In the depths of August, some of the best players in the world came together in Toronto to work on their heavenly skills under the tutelage of Joe Quinn. This was the Power Edge Pro camp, though I propose a new name: Phenom University.
Those invited include the best players from a variety of ages, from NHLers all the way down to 13-year-old Connor Bedard, an incredible center from Vancouver who isn’t even eligible for the WHL bantam draft yet, but stood out nonetheless when the Prospects Group held its scrimmage.
Quinn is the founder of Power Edge Pro, a skills training system that focuses on Reactive Countering Training. ‘PEP’ has instructors across North America and a growing number of elite teams are using Quinn’s system and drills to coach up their players. Connor McDavid, for example, has worked with Quinn for a number of years. So what’s the crux of the system?
“You’re reacting and having to counter at the same time, which means overloading the motor skills,” Quinn said. “If you look at Connor, his hands are moving separately from his feet. We want players to develop three and four skills at once. In a game, you have to execute multiple skills. If you go down the ice like Connor, he’s giving false information while his feet are still moving. Most players, when they give false information, their feet are in the glide position. With the gear we use, those are triggers that force you to use more than one skill at the same time.”
The gear is a patented piece of equipment that kinda looks like the top half of a stapler if it was five feet long and had a hockey stick protruding out of one end. Players stickhandle through two different slots and the hockey stick end can be adjusted. As the players get used to it, they must use more speed and work with less space, increasing the difficulty in the process.
Quinn believes there is a big void in motor skill development, particularly in North America. He sees offense coming from the “inside game” these days and believes his techniques can help.
“The game is all about moving the puck into space these days,” he said. “Coaches are teaching defenders stick-on-puck. The minute the stick’s on puck, that’s an opportunity for the offensive player. The offense is all in the inside game now: you put your stick on puck, you just gave me an open lane – but most players don’t know what to do then. They don’t have the repetitions of moving that puck on a 45-degree angle and putting that defender in a vulnerable position. All those techniques will come out in games if the players increase their reaction time and their decision-making time, so they can execute when that happens.”
For Bedard, the PEP system has been a boon to his young career. Having seen him live, I am officially buying into the hype surrounding the kid, who was one of the better players in a scrimmage that included Quinton Byfield (first overall in the OHL draft), Stephen Halliday (first overall in the USHL draft) and Josh Lawrence (15th in the QMJHL draft, because he was committed to Boston University – he has since signed with Saint John and looks like a steal).
“It helps a lot with corners and quick movements,” Bedard said. “You can use it well in a game and I found it really helped me since I started doing it three years ago. I’ve found an improvement in getting around guys.”
Chaz Lucius is a goal-scoring center from Minnesota and one of the top 2003 birthdays around. He and younger brother Cruz were both at PEP, which gave Chaz a good measuring stick of elite competition from elsewhere.
“It’s great development here and overall it’s a great experience playing with some of the top OHL prospects, too,” he said. “Just seeing the different type of hockey from Canada to the U.S. is really neat.”
All three Hughes brothers were also in camp. Luke, the youngest, played with the prospects, while Vancouver Canucks pick Quinn and top 2019 draft prospect Jack played with the pros. If you ever wondered what a cross-ice game of 3-on-3 featuring McDavid, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Larkin and a couple Hughes brothers looked like…well, you had to be there.
“It’s a good week of skates and skating with guys you might not normally play with,” McDavid said. “It’s definitely fun and enjoyable to challenge each other to get better every day.”