Welcome back to the Friday morning Prospect Ramblings! This week I want to take a look at the summer hockey events that have been going on since the end of July. The World Junior Summer Showcase, which I was able to attend, and the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup tournament that just finished their preliminary round on Wednesday. The two events have become staples for anyone interested in prospects. Today I want to take a look at both events and give out “Three Stars” and some honourable mentions.
World Junior Summer Showcase
The World Junior Summer Showcase was held in Plymouth, Michigan and featured some of the best U20 players in the world. The event featured teams from the host USA, Canada, Sweden and Finland, all in preparation for the World Junior Championships in December and early January. The four nations each had players that stood out and some that disappointed. We can take a look in the rearview mirror at the Summer Showcase now that it’s concluded and give out the “Three Stars”. Below are the scoring leaders at the event, courtesy of Dobber Prospects Head of European Scouting, Jokke Nevalainen.
Cole Caufield, RW, USA: The diminutive sniper put on a show all week at the Showcase. Cole Caufield led the event in scoring and he did it in style. His skating was noticeably more impressive and he played with consistency. He played a more effective 200-foot game, engaging the play in the defensive zone without fail. He may never be a defensive stalwart but if he continues to play as he did at the WJSS when he attends the University of Wisconsin next year. He was easily the biggest standout of the week by far. Offensively dominant from shift to shift, Caufield scored some beautiful goals over the weekend but none were better than the goal below with inches of room over the goaltender’s shoulder.
Anttoni Honka, RHD, Finland: The Carolina Hurricanes’ third-round pick was an offensive force all week long at the Summer Showcase. Anttoni Honka matched Caufield with seven points and he did it all from the back end. He was a wizard on the power play and ran the unit from the half wall, able to distribute the puck to anywhere on the ice as you can see in the video below. He was able to thread passes with ease and he used his shot effectively. His defensive game was inconsistent at times but he showed the ability to adequately defend at the U20 level. Effectively moving the puck up the ice, his transition game is already pro-ready as he is able to weave his way through the neutral zone, entering the offensive zone with possession. Although his defensive game needs work to get to the next level, his time at the Summer Showcase was a great sign for the Hurricanes draft choice.
Alexis Lafreniere – Joe Veleno – Kirby Dach, First Line, Canada: This may be cheating a little bit but I couldn’t single out any of these players because they played so well off of each other. The Canadian top line had instant chemistry. This very well could be the Canadian’s top line when the World Juniors start in December. They were noticeable every time they stepped on the ice. Kirby Dach showed off his speed and skating, he consistently got to dangerous scoring areas on the ice. Joe Veleno put his skills on display with some exceptional passing and the ability to get the puck on the net. He missed a couple of open nets on the power play but the process was there. He showed a mature 200-foot game and was relentless on the forecheck. In the video below you can see the top Canadian line score a goal with some smart, crisp passing on the rush.
The youngest player on the line was 2020 draft-eligible Alexis Lafreniere. The young left-winger was the offensive catalyst on the power play. The Canadian’s filtered everything through the 17-year-old with the man advantage and he excelled at it. He didn’t show on the score sheet as much as one would expect based on his involvement in seemingly every play while on the ice but he did a fantastic job of showing that he is able to play at the U20 level despite not yet officially starting his draft-eligible season with the Rimouski Océanic. Below you can see Lafreniere running the power play from the half-wall. He deals with the pressure from the USA penalty killer, filtering the puck to the point before getting a shot on goal that leads to Dach putting the rebound in the net.
K’Andre Miller, LHD, USA: The most well-rounded and NHL-ready defenceman at the Summer Showcase, Miller was a beast in all three zones. He was clearly the leader of the US squad and his play was steady, consistent and efficient. Rarely making a mistake, the New York Rangers prospect looks to be a key contributor at the World Juniors at the end of December.
Justus Annunen, G, Finland: Annunen was excellent for the Finns. The young Finnish goaltender had a strong base, good reflexes and showed athleticism, one of his perceived weaknesses. He had a strong week in net and made numerous highlight-reel saves including this one below.
Philip Broberg, LHD, Sweden: Excelling yet again on the international stage, Broberg was among the best Swedes at the event. The team as a whole struggled at times but Edmonton Oilers first-rounder was excellent in transition as always but it was his defensive play that instilled confidence.
Joel Farabee, LW, USA: The Flyers prospect was involved in every play. He pushed the pace of play and involved his linemates. He took a big step in showing that he was ready for the next level this season. Whispers of him challenging for a spot with the Flyers in training camp have begun from media and scouts alike.
