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Future Watch: CHL talents star in summer before NHL Draft

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It’s been a busy summer for some of the Canadian Hockey League’s rising stars with 21 of the league’s top 2020 NHL Draft prospects getting a head start on the season ahead by representing Canada and earning silver at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Here’s a look at a trio of forwards and a trio of defencemen representing the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League who competed in the Summer Under-18 tournament and are poised for big things in the season ahead.

Cole Perfetti introduced himself to the hockey world in style on international ice in August scoring seven goals in five games to lead the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.  Among his highlights, the forward from Whitby, Ont., had a two-goal performance during regulation of the Semi-Final before scoring on three of his four attempts in the shootout to lead Canada to the gold medal matchup.  This performance should come as no surprise since the Saginaw Spirit standout led the OHL in rookie scoring with 74 points in 63 games including 37 goals which led all first year CHL skaters.

Sticking in the OHL, defenceman Ryan O’Rourke of the Soo Greyhounds contributed a goal while representing the red, white, and black this summer after a rookie campaign where he produced 22 points in 62 games.  Perhaps the most impressive part of O’Rourke’s season was his performance at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in November where the Pickering, Ont., native shared the lead in scoring among defencemen and was named a Tournament All-Star representing Team Canada Black.

Forward Justin Sourdif of the Vancouver Giants was the most productive offensive 2002-born rookie in the Western Hockey League last season with 46 points including 23 goals in 64 games.  The Surrey, B.C, native continued that production for Team Canada with a goal and an assist while playing in a top-six role for head coach Michael Dyck.

Not many 2020 NHL Draft prospects have played as much hockey in the last 12 months as defenceman Kaiden Guhle.  The first overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft from Sherwood Park, Alta., captained Team Red at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, hoisted the Ed Chynoweth Cup with the Prince Albert Raiders, competed in the Memorial Cup Presented by Kia, then finally the Hlinka Gretzky Cup where he was one of Canada’s alternate captains.

Fellow first overall pick, Hendrix Lapierre, chosen by the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft, also made quite the impression at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.  The Gatineau, Que., native led the Summer Under-18 tournament in scoring with 10 points including three goals and seven assists in five games making up for his absence at the World Under-17 where an injury prevented him from representing his country.  Despite the shortened season, his 45 points in 48 games earned him QMJHL Offensive Rookie of the Year honours.

Another member of the QMJHL’s All-Rookie Team was defenceman Lukas Cormier of the Charlottetown Islanders.  He recorded 36 points in 63 games including 15 goals which led all 2002-born CHL rookies.  The native of Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, N.B., was selected fourth overall by the Islanders in 2018 and was the only player from the Maritimes to represent Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

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