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2021 U18 World Championships

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  • 2021 U18 World Championships

    I always love this tournament, but it has extra meaning this year, for obvious reasons. First thing I noticed was USA has a ridiculously young team. I've never seen a team with so many under-agers in this tournament. I guess they want to get some top players from the U17 team into international competition since they had all their tournaments cancelled.

    Mason McTavish seems to have been flying up a lot of draft rankings with his performance in the Swiss League, but I had to see it for myself, and he's living up to some of it. I'm still not sold on his high-end upside at all, but he looks like a very safe bet to be a pretty good NHL player. Still don't think he's in my top 10, but maybe top 15. Reminds me of prospects like Jake Virtanen, Lawson Crouse, Owen Tippet and Gabe Vilardi. Just a thick, sturdy NHL body first and foremost with some solid skills mixed in.

    Isak Rosen really impressed me for Sweden, despite the drubbing. Probably a first round talent. Pastujov and and Svechkov have continued to impress, and will rightfully be moving up a lot of lists. Gonna be tough to keep Pastujov out of my top 20 at this point, but I dunno who is supposed to drop if McTavish and Pastujov are both moving in. Brandt Clarke has done nothing to have me question his spot at number one on my list.

  • #2
    Danny Zhilkin, who is a late birthday '03, has been one of the most impressive Canadians as far as pure skills. I remember being at least moderately impressed at the U17s too, and he's listed at 6'2. Could be guy who flies up the 2022 draft charts whenever OHL starts up. Likely a first rounder at the very least.

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    • #3
      So... about that Matvei Michkov...

      I'm not sure what to think about Francesco Pinelli. I've seen some lists have him really high, like top ten or close. From the couple games I've seen so far at U18s, he's looked pretty good, but I haven't really been blown away. Yet I look at the scoring leaders and he has 8 points in 4 games.

      And then how about these Finns? One lesson I've learned time and again over the past decade or so, it's to take it seriously when any players put up numbers like that. There's three of them on that line tearing it up. With numbers like that "they're just really good junior players" won't cut it. At least one of them is legit. Maybe two. And it's not always obvious which. Remember that Finland line of Pulkkinen-Aho-Laine. Everyone thought it was Aho who was just along for the ride. I haven't got a chance to see Finland yet, but I'm gonna have to be sure to catch at least one. I'm off work tomorrow so gonna watch as much as I can.

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      • #4
        How have Bedard and Wright been?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Josh View Post
          How have Bedard and Wright been?
          Pretty much as expected. It can be easy to forget that, unlike McDavid who was an early January birthday, and more like Crosby who was August, Bedard is a July birthday. So although they're the same draft year, Michkov is a good half a year older. I've come to kinda know what to expect from Bedard already - unlike McDavid, he doesn't have world-eating speed, but his skating is phenomenal. Like Michkov, although he is very fast, the key to his skating is the dynamic element, but there is an important difference here. Akin the comparison I made between Raymond and Stuetzle's skating last year, Michkov is smoother, while Bedard is more shifty. The way he can make sudden starts and stops, and change directions on a dime, it's like watching a firefly dart around the night sky. As with Crosby and McDavid, of course his hockey IQ is one of his biggest strengths, and it is absolutely off the charts. But unlike a Crosby, who has the whole world in his hands when he has the puck on his stick, Bedard seems to shine the brightest off the puck - this was most abundantly clear watching him at WSIs, where it was absolutely uncanny how it just seemed like every loose puck or lackadaisical pass by the opposition, Bedard was suddenly on it. Of course his skating also contributes to that, the way he so effortlessly and powerfully changes directions 360 degree. And this leads me to what the commentators describe as his best asset - his shot. Unlike Crosby and McDavid, who were always known as playmakers first, with Bedard's shifty skating and hockey sense off the puck, he's built to score goals - the way he can suddenly appear in dangerous scoring positions and blast it before anybody knows what's happening. But all that wouldn't be so dangerous if he didn't have the shot to finish with, but he does. Besides the obvious power and accuracy, the thing that stands out most is the quick release from absolutely any position. Again, this goes together with his shifty skating, in that it doesn't seem to matter which way he's darting - with the puck in his feet, behind him, way out in front of him, he can absolutely wire it. And then it almost goes without saying, but of course his stickhandling ability is simply astonishing, as he's able to deke through multiple defenders at once. As I said with Raymond and his shifty skating last year, what really sets him apart is the ability to use his hands and feet deceptively in unison, where to use the simplest example, his feet can be going one way and the puck going the other, then suddenly his feet are going the other way and the puck vice versa.

