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Notes from the best scrimmage no one gets to see (except us)

At Power Edge Pro camp, some of the most gifted youngsters in North America show off their skills in a dynamite 4-on-4 competition. They don't sell tickets, so we're here to tell you which future NHL stars looked the best.
Steven Ellis/The Hockey News

Steven Ellis/The Hockey News

For the second straight year I had the opportunity to watch some of the top prospects in North America face each other in a 4on-4 scrimmage at Power Edge Pro camp in Toronto. PEP is a skills-based system that overloads the motor skills, so it’s not surprising that many of the hockey world’s phenoms are attracted to the camp. Pros use it too, with names such as Connor McDavid, Dylan Larkin and Patrick Kane. But the real fun for me is the prospect scrimmage. Last year, some of the standouts included Quinton Byfield, Cole Perfetti and Johnny Beecher, not to mention future first overall OHL pick Shane Wright and fellow Ontario phenom Adam Fantilli. Those last two were back this year, as were a whole slate of excellent youngsters born between 2002 and 2005.

For fun, I tried keeping track of the scoring in what turned out to be a 23-18 Team White victory over Team Black. It was unofficial, to be sure, and I missed two goals because the action was so fast (and there was no instant replay). In five years, it’s going to be hilarious to think that only about 20 people, most of whom were related to the players, witnessed such a showdown. Here are some of the players that caught my eye. Positions and 2019-20 teams are based off the PEP roster sheet.

Brayden Yager, RW, Martensville Marauders (Sask. bantam): One of the youngest players in the game, Yager was also one of the most deadly with five points and great chemistry with OHL Kingston’s Francesco Arcuri. His offensive instincts and abilities are elite and some WHL scouts think he might give Connor Bedard (who was at PEP last year) a run for his money in the 2020 bantam draft. Yager and fellow PEP camper Riley Heidt played a year up last season and both had double the points of the next-highest scorer on the team. NHL draft year: 2023

Alex Weiermair, C, Toronto Titans (Ont. bantam): Another incredible phenom, Weiermair is a 2005 birthday like Yager, but he didn’t play like a youngster. Weiermair is a fast kid with great anticipation and the ability to pickpocket foes who aren’t careful with the puck. Had nice chemistry with Saginaw’s Connor Punnett and was definitely one of the most noticeable on the ice and will be up for the 2021 OHL draft. NHL draft year: 2023

Brenden Sirizzotti, RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Unofficially one of the leading scorers in the game with five points, Sirizzotti seemed to be everywhere in this game, burying a nice wraparound goal and showing off a lot of high-end skill. He was taken in the second round of the OHL draft this year from the Whitby Wildcats, where he led the team in scoring. NHL draft year: 2021

Danny Zhilkin, C, Guelph Storm (OHL): The third player to tally five points in the game, Zhilkin did a lot of damage early, working magic on 2-on-1s, converting turnovers in the slot and jumping on pucks for quick breaks. The Russian-born center has been living in Toronto and played for the vaunted Marlboros program last year. Guelph nabbed him in the first round. NHL draft year: 2022 (he’s a December birthday)

Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts (OHL): Part of that incredible Don Mills Flyers team that won the OHL Cup this past season, Clarke is just amazing with the puck on his stick. He has zero fear and tons of patience, even when it looks like he’s hemmed in. In a game like this, he was able to make some nice dashes right to the net and was not denied. Barrie took him fourth overall this year. NHL draft year: 2021

Stephen Halliday, LW, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL): In a game full of speed demons, Halliday was a different kind of threat. The University of North Dakota commit isn’t the fastest, but he’s a huge kid with great hands. Played through a tough situation in Central Illinois last year and now gets rewarded by joining a top-flight Fighting Saints organization. NHL draft year: 2020

Ty Nelson, D, Toronto Jr. Canadiens (Ont. minor midget): Very much a modern-style defenseman, Nelson is a smaller player with great offensive tools. You can tell he thinks the game at a high level and he moves very well. He’ll be one of the top prospects for the 2020 OHL draft. NHL draft year: 2022

Chase Stillman, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): Stillman had four points in the game and the kid definitely has some nice speed to his game. The son of Wolves coach and former NHLer Cory Stillman, he scored on a penalty shot after fighting through two defenders and getting high-sticked. Sudbury took him in the second round this summer. NHL draft year: 2021

Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL): I’m leaving Wright and Fantilli until the end because we did videos with them too, but yeah: Wright is really good. He was snakebitten early in the game, but had some incredible moves that just happened to go off posts or get saved. He caught on for four points eventually and could have had another if a 2-on-1 wasn’t broken up unfairly by a player from the other team knocking away the puck from the bench. NHL draft year: 2022

Adam Fantilli, C, Toronto Jr. Canadiens (Ont. minor midget): It would be fun to see Wright and Fantilli on the same team, but they had to spread it out at PEP and that’s understandable. Fantilli’s speed is his calling card and it is for real. He returns to the Canadiens after playing a year up with the Toronto Red Wings and he’ll be the top prospect for the 2020 OHL draft. NHL draft year: 2023 (he’s a December birthday)

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