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Canada’s top hockey prospects will soon converge on Hamilton

The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game will be played Jan. 16, 2020 in Hamilton.
The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game will be played Jan. 16, 2020 in Hamilton. Rick Zamperin/900 CHML

Three months from now, Hamilton will play host to the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

The 25th annual showcase will be played on Jan. 16, 2020 at FirstOntario Centre and will feature 40 of the Canadian Hockey League’s best NHL draft-eligible players.

“I think (fans) are going to expect to see the best in the CHL, the best players in the world at their age level competing for a chance to show off their wares to NHL scouts that are in the audience,” said CHL president Dan MacKenzie. “I think it’s going to be a great showcase. The calibre and the level of play is going to be outstanding.”

Tickets are on sale at Ticketmaster.ca and hamiltonbulldogs.com.

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“It’s like an all-star game but with a highly, highly competitive edge to it where these players want to showcase their skill and they only have a short period of time to do it,” said Bulldogs president Steve Staios. “The intensity is amazing, the skill level is amazing.”

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While the rosters for the game have not been announced, Sudbury Wolves star Quinton Byfield is expected to play in the showcase. Byfield leads the Ontario Hockey League this season with 20 points through 10 games.

“I haven’t gotten the opportunity to play against a couple of the guys from the WHL or the QMJHL so it would be exciting to play against them,” said Byfield. “New competition is always good for your game and see how you can improve.”

Last year’s game in Red Deer, Alta., featured a dozen players who went on to be selected in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft, including third-overall pick Kirby Dach of the Saskatoon Blades, who captained Team Orr to a 5-4 victory.

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Since the top prospects showcase was first introduced in 1996, the game has featured 14 players selected with the first overall pick in the NHL draft — Chris Phillips (1996), Joe Thornton (1997), Vincent Lecavalier (1998), Rick Nash (2002), Marc-Andre Fleury (2003), Patrick Kane (2007), Steven Stamkos (2008), John Tavares (2009), Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011), Nathan MacKinnon (2013), Aaron Ekblad (2014), Connor McDavid (2015) and Nico Hischier (2017).