The start of August marks the start of the new draft year for NHL scouts. Beginning there’s year long journey at the 2019 U-18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament which was once again held in the neighbouring countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. For five days it was home to the top under 18 talent in the world from eight power house hockey countries. From a scouting standpoint this tournament is used to identify the talent in the draft class and to get a first impression on certain players while also getting a gauge on the level of talent and depth that this class will bring. For us at DraftGeek we use this tournament to connect on players and to start dialogue on each other’s opinions.
Here’s our first impression reports from the 2019 Ivan Hlinka Tournament:
Yaroslav Askarov – Askarov had himself a coming out party at the Ivan Hlinka’s, establishing himself as one of the top net minder in this year’s draft class and he showed the value in having a quality goalie and what it can do for a team. Askarov is returning to Russia with a goal medal around his neck, he had tournament high numbers with a 0.960 save percentage and a 1.25 goals against average. He started in all but one game for the Russian’s and stole the show in the gold medal finals. Landing himself a spot as our top ranked goalie.
Askarov is a mature butterfly goalie with precocious calmness and poise in the blue paint. Well above the expectations of a goalie his age in many traits such as his eye-hand coordination, hockey sense, rebound control, square positioning to the puck, athleticism and reflexes. No bite to his game, with an attentive eye he doesn’t get deceived and has the powerful push-offs ability and compete to recover on rebounds. Askarov does not have a glaring weakness to his game, though he does get overly reliant on the butterfly stance, he has the sheer size to not allow pucks over his shoulders.
Alexander Pashin – Pashin finished third in tournament points with eight in five games, second in goals with seven, and played loads of minutes on Russia’s top power play unit.
Pashin is a pure goal scorer with a pro-shot and superior straight line speed. Heady when driving the attack, understands the offensive game off the rush very well as he can break down defenders in a hand full of different ways. Quick hands and a quick release, his deliveries are fluid off his stick and he can release passes/shots both with and without pressure on him. Asserts himself on the fore-check by aggressively apply pressure on defenseman. Smart offensive positioning, thinking ahead to be in a spot to receive-and-shoot. Pashin has a lot of pro-qualities similar to Viktor Arvidsson.
Vasili Ponomaryev – Ponomaryov finished second on his team in scoring, behind Alexander Pashin, with six points in five games. Though he didn’t accumulate the production that Pashin did, Ponomaryov was well-above others on his team skill-wise.
Ponomaryev is a highly talented offensive center that combines vision and puck skills into a rare package that can both play make and goal score. Ponomaryev is a frustrating player to be on the ice against, he makes life for opposing player’s brutal in corners by showing unmatched tenacity and heaviness on his stick + skates to out-will his way into control of the puck. Asserts himself as a high level player with his ability to break down the game mentality and locate weak points on the ice that he can exploit. A hard working back checker that is relentless in puck pursuit and will fight to regain possession.
Pavel Tyutnev – Finished fourth on his team in scoring with just under a point per game (four points in five games). Tyutnev was one of the most consistent performers on Russia throughout the tournament, but left his best showing for the finals against Canada where he was one of Russia’s few players driving any offense.
Pavel Tyutnev is an elusive offensive winger that is diminutive in size but makes up for it with shiftiness and a high motor. Tyutnev a dynamic player that can take over the tempo of the game with cunning movement and by aggressively pursuing offensive chances, both of these leading to a high volume of quality scoring opportunities. Tyutnev takes over the game when he has the puck on his blade, though he plays at such a high intensity he still capable of making adjustments in pace to create space for himself and for his team mates. Tyutnev has the rare ability to create at high speeds.
Cole Perfetti – The tournament leader in points and goals, Perfetti set a new ceiling for dominance a player can have at a U18 event. Perfetti now sits second in points per game all-time with 2.4, just 0.1 why of Tyler Seguin while having played one extra game. Perfetti was an all-situations player for team Canada, he was heavily depended on when his team needed a goal late in the game or in the shootout, he also put up one of the best U18 performances I have personally seen against Sweden in the semi-finals.
