2019 NHL Draft

2018 Ivan Hlinka Tournament

Steve Kournianos  |  08/06/2018 |  Nashville  |  [hupso]

NASHVILLE (The Draft Analyst) — The 2018 under-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament, the first of several high-profile events for 2019 NHL draft prospects, begins Monday from Edmonton. On display will be dozens of teenage hopefuls born in 2001 or 2002 who will compete in an annual event that could set the tone for how they are viewed in the eyes of the NHL scouting community. The tournament will run August 6-11 and feature eight competing nations broken down into two groups.

Below are scouting reports in some of the notable skaters who will participate in the competition.


Russia - C Oleg Zaitsev (Red Deer, WHL - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Oleg Zaitsev
Position: Center/Right Wing
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 6’1, 185 lbs
Born: January 7th, 2001, Russia
2018-19 Commitment: Red Deer Rebels, WHL
Summary: Physical two-way center with tremendous skill who spent a significant time on each of Dynamo’s top two lines last season in the MHL. Zaitsev was picked 17th overall by the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels in the 2018 CHL Import Draft and is committed to play for them this upcoming season. He’s a powerful skater with above-average straight-line sped, but his agility and edgework are both elite for a teenager. Furthermore, his closing speed when combined with his upper-body strength routinely knocks opposing puck carriers off balance to change possession. Zaitsev can play the role as either a shooter or a playmaker, but he’s an excellent passer who does not require time or space to thread the needle to a linemate who is across the ice. He makes a lot of money along the boards and wears down bigger, older defenders, and rarely do you see Zaitsev relinquish possession of the puck to protect himself from pressure or contact — he is determined on the puck and always looks for the teammate with the best chance to score.  He also makes smart, subtle plays to trap pressure in the neutral zone, and his quick first step and timing allows him to beat backcheckers to the sweet spots in the offensive zone. Zaitsev is a 200-foot center similar to 2016 first-rounder German Rubtsov.

Slovakia - RW Maxim Cajkovic (Saint John, QMJHL - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Maxim Cajkovic
Position: Right Wing
Shoots: Right
Height/Weight: 5’11, 187 lbs
Born: January 3rd, 2001; Bratislava, Slovakia
2018-19 Commitment: Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL
Summary: Crafty and cerebral winger with speed and elite stickhandling skills who was the first pick in the 2018 CHL import Draft. Cajkovic was one of Malmo J20’s top players in Sweden’s Superelit last season and was used in all situations, including playing the point on the power play. He’s neither big nor strong, but his quickness and sharp directional changes allow him to be more on an inside player than you’d think. Cajkovic is a smart decision maker with or without the puck, and he’s capable of consistently connecting with passes that most peers probably would have a tough time doing in practice, let alone an official game. He’s very quick and always stays in motion, but you wouldn’t classify his skating as explosive. Cajkovic’s stride is short, and he uses quick bursts to cover ground rather than power or glide his way up ice. What he does possess is an excellent wrist shot that he can rip through traffic, but he’s tricky enough to fake defenders out of position before making a mad dash to the low slot. He isn’t physical and can stay on the periphery for most of his shifts, and he’s prone to lose board battles if he decides to engage in one. Yet still, his puck skills and hockey sense are exceptional and put him very close to the top of all 2019 draft-eligible forwards.

Finland - LW Leevi Aaltonen (Kalpa U20, Jr. A SM-Liiga - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Leevi Aaltonen
Position: Left Wing
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 5’10, 160 lbs
Born: January 24th, 2001; Mikkeli, Finland
2018-19 Commitment: Kalpa, SM-Liiga
Summary: Explosive winger with a devastating first step who is a breakaway threat off of any faceoff in the neutral or defensive zone. Aaltonen is pure offense and doesn’t hide from the fact that he has little interest in physical play or battles in his own end. His speed is elite, and it causes a great deal of stress for opposing defenders looking to break out.  Aaltonen’s quickness to the puck is fueled by a thirst to take it and immediately transition to the attack, and he’s unpredictable in open ice because he’s very good at making the right choices with linemates during odd-man rushes but can also wire a wrister that gives goalies trouble. There’s plenty of room for growth; both literally and figuratively. But cutting down on the cherrypicking and developing skills that helps his mates out during trying times should the addressed immediately.

