Canada U18 Camp Notes

Cover Photo Credit: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images

Hockey Canada’s annual U18 Summer Camp took place on July 28th to July 30th. The summer camp contains 44 of the top under 18 talent in Canada and it is used to decide the Canadian Ivan Hlinka squad. We are starting to see a trend at these camps that players need to have a certain level of skill to get invited to them, it is no longer just required for forwards to create offence but defenders now must also be able forward the play. This was displayed heavily over the weekend, even net minders are now learning how to get involved in the transitional side of the game and they are developing an aggressive habit of skating outside of the blue paint. This kind of game often leads to many turnovers/constant possession switches, a high volume of fast break chances, and quick creative thinking in confident players. This on going trend is not just a fad, it is the new age of the game. Fast paced, highly skill, quick shooting, offensive games are now the new norm and it makes for fun hockey to watch, which is what we saw at this years camp. 

 

Team Red:

60 Dylan Garand – Garand was given the backup role for team Canada after an average showing at the U18 camp. He had a tough start in game one against Tristan Lennox where he got out played by the opposing net minder and was just okay in the half he played third game against Will Cranley. Garand’s a butterfly net minder with impressive athleticism and mobility. Displaying confident in his crease and good basic fundamentals. Just seemed to have a lot of holes around his body and he was really struggling to smother pucks near him. Composed positional goalie with high upside. 

72 Joe Vrbetic – Ended up battling for the backup spot against fellow team red teammate Dylan Garand, where Vrbetic was unfortunate however to lose out on the spot. Vrbetic is a big stocky net minder, whose athleticism beat out Will Cranley. He doesn’t show a lot of net. Moves the puck pretty well, and gets involved in the transition at times. Not an attacker of the puck, lets it hit his body and uses good rebound control to manage damage. 

3 Luke Prokop – He was tallest defensemen at the camp and was playing in front of his junior team (Calgary Hitmen) city. Luke Prokop brought a different toolset in comparison to the other defensemen. I thought his skating and offensive showing wasnt great, but defensively Prokop was able to standout amongst his peers. Prokop played a simple stay at home style of game, he was always the last man to leave his own zone and the first to retreat to the defensive end. The towering defensemen displayed ‘know where to go’ positioning in his defensive end and he was quick to close the distance on the puck along the perimeter, subsequently creating many turnovers on less skilled forwards and out muscling smaller opposition to regain possession. A natural clean up man in front of his net, boxing players out and giving his goalie a sight line. Blessed with a naturally long frame and equipped with a long stick, then his ability to move fluidly in all four directions, and also his long reach that can cover a large portion of ice around him… Prokop’s ability to disrupt and dismantle developing chances around him was refreshing to see. Moving very well for his size, maintains good distance to players in corners and mirrors opposing players one on one limiting chances out of corners. Struggled to move the puck when feeling pressure from multiple areas, had moments of carelessness with his distributions. Though he didn’t make the team, largely due to his lack of offence, Prokop’s low maintenance game is still something I left impress with post camp.

4 Kaiden Guhle – Given that Guhle was the number one selection in the 2017 WHL Draft, the expectations around the young defensemen going in were that he was going to make the final roster. Guhle is a smooth skating two-way defensemen that plays a possession driven game. He played with a lot of intensity and had a big motor and compete, making it evident he wanted to make a big impact on the game. He’s got a long rangy physique, uses his reach well to poke pucks off sticks. Played assertive and physical, did a spectacular job closing guys off along the wall and angling them out. Guhle has naturally strong skating abilities, he has that rare fleet footedness with long legs, moves fluidly on his edges and has that quick reseting footwork. Defends the rush very well, keeps the distance tight and isn’t afraid to step up into somebody. Saw some improvements to the offence around his game. Offensively he’s a smart player, proactive in what he wants to do when retrieving pucks defensively and when controlling along blue line, but really struggles to execute under pressure at times or doesn’t have the mustard on his passes to reach its target. Needs to get stronger on his shots and passes, good framework around him but still a raw commodity. 

