Surveying the 2012 Subway Super Series

Posted November 20, 2012

Tom Wilson recovers from a run in with the boards during one of the 2012 Development Camp scrimmages (All Photos Credit: M. Richter).

As dreams of an NHL season seem to dwindle away, many eyes are looking elsewhere for their hockey fix. With the AHL and ECHL seasons in full swing, Caps Outsider encourages you to take a look at a few rising stars who have yet to make their professional debuts.

For the past two weeks (November 5th-15th) various Canadian cities have been host to a select group of Junior-level (15-19 year old) players for the 10th Annual Subway Super Series.  The competition pairs up Canadian players from the Canadian Hockey League (CHL)’s three leagues – the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) – against a select group of Russian players.

With all of the players being under the age of 20, the series provides an opportunity to get an extra look at previously drafted prospects as well as to take a peek at the possible future faces of NHL franchises. Whether you’re a fan of Russian or Canadian Major Junior hockey or not, the tournament can also be considered a sneak peak at the upcoming World Junior Championships (WJC), which will be held in Ufa, Russia this year.  Pay attention, because it’s likely you’ll see some of these names again!

For Washington Capitals fans, the most notable name is that of prospect Tom Wilson.  The forward from the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers graced his second tournament roster of the year, having played in the Canada-Russia Challenge back in August.  In that nation v. nation tribute to history, he registered zero points, but did earn 6 PIM over the course of the four games.  Looking further into the past, both represented Canada successfully in 2011 with a gold medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and played in the OHL’s Top Prospects Game earlier this year.

Returning to the present, Wilson played in the second of two Ontario games against Team Russia as a member of Team OHL last week. While he didn’t make an appearance on the score sheet for the team’s 2-1 win over Team Russia, Wilson was a visible presence during the game, showing off his physical side to the Russians on several occasions.

It should also be noted that Wilson continues to impress with this season’s OHL performance, racking up fifteen points and thirty-seven penalty minutes in just thirteen games for the Whalers.  After his thirteen points in thirteen games in last season’s playoffs, it will be exciting to see how the rest of his season progresses.

While the Capitals only had one name tied to the tournament, the event itself also provided a chance to see what could be.  With many eligible or soon-to-be eligible players awaiting their chance at the NHL Entry Draft, it’s an excellent opportunity to check out what these players can do (and you never know who among the already-drafted might suddenly become a member of the Caps organization – GM George McPhee is nothing if not well-versed in the talent available for wheeling and dealing).

While there were limited undrafted players playing for the OHL, they seemed to find the spotlight all the same.  Connor McDavid is perhaps the most notable of the bunch, in part due to his age.  While he did not register any points, at a mere 15 he is the youngest player to ever make the roster for a Subway Super Series team.  He won’t be eligible for draft until the summer of 2015.  Outside of the tournament itself, McDavid has put up an impressive 30 point performance so far with the OHL’s Erie Otters – definitely a name to keep track of!

For those looking toward next year’s Draft, players like F Max Domi (now of Dale Hunter’s London Knights) and  Sean Monahan (Ottawa 67’s) are names to watch.  Each is putting up top-15 numbers in OHL scoring, and has the potential to have a significant impact on whichever club snags their rights.

Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads. He’s currently ranked #8 in the QMJHL for scoring, and has two games in-hand over several of those above him on the leader board.

The Super Series also provided another look at Halifax Mooseheads‘ prospects Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, whom my colleague here at Caps Outsider took a glance at back in October.  Both forwards netted a goal and three assists for the QMJHL Team, and they continue to lead the first-in-the-QMJHL Mooseheads in scoring.  MacKinnon’s name has been tossed around as a potential first-overall, and Drouin is considered heavily in the running to go in the NHL’s first round as well.

Despite the presence of these top names, however, history repeated itself and it all came down to the extra point awarded in a shootout loss to determine the victor.*  Unlike last year, however, the 2012 Canadian Hockey League teams struggled to hold their own against their Russian counterparts.  At the end of the cross-continental tour, Canada lost to Russia eight points to ten.

This year’s loss was only the second time in the tournament’s ten-year history that the Russians have come out on top.   The first was just two years ago, when Russia beat the CHL 4-2 overall.

*For those interested in the technicalities, the WHL’s win over Russia going to a shootout cost the CHL collective a point, which gave Russia the point advantage over tied (3-3) game results.