Cole Perfetti is a balanced forward who can make a big impact on both offense and defense. Perfetti’s offensive prowess at the tournament was largely in thanks to the individual puck managing ability he possesses. He’s a game-breaking talent that is uber-skilled and highly intelligent, using both of those rare qualities to facilitate the offense. Always has his head up, can break down players and goalies one on one with quick hands and attention to detail of their positional weaknesses. His offensive approach is incredibly calculated and poise, he targets where he wants to attack and finds a way to make it work. Just a rare caliber of player that makes others around him better and plays with loads of compete, Jonathan Toews esque.
Quinton Byfield – Maybe the attraction of the tournament going in, Byfield’s play did not disappoint as he produced five points in five games and he was used in number of different roles on team Canada’s power play. I thought that alongside Lapierre and Perfett, Byfield was the other engine that drove Canada’s offense.
Quinton Byfield is a highly skilled goal scorer with imposing size and elite level skating for his stature. Byfield is a once-in-a-decade package you find in a player, he’s strong, skilled, smart, shoots the puck well, makes players around him better, and last but not least he can make plays at high speeds. He can do it all offensively from perimeter scoring to intuitive playmaking to power forward net drives. On top of his on-ice abilities, Byfield’s loaded with intangible traits. He’s a very charismatic and competitive force with leadership qualities. It’s going to be scary once Byfield recognizes how big and strong he is and once he learns how to start asserting his power on players, once he develops into a true power winger, the dominance he will then display will be something unseen in Junior hockey since Eric Lindros.
Jamie Drysdale – Drysdale led scoring in the tournament for defenseman with five assists in five games. The Erie Otter defenseman played in all-situations for the Canadians, taking the preconceived notion that he is a top tier defenseman in this year’s NHL draft and confirming it with a spectacular tournament showing
Drysdale is a highly skilled two-way defenseman with elite skating abilities and hockey sense. Drysdale is a rare dynamic defenseman that showcases a lot of panache and offensive flare. Extremely confident in his strengths and poised when making decisions, Drysdale is a magnet for highly effective offensive players. His mobility with and without the puck is elite beyond his age, primarily using such to create passing and shooting lanes on the blue line. His game is very structured on both sides of the puck, pressuring players with an active stick and step-ahead awareness. Possesses second to none puck moving capabilities where he can not only forward the play with crisp outlet passing but also efficient transport zone-to-zone. He just makes many mature decisions with the puck that positively affect his teams overall play.
Ozzy Wiesblatt – Wiesblatt may not have had the production, with only one in the five games he played in, but when watching the games, it’s hard to miss the Calgary native impact on a the game. Wiesblatt quickly formed chemistry with every line he spent time on and displayed versatile qualities on a game by game basis.
Ozzy Wiesblatt is a well-rounded playmaker that manages the puck extremely well by using sharp edgework and cognitive awareness of time and space. Wiesblatt’s vision with the puck is spectacular, well above others in his age grouping. A player that can work his way out of pressure effortlessly and has the ability to create space for not only himself but others on the ice with strong board work and cunning agility with the puck. Wiesblatt compete level is never in question and he’s capable of elevating pass on both forehand and backhand.
Connor McClennon – Expected to be one of team Canada’s leading goal scorers at the beginning of the tournament, but his production only mounted to two points and only one of those were a goal. McClennon shuffled around the Canadian line up, at times playing alongside Hendrix Lapierre and Cole Perfetti on the top power play unit and at other times facilitating the offense on the second power play unit.
McClennon is a pure goal scorer, there is nobody that likes to put the puck in the back of the net as much as Connor McClennon does. An elite level shooter who plays with a lot of confidence and swagger, believing he can always out-skill others on the ice and that he has the shooting abilities to score from anywhere… which most times he does. McClennon well above average in terms of his offensive skill set and offensive creativity but his game will need to mature and his willingness to go through dirty areas will need to improve.
Jeremie Poirier – Second offensive option behind Jamie Drysdale, Jeremie Poirier made his mark offensively on power play quarterback on the second unit. Poirier played alongside Donovan Sebrango and Lukas Cormier for parts of the tournament.
Poirier is an offensively gifted defenseman that can manage the game from the back-end. Poirier shines on the blue line. He uses elite mobility and poise to direct traffic to the net and locate shooting lanes in which he can execute an accurate release from. Gifted with an impressive skill-set with the puck and great vision that allows him to set up chances. Plays assertive defensively, a disrupter of puck possession who will quickly re-transition the puck to offense.