Alexander Holtz, LW, and Lucas Raymond, C/RW, Sweden: The young Swedish duo were the most dangerous Swedes on the ice in all but the final game of the event. Holtz had a number of chances offensively from a variety of areas on the ice. In front of the net, on the half wall or on a breakaway, Holtz was a threat at all times. Raymond was the catalyst for offence for the Swedish junior team. His skating, vision and puck skills were among the best at the Summer Showcase, regardless of team or age. As players eligible for the 2020 NHL draft, they were among the youngest players at the event.
The Hlinka-Gretzky Cup
The Hlinka-Gretzky Cup preliminary round finished on Wednesday and the semi-finals begin this morning, Friday, August 9th. The dominant Canadian squad will take on the feisty Swedes in one semi-final and the Russians will take on the young, upstart Finns in the other. The tournament headlines have been dominated by the Canadians blowing out every team in their pool by a combined score of 21-1 in just three games. With this being the unofficial kick-off of the draft season, we are going to select the “Three Stars” of the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup through the preliminary round.
Cole Perfetti, C, Canada: Far and away the best player on the ice at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament thus far, Cole Perfetti leads the event in scoring with 9 points. He has been a force for the Canadian team, always seeming to be in the exact spot to take advantage of a mistake in coverage. He has scored goals at will and if not for some big saves he would have had a couple more. His hockey IQ has been on display along with his impressive shot. Perfetti is a player to keep an eye on during the season as a challenger to be selected in the top-five. Everything Perfetti has done with the puck has seemed to result in a goal for Canada as you can see below.
Yaroslavl Askarov, G, Russia: The consensus top goaltender in the 2020 NHL Draft has put on a show at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. Yaroslavl Askarov has been the backbone of the Russian team that won their group and there is a very good chance that he carries the Russians to the finals. In what turned out to be a classic goalie battle, Askarov outlasted Swedish netminder, and 2021 draft-eligible, Jesper Wallstedt in a game that had no goals with under 8 minutes left of the game. Askarov finished with the shutout and the Russian escaped the game with a deceiving 3-0 win. Askarov has shown his technique, athleticism, and positioning throughout the tournament. His play should carry over into the elimination rounds where he has the opportunity to dethrone a strong Canadian squad in the finals much as he did to the legendary American’s at the World U18 Championships back in April.
Brad Lambert, F, Finland: This may seem like a stretch as the Finnish forward only has three goals and one assist in his three games at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup but he’s been a top-two player for Finland at the event. He’s also a 15-year-old, 2022 draft-eligible prospect. Playing at a high-level, he has produced offensively and hasn’t looked out of place in the 200-foot game. He has shown agility and speed as well as the ability to create in the offensive zone. He took an awkward fall into the boards against the Czech Republic but didn’t miss a shift. The young Finn had a hat trick against the Swiss, showing how dominant he can be at times. Lambert’s first goal of his Hlinka-Gretzky tournament can be seen below.
Hedrix Lapierre, C, Canada: The forward from the QMJHL has backed up TSN’s Craig Buttons surprise anointment as the third-best player in the 2020 draft. He is tied with Perfetti for the tournament lead in scoring and has been in perfect synchronization with linemate Quinton Byfield.
Noah Patenaude, G, Switzerland: Coming into this tournament as a relative unknown, Patenaude put together an impressive performance at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. His performance against the Canadian squad was impressive despite allowing eight goals on 48 shots. He also prevented Perfetti from getting a hat trick right at the end of the game with a save of the year candidate.
Michal Gut, F, Czech Republic: Gut has been one of the best Czech forwards at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in a mildly disappointing event for the Czech team as a whole. He’s shown off a ton of puck skills and he scored the only goal allowed by the Canadian team. He is committed to the Everest Silvertips of the WHL for next season. He is a player to watch for the upcoming draft where he will be one of the younger prospects available.
Oskar Olausson, RW/LW, Sweden: The slender Swede is a 2021 draft-eligible and he looked good against players a full year older. He may only have the one goal so far but his play has been quite good. He has shown high-level skating and his shot is impressive. He will play his draft-1 year primarily in the SuperElit so he could be a talent to keep an eye on heading into next year’s draft.
Thanks for joining me for a look at the two biggest hockey events of the summer. Rookie tournaments and training camps are right around, shortly after that pre-season will be upon us! Until then, check out our 31-in-31 summer series of articles diving into each and every team and their prospect pools. To follow along with the rest of the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament and the rest of the prospect world you can follow me here @theTonyFerrari on twitter!
Be sure to check out the Dobber’s Fantasy Hockey Prospect Report for 2019! It’s the best guide for fantasy prospects around and makes sure that while you’re there you check out the rest of the fantasy hockey guides.