10 players of interest in the U18 Hockey Championship

As the season wraps up in North America at the top junior, USHL and Tier 2 Junior levels, the annual Under 18 World Championship kicks off on Saturday in Germany, with Team Canada looking to defend their crown.

The host communities this season are Landshut and Kaufbeuren. Both cities have a rich history of supporting the game of hockey. Communities like this take pride in hosting events internationally.

I will be based in Munich, between those two destinations, for the tournament and hope to provide detailed scouting reports and analysis on the players representing their countries.

Competing countries this year:

Group A: Canada, United States, Czechia, Germany

B Group: Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Latvia

This week my colleague Sam Cosentino published his latest NHL Draft Prospect Rankings, and some of the names that appeared on his list compete in the Under-18s. This tournament is the last chance for draft-eligible prospects to show off their skills and gain more confidence from the scouting community, and also provides an opportunity for some players who are eligible for the 2023 draft to enhance their résumés before the next season.

Along with the Hlinka/Gretzky summer tournament, the U18s are the most sought-after event on the calendar for all 32 NHL franchises. All teams will be attended by their directors, chief scouts and the majority of their staff from both North America and Europe. Some GMs will also make the trip. Especially those supervisor teams that will participate in the next lottery draft on May 10.

This tournament always seems to give some surprises. Last year, Danila Klimovich was the standout player that elevated his value to the point of being selected in the second round by the Vancouver Canucks (41st overall). Time will tell who catches the eye of NHL scouts at this year’s event.

With that, I wanted to highlight a few players of interest to keep an eye on during the event, which runs from April 23 to May 1.

Joakim Kemell, Team Finland

He’s been through some ups and downs this season (similar to countryman Brad Lambert), but Kemell’s impact on the Liiga increased in the second half after suffering a 14-game goal drought.

After playing with and against men at the highest level of professional hockey in Finland, I am interested to see his impact from turn to turn, game to game playing within his peer group. Kemell should have a productive week and play into his point-producing identity.

He landed at No. 9 on Sam’s April ranking list and I’ll be interested to see if he improves his value at this event.

Owen Pickering, Team Canada

It’s right on the “cut line,” ranking at number 15 on Cosentino’s April list. I call it the “cut line” because it’s always an area of ​​the first round that becomes volatile. Teams will rate this player in the top 20 of their rosters.

I’m looking to see if he has the ability to take over all areas of the ice in this tournament. Can he contribute offensively and offer a good defense at the same time? Will it be used in all situations? This week is important for Owen to further define his potential as a prospect. He could end up being a “trade” or “replacement” target on draft day.

Logan Cooley, Team USA

He was disappointed by his place in Sam’s March rankings (No. 4). Cooley believes in his ability and believes he can contend for No. 1 overall. I believe you! (Sam moved Cooley to No. 2 in the April rankings.) This player exudes confidence and is a threat to produce offense every time his blades spill onto the boards. He is completely fun to watch.

I’m looking forward to seeing if Cooley shows everyone in attendance at the U18s that not only is he the best player in this tournament, but that he deserves to challenge Shane Wright for consideration as No. 1 overall. He is on the clock. This is his last chance to impress even more.

Lane Hutson, Team USA

From the outside, the most obvious concern is his size (5-foot-8, 148 pounds). After the combine we will know more about his growth potential. He could be a late bloomer. What we do know already is that he is a dynamic player who transitions pucks, makes plays and competes on both sides. A pleasure to see.

I’m looking for him to establish control and impact the game every turn of this tournament. Team USA’s first game is against a Canadian team that traditionally outperforms most in this event and will set the tone for Hutson’s tournament. I’m not sleeping with this boy. He has the potential to open some eyes.

Reid Dyck, Team Canada

This is the biggest week of Reid’s season. He was excellent in the Top Prospects Game in Kitchener, but his stat line isn’t that impressive this season playing behind a Broncos team that he’s not in the playoffs. A good-sized goalkeeper who has shown that he can make big saves, move quickly from side to side and struggle to make second saves.

I don’t have a crystal ball. I’m not sure if his game is to be a starter in this tournament. If he gets the net, he needs to raise and run the table to gain more trust from the NHL teams in attendance.

Adam Fantilli, Team Canada

He is a late birthday (October 12, 2004).

What does that mean? it means he is not eligible for the U18 tournament next spring in his NHL draft year as he ages out of the division. He is likely to wear the Canada team jersey at the 2023 World Junior Tournament this Christmas, but he will want to take over the Under-18 stage this week.

Fantilli brings size, pace, skill and the IQ to perform in all situations. Connor Bedard is the 2023 draft-eligible player everyone is obviously watching in the U18 tournament, but Fantilli should not be overlooked. Let the debate begin by comparing his game to Bedard’s.

Liam Ohgren, Team Sweden

At the J20 level in Sweden, he has dominated offensively (33 goals, 58 points in 30 games). There is no doubt that he has ability. On the run, Ohgren is equally dangerous from the edge or cutting into the middle to beat opponents 1v1. He has big clenched hands. However, there wasn’t much of a physical push at the J20 level. Teams will harass him a lot more in this event and try to make him work for the ice on him. It will be interesting to see how he responds to it.

Ohgren also made 25 appearances in the SHL (Sweden’s top professional league) this season, but in a limited role (one goal, one assist). His attention to detail on the defensive end is an area of ​​weakness by choice. He will have to be more aware and committed without the disc as he matures. I’m looking for Ohgren to have an elite week offensively and play with his identity.

Filip Bystad, Team Sweden

He brings size (6-foot-2, 194 pounds) and skill. Off the run, he is long and when he gets the upper hand on an opponent, he protects defenders very well. More passer than shooter. He needs to keep his feet moving; there is a lot of slippage in your game off the puck.

I am looking for more energy and hopefully physical commitment. If he shows that he can be more difficult to play against in all three zones, his draft stock has a chance to increase.

Tyler Duke, Team USA

This ball of hate won’t turn 18 until after the draft in Montreal. Take a look at his stat line. He’s not going to bring a ton of offense. What he does to do is make life miserable for opponents. It’s fun to watch. Tyler plays hard between the whistles (and sometimes after the whistle) and I’m interested to see how he pans out in this tournament. His physical, tenacious, “in your face” style of play could contribute to the team’s success.

David Goyette, Team Canada

An intriguing prospect whose preliminary ranking is all over the map depending on who you talk to. Goyette was drafted by the Sudbury Wolves in 2020 as he was coming off a year in which he produced 49 goals and 153 points in 65 games with Selects Academy 15U AAA. He was just 5-foot-8, 147 pounds when the Wolves drafted him, but he’s grown and added weight and strength (5-foot-10, 172 pounds now).

Sudbury hoped to be a better team this year, but things didn’t turn out that way. Goyette carried the mail offensively (33 goals, 73 points in 66 games) and plans to continue playing his identity. However, more explosiveness will be required. He will be forced to pick up his pace in this tournament. Only six of his 33 goals this year have come on the power play. He produces with an even force, which is a big plus.

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