Hendrix Lapierre – Arguably the most skilled combatant at the event, Hendrix Lapierre finished second in tournament scoring behind team-mate Cole Perfetti with 11 points in five games. Lapierre and Perfetti were glued at the hips for much of the tournament as the duo founds quick chemistry and combined for much of Canada’s offensive chances.
Hendrix Lapierre is a dynamic playmaker with a skill-set and offensive flare that is gamebreaking. A smooth powerful skater, Lapierre’s ability to control the pace of the game and make opposing players look silly is remarkable to watch. His offense is force down defender’s throats as he’s attacking them with speed and quick hands, breaking down the basic triangle with craftiness. Always has his head up, Lapierre’s vision and awareness in the offensive end is superb, he’s blends that quick deliver on passes with a quality internal processor to recognize developing plays that aren’t picked up on by others on the ice. Can do it all on his fore-hand and back-hand, the compete level is there and his body language was never an issue for a player with such confidence in his abilities.
Seth Jarvis – Seth Jarvis opened the tournament with a two goal game against Finland and finished the tournament with four points total. Jarvis was a personal favorite at the event, he suited up on the team’s power play and in terms of having a compete level, Jarvis puts himself right up there with the top guys in this class.
Seth Jarvis is a tenacious goal scorer that possesses high level shooting abilities and physical traits. Instincts driven. Jarvis’s compete level is high, he’s a first responder on the fore-check and a relentless pursuiter on the back check. Equipped with above average straight line acceleration and a versatile skill set with the puck. Hard and heavy shooter that can pick his spots from anywhere from the ringette line down. Non-stop motor and anticipation in all three zones, locates soft spots organically.
Kaiden Guhle – Drew a lot of attention for himself, Guhle compared well to team-mates Jamie Drysdale and Jeremie Poirier. Guhle only had one point in the five games but his defensive play stood out above the rest.
Guhle is an assertive two-way defenseman with elite skating abilities and a long rangy frame. A puck possession first style of defenseman that likes to impose pressure on puck carriers quickly and close the distance at the offensive blue line. With his elite skating, he’s able to effortlessly recover to his position giving him the ability to pinch often without consequence. Guhle’s puck moving really improved throughout the tournament as he looked like he got more and more confident in his outlet passing abilities and was hitting his targets efficiently at the end of everything, showing that he’s a true hybrid of a defenseman.
Zion Nybeck – Nybeck and Eklund were the two facilitators of Sweden offense. Nybeck finished the tournament with four points in five games, his offense was less consistent than Eklund but his game was much more mature and creative.
Nybeck is a dynamic goal scoring forward with above average skill and straight line acceleration. An elusive skater that can change direction on a dime, his quick hands allow him to effortlessly create space at top speed. Possesses a quick release in stride, a high tempo wrist shot that can beat goalies from far out. His one-on-one skill set is first round caliber, at his best when he’s playing with a competitive edge. Needs to work on consistencies with both his decision making and footwork. At some points all he sees is the net.
William Eklund – One of two 2021 draft forwards on team Sweden, tied for the team lead in scoring with five points in five games. Found success on the power play and alongside Daniel Ljungman. Eklund’s offensive prowess stood out from other 2021 eligibles.
Eklund is a shifty playmaker with electrifying footwork and high end puck skills. Calm in possession, reads the game at an elite level to never feel pressure and turn the puck over but instead stay confident in his abilities and make the right read. Shows an honest effort on both sides of the puck. Dynamic and can create offense at that speed. Strong on his edge’s to protect the puck. Great vision with the puck to locate team-mates and thread the needle with passes.
Emil Andrae – The best defenseman on Sweden, Andrae separated himself from the other defenseman on Sweden with calculated play and offensive prowess. Played on the top power play unit and top defensive units.
Emil Andrae is a puck moving defenseman with high hockey IQ and a respected offensive skill set. Andrae’s body adjustments on the blue line are superb, he uses it to deceive opposing players and quickly execute on his decisions. Always has his head up and feet moving, equipped with high levels of vision and anticipation in all three zones. An agitator between whistles. Possesses an explosive first step that allows him to quickly take off from pressure. High level puck distributor and puck transporter that can recognize openings in the neutral zone effortlessly. An enthusiastic defenseman with the ability to adjust pace’s and make a difference every time he steps over the boards. Overall his highly coveted skill set and proactive advancements will raise his stock heavily but he needs to improve his physical strength and defensive responsibilities.