5 Owen Power – A big mobile two-way defensemen, I thought Power had a real good shot to make the team given the rare physical tools he possesses. Power has above average athleticism and feet, he naturally cuts off large portions of the ice and manages pressure coming down on him. All over the ice in the neutral  and offensive zone, a tenacious puck hound. Long legs and a long stick. Relies on quick reflex reactions on pucks through the middle. Focuses on his positioning and spacing in his defensive zone, he’s much more static than he is in the other two zones, tries to be in the right spot at the right time. D-to-D on the blue line. Physically assertive and plays a hard nosed game in corners. Seems to think rather than do at times, work on his shot and first pass. I like his style and tools, high upside and someone scouts will be watching closely this season. 

10 Lleyton Moore – Lleyton Moore’s performance at this past U18 summer showcase reminded me of what Elijah Roberts did a few years ago. Despite not making the final cut for the actual team, Moore’s game was fantastic enough to get into DraftGeek’s first round talks. Moore is a dynamic puck moving defensemen that capable of forwarding the puck with puck distribution or puck transportation with cunning execution. A fantastic skater with elite level footwork compared to others in this draft class, smooth transitioning abilities on his edges and a highly intense motor which translates to strong escapabilities. Uses his lack of size to his advantage with untouchable slipperiness. Quick activations to get into the rush. Plays a high pressure game defensively, looks to utilize his quick edges  to force turnovers. An offensively inclined defender with power play quarterback qualities, vision from the blue line and can create different options with his feet, has the ability to facilitate the offence on the blue line. Plays assertive in his defensive end, less with his body and more with his stick by exploiting his quickness and vision. Though I compared him slightly to Roberts, Moore picks his spots offensively a bit better than Roberts and anticipates when to explosive into an area better. Struggles to stay on one side of the ice. Out muscle a lot in corners and in front of his own goal.  Disappeared for stretches.

11 Ryan O’Rourke – Ryan O’Rourke is an offensively gifted defensemen. Backed with a bolstering shot and activate first instincts, O’Rourke’s abilities to produce offence from the back end is above average in this draft class. Cutting in off the blue line often, and driving the far post. He has good vision and pass execution on the blue line, patient to let openings develop infront of him. Highly effective in transition with efficient distributions. Moves very well for his size, big and quick. Looks to jump in the rush when he can. Earned a spot on the team, may struggle for minutes. 

14 Ronan Seeley – I was very surprised to see that Ronan Seeley didn’t make the final roster. I didn’t think he had the most impressive weekend and he may not have stood out like Drysdale/Poirier/Hunt did but based on pedigree and performance I thought he earned it. Seeley is an intuitive two way defensemen that plays with heady awareness, maturity, and structure. Seeley has elite hockey IQ thats allows him to be very efficient with his positioning, passes, and movement. Constantly engaged in the play, showing urgency in his defensive end. No issues with his mobility or skating, constantly moving his feet on the blue to find a lane. Not afraid to throw the body around from time to time along the wall. Endless versatility. A high level defender of the rush who controls players to the outside before closing them off with a check at pin-point timing, Ivan Provorov like. Gets his feet going in corners. It just seems like the game slows down for him. Overall a promising package that just needs to learn better pace, consistency, quickness, and shooting.

30 Lukas Cormier – I really liked Lukas Cormier game leaving Calgary, yet he’s still a bit of an enigma in terms of what he could become and where his development needs to go to get him there, but as of right now I think he’s got to be regarded as top prospect defensemen in the draft. Cormier plays a composed two-way game, he manages the game at his own pace and is constantly calculating his next decision with/without the puck. Cormier’s game excels mostly on offence where he loves to his cunning instincts and dynamic movement to create space for himself and open up shooting lanes. Has a habit of always carrying the puck to the middle. He runs the offence down defenders throats, playing well inside the blue line (sometimes in the slot) and frustrating the opposition with his pressure, slipperiness, tempo, and timing. Very skilled with his hands and feet. Straight line skating is a bit under developed, his mechanics look like he should have been at the U17 event. Quick laterally.  Aggressive offensively to hold pucks in the offensive zone, pouncing on loose pucks and pinching at the blue line. Needs to work on his defensive game, he really lacks size and strength so not only does he get pushed around at times in corners but his shot also isn’t much of a threat from long distance. 

