Well, let's blow the dust and cobwebs out of this space with some of my observations from the CHL Top Prospects Game a couple weeks ago.
Please note that it's always dangerous for scouts to make assessments off a single viewing - that's why you go see the players as much as possible. So take this for what it's worth - just a tiny bit of extra or marginal information.
John Tavares: Not much I can say that hasn't already been said. Forget that he sometimes looks lazy or bored in OHL games, you have to take a big-game performer like this first overall.
Matt Duchene: Biggest surprise for me. If Tavares and Hedman are in a group to themselves at the top, then Duchene surely heads the next group. More dynamic than I expected. Terrific skater. I know it's only a single viewing, but I'd easily have him ahead of Kane or Cowen.
Nazem Kadri: Brought the effort level to this game. When he's on, he looks like a top five player. More speed and defensive smarts than I expected. But how is his effort level in a Tuesday night game against Kingston?
Zack Kassian: Better hands than I thought, but skill level still isn't real elite. Must have watched a lot of Bryan Marchment on TV when he was a kid. He should apply for a patent on that "ass-check" he throws all the time.
Peter Holland: Wow, he can fly and really handles the puck nicely at top speed. Good energy and is creative. Didn't seem to like to go into traffic, but maybe that's because he's got the speed to just go around that traffic. Lots to like, but I wish he were less of a solo artist.
Alex Hutchings: Speedy little buzzsaw loves to forecheck and really works. Is there much/any hand skill there? Didn't see it if there was.
Ethan Werek: Skating looked like a problem here. A step behind most of the time. Otherwise didn't notice much.
Marcus Foligno: Thought I'd see more from him physically. Actually backed off in a couple of battles. Left me scratching my head.
Michael Latta: A bit of a treadmill stride. Good energy, nice passer and decent vision.
Taylor Beck: Frame looks big and seems to have broad shoulders. Stride looks odd to me, but he gets where needs to go. Good strength and determination in physical battles.
Ryan O'Reilly: Barely noticed. Saw a quick release on his shot, but that's it. Doesn't mean he hurt his stock, it's just sometimes hard for every player to do something noticeable when scouts are looking every single player on the ice.
Ryan Ellis: Not sure I care about the smallish size or the defensive lapses. His hockey sense is off the charts good. We always (over-optimistically) compare the small defencemen like Nick Schultz, Kris Russell, Ian White, etc., to Brian Rafalski. But Ellis is the one guy who really looks to me like he could be Rafalski-good. One caveat: the strong physical play in this game was a bit of a "cheat" - knowing all those head scouts and GMs were watching - and not something he usually shows in OHL games.
Calvin de Haan: Sort of underwhelming, but when I go back and look at my notes, I get the same feeling I did about Luca Sbisa last year. Seems like he's nothing to get real excited about, but just doesn't do anything wrong out there. So calm, steady, and reliable. Just does not panic with puck under pressure. Always hard to guess which d-man in a draft crop could be closest to being ready for the NHL, but this could be the guy.
Taylor Doherty: Is going to be a strong, strong monster when he fills out. Already stronger than he realizes - needs to figure out how to use that strength. Feet didn't look too bad to me. But you have to guard against manufacturing a prospect in your mind when a player is this big.
Andrej Nestrasil: Didn't like to get hit, but it doesn't prevent him from going into traffic and crashing the crease. Nice hands around the net.
Philippe Paradis: Like his competitiveness. Threw some huge checks. Didn't get much chance to show his offensive ability.
David Gilbert: Good speed. Finesse style. Good raw tools, but is a ways from putting it all together.
Jordan Caron: Excellent stickhandler. Stride is a bit short. Lacks speed a little bit, but has nice lateral quickness. Seemed to shy away from contact a few times.
Michal Hlinka: Very good stickhandler. Looked like he didn't like the physical stuff at all. Plays too polite.
Dmity Kulikov: Wow, does he have some great raw tools. Strong, wide, powerful skating stride. Really smooth footwork. Liked him on the power play - confident with the puck, skates it laterally to get a shooting lane. Hard shot. Good strength. Okay in his own end. A bit unrefined, but has tremendous upside.
Simon Despres: In some ways, opposite of Kulikov. But is also a good skater. Gets the most out of his ability. Smart and has good hockey sense. Blocked a lot of shots.
Charles-Olivier Roussel: Lots to like here. Good skater, plays much bigger than his size. But is he a 'tweener? You do wonder just a little bit about what kind of player he could be in the NHL.
Eric Gelinas: Has a good shot from the point. Struggled with the first pass. Otherwise didn't notice much.
Cody Eakin: Yes, being matched with Tavares helped, but he did enough on his own to really help himself. Probably the single player who left the biggest impression in the minds of most scouts. Terrific speed and finishing touch. When he's healthy, this is what he's capable of.
Evander Kane: Maybe he's just getting a bit tired with all the hockey he's played this season, but his effort level just a bit below what you want to see in this game. Skating continues to improve and is now a plus. Of course, the skill level and scoring touch are truly elite. But I'm beginning to get a tiny nagging doubt about his work ethic.
Carter Ashton: All but erased the biggest concern I had about him going into this game: would he look slow? Kept up in the transition game and showed quite a good passing touch on the rush. And good around the crease and along the boards, as usual.
Brayden Schenn: Top speed looked a little lacking here. But the lateral quickness and change of pace might be good enough to make up for it. Probably impressed some GMs with his grit. Hit everything in sight. And showed enough skill too.
Scott Glennie: Didn't get much done, but displayed his speed and aggressive forechecking well. Wasn't as effective on the forecheck against d-men who could make good decisions with the puck.
Levko Koper: He's such a good skater - why doesn't he use that speed more? Showed that knack for getting open without the puck and near the crease.
Landon Ferraro: Stuck on a bad line. Liked his effort level, but just couldn't get anything going.
Jimmy Bubnick: Part of Ferraro's bad line. Looked a bit out of place against this competition. Finesse game is not his ticket to the next level. Needs to go back to the board-digging and crease-crashing full time.
Jared Cowen: Same as he was in WHL games. Had those handful of jumps into the offense that made you wonder, "why don't you do that all the time?" That doesn't really help the concerns about the offensive upside. But if he's a Braydon Coburn clone (at worst), isn't that a player every team would love to have?
Brayden McNabb: Figured he wouldn't look good in this game, but wasn't as bad as I feared. Skating didn't look too bad. But it's not great. Excellent in his own end, and kind of blah with the puck. About what you'd expect. Maybe he should have dropped the gloves with someone.
Stefan Elliott: Forward skating with the puck, he's good. Every other aspect of his skating looked suspect in this game. Sloppy with the puck under pressure. Wasn't terrible in his own end, but not real good either.
Tyson Barrie: Looked about as bad in the d-zone as he usually does. But struggled to show his offensive ability. Had less time-and-space than he does in Dub games. Probably didn't help himself in this game.
Tommi Kivisto: Ugh, as bad as he looked at the WJC, he looked even worse here. How can a guy who skates this well get beat so often? Obvious answer: not thinking the game well.
Olivier Roy: Wow, he's got some great natural quickness, but also some flaws. Plays big and is quick around the crease. Leaves some truly ugly rebounds at times.
Scott Stajcer: A pleasant surprise. Quick pads and excellent rebound control. Gets too active and overcommits at times.
Nathan Lieuwen: Ugh, his footwork looked so bad here. About as bad as I've ever seen him play. Won't be a big killer for his hopes on draft day, however. Goaltenders get lots of leeway in games like this.
Edward Pasquale: Handles the puck well. Good quickness and athleticism. Quick around the crease. Not sure I like his unorthodox style.