As far back as his first game in a Kelowna Rockets uniform three years ago, Shane McColgan had a definite goal for his hockey future: To be a first-round pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft.
The speedy 5-foot-9 centre will have a chance to make his case under the bright lights Wednesday night in Toronto at the Canadian Hockey League’s Top Prospects Game.
Listed 102nd among eligible skaters in Central Scouting’s most recent rankings, McColgan is, at the moment, well out of the range of the top 30 choices.
But with different NHL teams expressing different needs, predicting where players will actually fall could prove to be an inexact science.
McColgan plans to leave to leave nothing to chance at the Air Canada Centre as 40 of junior hockey’s top prospects audition their skills.
“I’m going to go in like it’s a regular season game and play my hardest and try to get my draft stock up. You’re showcasing yourself here,” said McColgan, who leads the Rockets this season with 44 points. “There is a little bit of pressure just because you’re trying to impress people who could potentially draft you. You try not to think about it too much. Just have fun playing the game and everything will fall into place.”
While the Top Prospects format features just one game, Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said McColgan’s performance on Wednesday could go a long way to determining how high the California native is chosen next June.
“Over the years, this game has become a real good opportunity for players to showcase themselves to NHL teams ahead of the draft,” Huska said. “A few years ago, (former Rocket) Blake Comeau had a great showing and he moved himself quite a bit. Shane needs to go in and show good work habits. If he has a good night, he could force some teams to take a more serious look at him.”
McColgan will play for Team Orr, but Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark will be behind the bench as Bobby Orr is unavailable for the game.
Rockets host Cougars
While McColgan struts his stuff for NHL scouts, the Rockets will be closing out a four-game home stand Wednesday against the division-rival Prince George Cougars.
The B.C. Division race remains as tight as ever with Giants in first with 49 points, the Cougars are second at 47 and the Rockets just one point back of P.G. in third.
“(The Rockets and Cougars) are separated by one point, so I would expect this to be very much like a playoff game,” said Rockets coach Ryan Huska. “It’s a very hard road for all the teams in the division with everything so tight. We have to be fighting hard every night and make sure we’re competing.”
Kelowna is coming off a weekend of mixed results—an inspired come-from-behind 5-3 win over the Portland Winterhawks on Friday, followed by a rather uninspired 5-2 loss to Medicine Hat on Saturday.
“I liked most everything we did against Portland, the way we were able to come back,” Huska added. “The second night I thought we were a bit flat, we need to be more consistent.”
This weekend, the Rockets will play three games in as many nights south of the border—Friday in Seattle, Saturday in Spokane and Sunday in Tri-City.