44 Charlie Desroches – Really didn’t notice Charlie DesRoches much. He was a smaller defensemen, moved the puck pretty well in transition but took a backseat to Moore and Cormier. Plays an offensive game, relies on a strong stick defensively, all around good skating abilities. Always wanted more from him however. 

6 Colby Ambrosio – Played in the USHL last season and you could see him playing that sort of smaller ice style of game. An explosive and dynamic skater, quickly changes direction when at top speed. Showcased strong puck control and puck transporting abilities. Keeps it real simple offensively, hits the blue line then puts the puck on net. Exploits his quickness to create options for himself. Thought he could have made the team in a depth role. 

8 Quinton Byfield – As the weekend progressed, you could see Quinton Byfield start to take over the games more and more with every shift that passed. Byfield is a freak specimen, the complete package. Big, athletic, skilled, skates like the wind and very smart with the puck. Elite level speed with the puck, can beat defenders in many different ways and makes it look effortless while also being able to create chances at that speed. He can quickly change direction and explode out of his turns like McDavid. Impossible to knock off the puck with heavy strength on his feet. Shoots the puck at an NHL level with confidence in his ability to score from anywhere. Always has his head up, see’s the ice well. Broad shoulders and a thick physique.  Whenever I watch Byfield play I want to for some reason think of Jesse Puljujarvi in his draft year, though Byfield’s mechanics are much better than Jesse’s they both played a speedy game for big bodies and refused to throw there weight around. Byfield is going to be a hot commodity all season thanks to his rare physical qualities and skating. 

12 Seth Jarvis – Jarvis was decent, I thought he proved that he was a top tier calibre player in his age group. Jarvis plays with a lot of determination and loves to put the puck in the back of the net. He has departing speed with the puck, a shot first mentality and plays with a lot of tenacity. Hones a big motor and plays with a lot of energy, fearless with his route taking as he is willing to take a hit to make a play. Jarvis’s best asset is his shot, he’s got one of the hardest snap shots in the draft and the way he uses it is so precise. He finds his spacing, adjust his angle and will time his release to stun goalies in there spot. Jarvis has an NHL calibre shot and speed. Will prove himself more at the Ivan Hlinka’s. 

13 Jean-Luc Foudy – One of my favourite players leaving the event, Foudy has such a unique skill set but he is also still very raw physically. Foudy is a puck possessive player that has finesse and determination to his game. He is always around the puck, in all three zones, impossible to catch when forwarding the play and maneuvers zone to zone with high level efficiency. Foudy puck transporting abilities were the best at the camp, better than Byfields or Perfetti over the three days, he see’s lanes open up and can effortlessly adjust his direction at top speed. Hones good puck management abilities, if he doesn’t see a skating option developing he will curl back and reset. His speed is high end in this draft class. Quick thinking, quick hands, quick feet. Doesn’t take a lot of physical contact, if he turns the puck over he actively pursues to regain puck control. Carries the puck with confidence, dynamic with his edgework. Fearless, willing to drive through tough areas with the puck. Lots of offensive flare. His motor translates smoothly to the defensive side of the puck, tenacious in corners and supports his defensemen in corners. I thought his playmaking was very average, his shot lacked compared to others. I’d like to see him establish himself more offensively, no doubt as a transitional player he’s productive but it seems like for all speed he creates that not a lot of production comes out of it. 

15 Pier-Olivier Roy – A bit of an underwhelming event for Roy. Really was a magnet to the left side of the ice, played a very north south game. Strong frame, low stance and powerful strides to get up ice, technical skating. Plays with tenacity. Has a good release, gets off quality shots with pressure on him. Lots of good tools, would like to see him spread it out a bit more and drive the play, move away from being a perimeter player.

16 Tyler Tullio – Didn’t make the team but had an okay showing, he was a bubble player for me at the end of the day. Tullio is a competitive forward that plays with a lot of motion and directness, in tight around the net he is poised enough to make the smart decision in tight to the net. A good middle man in transition. Though he didn’t make the team there are a lot of qualities to his game that scouts will take note of throughout the year.

