ice hockey

Prospects Perspective: Dramatic and Decisive

Kraken prospects Tye Kartye, Jacob Melanson and Ryan Winterton are all deep in the elite juniors playoffs with varying degrees of suspense in their individual series.

Right wing Kartye and his Ontario Hockey League Soo Greyhounds teammates dropped their first two games of a best-of-seven second-round series on the road against Flint. They returned home to win Game 3 Tuesday and raced to a 2-0 lead Thursday in Game 4 with Kartye scoring his seventh goal of the postseason to go with two assists.

But Flint answered with two first-period goals to tie it before the second and third periods featured plenty of shots but great saves by goaltenders on both squads. Flint won it eight-and-a-half minutes into overtime, taking a 3-1 lead in the series with Game 5 at Flint Saturday. Soo players and coaches said post-game they believed the team outplayed Flint and feel confident to win three games straight with a focus, of course, on winning each game at hand.

For forward Melanson, the time is now for the Kraken’s 2021 fifth-round draft choice. His Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Acadie-Bathurst Titan squad hosts the Halifax Mooseheads Friday to decide which team moves on to the next round. The Titan forced the decisive Game 5 with a triple-overtime victory at Halifax Wednesday.

ABT was down two games to none to start the series but turned matters around Monday in Game 3, winning in a rout, 8-1. Melanson scored two goals in the road victory, notching the third of five straight goals for the Titan, adding a primary assist on the fifth, then getting his second tally to finish the Acadie-Bathurst scoring. Melanson has three goals (including one shorthanded, a specialty for him this season) and two assists in four games.

In contrast, 2021 third-round center Winterton and the Hamilton Tigers are attempting to sweep OHL Eastern Conference rival Mississauga in Game 4 of their series Friday. Hamilton snared the Game 3 win by jumping to a 2-0 first-period lead, then playing a tight game until later third period, with Mississauga playing an extra attacker and no goalie, when Winterton dug and skated out a puck deep in the defensive zone, passing to a teammate at neutral ice for the eventual empty-net dagger goal.

Winterton, who doesn’t turn 19 until early September and was only 11 days shy of not being eligible for last July’s draft, has two goals and eight assists in seven playoff games. He looks more and more like a steal for Seattle in the third round. After rehabbing from a shoulder injury, Winterton returned mid-regular season to notch 20 goals and 26 assists in 37 games. Winterton and his squad figure among top favorites to win the OHL title and advance to the Memorial Cup in which the OHL, QMJHL and Western Hockey League champs compete against a host team (this year, Saint John, NB) for the prestigious Cup.

With 10 NHL games on his pro ledger and points in nine of those games (3 G, 6 A), Matty Beniers no longer graces the Prospects Perspective series on the regular. But it is worth noting the former NCAA star was presented two awards by the Devers Blue Line Club and University of Michigan men’s hockey program: The Hazel M. “Doc” Losh Award for player who finished the season with the most points; and the Carl Isaacson Awardone Mom and Dad no doubt love, going to the player “who best combines high scholastic achievement with athletic ability.”

Kraken assistant general manager Jason Botterill won the Isaacson three times from 1995 through 1997. Other notable NHLers who combined academics and hockey skills include Edmonton’s Zach Hyman (2015) and Washington’s Carl Hagelin (2009 to 2011).

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