Five Nations offered plenty to watch

Dan Stewart2015 Draft Center, International Events

The U18 Five Nations tournament is a strong event for European scouts to get a mid-season view on some of the drafts prospects they have been following all season long with their respective club teams but in a best on best environment.

It is also an opportunity for North American based scouts to get an additional look at some of the top European guys the draft has to offer as well.

Teams congregated from February 4-8, 2015 in Kravare and Poruba, Czech Republic to see who would come out as winners in this four game round robin event that boasted scouts in the stands from every NHL organization.

While there were those who disappointed our evaluators in the four games they played and had us either downgrading their pro upsides or at least question our placement on our master draft list there were plenty who made strong cases to get a boost up our ranks. With this report we are focusing on only a handful of those who impressed our evaluators.

Sweden’s Joel Ek-Eriksson showed us offensive skill and his constant desire to drive the play to the net. The kid was a penalty killing giant in this tournament, being called on almost every time his team was down a man. His puck protection ability and well-timed passes were balanced with his strong two-hundred foot game.

“Ek-Eriksson is yet another strong two hundred foot player out of the Swedish system,” noted one Future Considerations evaluator. “He skates extremely well and has a competitive streak that keeps him always hunting to make an impact.”

Ek-Eriksson finished with four goals in four games played for the underwhelming Swedes.

American center Jack Roslovic also showed some impressive puck skills, vision and playmaking abilities as well as some strong finish in his own right as he finished second in event scoring with seven points, including five assists, in just four contests. He was matched with 2016 eligible prospects Matthew Tkachuk and Auston Matthews, which formed one of the events most dangerous lines. Not only did he show his offensive abilities but he also was very dangerous on the backcheck, pressuring the opposition and causing numerous turnovers.

“Playing with super 2016 eligibles Tkachuk and Matthews; Roslovic shone through as a potent offensive weapon,” added one Future Considerations evaluator. “Using his smarts and nose for open ice, Roslovic was an excellent complement on a line of highly skilled players, as he doesn’t miss a beat.”

Oft-injured American center Colin White also left a positive impression on our evaluators. His skating, smarts and tenacity were the team captains top attributes that stood out as well as his impressive and consistent ability in the faceoff circle.

“White is a strong and talented two-way center who relishes playing a two-hundred foot game,” one Future Considerations evaluator said. “Even when held pointless in a game he makes an impact as he does so much more that you can’t ignore. Love the game he brings, reminds me a lot of a Travis Zajac, but with a bit more offensive upside.”

The Americans lost out on the top spot at this event to an impressive Russian squad that was led by winger Kirill Kaprizov, who just continues to impress every time we see him going back to his play at the Hlinka in August. The Russians top penalty killing option also showed off his high-flying creative game, high-end agility and most importantly his dogged determination in puck pursuit.

“Kaprizov was one of the best players on the ice all event for the Russians. He shone as a multi-tool forward that played massive minutes and was reliable in both offensive and defensive situations,” noted an FC evaluator.

Tending the cage for Russia was big Ilya Samsonov who was impressive giving up just five goals on the 86 shots he faced in the Czech Republic. He displayed not only his noticeable and imposing size (6-3/200 lbs), fluidity in the crease and constant communication with defenseman but also his awareness and excellent reaction time when facing down shooters.

On the hometown Czech side, center Michael Spacek was impressive as a difference maker who was dangerous every time he touched the ice.

“Spacek was one of the guys who stood out the most for me in this tournament,” added one FC scout. “(Spacek) proved to be an intelligent and creative player at both ends of the rink.”

On the Finnish roster two players stood out as well in big playmaking center Julius Nattinen and the puck moving defenseman Veeti Vainio.

“Nattinen was that projectable two-way center who played some big minutes in a scoring role for the Finns,” said one scout. “He had a cool head and was efficient under pressure. Spotted teammates well and can open up space with quick and accurate passes.”

Another was impressed with Vainio.

“Vainio stood out in this tournament as a gifted possession type player who moves well around the offensive zone with the puck looking for open passing and shooting lanes,” he said. “He sees and thinks the game at a decently high level. Has no trouble carrying the puck up ice and does it with confidence as he charges through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone if space allows him to.”