18 Mavrik Bourque –  I was hoping to see a bit more out of Mavrik Bourque at the event, he never really stood out to me. His skating was very average amongst others there and he really struggled to create space for himself in the offensive zone. He played a two-way game, came back deep in his own zone. Saw flashes where he would make complicated playmaking passes look easy, lots of fluidity about his game and smart with/without the puck. 

19 Jack Finley – Stood out like a sore thumb given his tall lengthy frame. Finley had moments where he looked strong, he is someone who we thought was in the bubble to make the team as the 13th forward. A big strong scoring centre that can locate soft areas between the dots in the offensive end, always seems to be where puck ends up going and he beats goalies with a powerful snap shot, all the finishing abilities you want in a third option forward. Asserts that strength to earn quality positioning on players, naturally skilled with silky hands to control through pressure points. Skating has improved, he developed a bit of an edge and utilized his size often on the forecheck but was a bit of a ‘buffet hitter’. Overall the physical tools are there, just needs to work on his pace and skating a bit more. Smart player who knows where to go to be successful as well. Disengages at times. 

26 Ryder Korczak – The lone 2021 NHL Draft forward at the camp, Korczak’s best showing was in game one in my personal opinion. Korczak is a smart two-way forward. Plays with a lot of versatility and reads developing chances extremely well on both sides of the puck. Has a quick release on a shot. Was a step behind in the final two games. Still lots of time to develop. Similar to Raphael Lavoie in his Hlinka camp in a sense. 

45 Connor McClennon – Came in with a lot of expectations around him, didn’t perform as well as I think many had hoped but still good enough to earn a spot on the final roster. A naturally gifted scorer that has the ability to score from anywhere in the offensive end. Plays with a lot of swagger, confidence, and charisma. His shooting abilities were one of the best at the event, he’s got a smooth quick release on a sniper like shot. Loves to attack down the right side, adjust his speed at the blue line and fire a hard pass towards to far post. Focuses his offensive zone play between the dots, either looking to drag the puck to that location himself or receiving in that area. Inconsistent in committing to dirty areas. Struggles with body language and too individual at times.  Lots of scoring upside, potential to put up high scoring numbers at the Ivan Hlinka.

47 Theo Rochette – Rochette played the most mature game out of all the forwards at the event, a pro-style player that can find a fit playing with anyone. Keeps it simple offensively, has a good motor and compete level, able to adjust his tempo depending on the situation, bolstering wrist shot, above average skating abilities. Good time and space management in the offensive end. Rochette played at the Hlinka tournament last season with Switzerland, a lock to make the team. 

48 Kyle Crnkovic – The smallest forward at the camp, Kyle Crnkovic struggled to stand out and thats largely why he wasn’t present on the final roster. Put himself in a complimentary playmaker position, didn’t get too many shots off or opportunities around the net. Yet with that being said he did have moments where he was noticeable. That patented cross over attacking style and high engine game were present during all three games, due to lack of size Crnkovic is required to take more strides to reach his destination but doesn’t struggled to play dynamic/fast thanks to electrifying footwork and a fearless mentality. Crnkovic is one of those smaller skilled forwards coming out of the West, sits high in the offensive zone and looks for his opportunity to pounce into a scoring position. Crnkovic reads the game well but when he can’t create spacing or find the puck on his stick, he can disappear. 

Team White:

31 Will Cranley – The largest goalie at the event, Cranley was hard to miss. With a 6’6 frame, wide stance and composed attitude. Cranley was by far the most raw goalie at the showcase. His athleticism is something he still needs to work on along with his reflexes. A netminder that knows he is big and stands tall in his crease, has no problem seeing around traffic and making the initial stop. 

61 Tristan Lennox – Lennox was the best goalie at the showcase. His athleticism was better than the rest, he seemed to always out battle the competitor in the opposite crease. In the first game, Lennox was much better than Dylan Garand, he seemed in position a lot more and control the pucks around his body much better. Lennox follows the puck very well with his eyes, finds it in the crease and through screens. Aggressive and confident. Closes off the post. Great puck tracking. Dynamic footwork to get across side to side quickly. Still needs to work on becoming more consistent with his angles but he’s a gamer in his crease, along with controlling his mobility to stay in the blue paint. Needs to also work on staying in position and not overcommitting to the butterfly position. Its crazy to think that Lennox isn’t eligible until the 2021 NHL Draft.

