10th Place – Denmark (0-0-0-6, Relegated)
1. Jonathan Brinkman, LW (2019 Eligible)
In a tournament where not much went right for the Danes, I thought Brinkman was a subtle bright spot. He was Denmark’s youngest player at the tournament at just age 17 and despite recording just one assist in six games, I thought he was one of Denmark’s most consistent forwards at 5-on-5. He showed some good wheels and seems to own good awareness on both sides of the puck. I’m not sure if his skill is up to the point where he’s worth a draft pick in 2019, but he’s on the radar for me to climb into a late round due to his hockey sense.
2. Jonas Røndbjerg, LW/RW (2017 Rd 3, #65 – Vegas)
Røndbjerg was counted on to be Denmark’s top forward at the tournament, and despite only coming up with two points, I thought Røndbjerg was just that. Røndbjerg has always been known for having a high motor and I found that to be true in this tournament as well, as well as continuing to be a plus-skater by my judgement with the ability to make some plays. I’m not sure I see a ceiling higher than a bottom 6 forward in Røndbjerg, but I do think his game is better suited for the North American game than over in Europe.
3. Malte Setkov, D (2017 Rd 4, #100 – Detroit)
I wasn’t crazy about the play of many of Denmark’s defensemen, but Setkov was probably the best. Setkov is massive blue liner at 6’7″, 205 lbs, and in spite of that he’s reasonably good skater as by my judgement he showed he can keep with attackers with both edgework and his massive reach. He’s struggled to find consistent playing time in the SHL the past couple seasons, but there are some tools there for Setkov to develop into a pro-level defender at some point, though I’m skeptical it’ll be in the NHL.
Mads Søgaard, G (2019 Eligible)
Søgaard was the player I was most excited to watch on Denmark coming into this tournament, and he’s the one that left me the most disappointed. He’s been excellent this year in Medicine Hat with a 2.39 GAA and a .931 SV%, which in conjunction with a 6’7″ frame made him a player to watch for me coming into the tournament. Tending goal for this Danish team was no easy feat this year, but too often I saw Søgaard get beat clean and make poor reads that left him out of position, which led to a gaudy 6.16 GAA and .802 SV% over 5 games throughout the tournament. One bad tournament doesn’t tank Søgaard’s draft stock, but it certainly didn’t do him any favors either.
9th Place – Kazakhstan (2-0-0-4, Saved in Relegation)
1. Artur Gatiyatov, LW (2019 Eligible – Overager)
Gatiyatov was hands down Kazakhstan’s best forward at the tournament. He’s a smaller forward at 5’7″, 130 lbs which is a concern considering he doesn’t have a dynamic step in terms of speed, but he demonstrated a more mature offensive skill set than I thought he possessed. His hands and vision with the puck on his stick are good and he’s typically best as a playmaker, but in this tournament he showed a good goal scorer’s tool kit by getting himself into scoring areas and showcasing a capable shot. I’d like to see him get a look at the pro level in the VHL or KHL before I consider him for a draft pick, but he put himself on the radar for me.
2. Samat Daniyar, D (2019 Eligible – Double Overager)
Samat was likely Kazakhstan’s best defenseman at the tournament, as I thought he was Kazakhstan’s most effective blue liner at even strength. A right handed shot that was able to move the puck reasonably well and get the puck on to the sticks of his forwards, and I found him to be a strong defender in most situations. I didn’t particularly see a brimming offensive tool kit from Samat despite putting up five points in six games, but his reliability and steadiness were a plus from me. Another player I would like to see get a look at the pro level, but likely not a draft pick for me at this point despite a strong tournament. We’ll get to his cousin Sayan in a bit.
3. Valeri Orekhov, D (2019 Eligible – Double Overager)
It was an up-and-down tournament for Orekhov, but I thought for Kazakhstan he ended up being a net positive by tournament’s end. I thought he struggled early in the tournament in his own zone and seemed to get a little panicked under pressure with a couple bad turnovers, one in particular against Finland that led directly to a goal against. As the tournament went on, he settled in a bit and was probably Kazakhstan’s best offensive defenseman. He can move the puck with relative ease and he gets himself into the right situations to score goals reasonably well, he was Kazakhstan’s most experienced pro player coming into this tournament with 50 KHL games under his belt, so he’ll be on the radar for a late round pick.
