One of the most heavily scouted international events in the calendar year is the U18 Five Nations Tournament.
Showcasing most of the top European draft talent, the tournament gives scouts on this side of the Atlantic a chance to see how these kids have progressed since they last played against their peers at the Ivan Hlinka. Typically, the showcase is not a fan heavy event but instead is viewed by mostly scouts and a few media.
No team demanded more attention from those in attendance than the first place Swedes, who won the Five Nations utilizing a team balanced with high-end draft talent for both 2012 as well as 2013.
Some of that talent included goaltender Oscar Dansk, who played with the poise and confidence to make the save he should make, and even stealing a couple he shouldn’t have. Dansk really shows strong technique and a compact frame when moving laterally. He just doesn’t open up much when going side to side.
Playing in front of Dansk was a very strong defensive unit that included the ultra dependable Ludvig Bystrom, who contributed on both sides of the puck. Strong, all-round defenseman Calle Andersson who has projectable size and smarts, puck rushing Christian Djoos, who contributed a couple nice goals and Hampus Lindholm also comprised the blueline.
Lindholm displayed great speed and offensive flair but needs to refine his game that is still rather raw. He showed strong puck moving ability with crisp, accurate passes and a willingness to skate with the puck. Unfortunately, he also showed at times he can force things that just aren’t there. He was best when he kept his game simple and let the play come to him.
Much like the World Junior Championship, winger Sebastian Collberg was again pilling up points as the dangerous forward has great offensive instincts and that great shot. Big Ludvig Nilsson was also impressive offensively as he contributed as a net front presence to the Swedish power play.
Coming into the five-team event hosted in Pori, Finland there was one high end European prospect that many scouts were extremely excited to watch.
Simply put, Teuvo Teravainen has been absolutely on fire. The talented Finn showcased his magnetic puck skills, quick shot release as well as his elite vision and playmaking skills as the events most dangerous forward. Teravainen, who has been hanging around the tail end of the first round in draft rankings all year, led the tournament in scoring with six goals and eight points in four games for the second place Finns.
Others who made a good impression on those in attendance include Teravainen’s Finnish teammate, goaltender Joonas Korpisalo who made a statement to be included in the 2012 draft class discussion for top goalies with his athletic and sound technical game. He made some huge saves in his two contests he played.
The second place Fins, who lost 3-2 to Sweden in the final, could have likely won the event but were missing two big components in 2013 eligible centre Aleksander Barkov and solid defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Both are anticipating being first round draft picks next year.
American winger Riley Barber, son of former NHLer Don Barber, had a breakout performance for the third place USA squad, as he put up five goals and six points in four games. He had an impressive hat trick against the Czech Republic in the Americans’ opening game and then a two-goal game against the Russians to close out the tournament. He showed that he can influence the game both by playing with a hard, in your face physical edge as well as with finesse and a rocket shot.
Speaking of the Americans, defenseman Connor Carrick was also very impressive as a puck rushing blue liner as he finished the tournament with three points and two nice goals in four games.
Also on the backend for the Americans Jacob Trouba continued to play an impressive steady two-way game, where he is seemingly always in defensive position while also reading the play and timely joining the rush.
Big Russian winger Anton Slepyshev produced just two goals in one of the four games but was dangerous on many shifts through out. The six-foot-two winger was one of a few bright sports for the fourth-place Russians with his slippery moves, good shot and the size/skill combo that drives defenders crazy.
Slepyshev’s Five Nations teammate and recently many NHL scouts golden boy after his performance at the IIHF U20 World Junior Championship, Andrei Vasilevski, did not enjoy as much of a dominating showing in Finland as he did in Alberta. Vasilevski still played well and showed some high-end technical play as well as the odd quick glove snag but he did not look as focused and did not steal any games for his country this time around.
For the fifth place Czechs small but skilled centre Ondrej Slovacek put up some good numbers and showed scouts his offensive skills and feisty nature. His five points in four games tied him for fourth in overall scoring. Marek Langhamer, Slovacek’s teammate, had a rough tournament with a goals against above 5.00, but still managed to show flashes of his pro-potential by utilizing his size and never give up attitude.
One thing most came away with after watching this tournament is the notion that the Swedes and Finns likely will be a very competitive internationally for the next couple years as the talent coming through both countries is impressive.