2 Donovan Sebrango – Sebrango earned a spot in the final roster after the event, he was one of the best defensemen at the showcase. Sebrango played a mobile two-way game, he moves the puck efficiently in transition and can hit a stick from any distance. Assertive in all three zones, plays with energy, a mature game, did a lot of things right to earn a spot as a bottom pairing defensemen on the Canada U18’s. 

3 Tyrel Bauer – For the lowest CHL Drafted defensemen, Tyrel Bauer put himself on the map for NHL Scouts going into the season despite not making the team. Bauer is a big blue collar two-way defensemen who plays a low maintenance game and sticks to his defensive positioning. Assertive in all three parts in the rink, one of the only defensemen who focused on taking the body and imposing himself on forwards. Skating wasn’t bad, good mobility to his size and knows he’s big/strong. Has a lot of reach and uses it well, in particular in front of the net where he disrupts plays. Possesses a hard shot from the blue line, good release and backed with velocity. Overall there’s good tools with Bauer along with a lot of untapped rawness. 

4 Daemon Hunt – For a defensemen with U18 experience I thought Daemon Hunt was very average in comparison to others. He had moments where he was able to take over with his skating and assertive puck moving but couldn’t package all that consistently. Hunt’s biggest asset is his efficiency and balance, there aren’t many holes to Daemon Hunt’s game and he’s incredibly precise with everything that he does. Has a structured defensive game, instincts driven to be in the proper position while maintaining a heavy stick and controlling the gap as well. A fleet footed defender with quickness to punish opposing players mistakes immediately and forgoing the offensive transition. Makes crisp heavy first passes while also capable of getting to the red line with his feet. An operator of the game that manages everything going on in front of him. A threat to score from the blue line as he has an above average shot. Hones shutdown defensemen qualities along with versatility on offence. The perfect late in the game defender because he doesn’t make many mistakes and plays such a mature game for his age. 

10 Jake Murray – Murray was another bubble player for me. A two-way defensemen with smooth skating abilities. Relies on his instincts in all three zones and is able to keep the play to the outside defensively. Makes a good first pass, manages space given to him and makes the right passes to the right players, gets his eyes up the ice quickly. I thought there were a lot of good puck moving qualities shown, he skates like the wind, and has a lot of potential to be strong defensively. 

11 Jeremie Poirier – I concluded that Poirier was the most offensively skilled defensemen at the event, his ‘O-Zone’ game is so flexible for his age and he possesses a lot of rare qualities with the puck that you don’t see in a lot of junior players. Starting off with his confidence and poise, Poiriers ability to read where his team mates are going allowing the puck to do the work is elegant to watch, he spots lanes before they open up delivers timely passes on tapes. Nifty with his hands, it makes it easy for him to adjust to pressure and react to everything around him. A set up first player who will shoot for sticks or look to create with a pass on the blue line, not afraid to capitalize if the opportunity arises however. A high end skater with powerful edge work and mobility, utilizes it heavily to set up his passes on the blue line. Plays an aggressive game defensively, travels long distances to loose pucks and is a little undispline with decision in his own end. Still lots to learn for him but he’s got a lot of upside.

12 William Villeneuve – I’d compare what I saw from William Villeneuve at the Ivan Hlinka tryouts to what we say from Dawson Barteaux in his rookie season. He was thinking the right things but was struggling to execute them at a high rate. Skating is at a similar level to Barteaux as well, it seems like once he gets stronger his precision with his passes will improve. 

37 Michael Benning – I thought Michael Benning was fantastic at the showcase, he may not have stood out but he did a lot of the little things right with the puck and defensively that stood out. Played a stay at home puck moving game, cerebral with the puck in transition and made high pressure outlet passes look easy. Benning plays a proactive game, see’s the game a step ahead. Assertive with the puck using his quickness and vision to execute on calculate decisions. Makes a lot of tight passes look like high percentage options. Not only with his puck distributing but also with his defensive positioning, he knows where the players are, where they are going to go, and how the puck will reach it. Though I didn’t think he did enough to make the team, he did look like a top six to eight defensemen at the camp. 