Honorable Mention: Demid Yeremeyev, G (2019 Eligible – Double Overager)
I had a hard time getting a read on Yeremeyev in this tournament, because in my viewings I thought he was either excellent or mediocre at best. He was very good in his first game against Finland and really held Kazakhstan within striking distance for a lot of that game despite being caved in in the shots on goal department. He has good mobility and that was his greatest asset in this tournament making stops, but I found him much less impressive in his next game against the Americans where he came in in relief for Vladislav Nurek (and was subsequently replaced by Nurek again later in the game). He’s been about average in the MHL this year so he’s likely not a draft pick, but he was one of the tournament sweethearts when Kazakhstan was playing.
Sayan Daniyar, C (2019 Eligible – Double Overager)
Going into this tournament Sayan was relied upon to be Kazakhstan’s top forward and also captained the team, but I didn’t find him to be as effective as Kazakhstan’s top line center as I’d hoped. Sayan still managed to pot two goals for Kazakhstan, but as both a returning member from Kazakhstan’s U20 team from 2018 and as team captain, I expected him to carry the offensive burden more so in the way that Gatiyatov did. He’s had a reasonably strong year in the MHL, but as a double overager with only 1 game of pro experience in the KHL, he’s likely not a draft pick.
8th Place – Slovakia (1-0-0-4, Lost in Quarters to Russia)
1. Adam Liska, LW (2019 Eligible – Overager)
A returning member from last year’s U20 team, Liska was easily Slovakia’s best forward as he led the team in scoring with a point per game pace. I still don’t think he does anything at a high-end level, but he was very steady in this tournament and showed a very balanced offensive skill set. He’s a smart attacker and was able to get himself into positions to be effective, and showcased both solid goal scoring touch and a good playmaking ability. He’s getting regular playing time over in the KHL this year with Slovan Bratislava, so there’s a possibility he’ll be drafted in 2019 as an overager.
2. Samuel Hlavaj, G (2019 Eligible)
I have to be honest, Hlavaj was mostly an unknown for me coming into this tournament, but he really impressed me with his play for Slovakia. He was so good in Slovakia’s first game against the Americans and was one of the reasons the Slovaks nearly stole that game early on in the tournament. He’s a big netminder at 6’4″ and he makes the most of it with good positioning, I didn’t find him often losing his net and for the most part when he got a good look at the shot, he stopped it. He’s like a 3rd or 4th round pick for me at this moment.
3. Martin Fehervary, D (2018 Rd 2, #46 – Washington)
Fehervary was his typical self in this tournament, and was easily Slovakia’s best defenseman. He’s just so steady in his own end and I don’t often find myself finding things to nit pick in his game. Good defender and a smooth skater which allows him to contribute on both sides of the puck, though the concerns I have are still the same ones I had at the draft. I’m not sure he has the tools to be a consistent offensive contributor at the NHL level and I don’t think I see top 4 upside, but smarts and steadiness like Fehervary has can get you a long way.
Honorable Mentions: Filip Krivosik, C/W (2019 Eligible – Double Overager), Adam Ruzicka, C/W (2017 Rd 4, #109 – Calgary)
Despite not lighting the tournament on fire points wise, I found both Ruzicka and Krivosik to be effective throughout the tournament. They’re both big men who are strong on their feet, and I particularly liked the hands that Krivosik showed throughout the tournament. Krivosik typically hasn’t had the offensive tool kit to match his size, but this was an optimistic showing for him. Krivosik will likely be passed over again in this draft, but making the jump to pro hockey over in Finland should help him make his case to get a contract at some point. Ruzicka has been a good junior player in the OHL and will likely get a contract from Calgary as well, and this tournament helped him work towards that.
Martin Pospisil, C (2018 Rd 4, #105 – Calgary)
Being one of the few drafted forwards on this Slovakian lineup, I expected a bit more out of Pospisil for the Slovaks. At best, he was probably Slovakia’s 9th or 10th best forward in the tournament. He’s a feisty guy and that aspect of his game was not lost on him in this tournament, but I would have liked to see more from him in the offensive zone and that aspect of his game left a lot to be desired for me.
7th Place – Czech Republic (1-1-0-3, Lost in Quarters to USA)
1. Martin Kaut, RW (2018 Rd 1, #16 – Colorado)
I thought Kaut was easily the Czechs best forward and consistently gave a dangerous performance every game. It was at last year’s tournament Kaut really caught my attention as a potential 1st round pick, and he didn’t disappoint for me this year either. The only thing I think Kaut lacks is a dynamic step for his speed, but he’s such a good playmaker and he consistently makes his linemates better with the decisions he makes with the puck. Slick hands, great vision, and excellent smarts is going to make this guy a top 6 forward in the NHL for a long time by my judgement.
