Depending on how things work out for the World Junior Championships both players may have the opportunity to represent their countries in the boxing day classic. MacKinnon with team Canada and Jones with the United States. But with the NHL lockout and all the junior talent stuck in the minors there is a strong chance that MacKinnon may not even crack the Canadian squad, making the prospect game their first opportunity to face off on the same ice surface in their junior careers. Even if both players make their junior teams they will not be the key players, playing small but solid roles they wont be the stars, where at the prospects game they will be the main attractions.
The 17 year old MacKinnon is tearing it up in the QMJHL sitting 6th in scoring with 43 points. With his inclusion in the Subway Super Series he's only been able to lace up for 25 of the Mooseheads games but already has racked up 20 goals. The 18 year old Jones is having a great rookie campaign in the WHL racking up 17 points in 24 games while honing his defencive skills and shutting down the opposition.
Perhaps the best part about the two prospects facing off will be their head-to-head battle. Jones will likely be given the near impossible task to shutdown his counterpart and keep him off the score sheet. MacKinnon has blazing fast speed, lightning quick hands and a deadly shot which makes him a weapon from anywhere on the ice. Not to mention the 4 other guys that will be on the ice with him who will benefit from the attention of defenders focusing on MacKinnon.
MacKinnon and Jones may be the best captains to ever play in the CHL Prospect game. With how close the battle for the first over pick is and how skilled and versatile they are they will make the choice for 1st overall a tough one.
“I can’t remember, to tell you the truth, two better captain, I’ve had pretty good captains in (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Bobby) Ryan, but I’ve never seen two at the top like this." ~ Don Cherry coach for team Cherry
The last time these two superstars met was at the U-17 tournament where Jones' team clobbered MacKinnon 12-1. But with the superb talent both sides will boast the score should be a little more even. While the main attraction will be the battle for the first overall pick, this game is a great opportunity for other top prospects to showcase their game to scouts and improve their stock. Joining MacKinnon as the captains for team Cherry are Halifax teammate Jonathan Drouin and Sault St. Marie defenceman Darnell Nurse. Drouin has benefited from playing on the same line as MacKinnon and will look to re-ignite that spark in the prospects game while Nurse is hoping to impress and prove he's worthy of a spot in top 5. Joining Seth will be Ottawa 67's Sean Monahan and fellow WHLer Hunter Shinkaruk both of whom will be looking to improve their draft spot and prove they are worthy of being drafted in the top 5.
Seeing the two best prospects in hockey battling it out at the prospect game may be some of the best hockey fans will see all year. Make sure you pay attention to the juniors, they're providing some fantastic hockey and are the future of the NHL. Make sure to catch MacKinnon, Jones and the other amazing junior players in the prospect game on January 16.