Plenty of talent at U18 Five-Nations

Special To FC2016 Draft Center, International Events

Auston Matthews has attracted quite a crowd to Switzerland. But he’s not alone in that aspect.

Some of the best prospects of the 2016 and 2017 NHL Draft class participated in the U18 Five-Nations tournament in Nov. 4-8, in Monthey, Switzerland. Along with the host Swiss, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and the United States participated in a great opportunity for European and North American scouts to have a glance at prospects early in the season.

Team USA captured the tournament win. They were led by the two 2016 top prospects Kieffer Bellows and Clayton Keller, who both played dominant.

The duo, slotted in the first round of Future Considerations’ October ranking, weren’t the only promising names at the tournament. Far from it.

Finland had the most dominant line of the tournament featuring Janne Kuokkanen, Otto Makinen and 2017-eligible Emil Oksanen. They combined for a lot of scoring chances and points throughout the tournament and were a constant threat on the ice.

Sweden brought some of their skilled defensemen, such as Jacob Cederholm, Jacob Moverare and 2017-eligible Adam Thilander to Switzerland, while the Czech Republic had a strong overall tournament including a solid performance from Kristian Reichel, son of former NHLer Robert Reichel.

Finland was without their two top prospects in Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi. Sweden was missing both their potential first rounders Carl Grundstrom and Rasmus Asplund, while Matthews — currently sidelined with an upper-body injury — had obligations with the ZSC Lions.

Future Considerations has put together some notes on some of the stand outs from the five nations tournament:

Clayton Keller, Forward, Team USA U18 (USDP)

Keller was arguably the best player in the tournament. He displayed his great vision and used it in combination with his accurate pass to set up plays. He played on a line with Bellows and Joey Anderson, the line which created the most offense for USA. Keller showed great puckhandling skills and smooth skating and was exceptional in tight space. Created offense in nearly each of his shifts and was a treat to watch, a highly intelligent playmaker.

Kieffer Bellows, Forward, Team USA U18 (NTDP U18)

Having Keller on his line to set up plays helped Bellows. He had a lot of scoring chances and used his elite shot, clearly the most dangerous and heavy shooter of the tournament. Was exceptional around the net and showed net presence in each game. Physically he was very competitive, strong on his skates and hard to move around. He played a decent two-way game and backchecked to eliminate scoring chances.

Adam Fox, Defense, Team USA U18 (NTDP U18)

Fox showed a confident puck mover and defenseman who likes to produce offense. He was an important part of the power play and showed great patience with the puck. Fox liked to carry the puck and showed good puck-moving skills combined with agile skating. He read the ice well and knew when to join rushes, made smart decisions.

Graham McPhee, Forward, Team USA U18 (NTDP U18)

McPhee didn’t have the most productive tournament regarding points but he played with a lot of confidence and drive to the net. He is a very powerful skater, strong on his skates, showed powerful first strides and was hard to knock off the puck. He’s a kid who impressed with work ethic, a good two-way game and intelligent play away from the puck.

Ryan Lindgren, Defense, Team USA U18 (NTDP U18)

Lindgren captained the US entry and this is because he is a role model on the ice. He played very responsible defensively and didn’t commit a lot of mistakes. Lindgren was strong on his skates and hard to shove around. Kept the puck in the offensive zone with an active stick and good board play. His matured game and leadership made him one of the more competitive defenders in the tournament.

Chad Krys, Defense, Team USA U18 (NTDP U18)

Next to Bellows and Keller, Krys was the third projected first rounder in the tournament. A very agile and smooth skater, he quarterbacked the power play and showed good puck-moving skills. He liked to jump into the offense and joined rushes. He possesses a good combination of mobility and smooth hands.

Frantisek Hrdinka, Defense, Team Czech Republic (Frolunda, Sweden U20)

Hrdinka was the best defenseman on his team and played a responsible three-zone game. His coach used him in both special team units and played him a lot. He stayed calm with the puck and didn’t commit a lot of mistakes. Made the right decisions with the puck. Although Hrdinka isn’t overly big, he tried to get involved physically and was competitive in board battles.