2. Lukas Dostal, G (2018 Rd 3, #85 – Anaheim)
Dostal was rock solid for the Czechs in every game he played in, and showed why he was one of the best goalies available in the 2018 Draft. He’s very sound positionally and despite not having the big frame like Luukkonen or Primeau, he works smart in his crease and makes himself look bigger than he is with his positioning. The Czechs struggled offensively in this tournament and Dostal gave them a chance in just about every game in spite of that, he was one of the best goalies in the tournament for my money.
3. David Kvasnicka, D (2019 Eligible – Double Overager)
I thought Kvasnicka was the Czechs most steady defenseman in this tournament. He’s not going to wow you with offensive flash or physical play, but he’s very smooth on his skates which makes him effective both as a defender and a puck mover. I thought he displayed very good hockey smarts throughout the tournaments, consistently making good decisions with the puck on his stick and making the right reads away from the puck. He’s gone through the draft twice without being selected, however I could see a team using a late round pick on him if he maintains that level of play.
Honorable Mentions: Jáchym Kondelík, C (2018 Rd 4, #111 – Nashville), Martin Necas, C (2017 Rd 1, #12 – Carolina)
Kondelík didn’t have a big tournament in terms of points, but I was really impressed with a lot of the little things in his game. He’s fantastic at using his 6’7″ frame to protect the puck down low, and there were a few instances where he showed some surprisingly good hands. His ceiling may not be higher than a bottom 6 forward, but I’m starting to see real NHL upside in Kondelík’s game. Necas is a tricky case to pin down, because on one hand, he didn’t produce the way that was expected of him. However, I thought he was very dangerous in the games he played in and easily could have walked away with a handful more goals than he did. Necas is obviously skilled, quick, and intelligent, and despite not setting this tournament on fire, I thought his skill set came through in most of the Czech’s games.
Filip Zadina, RW (2018 Rd 1, #6 – Detroit)
I thought Zadina looked fantastic in the opening game of the tournament, displaying the world class skill and elusiveness he’s known for, however I didn’t find him nearly as effective in the Czechs following 4 games. Zadina walked away from the tournament with only two points, which simply isn’t good enough compared to what was expected of him production wise. He’s still one of the best prospects playing outside of the NHL in my view, and that’s the biggest reason why I’m so disappointed by his lack of production at this year’s tournament.
6th Place – Canada (3-0-1-1, Lost in Quarters to Finland)
1. Morgan Frost, C (2017 Rd 1, #27 – Philadelphia)
I thought Frost was not only Canada’s best forward, but was one of the best forwards in the entire tournament. He’s very slick and skilled and showed multiple instances of having quick hands in tight; his hands truly are his best asset and in this tournament he used them throughout to set up his linemates or finish chances in tight when he got his opportunities. Very smart attacker as well and I was very impressed with his showing this year, easily see Top 6 NHL upside after this showing.
2. Owen Tippett, RW (2017 Rd 1, #10 – Florida)
When I checked the stat sheet for Canada after the tournament, I was surprised to see Tippett had only four points, because based on what I saw he could have had a lot more. He’s obviously known best as a goal scorer and has a fantastic shot, but he has much better hands than I think people give him credit for. I saw him consistently make plays with his hands to open up space for himself, and in particular he made a flashy play against Denmark where he made a move in the neutral zone before securing a zone entry. Very slick and dangerous throughout the tournament, still one of my favorite prospects playing outside of the NHL.
3. Ty Smith, D (2018 Rd 1, #17 – New Jersey)
Smith was Canada’s youngest defenseman at the tournament and was a part of what was originally considered Canada’s 3rd pairing with Noah Dobson at the start of the tournament. By the end of the tournament, that became Canada’s top pairing and Smith their #1 defenseman, as he logged more ice than any other defenseman by a considerable margin as he played over 26 minutes in their quarterfinal matchup against Finland. Ty has been for my money the best defenseman in the CHL this year, and what has made him so good in Major Junior is what made him so good in this tournament – an elite level brain, excellent decision making, precision passing ability, and smooth skating ability. If Canada is able to get Smith back for the 2020 tournament, it will be a major coup for them.
