The IIHF U18 World Championship is the last big on-ice event of the scouting season before the NHL Draft in June.
It is where many NHL teams send their head guys to meet and not only take in the action but also start to hammer out their final draft rankings. By this point in the year all the players are known to the attending scouts and it is just a matter of making one last impression. Future Considerations had multiple sets of eyes in the stands as well as some other evaluators taking in video of the event and offer this assessment of the talent on hand in Zug and Lucerne, Switzerland.
The top guys at the event were 2016 eligible prospects as USA’s top center Auston Matthews and winger Matthew Tkachuk made big impacts, as did American defenseman Chad Krys. The Finns also had their share of top 2016 talent with wingers Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi putting on an offensive show.
Below are some notes on the 2015 draft eligibles that made positive impressions on our evaluators:
Colin White, C, USA (US NTDP), 6.00, 183
“White was constantly creating chances all tournament long with his instinctive play. He is a threat in the faceoff circle and makes an impact all over the ice. A smart player who reads the ice exceptionally well, White moves very well on his feet and can drive the play with the puck. Patience, composed, and dynamic, White’s ceiling is quite high.”
Jeremy Bracco, RW, USA (US NTDP), 5.09, 172
“Bracco is a smooth skating, creative playmaking winger. The things he can do with the puck on his stick are pretty amazing. He is agile on his feet, showing the ability to make defenders miss him. His stickhandling skills are great, showing quick hands and a soft touch. His ability to see the whole ice is his greatest asset. He reads the plays quickly as they develop and makes plays accordingly. He has the skills and creativity to make spectacular passes. I also loved his commitment to the defensive zone. He knows how to play defense and shows great situational awareness. “
Jack Roslovic, C, USA (US NTDP), 6.01, 182
“Showed off his nice set of hands and was constantly creating with his skilled linemates, Matthews and Tkachuk. Was driving the net on multiple occasions as he worked to gain ground and parked himself in front hoping to pot the rebound or bang home a garbage goal. Not a passenger on that top line as he generated just as many chances as the other two did.”
Mathew Barzal, C/RW, Canada (Seattle), 6.00, 183
“Barzal is a very special player and looks untouchable at times. He has elite hands and playmaking ability and is a very elusive skater. He is justifiably confident when he has the puck and has tremendous vision. He is able to find seams and passing lanes that most guys do not see. After watching him at this event, I would compare his game to that of Tyler Seguin.”
Mitchell Stephens, C/LW, Canada (Saginaw), 5.11, 183
“Stephens looks so poised with the puck, reading the play and hitting his target with crisp passes as he opens up space. Looks really comfortable on the big ice. Stephens has some quick feet and great jump off of stationary to get to his destination. His stock is on the rise as someone coming on late this season.”
Nicolas Roy, C, Canada (Chicoutimi), 6.04, 203
“Roy looked much more effective, and confident, in his role with Canada than he does in Chicoutimi where he is counted on to lead. He was winning battles on the wall left, right, and centre as he used his body to separate the man from the puck and show his physically imposing side to outmuscle the man. A winner in the faceoff circle, Roy won most of his draws and when he didn’t he put in all the effort to battle. Was impressive going to the net, standing in front on the PP and looking for rebounds. Protecting the puck with his strength and free arm as he fights through checks. Just an impressive overall tournament for the big kid.”
Ethan Bear, D, Canada (Seattle) 6.00, 182
“Bear’s skill and style won’t have you jumping out of your seats but he is a rock in his own end and is a nightmare to play against. Bear plays a simple north/south game and usually makes the safe play whether it is getting the puck deep or making the easy outlet of his end. His game is very comparable to that of Marc Methot in that he is responsible enough defensively to be paired up with a more high risk offensive defenseman. Bear was also on Team Canada’s first penalty kill unit and did a nice job identifying when to put pressure on the puck and when to sit back and take away shooting/passing lanes. Any NHL team looking to reduce their goals against should be taking a hard look at this kid.”
Pavel Zacha, C/LW, Czech Republic (Sarnia) 6.03, 214
“Zacha is the total package. He has pro size, explosive speed and a deadly release. Zacha was a threat every time that he was on the ice and I loved the fact that he finished his checks hard. His agility and speed allow him to elude hits and beat defenders wide or down the middle. The sky is the limit for this kid and I believe that he will be successful at the next level.”