Canada - C Peyton Krebs (Kootenay, WHL - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Peyton Krebs
Position: Center
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 5’11, 162 lbs
Born: January 26th, 2001; Okotoks, AB
2018-19 Commitment: Kootenay Ice, WHL
Summary: Powerful two-way center who spent half of last season playing the wing on Kootenay’s top line and finished second on the team with 37 assists. Krebs plays a lot bigger than his measurements may indicate, as he’s always engaged in battles along the boards, in front of the net or in the corners. He’s a very good skater with a wide stride but his outstanding balance allows him to absorb any kind of contact from the front, side or rear. Krebs also can stickhandle his way out of traffic and uses his elite vision and pass accuracy to connect with an open teammate across the ice. He can orchestrate the power play from the half-wall and either threads the needle or cocks the hammer for a hard, low, accurate shot. From a defensive standpoint, Krebs is strong on faceoffs and can matchup against any opposing center regardless of age, size or skill set. His ability to excel at the games within the game marks him as the player opponents need to worry about.

Canada - C Kirby Dach (Saskatoon, WHL - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Kirby Dach
Position: Center
Shoots: Right
Height/Weight: 6’4, 181 lbs
Born: January 21st, 2001, Fort Saskatchewan, AB
2018-19 Commitment: Saskatoon Blades, WHL
Summary: Towering playmaking center with a massive wingspan who was second on the Blades with 39 assists in only 52 games. Dach is an excellent stickhandler and uses his long reach to protect the puck while keeping his head up. He was one of Saskatoon’s top two centers and saw a significant amount of time on the power play, where he collected 18 assists. His overall understanding of the game is extremely high, and you rarely see Dach make an unforced error; especially on odd-man rushes. He has a short stride and can look like a lumbering forward in open ice, but he can power through checks while maintaining control of the puck. Dach also needs to improve his faceoffs, as he won only 41% of his draws last year.

Canada - C/W Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge, WHL - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Dylan Cozens
Position: Center/Wing
Shoots: Right
Height/Weight: 6’3, 177 lbs
Born: February 9th, 2001; Whitehorse, Yukon
2018-19 Commitment: Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL
Summary: Cozens (not to be confused with the Philadelphia Phillies’ baseball player of the same name) was named the WHL’s Rookie of the Year after he finished second on the team with 22 goals in only 57 games. He can play either center or wing, although playing up the middle is his natural position. As a winger, Cozens plays the power forward role to a T, using a deceptive first step and wide, powerful stride to motor past opponents on his way to the cage. He can be used in all in-game situations, but he stands out on the power play because he can be used as a net-front presence or deployed to the left circle where he can unload a deadly accurate shot off the pass. Cozens checks a lot of the intangibles boxes, as he’s coachable, hard working and willing to do anything to make his teammates better and the team successful.

Switzerland - C Théo Rochette (Lausanne U20, Elite Jr. A - 2020 Draft Eligible)

Name: Théo Rochette
Position: Center
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 5’10, 150 lbs
Born: February 20th, 2002; Neuchâtel, SUI
2018-19 Commitment: Lausanne U20, Elite Jr. A
Summary: Speedy playmaker from center who holds dual-citizenship with Canada and Switzerland. Rochette was picked seventh overall by Chicoutimi in the QMJHL Draft because his Canadian roots made him eligible, but for now it looks like he will return to Switzerland for the upcoming season. He is incredibly skilled, and with all due respect to Valentin Nussbaumer, it is Rochette who appears to be the most gifted Swiss draft prospect since Nico Hischier went first overall to the Devils in 2017. Rochette isn’t much of a battler, probably due to his slight frame. But he’s incredibly quick and a threat to create quality chances from anywhere in the offensive zone, to include threading the needle from the blue line upon zone entries. Agile, quick and tough to contain, Rochette is a power-play specialist who can stickhandle his way from pressure and uses a lot of fakes and jukes to avoid getting clobbered.