47 Jamie Drysdale – Drysdale was the best all around defensemen at the camp, and I was incredibly impressed by how he was able to separate his play from there others. Drysdale is a mobile two-way defensemen that strives to be a difference maker every shift. An intuitive and shifty defensemen whose so well-versed in his ability to break down the game on both sides of the puck it sometimes gets taken for granted. With and without the puck, Drysdale’s is always calm and in position to be effective. Drysdale is explosive and dynamic from the back end, he showed at the camp that he can walk around anybody he wants with the puck and carry himself into any area on the ice he deems. Lots of fluidity to his game, everything is so effortless. An elite puck carrier and puck distributor who processes the game like a computer. Has those rare playmaking skills for a defensemen, challenges his ability on the blue line with crisp hard passes through traffic areas, maneuver on the blue line with untouchable mobility. The patiences, the confidence, the skill that he possesses is so above his age. Defensively he’s a composed player and always in-position, theres no fear to his game as he’s putting himself in the shooting lane, pressuring players to make mistakes and constantly distrupts offence with his stick. Lots to like with Drysdale, I think he goes off at the Hlinka production wise.  

13 Hendrix Lapierre – Hendrix Lapierre is a dominating playmaker from Eastern Canada, he came into the event with the hype from being the number one selection in the QMJHL draft in 2018. Lapierre was the individual at the showcase with the best skill set, he uses a lot of deception and quick stick handling to effortlessly elude opposing players. Adjusts his attacking in a number of different ways, always switching his approach to the offensive zone and making it hard to defenders to read what he might do next. Powerful skater whose slick on his edges and builds speed through explosive acceleration. Loves to drive up the pace of the game. Productive in transition whose efficient through the neutral zone and gains a lot of controlled exits + entries. Can make defenders looks silly by directly attacking the triangle, Lapierre has mastered the skill of puck handling and deception.  Plays with a pass first mentality along with elite vision and quick delivery. Puck possessive, wants to create with the puck on his stick. Uses his high level puck control and slipperiness along the wall and in the cycle, making him tough to deal with. Does a good job adjusting his attack to allow his team mates to get into position. Smart positionally. Good in the face-off circle. A bit careless with the puck at times, drives dirty areas with his head down and will need to learn how to be more aware through the middle. Would like to see him shoot the puck more. 

14 Cole Perfetti – Cole Perfetti was the showcases top performer, proving better than OHL counterpart Quinton Byfield. Perfetti is a dynamic offensive centerman with high levels of intuition, pace adjustment, puck management, and hawk eye vision. Pursuits the puck all over the ice. Displays great patience as a  player who knows how to create his openings with his quickness. Has that rare ability to make players around him better, saw a bit more of a pass-first mentality during the hockey Canada event but the puck still seemed to find him in high quality scoring position’s as well.  Carries with speed, poise, confident, and control. A precision player that carves his way through the ice, so much elegance and flare when he’s stick handling. Constantly dialled in and engaged. One of those players with no panic, when it looks like there is a roadblock in front of him he quickly adjusts his speed/angle to get by it. Perfetti just seemed to think two steps ahead, he see’s boards to boards at a rare level for his age. Had a few beautiful chance in front, the tool set in tight is so technical it looks rehearsed. Just constantly breaking down opposing team’s defensemen with his speed and skill. Doesn’t play careless with the puck, always has proper body language. Blend all these cognitive abilites with powerful skating, efficient finishing, and ‘find-your-stick’ playmaking. A true space creator who will effortlessly walk around opposing players and scoring chances materialize off his stick like we’ve rarely seen before.

