It was a busy weekend in Edmonton at the River Cree Arena, as some of the 2020 Bantam Draft top prospects went head-to-head at the annual OHA Edmonton/NAX Showcase. Teams at the showcase included OHA Edmonton, NAX, Edge School, RINK Academy, OHA, Shawnigan Lake, West Van Academy, Pacific Coast Hockey Academy, Pursuit of Excellence, and Notre Dame.
There was a ton of talent on display for scouts to watch in preparation for this year’s bantam draft, here are how some of the most notable players performed and some players who stood out to me with their play throughout the tournament:
Adam Girard – DraftGeek Scout – @adamgirard7
Kaden Hammel – D – West Van Academy – DraftGeek Rank: 17
Hammel left the biggest impression on me from the showcase. His play was visibly dominant, and he made an impact on every shift. He’s a force on the backend who is utilized in all situations. On the powerplay, Hammel displays a calm poise with the puck, which allows him to control the play from the blueline, his on-ice perception enables him to dish the puck off to teammates, and he delivers a large volume of high-quality shots. His shot is powerful, and he’s efficiently able to get it through traffic, which proved to be a vital tool for West Van Academy throughout the showcase. Hammel also displayed good hands in tight and can retrieve pucks with ease. His explosive style of play starts with his ability to lead the rush up the ice and applies to all other aspects of his game, whether it be demonstrating high-intensity while in puck battles, or delivering hits to oncoming opposition. Hammel is a well-rounded player who’s style of play allows him to be an impact player in all aspects of the game.
Shane Smith – C – Edge School – DraftGeek Rank: 39
Smith is a tenacious player who could be found in the thick of the play each and every shift. The most prominent part of Smith’s game was his work ethic, he relentlessly tracks down pucks, fights to find open ice, and is fully engaged in every puck battle. On top of this, Smith also displayed high offensive upside, as he can get off quality shots quickly and showed good hands in tight. He’s strong on his stick and utilizes his body to protect the puck. Smith also appeared to have developed good chemistry with linemates as they worked well together on the forecheck and were able to find each other with passes consistently. I would describe Smith as a strong skater and has an excellent first step in his stride. As the captain of Edge School, it was clear that Smith is the type of leader who leads by example, as he has an unmatched work ethic and is someone teammates can rely on to be a significant contributor during vital parts of a game no matter the situation.
Marcus Pacheco – C – OHA Edmonton – DraftGeek Rank: 21
Pacheco might have the most raw-skill of any player at the showcase this past weekend. His skillsets are aesthetically on an elite level, and it all starts with his skating. Pacheco produces explosive acceleration out of his effortless stride, and his top speed makes him dangerous on the rush and gives him the ability to be a one-man zone entry machine. He also showed off his bolstering shot and was able to pick the corner of the net where the goalie was virtually giving him no room. I also really liked how deceptive he was with the puck. He wants to control the play while in the offensive zone and used a handful of tools to throw off the opposition, whether it be head fakes, or a suttle fake pass, a no-look shot, there were plenty of small details that Pacheco applied to his game. Which brings me to a part of Pacheco’s game that really impressed me, which is his attention to detail. Before most faceoffs, he’s analyzing where the opposition is set up and orchestrates where he wants his teammates to be as well as communicates where he plans to win the draw. On top of that, he continually has his head on a swivel to stay aware of where everyone is on the ice. With Pacheco, it was his top-end skill and attention to detail that impressed me the most. The one thing I would have liked to see more of is consistency in every shift. His effort level is there throughout the entire game, but there were times when he struggled to find his rhythm and have the impact that he’s capable of having.
Jacob Dennis – D – Edge School – DraftGeek Rank: 154
Dennis is an impact defenceman who possesses an explosive style of play and is a powerful skater. He efficiently retrieves pucks and is able to provide quality outlet passes while in transition and can lead the rush, which he does often. Dennis displayed solid positioning in his own end and found his way into shooting and passing lanes to break up plays. I really liked how Dennis played with a bit of an edge to his game and was usually always causing the other teams troubles in puck battles and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. All around a reliable defenceman in his own end who has a wide range of offensive abilities.
Luke Korte – F – West Van Academy – DraftGeek Rank: 26
Korte’s game can essentially be summed up with one word: quick. He’s a shifty skater with high-end top speed and always seems to be thinking one step ahead of the play. On top of being a fast skater, Korte also can process the game at a fast-pace and makes quick, effective plays with the puck. He’s always moving around the ice to create space for himself but never holds on to the puck for very long. By the time it gets to his stick, it seems as though he has already decided where he’s going to put it and will either make a quick pass or release a shot on net. Korte is also a relentless forechecker who doesn’t let his small stature hold him back from taking on much larger players in puck battles. This is a player with a wide range of offensive abilities and has a ton of upside to his game.