Honorable Mentions: Maxime Comtois, LW (2017 Rd 2, #50 – Anaheim), Michael DiPietro, G (2017 Rd 3, #64 – Vancouver), Cody Glass, C (2017 Rd 1, #6 – Vegas)
Comtois and Glass were for my money Canada’s best two forwards after Frost and Tippett. Comtois I found to be consistently dangerous at 5-on-5, and though for the most part I still have the same concerns regarding his skill level, he’s a very smart attacker and was able to bury most of the chances presented to him. Glass was consistently creating offense for Canada and just barely missed out on being in my top 3; he has great skill and is incredibly intelligent, he was easily Canada’s 2nd best center behind Frost. DiPietro was excellent for Canada in goal and was among the best goalies in the tournament as he used his greatest assets – athleticism, poise, and positioning – to stop 95.2% of the shots he faced.
Evan Bouchard, D (2017 Rd 1, #10 – Edmonton)
This was an underwhelming tournament from Bouchard for my taste. He rightfully entered the tournament as Canada’s #1 defenseman, however he eventually lost that spot in the lineup due to struggles on both sides of the puck. I thought he made some poor reads on the defensive side of the puck and occasionally turned the puck over; on the offensive side of the puck I found him underwhelming, although I thought he was misused on Canada’s powerplay as more of a quarterback than a shooting option. Bouchard is obviously still a high-end defensive prospect and should be highly regarded, but he rightfully lost his spot as Canada’s #1 defenseman to his peers.
5th Place – Sweden (3-1-0-1, Lost in Quarters to Switzerland)
1. Erik Brännström, D (2017 Rd 1, #15 – Vegas)
I thought Brännström was the best defenseman in the tournament this year. Sweden’s blue line was stacked with multiple 1st and 2nd Round picks, and Brännström stood out amongst them in a big way as I found him to consistently be one of the best players on the ice every game. He’s an elite skater and is able to be so shifty and elusive on the blue line and in the offensive zone which made him a threat offensively every time he was on the ice. I would be shocked if Brännström isn’t on Vegas’ opening night roster next season as he looks more than ready to start contributing to an NHL lineup, especially as a quarterback on the powerplay.
2. Adam Boqvist, D (2018 Rd 1, #8 – Chicago)
Much of what I thought made Brännström so good is also what I loved about Boqvist in this tournament. Boqvist was his normal self in this tournament, as he’s such a gifted offensive player with his creativity and skating ability. When he jumped into the play or into the rush, I often felt like he made a good read in doing so and in general I liked his decision making in this tournament. Continuing to make good, solid reads on both sides of the puck is going to be crucial in Boqvist’s development into an NHL defenseman, but he’s already there in terms of what he can bring offensively.
3. Emil Bemstrom, C/W (2017 Rd 4, #117 – Columbus)
Bemstrom was a player that I thought could have been deserving of a Top 60 pick back in 2017, and this year he’s shown so much of what I’ve liked about him since his time in Sweden’s junior ranks. Bemstrom is such a natural goal scorer and though he’s not overflowing with skill, he’s a very smart attacker and is able to get himself into areas to be successful in the offensive zone. Bemstrom has been one of the best U20 players in Sweden this year, and he’ll likely make the jump to North America as soon as next year.
Honorable Mentions: Rickard Hugg, C/LW (2019 Eligible – Double Overager), Rasmus Sandin, D (2018 Rd 1, #29 – Toronto)
Hugg was a player I liked in 2017 and was surprised when he went undrafted, however he let me down a bit in his +1 year with Kitchener and he hadn’t really caught my attention again until his performance at this tournament. I thought he was one of Sweden’s most effective players in the offensive zone and it seems as though he’s finally starting to really adapt to hockey in North America. Rasmus Sandin was his usual self as he was so steady and make great decisions with the puck on a routine basis, he’ll push for an NHL roster spot next season.
The Entire 1st Line (Olofsson – MTL, Lundeström – ANA, Zetterlund – NJD)
On a team that was lacking star power up front compared to Swedish teams of year’s past, they really needed this line to carry the load offensively and they just didn’t. For much of the tournament, this line took a back seat to Bemstrom and Hugg’s lines and I found the trio of Olofsson – Lundeström – Zetterlund to be relatively unengaged in just about every game for Sweden. Despite not registering any points, I thought Zetterlund was the most effective of the three as he made some good rushes and drives to the net in the offensive zone, but for largely coming up blank in most of Sweden’s games, the Swedes simply needed more than what they got out of these three.