Helge Grans – Gran’s was team Sweden’s second best defenseman, he played on the second power play unit. Finished the tournament with one assist in five games, seeing versatile minutes.
Grans plays a formidable two-way game, asserting his presence in all areas of the game. A big strong defenseman that can make an impact in all three zones. Physical in corners, focuses on the body and closing opposing players off along the wall. Mobile and moves the puck well for his size. Played on the power play with a heavy shot. Defends well, uses his towering frame to cut off the ice. Plays to his strengths, the physical tools he possesses are above his age and he often leans on players to create turnovers. Instincts will drive turnovers at times, struggles to make adjustments with the puck to differing pressure points. Once his mind is set to a play, it’s hard to him to switch it.
William Wallinder – Wallinder finished as our third best defenseman on Sweden, he’s a big rangy two-way defenseman that does a lot of things correctly on both ends of the rink. Wallinder finished the tournament with no points in five games.
A big strong two-way defenseman with smooth skating abilities and poise in all three zones. He’s got a long powerful stride, supports his defensive partner effectively and boxes out well in front. His skating is rare for a defenseman of his stature, something that NHL Scouts will take note of. Very simple with his decisions and efforts.
Leo Loof – Played on the second pairing on a stacked Sweden defensive core. Leo Loof’s twin brother (Linus) was also present at the event. Leo finished the tournament with two points in five games and was his team’s fourth best defenseman.
A composed puck moving defenseman, Loof is a smooth skater that plays with poise in all three zones. No rush to his game, he lets the pressure come to him, able to create space for himself and others by holding onto the puck and delivering passes from tight quarters. Showed some assertiveness physically with bone crushing hits in the neutral zone. Needs to add some energy to his game, didn’t show any urgency to recover when mistakes were made.
Kasper Puutio – A favourite amongst our scouting crew for defenseman at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Puutio quarterbacked the Fin’s top power play unit and saw a lot of ice time in games against tougher competition. Puutio ended the tournament with a point per game pace, three assists and no goals in three total games.
Kasper Puutio is a puck moving defenseman with a well-versed skill set. Puutio is cunning with his movement and dynamic with his pace, he showed that he can play on the NA ice with how well he was able to handle pressure from all angles and still make smart plays with the puck. Puutio plays an up-tempo and high pressure game, he’s tight defensively to his assignment and loves to drive up the pace of play when the puck touches his stick. He does a lot of smart things with the puck as well, little things that go a long way like adjusting the angle of his passes, elevating it into the right areas, leading his passes with slick stickhandling. Good four-way mobility and quick to cut guys off with lateral movement.
Roni Hirvonen – Hirvonen was the captain for Finland, he played on their top power play and penalty killing units. Hirvonen led the Fin’s in scoring with five points in three games, having his best performance in a hat trick game against the Czech Republic.
Hirvonen is a mature two-way center that plays a pro-style all-around game. Hirvonen has impressive goal scoring abilities, he can let loose one-time shots from awkward positions and proactively sets himself up in a position to succeed in the offensive end. Quick thinking, quick delivers, quick hands, Hirvonen can play and excel at all speeds of the game and never looks uncomfortable. Competes hard and plays a team-first game, his game was noticeable on both ends of the rink.
Ruben Rafkin – One of the more physical prospects at the event, Rafkin may not have had the offensive success that he was expected to have but instead likely led in the hit’s and instigating department (if there was a stat for that). Rafkin was versatile and played on both the power play and penalty kill.
Rafkin is an assertive two-way shut down defenseman that builds on his strength and imposes it in all situations. Plays a heavy style of game on both offense and defense. Physical and aggressive in his own end, laying the body and closing the distance on guys quickly. Makes a good first pass. Offensively he relies on his power with firm passes and high velocity shots. Seems like he always wants to start stuff after whistles.
Juuso Manpaa – The big surprise for us at the tournament, Manpaa didn’t come in with a big name on our list but left with a large red dot on the radar. Manpaa played on Finland’s power play unit, penalty killing units and shifted up and down the team’s forward group.