Veini Vehvilainen, G, Finland (JYP), 6.01, 175
“Vehvilainen made his largest impression in the gold medal game against the U.S. as he made 60 saves, many of which were huge and spectacular, and was the reason that his team stayed in the game for so long. Plays mid-to-high in his crease and tracks the puck well, aware of passing options to all sides making him a very effective netminder in tracking the puck and getting to the shooter in time. He stood on his head in this tournament, making the big saves when called on. Reads incoming 2-on-1’s very well to explode laterally to get a piece of the shot. Giving up rebounds was almost unheard of as he quickly absorbs the puck. A very strong showing in Switzerland that will likely catapult his draft stock into the top three rounds.”
Denis Guryanov, RW, Russia (Lada Togliatti), 6.02, 195
“Guryanov plays in all situations and does everything pretty well. He creates offense with ease, has a great shot, even when you do not think he has an angle or the shooting position. He gets great power behind his shot, even if he is off balance, due to his upper body strength. His speed is what separates him from many other players. He has great acceleration and almost looks like he is shot out of a cannon when carrying the puck through the neutral zone. He makes defenseman look silly when he blows right past them and also showed the ability to deke goalies out of their pads. I am very high on Guryanov after this tournament.”
Ilya Samsonov, G, Russia (Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk), 6.03, 205
“Samsonov is a game changer and showed the ability to steal the show. He is extremely athletic and will do anything to stop the shot. He has a lightning quick glove and an active poke check. His lateral movement is key to his success. He tracks the puck very well and has incredible reflexes, showing the ability to adjust to shots. I love his willingness to stand tall in the face of traffic and not sink in his crease. Samsonov is easily the top European goalie in the draft for me and has the potential to be a real good NHL starter.”
Denis Malgin, C/RW, Switzerland (ZSC), 5.09, 175
“I love the play of Malgin, his speed and agility really made him stand out. Every time Malgin was on the ice, he was Switzerland’s best forward and was dangerous due to his vision, speed and puck handling ability. This kid is exciting to watch and everything he does is at full speed. The only issue with Malgin is his size and strength as he was easily knocked off the puck when the opposition was able to get a piece of him. Malgin has the tools to become an offense generator at the next level if/when he matures physically.”
Joren Van Pottelberghe, G, Switzerland (Linköping J18), 6.02, 188
“Van Pottelberghe was put to the test against some of these high powered offenses. He made some very impressive point blank saves throughout the tournament and was leaned on by his teammates to keep the Swiss in it. I really liked his confidence in between the pipes as he came out to challenge shooters and willingness to play outside of the blue paint. He also has good size and covers a good portion of the net leaving shooters with very little mesh to look at. Van Pottelberghe was solid in this tournament and shows some NHL upside.”
Joel Ek Eriksson, C, Sweden (Farjestads), 6.01, 183
“Eriksson spent time on the penalty kill, five on five and even some time on the PP. He played a smart effective game in all areas; was dangerous offensively flashy some slick dekes driving the net and getting off some dangerous shots. He was consistently reliable defensively supporting his defense and involved physically whenever there was a battle to be waged. Just a solid complete package who is quickly jumping up draft lists based on his second half consistency and flashes of skill.”
Sebastian Ohlsson, RW, Sweden (Skelleftea AIK), 5.09, 172
“Hard not to mention Ohlsson after this tournament. His puck skills are incredibly high and demonstrated how lethal he is when he has time and space. Impressive playmaker as he can find his teammates with easy to handle passes from a far. I like how he crashes the net and with soft hands can make a quick play in tight. Could be a real sleeper pick in this year’s draft.”
The top players voted by the IIHF at this event were big Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov, offensively savvy Finnish defender Vili Saarijarvi and American power forward Auston Matthews, who is projected to be the top pick in 2016. Matthews also took home the tournament MVP honors.
With notes from Daniel Deschenes, Tyler Bilton, Colin Mayberry, Nicholas Butts and Roman Solovyev.