4th Place – Switzerland (2-0-1-4, Lost Bronze to Russia)
1. Philipp Kurashev, C (2018 Rd 4, #120 – Chicago)
Kurashev was a player I liked as a low-1st/early 2nd last year, and it seems like Chicago got a real steal getting this guy in the 4th Round. Simply put, Kurashev carried Switzerland’s offense in many of their games in this tournament, and he was a legitimate force on the powerplay playing in the right circle on the umbrella. He’s a gifted shooter and made Switzerland’s powerplay dangerous in some of their games when they were able to find him for a one-timer, and he was also able to create a good amount of offense at evens as well. He could likely use another year in Junior to mature more, but I remain optimistic on Kurashev’s offensive upside.
2. Yannick Brüschweiler, LW (2019 Eligible – Double Overager)
Brüschweiler was likely the biggest surprise player coming out of the tournament for me. He not only ended being a reliable option in Switzerland’s forward group, but one of their best ones. I didn’t find him to be overly skilled, but he’s a very smart attacker and he possesses a surprisingly strong shot. Brüschweiler scored a number of big time goals, most notably his goal against Sweden in the quarters, and he’ll be on my radar as a late-round pick despite being a double overager this year.
3. Luca Hollenstein, G (2019 Eligible – Overager)
Hollenstein was one of the main reasons Switzerland made it as far as they did in this year’s tournament. He very clearly nabbed the starter’s job after the first few games of the tournament, and what he did so well was use a mixture of positioning and athleticism to make up for his lack of size at just 5’10”. Hollenstein had a number of big time performances in this tournament which came to a crescendo in his shutout performance against Sweden in the quarters, and contributed to a tournament that had a number of excellent goalie performances in it.
Honorable Mention: Nando Eggenberger, RW (2019 Eligible – Overager), Marco Lehmann, RW (2019 Eligible – Double Overager), Nicolas Müller, RW (2019 Eligible – Double Overager), Valentin Nussbaumer, C (2019 Eligible)
I have good things to say about a handful of Switzerland’s forwards, but one thing that I can say about their entire team is just how fearless they were. Some underdog teams in this tournament play scared against the big boys and relegate themselves to defending and hanging on for a lucky break for 60 minutes, but Switzerland all tournament played unafraid to go blow for blow with every team they went up against. Their captain, Eggenberger, was a big part of this team’s identity as he was his usual, steady, hard-working self while also chipping in a handful of points. He’s likely still not a draft pick for me as I see him as a long-term project that likely tops out as a bottom 6 guy, but he was very effective for the Swiss this year. Marco Lehmann is worth noting for just how damn fast he is, he created a few opportunities and got himself a few breakaways with just his speed alone; if he just had better hands, he’d be a real interesting player for me. Nicolas Müller was an effective running mate alongside Kurashev and performed his role well as the playmaker on that line, though his feet still concern me a bit. Nussbaumer was up and down for me, some games he would make things happen with a flash of skill however there were a couple games where he was flat out invisible. He’s falling down a bit for me and likely won’t be a 1st rounder by year’s end, but still a draft pick.
Akira Schmid, G (2018 Rd 5, #136 – New Jersey)
Being one of the handful of Switzerland’s drafted players, I expected a lot more out of Schmid in goal for the Swiss. He was fine in a losing effort in Switzerland’s game against Canada, however he was plain bad in other moments. He has all the attributes to be a solid netminder, including the unteachable one in size as he stands at 6’4″, but I really question his hockey sense as I find he reads the play incorrectly and gets beat as consequence far too often. In addition, he got beat clean a few times as well, and deservedly lost the starter’s job to Hollenstein.
Bronze Medal – Russia (6-0-0-1, Lost in Semis to USA)
1. Grigori Denisenko, LW (2018 Rd 1, #15 – Florida)
Denisenko would have been my vote for tournament MVP, as he was easily my favorite player to watch during this tournament. He displayed everything that I loved about him in lead up to last year’s draft in June, as he was quick, elusiveness, smart, and skilled. Easily Russia’s most potent offensive player and he really drove that 1st line alongside Kostin and Kravtsov. I’ve teetered between if I see 1st line upside in Denisenko or just Top 6 upside, and I’m starting to lean towards the former the more I watch this kid play. Love him, love him, love him.