Matthew Gillard – D – NAX Academy – DraftGeek Rank: N/A
Gillard plays a complete game and was one of the players that really caught my eye this weekend. His skating is on par with some much more highly touted prospects, and he is really able to explode out of his crossovers. Gillard isn’t afraid to use his speed to carry the puck up the ice or to join the play on the rush. I was impressed with his ability to read the play and consistently get in shooting lanes or break up passes in his own zone. He’s an absolute workhorse in his own end and is relentless in puck battles. Gillard was aggressive at pinching in the offensive zone and could be relied upon to come out of those battles with the puck, or cause a turnover by the opposition. Gillard had excellent offensive abilities as he’s able to efficiently complete outlet passes and has a strong shot from the point, he’s also very effective at carrying the puck up the ice.
Anthony Wilson – W – NAX Academy – DraftGeek Rank: 62
A big body and powerful skater who protects the puck well and drives to the net with force. Wilson is a driver of the play while on the ice and is probably as far as you can get from a perimeter player. Whether it be on the forecheck, backcheck, or driving the puck to the net, Wilson proves to be a handful for the opposition to contain in all aspects of the game. Wilson was one of the strongest kids on the ice in almost every game, and he continually uses that to his advantage to protect pucks and win battles.
Hunter Sawka – W – Edge School – DraftGeek Rank: 51
This is a player who evidently has all the tools to be successful. Sawka is a big-body and has a good first step in his stride, but his top-speed needs a bit of work. He controls and protects the puck well, especially on the powerplay, using his body to create separation between defenders. He has good hands and a laser of a shot, which he can get off quickly. His high-end offensive skills make him a player with a lot of upside but would like to see him consistently play with more intensity and physicality.
Justin Kipkie – D – Edge School – DraftGeek Rank: 148
Moves well for a big defenceman and has a very smooth, effortless stride. Kipkie demonstrates calm confidence with the puck and is very effective at making outlet passes, as well as making plays from the blueline. He generates a ton of shots from the point and can get them through traffic. While he doesn’t have a high-intensity playing style, he still uses his body in battles and is relatively effective at tracking pucks. Overall, a calm defenceman who has the ability to be an offensive contributor and is a presence in his own zone.
Brendan Olson – D – PCHA – DraftGeek Rank: 168
Uses his stick well to strip players of the puck, control gaps, and take away passing lanes. Olson is a very efficient passer who can thread the puck through seams and made one of the nicest three-zone stretch passes I’ve seen in a long time to send his teammate on a breakaway. Olson controls the puck well on the blueline and is very efficient at retrieving pucks in his own end. One thing I noticed about Olson’s game is that he always looks for the pass, even if there is a lane open for him to rush the puck up the ice. While he is a great passer, there are times he forces the pass when skating it up ice would have been a much better play.
Liam Horrobin – DraftGeek Scout – @LiamHorrobin
#2 Saige Weinstein – NAX Academy – 19th in DraftGeek Rankings
Weinstein is a menace when he drives the puck down the ice. He’s fearless with the puck, and it
doesn’t take him long to get his feet moving, and before anyone notices, he’s in the opposition
zone. Once his feet get moving, it’s almost impossible to slow him down. Defensively, Weinstein
can get flustered. He makes loose passes and puts extra pressure on himself. With that being
said, he’ll work extremely hard to get that puck back.
#18 Austin Zemlak – OHA Edmonton – 16th in DraftGeek Rankings
Zemlak was a member of the 2019 OHA Edmonton roster, and it is very apparent on the ice.
The OHA captain plays a composed and reliable game with few mistakes made throughout. He
sees the ice well and gets the puck move down the ice with good transition passes that rarely
miss the target. Zemlak is a smooth skater which helps him control the blueline. He gets the
puck to the net, often creating second and third chance opportunities. He also uses his weight
(170 lbs) to separate the man from the puck and win battles along the boards. Overall, Zemlak
is one of the premier defencemen in the 2020 WHL Draft.
#11 Kai Matthew – NAX Academy – 11th in DraftGeek Rankings
Kai Matthew plays a silent but deadly game. You do see him do many flashy things on the ice
like some of the top centremen in this class, but he plays the game very effectively. Matthew
can either lurk around the goalmouth and knock in the rebound, or he can make you pay by
blasting a quick snapshot right by the netminder before he’s even noticed. He’s strong skater which
helps him move down the ice with speed. Matthews is also strong. Opponents have a tough
time knocking him off the puck, and he competes hard on the boards or in open ice to win the
puck back. Overall, he’s a very detailed player with lots to like in his game.