U.S. - C John Farinacci (Dexter, HS-MA - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: John Farinacci
Position: Center
Shoots: Right
Height/Weight: 6’0, 180 lbs
Born: February 14th, 2001; Chatham, NJ
2018-19 Commitment: Dexter-Southfield HS, Massachusetts (Harvard Commit)
Summary: A fast playmaker who likes to possess the puck and control the flow inside the offensive zone, Farinacci is highly competitive and does not rely solely on his puck skills to make an impact during his shifts. He kills penalties, can center a top line and be the focal point on the power play. But he also can play aggressive and uses his strength to win puck battles, and his ability to spot and connect with open teammates through traffic makes opponents resort to double teams, thus leaving gaps in the defense. Farinacci, who is headed to Harvard in a couple of seasons, has very soft hands and is patient around the goal mouth to make the extra fake necessary to slip the puck home.

U.S. - LW Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton, OHL - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Arthur Kaliyev
Position: Left Wing
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 6’2, 190 lbs
Born: June 26th, 2001; Delray Beach, FL
2018-19 Commitment: Hamilton Bulldogs, OHL
Summary: A power forward with a quick first step, good straight-line speed and superior finishing ability, Kaliyev is a high-volume shooter who buried 31 goals for the Memorial Cup-contending Bulldogs. The scouting report on Kaliyev can be summed up in one sentence — he loves to shoot the puck from anywhere. But take into consideration that he played the entire OHL season as a 16-year-old forward on a stacked team and still found a way to distinguish himself. Kaliyev can score in a variety of ways from a variety of locations, but his shot already is world-class when you consider how young he is. His love for firing discs no matter what is in front of him makes him less of a playmaker or facilitator, but he seems to know how to feed off his center’s strengths and usually is in the right position to shoot. The scary part is that he’s still growing after already displaying proper use of his body and strength.

Sweden - RW Alexander Holtz (Djurgårdens J20, Superelit - 2020 Draft Eligible)

Name: Alexander Holtz
Position: Right Wing
Shoots: Right
Height/Weight: 6’0, 187 lbs
Born: January 23rd, 2002, Saltsjö-Boo, Sweden
2018-19 Commitment: Djurgårdens J20, Superelit
Summary: Lethal goal scorer with excellent speed and puck control who at this point should be considered a top-five pick for the 2020 NHL draft. Holtz is a shoot-first winger, and for good reason — he owns one of the best shots of any teenager; draft eligible or not. He doesn’t fit the classic stereotype of a defensively-responsible Swedish forward, as Holtz spends a lot of time hovering and circling near his own blue line, looking for the chance to explode up the ice. That doesn’t mean he avoids contact or isn’t competitive, because he plays engaged and uses his strength effectively in the corners. It just seems like he knows his God-given skill relates to goal scoring, and he won’t hesitate to exploit it. There’s a lot of Alex Nylander to his game, albeit Holtz comes across as more demonstrative, engaged and energetic.

Czech Republic - LW Matej Toman (Ceske Budejovice U20, ELJ - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Matej Toman
Position: Left Wing
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 5’9, 167 lbs
Born: January 15th, 2001; Ceske Budejovice, CZE
2018-19 Commitment: Ceske Budejovice U20, Extraliga Juniors
Summary: Slick offensive-minded winger with great hands and the ability to score from in tight. Toman was drafted fifth overall by Prince George in the 2018 CHL Import Draft, and there is some indication he’ll be playing there this year. He’s a natural winger who works well with his centers and doesn’t let his lack of size impact his game or his desire to get in between the circles for him to unload his accurate wrister. Toman has a hunched skating style with a short stride but he pack a lot of power into his movements and generates straight-line speed quicker than you;d think. He’s also very nimble and agile, capable of dangling or spinning away from defenders while cutting sharply to the net.


Russia - LHD Artemi Knyazev (Chicoutimi, QMJHL - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Artemi Knyazev
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 5’11, 176 lbs
Born: January 4th, 2001, Russia
2018-19 Commitment: Chicoutimi Saguenéens, QMJHL
Summary: Offensive-minded defender with excellent mobility and blistering wrist shot who served as Russia’s captain for several under-16 and under-17 events. Knyazev is a one-man breakout who likes to attack with speed and is more than capable of going coast to coast. He has very good vision and his passes are crisp and on the tape, but he also can lead attacking forwards with precision or saucer passes with accuracy from either his forehand or backhand. Russia’s top power-play unit runs through Knyazev, who always stays in motion and jumps into the circles with regularity. Although he is a left shot, Knyazev predominantly plays the right side at both even strength and during special teams. He is neither strong nor physical, but he also does not avoid contact altogether  He makes up for the inability to shove players off the puck by using his stick effectively and staying step for step, and is disciplined enough to avoid stick fouls or holding.

