2018 NHL Draft
U18 Five Nations: Scouting Reports
Big names produce big results in Plymouth
Steve Kournianos | 02/18/2018 | Nashville | [hupso]
RW Andrei Svechnikov (Ranked No. 1)
Svechnikov was his usual self, displaying speed and power to both the outside and inside and making difficult plays look easy. His eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) tied Team USA’s Oliver Wahlstrom for the most of any player. He saved his best performance against the Americans, setting up a pair of first-period goals and then scoring on a breakaway early in the 2nd before adding a third assist later on. The way he abuses defenders in one-on-one situations is unmatched among forwards in his draft class, and he was the first forward called on to kill penalties , including several 5-on-3 disadvantages. One area of his game that stood out was his vision — Svechnikov’s tape-to-tape touch passes in the neutral zone with his back turned to the offensive zone are a thing of beauty. They not only trap defenders attempting to hold the blue line, but also connect in-stride with his linemates. I doubt there was one scout out of the hundred or so in attendance who came away unimpressed with Svechnikov’s overall performance.
LW Grigory Denisenko (Ranked No. 31)
A puck-possessing fiend with excellent finishing abilities, Denisneko clicked well with linemates Khovanov and Svechnokov. His ability to finish from in close is already at an elite level, and seeing him over-handling the puck during lengthy cycles is an acceptable price to pay when you consider how often he finds the open man or darts into an opening for a clean look. Putting together a super line looks good on paper, but the players themselves shoulder the burden of walking the line between puck hogging and over-passing. Denisenko appeared to mesh well with his star-studded mates, but the truth is this kid by himself can carry a line with either his puck distributing or shooting skills.
C Alexander Khovanov (Ranked No. 32)
A methodical playmaking center with elite vision, Khovanov was tasked with centering two wingers in Andrei Svechnikov and Denisenko who love to handle the puck a lot. Easier said than done, and to Khovanov’s credit, he didn’t try to do too much on his own and looked to incorporate his puck-hungry linemates as often as possible. He has a soft touch and is great at threading the needle, especially on the power play. There were some intense moments when Khovanov appeared more comfortable on the outside while a bulldozer like Svechnikov went to work along the boards, but I reminded myself that the youngster is still rusty after missing six months with Hepatitus-A. His lack of explosiveness is obvious, and there are times you want him to be more puck hungry like most top-line centers. Still, he’s a lethal set-up man with the puck on his stick. The question is how hard he wants to work to get it there.
RW Oliver Wahlstrom (Ranked No. 12)
Wahlstrom’s production has increased since he and linemate Joel Farabee began flanking 2019 draft standout Jack Hughes, and the trio were heavily involved in most of the quality chances being generated by Team USA. Wahlstrom is a fearless power winger with a heavy shot, which is a big reason why he was manning the top of the umbrella on the power play. He’s pretty good at dishing the puck and incorporating all four teammates into an offensive-zone possession, but in Plymouth there were times where he overhandled the puck into an untenable situation. “Trying to do too much” is a minor growing pain that practically every young kid goes through, so I wouldn’t read into it too much. The kid clearly a phenomenal talent with a penchant for making big plays, and he has Chris Kreider-like courage when taking the puck directly to the net with little regard for his own wellbeing. But Wahlstrom is not just a north-south winger — his agility and rapid directional changes are both strong and timely.
LW Joel Farabee (Ranked No. 7)
It’s rare to find a skilled playmaker who consistently hustles and makes physical sacrifices regardless of how long he’s into his shift. Yes, Farabee is a top-line winger who plays with two elite forwards in Oliver Wahlstrom and Jack Hughes. But he leads by example and is willing to pay any price in order to grab control of the puck. If your eventual draft positioning was dependent on play away from the puck and taking the hard right over the easy wrong, then Farabee would go first overall by a country mile. The thing is, the kid is an elite passer and fast skater who in Plymouth tailored his all-around game to compliment the younger Hughes, who did most of the puck handling when it came to zone entries and on the power play.
LHD K’Andre Miller (Ranked No. 24)
Miller was the undisputed top defenseman for Team USA and played a critical role in the come-from-behind win against Russia on Friday that paved the way for the eventual tournament victory. Big, fluid and rangy, Miller is a converted forward who makes sound decisions with or without the puck. It’s not easy being a two-way defenseman on a team loaded with skill forwards, but Miller finds a way to incorporate all his on-ice attributes into one tantalizing package. His off-wing rush and behind-the-back pass to Jack Hughes was as fancy a play as you’ll find from any defenseman listed at 6’3 and 206 pounds.
C/LW Jakub Lauko (Ranked No. 39)
Lauko is one of the draft’s more electrifying players thanks to his straight-line speed and heavy shot. There’s a lot more to his game than just offense, however, and his dedication to covering up holes inside his own end was evident in all four of his matches. Lauko plays with a lot of bite and likes to get under opponent’s skin, and against Sweden he threw a couple of heavy hits on star defender Adam Boqvist — something that did not go unnoticed by Boqvist’s teammate Adam Ginning. He scored only one goal and added an assist, but he led the Czechs with 13 shots and was one of their more noticeable players in every situation you can imagine.
