There is no shortage of excitement ahead of the 2020 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Touching down in Hamilton on Tuesday, the Top 40 prospects arrived in the hometown of the Bulldogs ahead of the annual showcase that sees the best draft eligibles put their skills on display before thousands of fans and hundreds of onlooking talent evaluators.
“It’s a great game. I’ve been watching it for years,” said Saginaw Spirit left-wing Cole Perfetti who enters the showcase as the fourth-highest North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings. “There are a lot of great players from all across the country. There is a lot of great talent out there so being able to be a part of this game and being associated with these great players is an honour.”
Hitting the ice Tuesday night in a practice session ahead of fitness testing the following day before the big stage set for Thursday, the showcase serves as the latest milestone in the always critical draft year.
“It’s a big game. A lot of good players have gone through this game,” said Prince Albert Raiders blue-liner Kaiden Guhle, the top-ranked player from the Western Hockey League who comes in at No. 7. “I expect a lot of skill, a lot of pace, and players working hard. You won’t produce in this game without working hard every shift so I expect a lot of compete.”
Thursday’s format pits the Top 2 prospects against each other – Rimouski Oceanic captain Alexis Lafreniere leads Team White versus Sudbury Wolves centre Quinton Byfield who headlines Team Red – who most recently served as teammates with gold-medal winning Canada at the 2020 World Juniors.
“You’re playing against top talent and you get to compare yourself to all those guys,” Byfield said. “Getting to play with them is a cool experience. It’s a definitely a special event. It’s just an honour to be here.”
The honour of being involved with the event was a message loudly echoed Tuesday.
“I think we’re all really excited and all the players are just pumped to be here,” added London Knights right-wing Luke Evangelista, who ranks 58th. “I think it’s going to be a fast-paced game. There is a lot of skill from around the CHL so it’ll be a good game.”