Prospects in awe

KEN WIEBE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Quinton Howden might be a teenager, but he still realizes the significance of Bobby Orr and Don Cherry.

In a few weeks, the Oakbank product and Moose Jaw Warriors forward will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with both after he was among the three Manitobans selected to play in the annual CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which goes Jan. 20 in Windsor, Ont.

"It'll be a great experience, those are two legends. To get the chance to meet (Orr and Cherry) will be a great honour," said Howden, who is back in Manitoba for the Christmas break and will play for Team Orr next month.

"It's very exciting. There are so many good guys who get to play in this game and so many young prospects that are eligible this year.

"I'll take as much as I can out of it. I'm definitely going to get the chance to play with a lot of good players."

Winnipegger Calvin Pickard, a goalie with the Seattle Thunderbirds, is among the 13 Western Hockey League players chosen to participate.

Pickard, the top-rated goalie in the 2010 Central Scouting Service preliminary rankings, will be between the pipes for Team Cherry.

"I've seen him on TV every since I was a little guy. To see him and to be coached by him for a night will definitely be special," said Pickard, who is also home for the holidays.

"It's obviously a bonus, but it's a long ways away from (the draft). The only way I'll keep that ranking going is by taking care of business in Seattle and being the best goalie I can there for the rest of this year."

The third Manitoban selected was defenceman Dylan McIlrath of Winnipeg, who has one goal, seven points and 102 penalty minutes for the Warriors this season.

'More confidence'

Howden, the first overall pick in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft, has 15 goals and 34 points in 35 games for the Warriors this season -- which already eclipses the 13 goals and 30 points he put up in 62 games during his rookie campaign.

"It's just confidence, I have a lot more confidence this year," said Howden, a 17-year-old who helped Canada win gold at the Under-18 tournament in August.

Although he was the eighth-ranked WHL skater in the Central Scouting rankings, Howden hasn't been watching that closely.

"It's in the back of my head, but I try not to focus on it and just go out and play my game," said Howden, when asked about being draft eligible next summer.

"I just kind of let it be. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself or look at that stuff too much. I'll let things fall where they may."

For reference purposes, it should be noted that all 16 Canadian Hockey League players chosen in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft took part in the 2009 Top Prospects Game.

KINGS ON TOP: The Dauphin Kings, who will host the RBC Royal Bank Cup in May, remain the top team in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with an impressive record of 36-5-1.

In the final Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings of 2009, the Kings found themselves still in fourth spot.

The MJHL player of the week is Winnipeg Saints forward Blake Chartier, who had two goals and two assists last week for the Addison Division leaders.

Chartier, a 20-year-old Winnipegger, is fourth in MJHL scoring with 20 goals and 61 points in 42 games this season.

Speaking of the MJHL, the Selkirk Steelers host the Waywayseecappo Wolverines at the MTS Centre tonight at 7:30 p.m.

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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