Marek Zachar, Forward, Team Czech Republic (Liberec, Czech U20)

Undersized Zachar is only listed at 5-foot-6, but he showed that he can be an interesting prospect. He displayed a great combination of puckhandling skills, speed and drive to the net. His skating acceleration was off the charts and he hit full speed within seconds. His size will probably keep him away from getting drafted in one of the earlier rounds but he definitely has the skill level to be an interesting prospect.

Kristian Reichel, Forward, Team Czech Republic (Litvinov, Czech U20)

The son of former NHLer and Czech coach Robert Reichel showed a nose for the net throughout the entire tournament and had four goals in as many games. He used his size to screen goaltenders and was good in executing rebounds with his long reach. Reichel’s shot had decent power and accuracy.

Emil Oksanen, Forward, Team Finland (Espoo, Finland U20)

Oksanen played on Finland’s top line with Makinen and Kuokkanen, which was probably the best line of the tournament as well. He is only eligible in 2017 but he played ahead of his age. He showed his silk smooth hands and great puckhandling skills and used his great vision to set up plays. Had great awareness of the game and was quarterbacking the Finnish power play from the blue line.

Otto Makinen, Forward, Team Finland (Tampere, Finland U20)

Makinen was the most productive player for Finland and centered the top line. Makinen’s biggest asset was his nose for the net. He is a typical goal scorer who seemed to be always in the right position. Played with a decent top speed and powerful first strides. He was utilized by his coach to kill penalties as he has a decent understanding of the game defensively.

Janne Kuokkanen, Forward, Team Finland (Oulu, Finland U20)

Kuokkanen is a pass first guy and displayed his playmaking abilities. He showed great vision and was always aware of his line mates. His pass was very powerful and accurate. He played an effective neutral zone game where he cut passing lanes. Kuokkanen played also a responsible defensive game, he backchecked and used his active stick for takeaways. A very smart player.

Jacob Cederholm, Defense, Team Sweden (HV71, Sweden U20)

Cederholm captained the Swedish team and was a true leader on and off the ice. He was by far the best communicator on the ice and displayed impressive leadership throughout the tournament. He was excellent in using his big frame to prevent opponents from scoring on rebounds. He played an excellent defensive game, didn’t commit a lot of mistakes and showed good defensive positioning. He used his long reach perfectly and his stick was always somewhere in passing lanes or he deflected pucks.

Jacob Moverare, Defense, Team Sweden (HV71, Sweden U20)

Moverare is another tall Swedish defender from the five nations tournament. He saw plenty of ice time during the tournament and was used in power play as well as shorthanded situations. Moverare showed a good combination of size, puck-moving skills and mobility. He displayed that he possesses a solid two-way game and was a dangerous shooter from the blue line while his team was on the power play. His shot was very powerful and he used all of his shot arsenal.

Adam Thilander, Defense, Team Sweden (Skelleftea, Sweden U20)

Sweden’s blue line was packed with talented defenders, one of them was 2017 eligible Thilander. Although he was one of the youngest player on the Swedish roster, he already displayed a matured overall game. He is an agile skater and was calm with the puck for his age. A competitive two-way defenseman who could be a top prospect in 2017.

Oskar Steen, Forward, Team Sweden (Farjestads, Sweden U20)

Steen is listed at only 5-foot-9, but he makes up his lack of size with his work ethic and willingness to do whatever it takes to win the game. He showed a great willingness to sacrifice his body in order to block shots while killing a penalty. He never took a shift off. He is a very fast skater, showed quick acceleration and decent top speed. Was willing to go in front of the net and battle for position.

Lias Andersson, Forward, Team Sweden (HV71, Sweden U20)

2017-eligible Andersson had a great tournament and showed his smart decision-making. He protected the puck very well and was hard to shove around, used all of his frame to keep opponents away from the puck. Andersson was a dangerous forechecker and used an active stick to be in passing lanes. He understands the game very well and will be an interesting prospect to follow in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Elias Pettersson, Forward, Team Sweden (Timra, Sweden U20)

Pettersson played on Sweden’s top line together with Andersson. Like Andersson, Pettersson is only eligible in 2017. He showed good stickhandling skills combined with speed, was able to make quick turns in different directions with the puck. Pettersson had some nice dekes and enjoyed to go into one-against-one situations.

Article by Dennis Schellenberg