, he likes to study video. He’s become a student of the game. Out there he wants to be difference maker and that shows his maturity.”
Alexandrov admits to jittery nerves early in Wednesday’s contest, but he’s sure those go away with the first hit and he can get on with what he’s there for.
“I just want to show the coaches, scouts and managers what I can do. Compete in this game and do my best.”
Rosters for Team Cherry and Team Orr at the 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects game Wednesday in Red Deer, Alta.
Team Orr (junior team, league in brackets)
Forwards - Graeme Clark (Ottawa, OHL), Connor McMichael (London, OHL), Jakob Pelletier (Moncton, QMJHL), Nikita Alexandrov (Charlottetown, QMJHL), Joe Carroll (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL), Brett Leason (Prince Albert, WHL), Philip Tomasino (Niagara, OHL), Sasha Mutala (Tri-City, WHL), Josh Williams (Edmonton, WHL), Ryan Suzuki (Barrie, OHL), Matvey Guskov (London, OHL), Kirby Dach (Saskatoon, WHL).
Defence - Lassi Thomson (Kelowna, WHL), Kaedan Korczak (Kelowna, WHL), Artemi Kniazev (Chicoutimi, QMJHL), Vladislav Kolyachonok (Flint, OHL), Jake Lee (Seattle, WHL), Nikita Okhotyuk (Ottawa, OHL).
Goaltenders - Hunter Jones (Peterborough, OHL), Colten Ellis (Rimouski, QMJHL).
Team Cherry (junior team, league in brackets)
Forwards - Nathan Legare (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL), Oleg Zaytsev (Red Deer, WHL), Nick Robertson (Peterborough, OHL), Peyton Krebs (Kootenay, WHL), Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge, WHL), Nolan Foote (Kelowna, WHL), Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton, OHL), Jamieson Rees (Sarnia, OHL), Raphael Lavoie (Halifax, QMJHL), Valentin Nussbaumer (Shawinigan, QMJHL), Maxim Cajkovic (Saint John, QMJHL), Samuel Poulin (Sherbrooke, QMJHL).
Defence - Matthew Robertson (Edmonton, WHL), Michael Vukojevic (Kitchener, OHL), Bowen Byram (Vancouver, WHL), Thomas Harley (Mississauga, OHL), Samuel Bolduc (Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL), Billy Constantinou (Kingston, OHL).
Goaltenders - Mads Sogaard (Medicine Hat, WHL), Taylor Gauthier (Prince George, WHL).