In the shadow of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, the Under-18 5 Nations tournament in Zuchwil, CH is an annual tournament held between Christmas and New Year.
As always, Futureconsiderations was attending this tournament. This year the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Switzerland and Slovakia participated in the tournament and here are some of the standouts:
Daniel Kowalczyk, D, Czech Republic, 6-3, 203, DOB 06.23.2000
Kowalczyk is a big-sized defenseman who plays a solid own zone game and does usually not commit a lot of mistakes. Thanks to his size, he can keep opposing forwards to the outside and uses his active stick to interfere plays. Kowalczyk likes to join offensive rushes and is a dangerous shooter from the blueline on the power play. He possesses a powerful shot and can fire the puck with great velocity out of his wrist. Despite being 6-foot-3, he is quite mobile on skates and skating is not an issue.
Santeri Salmela, D, Finland, 6-1, 194, DOB 06.10.2000
Salmela is a defensive-minded defenseman who keeps the game simple and plays very reliable in the defensive zone. He plays a stay-at-home type of game and uses his active stick to pressure puck carriers. Salmela convinced with powerful skating strides and can outduel opposing forwards in puck races. He is a defenceman who takes over responsibility in his own zone and is able to play long and accurate outlet passes to give his team a chance to transition from defence to offence in a hurry. Salmela sacrifices his body to block shots and is able to position himself nicely in shooting lanes. He does not possess high-end offensive upside and excels more in playing a sound defensive game.
Niklas Nordgren, RW, Finland, 5-9, 170, DOB 05.04.2000
Nordgren was the tournament’s top scorer and displayed his strong set up and scoring skills. He was a constant offensive threat to opponents and was stacking up points, especially on the power play. If he was given enough time and space, he was able to play incredible flip and cross-ice passes, which arrived on tape with great elegance and accuracy. Although not the biggest in size, Nordgren is a balanced skater and can win board battles. He is more of a set up guy but can also finish off plays. Nordgren sees open ice extremely well and his passes are accurate, he can even thread the needle and deliver passes through traffic.
Kristian Tanus, Finland, LW, 5-6, 159, DOB 08.17.2000
Tanus co-led the tournament in points and his 5 goals were the most scored by a player. Tanus is a super small forward but brings a lot of energy and offensive upside to the table. Opposing defenders had a hard time controling him, and I did not see a team manage to shut him down for 60 minutes at this tournament. Tanus possesses great offensive instincts and his wrister is a dangerous weapon, which he liked to use from the face off dot to go top shelf. His small size gave him the chance to escape with quick turns. Tanus possesses fine hands and can deke and go into one-on-ones. However, his size is a huge concern and it needs to be seen if he can play in the same effective way when the opponents are bigger and stronger.
Toni Utunen, Finland, D, 5-11, 172, DOB 04.27.2000
Utunen captained the Finnish team and led his team’s blue line by example. He plays a very composed game with the puck, and is mature. He never panicked when under pressure and always kept a cool head in tough situations. He can play in all game situations and his wrist shot is accurate and powerful, can also one-time the puck using his slap shot. Utunen is able to take on bad passes and can play through difficult situations his line mates put him in. He is a leader on and off the ice and plays a very reliable own zone game but at the same time is able to create offense. Utunen’s skating is only average though and he does not possess any outstanding skills.
Oliver Okuliar, Slovakia, LW, 6-1, 170, DOB 05.24.2000
Okuliar was the Slovak forward who played the most consistent offensive game in this tournament. Often he was the most noticeable Slovak player. What I like about him is the fact that Okuliar is able to create offense on his own and can keep opposing defensemen busy. He is a powerful player and can protect the puck very well using his good skating balance to keep the puck away from opponents. Okuliar usually does not waste time to fire the puck if he sees an open lane and thinks the game offensively. He is not the most explosive skater but once he hit full speed he was hard to stop.
Article by Dennis Schellenberg