Craig MacTavish showed up to the Metro Centre on Wednesday night for one reason.
Amidst an CHL tour, the Edmonton Oilers general manager spent the previous night in Quebec and then headed down the line to watch the Halifax Mooseheads’ prized rookie in action against the Charlottetown Islanders.
The four-time Stanley Cup champion wanted to see if the Herd’s leading scorer was worthy of all the hype he’d been hearing.
After just one period, in which Ehlers scored and at times humiliated the visitors with his superior speed and stick handling, MacTavish had seen enough.
“He looked pretty good to me,” said a coy MacTavish. “He’s a pretty dynamic, a very dynamic player. He’s really exciting to watch. Every time he’s on the ice you can see he has a hunger and intense desire to play the game: high-speed skill, quickness, great stick skill. He looks very dangerous to me.”
Ehlers is in his draft year. Obviously, MacTavish wouldn’t offer his draft eligible favourites. But, let’s just say Ehlers left a fine impression.
“He definitely catches your attention. It doesn’t take a scout to pick him out of the group. You don’t have to go looking for him.”
And, the possibility of the dynamic forward going high in the draft?
“I just watched one period,” he said with a laugh. “But there’s a strong possibility.”
And what did Ehlers, who finished the contest off with a pair of goals and assists, think of the glowing assessment.
“Obviously, it’s cool of course,” he said. “It doesn’t make me nervous to know that he’s up there watching me. It doesn’t change the way I want to play, but it’s great to hear.”
As for MacTavish, who’s served at virtually every level of the NHL game, he’s been enjoying his tour.
“I love watching the kids. It’s amazing how hard these kids work, in particular those kids that have to work that hard because of their lack of skill.
“You see the passion they display and the work ethic, it’s pretty impressive how important the game is to all these kids.”