2. Alexander Romanov, D (2018 Rd 2, #38 – Montreal)
Romanov was easily Russia’s best defenseman, and was up there with a few others as one of the best defensemen at the tournament for me. I really underrated his all-around game last year, as he really has all the tools you look for in a defenseman with smooth skating ability, good skill and offensive instincts, and a physical edge to his game to boot. He’s a player I was really sleeping on last year as well as coming into this tournament, but he has my attention in a big way now.
3. Kirill Slepets, RW (2019 Eligible – Double Overager)
I really fell in love with Slepets as this tournament went along, and he was particularly good during Russia’s medal round games. My only complaint with Slepets is that for a smaller guy he doesn’t have the most dynamic step in terms of speed, but he’s just such an effective and smart player. He has skill and can make plays but what made me love him so much is how good he is as a two-way presence. Easily Russia’s best penalty killer and he found a way to be effective and dangerous on just about every shift he took. He’ll be a draft pick for me without a doubt.
Honorable Mentions: Alexander Alexeyev, D (2018 Rd 1, #31 – Washington), Pyotr Kochetkov, G (2019 Eligible – Double Overager), Klim Kostin, C (2017 Rd 1, #31 – St. Louis), Vitali Kravtsov, RW (2018 Rd 1, #9 – NY Rangers), Vasili Podkolzin, RW (2019 Eligible), Pavel Shen, C (2018 Rd 7, #212 – Boston)
I could say a good thing about just about every Russian forward, as I really love this age group up front for Russia. Kostin and Kravtsov we’re both good alongside Denisenko on the top line and made that line likely the best unit at the tournament, as they really dictated the pace of play every time they were out there. Pavel Shen was an excellent depth center for the Russians and I found him to be very effective on both sides for the Russians. After his performances at the Hlinka-Gretzky and U18s I was 100% sold on his skill as elite, but I had some reservations regarding his play away from the puck and his smarts. He completely alleviated those concerns, as I now find his hockey sense to be high-end among his age group, and he showed some occasional sandpaper as well which I also love about him. Alexeyev had an up and down tournament, but when he was good he was really good and made some impressive plays. Kochetkov I think made a legitimate case for himself as a Top 62 pick as an overager, as he’s making himself known as one of the top goalies available in this draft class. He was excellent in this tournament for Russia and really stole away the starting job.
Daniil Tarasov, G (2017 Rd 3, #86 – Columbus)
Tarasov I expected to be one of the best goalies in the tournament this year, but he ended up losing the starter’s job to Kochetkov with a mixture of his own struggles and Kochetkov’s success. Tarasov was solid in his first performance despite not being asked to do too much, however he was weak against the Swiss by my judgement and just okay against Slovakia as he finished the tournament with a sub .900 save percentage. Not a damning performance by him, but I expected more and was excited to see him.
Silver Medal – USA (5-0-1-1, Lost Gold to Finland)
1. Ryan Poehling, C (2017 Rd 1, #25 – Montreal)
Poehling stepped up in a big way for the Americans and became their top line center but the end of the tournament. He’s still not a high-end skill player, but he has excellent hockey sense and two-way acumen and his offensive play really culminated in a natural hat-trick against Sweden that salvaged a point for the Americans in group play. I still don’t see top line potential in Poehling, but this performance made me more optimistic in his outlook as a potential 2nd line center in the NHL at some point.
2. Cayden Primeau, G (2017 Rd 7, #199 – Montreal)
Primeau was another goaltender that had a strong tournament and you could argue he was the biggest reason the Americans were able to walk away from this tournament with a Silver medal. He was rock solid in every game he played and displayed fantastic positioning, poise, and routinely made good reads while in the crease. Primeau is one of the best goaltenders currently playing in the NCAA, and I’ll be excited to see how he does when he inevitably moves to pro hockey at some point.
3. Mikey Anderson, D (2017 Rd 4, #103 – Los Angeles)
I was admittedly not a big Mikey Anderson fan coming into this tournament, but he really won me over as the tournament went along. He’s a tremendously smart hockey player and I always have a soft spot for guys who rarely make poor reads or ill-informed plays. Steady is the best way I can describe Mikey as I struggle to really even recall any mistakes he made over the course of the tournament. I still have the same concerns regarding his offensive ceiling as he’s not particularly dynamic for a defenseman his size, but he’s just so smart and it’s hard not to see an NHL future for this kid.