15 Justin Sourdif – The best WHL player at the camp, Justin Sourdif stood out amongst his peer’s in all three games of the U18 camp and showcased why he’s a first round calibre prospect. A shift by shift consistent player whose game has such balance and efficiency that its hard not to recognize him when he steps on the ice. Sourdif was all over the ice, making his presence known in the offensive end, in the defensive end, and everywhere in between. The skilled two-way centre played along side Cole Perfetti and Hendrix Lapierre for parts of the event, and even when overshadowed with offensive talent he was able to lead the showcase in scoring and at times look like the best player on the ice. Unselfish with the puck, makes his best plays at top speed. Sourdif’s hockey IQ is through the roof, and it gives him the potential to be a game-breaking player. His ability to proactively understand where he needs to go, how to create necessary spacing, know when to support the puck and when not to, anticipate/break up plays defensively, and be a playmaker without the puck is rare for a player of his age. A hard nosed tenacious forward on the puck whose aggressive in pursuit of the puck. Skilled hands to control around defensemen. Has a knack for finishing around net with poise in tight to the crease and the skill set to execute it. Plays a puck dominant game in his defensive end, takes smart angles to the puck and he isn’t afraid to take a hit to make a play. A bit of a choppy skater but it works for him, could improve his pace of play as well. Fits fine as a puck possessive player and secondary option if he needs to be which is why he makes quick chemistry with line mates. 

16 Evan Vierling – For a player who lacked production last season and who doesn’t get the notoriety that others in the OHL do, the overall package that Evan Vierling brings put him in as a bubble player for me. Vierling is a strong power winger with a raw skill set. He plays a highly engaged two-way game, supporting the puck in both ends of the rink and displaying endless endurance with his motor. Good understanding of route awareness on the fly, especially exiting his defensive end, takes smart angles to get to pucks first on the forecheck. For Vierling he is going to need to get stronger, working on playing towards the middle of the ice in the offensive end, and fine tune his thinking out of corners. Plays an efficient transitional game and thinks the game at an above average level defensively and in transition. 

18 Ozzy Wiesblatt – One of the more touted prospects coming into the event after his breakout rookie season in Prince Albert, Wiesblatt really lived up to the hype around him and not only earned a spot on our projected roster but made the actual team as well. Wiesblatt is a multi dimensional winger whose naturally gifted offensive ability take over when the puck is on his stick. He’s got quick explosive vertical skating where he can elude opposing players one on one with lateral movement at top speed, a narrow attacker in transition that can hold his own through tight lanes. Heavily skilled with the puck, quick hands to match his quick feet that blend very well with his massive motor and high compete level. Got a good internal processor, understands the offensive game to a high degree (especially off the rush) with no problem adjusting his attack strategy on the fly. Capable of burning defenders wide down the lane, cutting through the middle and adjusting his angle or curling up inside the blue line and creating space for himself to work with. A high IQ player in the offensive end who manage time and space given to him better than anyone else, he loves to curl on his edge’s and evade pressure off his back. Makes getting out of complicated pressure situation look easy. Shown he can capitalize on finishing opportunities but he also make’s players on his line better with his vision and high level execution on passes, Wiesblatt has no problem understand where he needs to put the puck in order for his line mate to get to it and hits his spot with good timing. Wiesblatt does a lot of small things in the offensive end that don’t get a lot of notice. His understanding of pressure and how to pull defenders out of position is fascinating to watch. Excellent at finding his man on the back check. Effecting from down low and up high. Overall though Wiesblatt may not have had the most productive event and his game may have been overshadowed by other skilled players, Wiesblatt’s game is smart enough to recognize how to make a subtle impact every shift. 

19 Jakob Brook – Another one of those players who I don’t think was expected by many to get a spot on the U18 team but none the less had a decent camp himself and at the end of the day he put himself on the map for NHL Scouts. Brook is a big robust power winger, he made a good impression on scouts by playing with a competitive motor, being a workhorse on the back check, driving the net with strength and purpose, and by not making noticeable mistakes with the puck. Scored a goal for himself as well. Poised for more ice time in Prince Albert this season.  