Finland - LHD Mikko Kokkonen (Jukurit, SM-Liiga - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Mikko Kokkonen
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 6’0, 161 lbs
Born: January 18th, 2001; Mikkeli, Finland
2018-19 Commitment: Jukurit, SM-Liiga
Summary: Mobile two-way defender who earned a brief call-up to the SM-Liiga after playing a poised, heady game in Finland’s top junior league. Kokkonen’s skating is very good on all fronts — forwards, backwards, lateral, edges and pivoting. He’s capable of skating the puck out of harm’s way and across center, but he tends to lean towards long stretch or bank passes to push the attack on the good side of the red line. He isn’t flashy, nor does he display creativity in the offensive zone. But his vision, passing accuracy and timing combine to make him a threat when controlling the puck. Kokkonen isn’t your classic power-play quarterback but his skating allows him to evade forecheckers and enter the zone cleanly. He owns an above-average shot that is accurate and he doesn’t need a lot of backswing to get velocity on it. Kokkonen’s play in his own end ranges from dominant to erratic, specifically when it comes to slot coverage, as he’s guilty of chasing puck carriers as high up as the blue line. Granted, he’s both quick and smart enough to retrograde in time. But there are times when stapling himself to the low slot is something he wants to avoid altogether. He’s strong to the point where he can shove forwards off the puck, and he wins the majority of his puck battles.

Canada - LHD Bowen Byram (Vancouver, WHL - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Bowen Byram
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 6’0, 176 lbs
Born: June 13th, 2001, Cranbrook, BC
2018-19 Commitment: Vancouver Giants, WHL
Summary: Mature defenseman with an advanced understanding of both his position and the game as a whole. Byram is beyond poised and never looks or plays like he’s intimidated. It isn’t often that a 16-year-old defenseman turns out to be a coach’s go-to weapon on the blue line, but that’s exactly what Byram was for Vancouver last season. His skating, agility and puck carrying are all at an elite level, and all three helped make him an asset on both the power play and the penalty kill. Byram spent a significant amount of time last year on Vancouver’s top pairing, so there’s no reason to think he won’t be leaned on for the entirety of the upcoming campaign. There also are aspects of meanness and physicality to his game that you normally wouldn’t expect from a puck mover listed at 6 feet tall.

Canada - LHD Matthew Robertson (Edmonton, WHL - 2018 Draft Eligible)

Name: Matthew Robertson
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 6’3, 195 lbs
Born: March 9th, 2001; Sherwood Park, AB
2018-19 Commitment: Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL
Summary: Big, two-way defenseman who loves to push the puck up ice and involve himself in the attack as far down as the opposing goal line. Robertson’s combination of size, speed and smarts makes him the perfect defender to initiate a breakout because he plays with his head up, can skate away from pressure and uses a long reach to keep the puck away from pesky forcheckers. Once he crosses center, there’s a good bet he’s carrying the puck into the offensive zone on his own, and he’s confident enough to dump it into the corner and race for it himself. He’s played on the top pairing and first power-play unit, and he owns a very hard shot that he keeps low for rebounds. Robertson has excellent skate-to-stick coordination to handle passes at his feet, and he can deaden just abut any type of pass he receives while on the move or static. His slot coverage and gap control are both excellent at this stage of his development, but he can seem indecisive while defending odd-man rushes.   

Sweden - RHD Victor Söderström (Brynas J20, Superelit - 2019 Draft Eligible)

Name: Victor Söderström
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Right
Height/Weight: 6’0, 177 lbs
Born: February 26th, 2001; Skutskär, SWE
2018-19 Commitment: Brynas J20, Superelit
Summary: All-around two-way defender with few weaknesses and the ability to impact the game with his play in either end of the ice. Soderstrom is a fantastic skater with a heavy shot who looks graceful carrying the puck and loves to jump into the play if he isn’t creating one himself. His recovery quickness and catch-up speed allow him to make deep forays into the opposing zone, and he’s a strong enough puck handler to deal with shoves as he takes it around the net in search of options. Soderstrom’s footwork and timing make him very difficult to beat one-on-one, and he finishes his checks with authority. He also demonstrates leadership qualities on the ice and effectively communicates with his partners to try and minimize dangerous courses of action.