Honorable Mention: Sasha Chmelevski, C/RW (2017 Rd 6, #185 – San Jose), Jack Hughes, C (2019 Eligible), Quinn Hughes, D (2018 Rd 1, #7 – Vancouver), Tyler Madden, C/RW (2018 Rd 3, #68 – Vancouver), Jason Robertson, LW (2017 Rd 2, #39 – Dallas)
The Americans got a number of good performances from their forward group, which allowed them pick themselves up and pick up the slack while Jack Hughes was out with an injury. Tyler Madden really turned my head as I walked away tremendously impressed with him, he has much more skill than I initially thought and he was very effective in the games I watched. Jason Robertson I thought was excellent and was one of USA’s best forwards as he made a number of skilled plays in the offensive zone and it felt like the play followed him wherever he was – he was very involved. Chmelevski filled a good depth role for the Americans early on and as the tournament he allowed his skill to show through as he worked his way up the lineup. The Hughes brothers were their impactful selves, as they’re both gifted skaters and are tremendously skilled with the puck. Jack missed a few games with injury, but still managed to be point per game and was likely USA’s best playmaker.
K’Andre Miller, D (2018 Rd 1, #22 – NY Rangers)
Miller was projected to be one of USA’s most important players in this tournament, but he found himself in a depth role on USA’s blue line. Miller really didn’t help dictate the pace of play like I thought he would and in turn I found him to be largely ineffective throughout the tournament. There was some talk that K’Andre was sick at some point during the tournament which may have contributed to his lax play, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed based on the expectations I had for him leading into the tournament.
Gold Medal – Finland (5-0-0-2)
1. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G (2017 Rd 2, #54 – Buffalo)
Luukkonen was easily the best goaltender in the tournament as he was rock solid in every game he played in while standing on his head in others. He has everything you look for in a starting netminder – size, athleticism, hockey sense, and great positioning, and I couldn’t say enough good things to say about him after this performance. He’ll likely make the jump to the AHL next season where he’ll continue to develop into Buffalo’s future #1.
2. Aleksi Heponiemi, W/C (2017 Rd 2, #40 – Florida)
Heponiemi was as productive as ever, as he tied Denisenko for the tournament lead in scoring and spearheaded Finland’s offense on the top line. He’s tremendously skilled and remains an excellent playmaker with good vision with the puck on his stick and soft hands to deliver the puck to linemates. He doesn’t have the top gear in terms of speed I’d like for a player his size, but he’s shifty and agile on his skates and he’ll likely make the jump to North American pro hockey next season.
3. Kaapo Kakko, RW (2019 Eligible)
Kakko solidified himself as a Top 2 prospect in this draft with this performance. Despite being one of the youngest players on the team, Kakko was one of Finland’s best and most important players as he was consistently productive in their Top 6 and displayed the elite level hockey sense in every game he played in. He capped off his tournament by scoring the Golden Goal for Finland, and even closed the gap between himself and Jack Hughes at the top of the draft.
Honorable Mentions: Henri Jokiharju, D (2017 Rd 1, #29 – Chicago), Rasmus Kupari, C (2018 Rd 1, #20 – Los Angeles), Aarne Talvitie, C (2017 Rd 6, #160 – New Jersey), Urho Vaakanainen, D (2017 Rd 1, #18 – Boston), Jesse Ylönen, RW (2018 Rd 2, #35 – Montreal)
Finland got a number of great performances, and that all started with their captain, Aarne Talvitie. Talvitie was one of Finland’s best forwards at entering the offensive zone and went point per game as he also regularly displayed his bullet of a wrist shot. Jesse Ylönen and Rasmus Kupari both showed excellent offensive ability and skill, and I firmly believe in the potential of both as Top 6 NHL forwards. Kupari was particularly great at pushing the pace of play in some of the games I watched. Jokiharju and Vaakanainen both carried Finland’s defense as they both ate big minutes and were both effective at moving the puck out of their own zone.
Eeli Tolvanen, RW (2017 Rd 1, #30 – Nashville)
Tolvanen is one of my favorite prospects currently playing outside of the NHL, so this performance was really disappointing for me based on what I know he’s capable of. He’s tremendously skilled and owns a great goal scorer’s tool kit, but unfortunately he was largely invisible in the games that I watched. Tolvanen was a candidate to be tournament MVP before the tournament began, and he unfortunately didn’t come close to living up to that hype.