It’s a little tougher to catch Canadian junior hockey games from Columbus, but not impossible. If you subscribed to their digital streaming services this season, there are a few players you can keep an eye on. Two of them look like future stars.
We can’t talk about Canadian junior prospects and not kick things off with winger Jordan Dumais, the fourth ranked prospect on our list. Like Brindley, he’s in that 5’9″, 170 pound range – but also like Brindley, he’s an electrifying player who can score in bunches. He proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt last season, finishing second in the entire CHL in scoring (four points behind some guy named Connor Bedard); with 54 goals and 140 points in just 64 games played.
Dumais was named league MVP and led his team all the way to the Memorial Cup tournament as an 18 year old, which is a rare feat in the QMJHL/CHL. He’s a sneaky player who sits off in the weeds as the play develops, only to find himself in the perfect spot at the perfect moment; where he can dish off a quick pass for a scoring chance, or finish the play himself. He has a wide array of skills that makes him a dangerous player from anywhere in the offensive zone.
Unfortunately, due to the NHL/CHL transfer agreement, he’s unable to play in the American Hockey League this season. Which really is too bad, because he doesn’t have much left to prove at the junior level. Still, he’ll return to Halifax this fall, to lead a team that lost a lot of its talent due to age this summer. It will be fascinating to see if he can keep up the same production levels with less help around him. If he does, there’s no doubt in my mind that he could repeat as MVP – and star for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
If you follow the Western Hockey League as I did for so many years (highly recommend), you can watch the third ranked prospect on our list: defenseman Denton Mateychuk. I feel like Denton gets overlooked by his own fanbase because he didn’t have the flashy success at the pro ranks or productivity increase that some of the other prospects did last season. But, make no mistake, he’s a legitimate player, who would easily be the top prospect for a lot of NHL teams.
He’s listed just shy of 6’0″, around 190 pounds; so don’t expect him to be a big, physical bruiser in the NHL. But, he’s an elite skater (yes, I said elite) who uses his edges to turn and pivot, with or without the puck. He’s not perfect defensively, but he understands gap control and how to use his skating and stick to defend; and he has surprising strength that makes him effective regardless where the play takes him.
With that said, he’s most exciting with the puck on his stick. Mateychuk is a one-man breakout, more apt to turn off of plays and reset if he doesn’t like the way it’s forming. He can hold onto the puck seemingly at will and buy time for his teammates to run set plays – or just skate it up the ice and create offense himself. He’s exactly the kind of defender you want when you have a puck possession team, and I think there’s no doubt that he’ll fit right into Mike Babcock’s system, if the coach is still around when he makes the NHL roster.
Look past his flat productivity year over year; the Western Hockey League is a tough league to produce in. Mateychuk’s game matured a lot this season, adding polish to his already solid all-around game. He’ll return to the Moose Jaw Warriors this fall, acting as captain for the second year in a row – and I think he’ll certainly be on one of the top defense pairings for Canada at the World Juniors. He’s an exciting player to watch if you can see him play; he has a little bit of Cale Makar to his game.