          With Wright, it's hard to really pinpoint any one or two things that stand out about him. I mean first things first, he's already a pretty big body at 6'1, 187 lbs, and it shows on the ice. He's a bit of a bull at this level, as he already was as an underager at U17s. Similar to Bedard, he's more of a goal-scorer than a passer, but unlike Bedard, he is much more able to handle himself physically at this level. Whereas Bedard has to rely on his play away from the puck, and use his skating and stickhandling with the puck, Wright can handle himself in traffic, around the net, in the corners, he doesn't seem to mind getting bumped around a bit, and he has fantastic hands in tight spaces. I don't see Wright as a generational prospect. He's more on the level of a Tavares or McKinnon or Stamkos. He has some explosiveness to him for sure, and his 200-foot hockey sense is exceptional, as is his work ethic and aggressiveness. His offensive hockey sense is equally impressive on and off the puck. Not exactly a weakness, but I haven't seen much in the way of exceptional passing ability. But by that I just mean I don't really see him threading the needle or saucing up long seam passes. For the style of player he is, his passing is fine; he's going to be a player who most excels down low, and he makes quick, accurate and deft passes in tight spaces.

          Michkov has been playing on Russia's 1b line (the offensive line) with Kvochko and Chibrikov. The top line is Miro-Svechkov-Yurov. The Michkov line tends to spend a lot of time in their own zone, and I'd like to see more hustle away from the puck from Chibrikov. Michkov actually has showed some really nice hustle on backchecks a few times, but he still looks pretty lost in his own zone at this level. But that line does most of their damage off the rush. The big line is indeed big and heavy, and they dominate offensive zone possession. In the quarterfinal game Monday, I swear Miro had at least ten shots on net. I counted six in the first period and then kinda stopped counting. His goal came off the rush, where he was one on one and he pulled the puck in tight to his body and quickly shot to the defender's inside, the goalie made the stop but Miro, as I like to see from him, was rabid after the puck, pushed through the defender and batted it past the goalie. Svechkov was everything I've come to expect from him, both good and bad. Phenomenal hockey sense, excellent playmaking, using his stickhandling to draw defenders out and open passing lanes, but there was a couple occasions where he had opportunities to make plays in tight spaces and just couldn't get a full handle on the puck.

          I also got my first look at Elias Salomonsson. Can't say too much. He looked good, but I didn't see what the people have seen who think he is a top three or top five prospect. He was a regular on the PK. Saw him rush the puck a couple times but never went all the way end-to-end. That said, he wasn't exactly giving it away, when he ran out of options he would dump it in or distribute. You can tell he's a really smart, reliable, poised defenseman. Showed good body positioning and a wonderfully smart, active defensive stick. Saw him make a couple really good, short pressure-release plays with the puck deep, but on one occasion he tried to flip the puck out of danger and fanned it. He had a bit of time and space, but no passing options, so it looked like the right decision to me, but he just didn't execute. At 16 I can let that slide, but if he's supposed to be in the mix with Lambert, Savoie, part of me says you've gotta know if the puck is wobbling or there's some reason you might flub it, you have a half second to settle it down, maybe take a glance to make sure you have a handle on it, maybe use your feet to see if anything else opens up. I dunno. One little mis-execution, not a big deal, but it was an imperfect first impression is all I'm saying.

          The standout of the quarterfinal day for me was Samu Tuomaala. Holy shit, how have I missed out on this prospect until now? Listed at 5'10. I see that a few rankings have him late first round, and I mean, I don't wanna jump the gun, but after this game I found a shift-by-shift of him, and I'm not sure. Late first round might not be enough. I've talked about Johnson, Chibrikov and Lysell as the most purely skilled forwards in the draft, well Tuomaala has to be considered right up there, close to, if not part of that group. But he also struck me as really smart and tenacious. Like one play he jumped up to intercept a breakout pass at the top of the faceoff circle, another play he was on the backcheck and the opponent was just crossing his own blueline to exit the zone and thought he was unaccosted, until suddenly Tuomaala snuck up behind him with the stick lift and stole the puck, but not without an aggressive stick battle. He was a wizard on transition carrying the puck out of his own zone and through the neutral zone, luring forecheckers in and then using shifty skating an slick stickhandling to fake them out. Tough to force him up my list too far after a couple viewings, but given the numbers at U18s as well, this kid could easily end up in my top 20.

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