21 Will Cuylle – I left very impressed with the performance that Will Cuylle had last weekend. The 6’2 204lbs winger played an all around assertive power winger style of game, imposing his body and physical strength in every situation he was able to. Focused on pressuring with punishing body checks down low in the offensive end, Cuylle’s forechecking abilities were second to Jake Neighbours at the event. Cuylle’s a smooth technical skater with fluidity moving in all four directions and plays with a consistent level headed demeanour. Interestingly enough took face-offs but ended up on the wing after, shows a good understanding of who and how to position himself in his defensive end but plays a bit too passive for my own liking. Displays hard to match strength in puck protection and knows how to exploit it. There were moments where he showcased his powerful wrist shot, he’s got a quick release both from a dynamic and static position but he often couldn’t find himself in positions to get it off. A major threat down low, big and strong, really translatable mechanics, a general understanding of how create space with his pro-frame and how to relieve pressure with the puck. Lots to like there and lots to show after he was only average at the camp. Needs to show more drive, more energy, more offence. Be smarter with the puck in transition.

24 Jake Neighbours – A player whose style of game compares closely to former Edmonton Oil King forward Curtis Lazar. A first responding power winger, Neighbours makes his mark on the game by being willing to go through/to physically demanding spots on the ice and by getting under opposing players skin with his fearless mentality. For me, Neighbours presence on the ice was hard to miss, he made an impact on the games at a consistent rate and stuck to a hard-nosed two-way game that separated him from other forwards at the camp. Jake served as the first man in on the forechecker with a “body-first” philosophy of applying pressure on defensemen, and was used as the net front presence when on the ice for the power play. Equipped with a husky/stocky physique. A calm and cool skater with smooth edge’s, Neighbours builds his speed through deep strides in the neutral zone both on the forecheck and back check. He demonstrates the same effort level on both sides of the puck. Blessed with a strong set of instincts off the rush and adjusts his pace of play to create spacing from defensemen, gets his snap/one-time shots off with a lot of pop and locates loose pucks in tight to his body with ease. Neighbours is a player with good balance to his game, his skill set doesn’t jump off the page but there aren’t any majors flaws to his game as well. Jake Neighbours is a lock to make the team for us and will likely serve in a minute logging versatile role. 

27 Jacob Perreault – I thought Jacob Perreault was the biggest snub to not make the team. Not only was he one of the best players offensively but he also put up a few goals and created numerous offensive chances. Perreault’s offensive game was electrifying and it was constantly force down defenders throats. Incredibly productive off the rush with a poised approach, he’s got great vision and patience with the puck. Carries the puck into high percentage scoring areas. Possesses a cunning release and elite accuracy. Plays with an engine and an absolute workhorse defensively. Showed a good two-way game, always the last man to leave the defensive zone. Needs to work on managing space without the puck better, he can put himself in too tight or right in the middle of coverage at times. Get quicker with his decisions. 

43 Ridly Greig – All around I thought Greig was the most consistent performer at the event. He’s an outstanding skater with lightning like footwork and slipperiness with the puck. Plays a balanced game, willing to throw his weight around with tenacity. Skilled player that can control and attack in a multitude of ways. Quick to locate space between the dots. Adjusts to the changing pace of the game. Hard on his stick work along the wall. Smooth/quiet skating that allows him to move around undetected. Does a good job making timely passes to the outside when attacking through the middle, taking the defensemen out of the equation and giving his team mate lots of space to play with. All around a player that makes a lot of proactive adjustments with his tempo, his movement, his positioning, and thinks the game a step ahead. Not surprised he made the team. 

44 Patrick Guay – Was very average for me, took a step back and played sort of a spot up shooter type of role. No doubts about his scoring abilities and his finishing instincts, focuses his positioning between the dots. Light on his feet, nimble around the ice and possesses fluid mobility. Needs to work on his timing to spots a bit better, force the play more and hold on to the puck. 

46 Logan Morrison – Despite not making the team, I think Morrison put himself into the conversations of being a potential high draft pick come next June. Morrison is a an offence first type of play that relies on his side to side quickness and offensive instincts.  An uber skilled individual who can at times over handle the puck around the net, relying on his hands in tight rather than just firing a shot. Plays with a lot of confidence. Thinks the game well but his execution needs to be better, still has many raw qualities about him. 

 

Cover Photo Credit: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images