Yager, Unger gain confidence from Top Prospects Game experience
Brayden Yager and Jackson Unger put together strong showings at the 2023 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Unger was 30 seconds away from posting a shutout in his half of the game, while Yager picked up an assist in Team White’s 4-2 win at the Langley Events Centre last Wednesday.
Unger said it was a great experience.
“There was a lot of nerves going in there, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “But overall, a great win and it was a great time being there.”
Yager made an impact throughout the game for Team White, assisting on their opening goal and generating a number of scoring chances, finishing with two shots and winning six of 14 faceoffs.
The Moose Jaw Warriors forward said he was able to settle into the game fairly quickly.
“Usually you’re kind of trying to figure out chemistry at the start of the game, but I thought it went really well, we had a ton of fun and just played a little bit loose,” Yager said.
The Top Prospects Game consists of more than the game as the players had a jam packed schedule from the moment they touched down in Vancouver.
From media sessions to on and off-ice testing, the two days leading up to the game were busy for the 40 top prospects.
Unger said he’d never experienced anything like it.
“The moment I stepped off the plane, there was always just a camera following you around, so that was all new to me,” he said. “My testing went well and a lot of fun interviews, different things like that, it was good.”
Yager was mic’d up for the on and off ice testing. He said it was a fun experience to go through the lead up to the game.
“It was so busy, but it was so fun,” Yager said. “Just an experience that I’ll never forget.”
Yager, who is the fifth ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings, placed in the top-five in 30-metre backwards skate, weave agility and reaction with puck drills during the on-ice testing.
“I thought I did a pretty good job, there was a couple of the sprints that I want to do better, I got off to a bad start, but it was super fun,” he said.
Unger, who is the 17th ranked North American goalie, played the second half of the game for Team White, entering with the game tied at 1-1. His team gave him some cushion with three goals in the third period and he did the rest, stopping 21 of 22 shots.
Unger said he definitely felt the nerves grow during the first half of the game.
“[Scott Ratzlaff] had a great performance ahead of me, so I had to follow that up,” he said.
“I had the shutout until 30 seconds left, so I can’t be any happy than that.”
Yager said he doesn’t know if he helped or hurt his draft stock, but he’s excited to turn his focus to the Warriors and the push towards the playoffs for the rest of the season.
“You only get to go to that game once, so it’s just a big confidence builder, but just super excited to get back here,” he said.
“We’ve got a good group here and it’s the last push before playoffs, so getting to finish in a good spot and put ourselves in a good spot to have a good playoff run.”
The Warriors are heading out on the road for three games in Alberta this week, they visit Lethbridge on Wednesday, Edmonton on Friday and then finish up in Calgary on Sunday.