Manpaa is a diminutive and dynamic forward that uses his lack of size to slip under contact and go un-recognized in the offensive end at times. Manpaa plays with an endless motor, he’s always in motion and acts as a spark plug for others on the ice. High pressure on puck carriers to force turnovers. Has an above average skill set, capable of lifting passes on his back hand and forehand on to tape blades. Heady off the rush and likes to mix up his attacking approach to throw off opposing players.
Oliver Suni – Finished the tournament with three points in three games, Suni made himself on the scene for a lot of scouts and earned himself a lot of attention.
Oliver Suni possesses a very intriguing offensive package. He’s a playmaker who also has the shooting ability to capitalize when he wants to. Suni has good offensive instincts with the puck, he has great puck protection and can make plays with pressure all over him. Plays with a good compete level, tenacious in puck races and has separating foot speed.
Brad Lambert – Being a 15 years old in a U18 tournament isn’t an easy task. Though, Lambert showed he had his place on the roster. His high offensive upsides made him a serious threat for defenders. He manifested such confidence and poise for a young player. He demonstrated that he isn’t scared to deke his way to the net with his smooth hands. He kept his head up at all time which made him aware of everything on the ice. His vision and creativity is on another level. He always knew where to go with the puck and what to do to get rid of his opponent. Lambert is an incredible skater. With top-notch speed and acceleration, he easily passed by the defense. He has great edges and his long strides provide him a significant top-end speed. He also proved that he is a great shooter. He possesses various good shots and can spots well holes. He later scored a hat trick against Switzerland. Furthermore, he did well defensively. He had an active stick on the fore-check and always kept an eye on his defensemann in his zone. In the end, Lambert clearly had an impact regardless of his age. He will probably come back next year in Edmonton and be the best player for Finland.
Michael Gut – Offensive prowess was on display all weekend as he led the Czechs in production with four points in four games. Played on the power play as well.
A solid mix of size, smarts, and speed, Gut was able to penetrate defenses with his skating ability a regular basis, while also displaying the offensive awareness and vision to identify open space on the ice. Though not an imposing figure at around 6’0”, 181 lbs, Gut is a strong on his skates and strong on pucks, which allowed him to bull his way to the front of the net and win battles for open ice.
Marek Blaha – A smaller defenseman, Blaha is an offensive minded defender who didn’t produce any points at the Ivan Hlinka but played strong enough to catch our eyes.
Diminutive in stature at 5’7 132lbs, Blaha’s able to make positive plays on the ice by using his size to his advantage and out-skating opposing players. An efficient puck carrier who can travel up and down the ice effortlessly with light work on his edges and above average speed. At times, Blaha got out muscled by larger and stronger opponents, however, his ability to move the puck stood out throughout the week for the Czechs.
Tobias Handl – Handl spent some time alongside Pavel Novak and Jan Mysak, played as the net front on the power play. Handl only had one goal in the four games.
Handl has long legs and a long stick, his gifted reach covers a lot of space around his body and allows him to bat down pucks effortlessly around the net. Imposing his physical strength in corners to fend off pressure. He consistently showcases his size, awareness on the puck, and silky hands down low in the offensive zone where he excels most.
Jan Mysak – May not have had the points but played on the power play and penalty kill for the Czechs. Played on the first line, the go-to option for them when they needed a spark.
Mysak is one of the most mature forward’s I have personally watched at this event, though it isn’t likely he comes over to North America, his game could quickly translate over to the North American smaller ice. Mysak’s confidence in his puck delivers (Shot/Pass) is outstanding, there’s no hesitation to his game and that’s largely thankful to how high end his vision is. Equipped with an elite skill set with both his hands and feet, picked up multiple errant passes in his skates while continuing to carry his speed and fight off pressure. Constantly positioned around the puck, though it’s evident he always wants the puck on his blade he understands he needs to find space without it and has no problem adjusting his pace of play to the puck carrier. Heavy on his feet at all times, shows a fearless mentality and willingness to maneuver through physically demanding points on the ice. A hard-nosed workhorse along the wall who exploits an unmovable center of gravity to overpower his way around the wall and when given any space to work with he will begin the cycle or work the puck up high. Mysak showed a lot of little things about his game that I really liked. The Czech’s really struggled against Finland and because of that Mysak took on a bigger role, banging bodies on the fore-check, springing himself into offensive opportunities by playing with tight spacing and trusting in his hands, upping the tempo of the game whenever the puck touched his stick, showing unselfishness, all small things that will create quick chemistry with new team mates and showcase how cognitive his mind is. Did not finish on allot of his opportunities, showed a lack of urgency on the penalty kill, consistency was an issue for me as well.