RHD Vojtech Doktor (2018 Draft)
Doktor was one of the more impressive shutdown defenders of any competing nation, and was assertive from puck drop to the final buzzer. He plays a smothering brand of defense that mixes physicality with rapid closing speed, and on occasion he’s venture deep into the offensive zone to keep plays alive. His contributions on offense had more to do with the frequency of his takeaways and eliminating entries at the blue line, and don’t expect to see much of any end-to-end rushes or a bunch of fakes inside the slot area. Doktor plays a clean, sound game centered on neutralizing threats before the puck enters his own end.
C Michal Kvasnica (Ranked No. 81)
A jersey-flapping forward with size and speed who can play either center or wing, Kvasnica is quite fast and difficult to contain once he picks up speed through the neutral zone. Big and powerful, Kvasnica isn’t just a north-south brute that powers his way to the cage — he is agile and shifty, and attacks the net from several angles with authority and confidence. His balance and edge work are excellent, and he can stop on a dime to cut back laterally and seek cutters or options behind the net. Knocking Kvasnica off the puck is difficult to do regardless of whether he’s powering into the zone or controlling the puck along the wall.
C/LW Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Ranked No. 9)
Kotkaniemi from a production standpoint is having a Mikko Rantanen-type season as a pre-draft teen playing in Finland’s elite SM-Liiga, so I was interested to see how he’d perform in a short tournament against his contemporaries in front of over a hundred or so scouts. His three-zone game is advanced, and you can tell that he’s benefitted from playing a regular shift with Assat. Kotkaniemi is an unselfish player who has a pass-first mentality regardless of whether or not he’s playing center, and all of Finland’s power plays were most effective with him running it from the wall. He was physically assertive and always kept his feet moving on the forecheck, pivoting quickly on directional changes and taking direct routes to meet puck carriers before they hit the red line. His straight-line speed is slightly above average, meaning he can win an occasional footrace but does more damage from within close quarters than he would in open ice. Nonetheless, Kotkaniemi is a mature, two-way prospect with outstanding vision and awareness who will make life easier for any coach.
RHD Adam Boqvist (Ranked No. 6)
Watching Boqvist was the real prize of the tournament, not only for his mind-numbing skills, but also for the fact that he was competing against an elite group of draft-eligible peers for the first time since the under-18 Ivan Hlinka last August. The young Swede didn’t disappoint, as he produced back-to-back superior performances is his last two games against the Czech Republic and Russia. Boqvist is a phenomenal skater and playmaker, and it’s no mystery that he absolutely loves shooting the puck from any angle at any time. In Plymouth, however, Boqvist showed he’s pretty good in his own end as well, especially in one-on-one coverage.
Boqvist just casually shut down Svechnikov and then started the rush the other way leading to a goal #2018NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/kDZ3rK36xm
— Jared (@JxredNHL) February 17, 2018
LHD Adam Ginning (Ranked No. 79)
I don’t want to say I was floored by Ginning’s performance in Plymouth, but no player — Boqvist and Svechnikov included — had as many positive notes as this Swedish blueliner. Forget about the stats — two assists and two shots in four games is just a small part of how he played. For one, he was physically punishing opponents with regularity. The timing of Ginning’s hits made sense and didn’t create massive gaps that required immediate attention. Additionally, he was pushing the puck up ice with speed and agility and was able to slow things down and look for cutters. Keep in mind that I don’t see Ginning having much upside in terms of putting up points right away since his creativity, shot power and vision are about average. But there’s a lot of pre-NHL Ryan McDonagh to his game, and he is near the top of the list of top draft-eligible shutdown defenders.
RHD Filip Johansson (Ranked No. 48)
Johansson teamed with Ginning to provide Sweden with their most reliable defensive pair, not only for their play inside their own end and on the penalty kill, but also for transitioning the puck quickly off successful puck battles. Johansson has excellent mobility and will maintain a tight gap while backskating, which when combined with a long reach makes getting around him quite laborious. He got a fair amount of time on the second power play unit and can shoot the puck fairly hard, and he stays in motion while keeping his head up without always deferring to the obvious pass option. Johansson is a tape-to-tape passer and will venture into the circles in search of a backdoor cutters or cross-ice one-timers,
RHD Nils Lundqvist (Ranked No. 203)
Lundqvist is a speedy puck mover with a lot of flair to his game, and the risks he takes make sense when you consider how many defensively-responsible forwards Sweden had. He’s an excellent skater and playmaker who takes multiple ventures deep into opposing territory, but the overwhelming majority of them are timely. His defensive play is decent at best when you consider how often the puck is on his stick, but Lundkvist can be guilty of wandering too far from the slot and overcommitting to the strong side. He’ll improve his play in the corners when he bulks up, but his few shortcomings are minor when you factor in his speed and puck skills. Is he the Swedish version of Ryan Merkley? I would venture to say the two are closer than I had initially thought.
RW Jonatan Berggren (Ranked No. 64)
Berggren is one of the most fearless forwards I’ve seen in recent years, which says a lot when you consider he’s listed at 5’10. A two-way winger with a nonstop motor, Berggren’s speed and anticipation causes havoc for opposing defenders, but it’s the plays he makes after forcing turnovers that separate him from most players his age. His active stick and quick hands turn harmless dump-ins into quality chances, and his speed allows him to blow past defenders at the blue line. Playing and thinking at the same time is a rare combination for young players, but Berggren does both at high level. He scored a nice goal after he turned what looked like an average one-on-one entry into a clean dash and stuff-in at the cage.