Pavel Novak – Import draft pick of the Kelowna Rockets, Novak facilitated the offense from the right side of the power play and had three points in four games played. Novak played up and down the line up, seeing time with Jan Mysak and others throughout the tournament.
Novak is an athletic rangy goal scorer with a shot first mentality. Novak focus is to drag the puck to the slot, he’s got a quick whippy release on his wrist shot that he shows full control over with fluid angle adjustments and the ability to get his eyes on the net and hit the targeted spot consistently, whether that be for a team mates stick/high on the goalie/or aiming for a rebound. Novak’s engine is long lasting and constantly on full throttle for the entire shift, with fleet footed movement and constant motion. He made some nifty passes out of his defensive end, serving as an efficient middle man on the break out.
Cross Hanas – Hanas was amongst the best forwards on team USA for much of the tournament, he finished the tournament with three points in four games and was a crucial piece in his team’s overtime win against Slovakia.
Hanas played with a shot first mentality, looking to get the puck on net quickly and often when in possession in the offensive end. A puck possessive player that controls the pace of the game, he’s got excellent vision and puck protection abilities. He has the ability to anticipate defensive adjustments with the puck and capitalize. Offense first mind-set.
Blake Biondi – Had strong showings against Slovakia and Sweden, Biondi finished off the tournament with two points in four games.
Biondi is an elusive winger with a long lengthy frame allowing him to walk his way through tight lanes in traffic and slip through pressure. Skill-wise Biondi is above average, he has the ability to shake down defenders one on one and create space for himself with crafty puck control. Finishes at a high rate between the dots and in tight, a quick shooter that processes the game quickly. Always has his head up and has the ability to read where he needs to be on the ice. Good offensive zone positioning, a firm release on his shots, a few holes to his game and would have looked better with better team mates.
Ben Schoen – One of the more electrifying players at the event, Schoen finished with three points in four games for the Americans.
A smaller forward, Schoen makes up for his lack of size by keeping his feet moving and being quick with his decisions. His game blends agility, speed, skill, and smarts. Possesses very good vision and is capable of extending possession with confidence in his puck handling.
Samuel Knazko – Captain of the Slovak’s, Knazko was a returning player to the events. He stood out as the best defenseman on his team, playing in all situations. Knazko logged no points throughout the event.
Knazko is puck moving defenseman with smooth skating abilities and skilled puck control. Though Knazko’s skill was evidently above others on his team, his high risk game came with a lot of inefficiency when transitioning the puck. A real gun-slinger on the back end whose hit or miss with his passes. He possesses above average offensive tools, power play quarterback qualities and a powerful shot from the point. Looks to avoid dirty area’s and a physical workload. Escape pressure on defensive retrieval’s quickly. Fun to watch in two-thirds of the ice.
Martin Chromiak – The top forward on Slovakia, Chromiak played heavy minutes offensively as not only the trigger man for his team’s top power play unit but also participating in the defensive efforts with some PK time. Chromiak led the Slovak’s in scoring with five points in four games.
Chromiak is a shooting winger with an outstanding wrist shot. His offensive positioning is smart and quickly transitionable. Makes good adjustments under pressure to improve the effectiveness of his passes/shots. His compete level came into question for us, didn’t look to drive the play often and there were inconsistency’s in the energy he played with.
Noah Delemont – One of two returnee’s to the Switzerland line up, Delemont notoriety coming into the tournament was well known going into the tournament despite playing on a bad team. Delemont produced no points in the tournament but was able to gain some value in his stock by logging a lot of minutes and playing in all areas of the game.
Delemont is an excellent blend of mobility and smarts, and in turn is a superb transition player and puck carrier. He’s a good puck carrier, as his feet allow him to carry the puck up the ice and out of the zone while also having the awareness to keep his head on a swivel and make smart plays with the puck. Delemont does have some offensive skill and at times was able to jump into the offensive zone in order to create opportunities while also being smart enough to not pinch at ill-informed times.