Dreaming of the Draft: Five Nations Tournament

With the strength of the European talent in this upcoming draft, an even greater scouting focus is directed at international tournaments during the draft season. This brief detour on the regular season allowed some of the best Under-18 players from the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, Russia, and the United States to compete over five days in Plymouth, Michigan. The host United States Under-18 National Development Team took the title with a 3-1 record.

Although Canada did not enter a team in this event, the Canadian Hockey League allowed some of their players to participate. Most notably Andrei Svechnikov from the Barrie Colts (OHL) and Alexander Khovanov from the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) for Russia. The duo, along with left wing Grigori Denisenko who plays for Yaroslavl (MHL), comprised the top line for Russia.

Svechnikov lead the tournament with eight points and four goals in four games. Denisenko had four points and three goals over the four game set including a penalty shot goal. Denisenko is a name Avalanche fans should get familiar with because he’s a highly skilled winger who can score goals and absolutely has the talent level of a top ten pick. His interest in playing in North America might ultimately determine where he falls in the draft but the ability is there as seen below in one of his snipe shots. Khovanov scored two points and had a quieter week but he’s still getting up to speed from illness which left him unable to play first half of the season. Khovanov is a high IQ playmaking center who can slow the pace of the game down, although at times a bit too much. He might be looked at as a second day pick at this point but could be a sneaky pick up for some team.


Jakub Lauko continues to be one of my favorites. He would be a good target in the second round as he’s a skilled and versatile do everything type of forward. He can play a bottom six energy grinder role but also has the skill to play on a higher line. Lauko has a great, hard working motor and the tools to round out his game. He’s going to be a coach and fan favorite for whichever team he goes to. Lauko ended up with a goal (as seen below) and an assist but sixth in the tournament with 13 shots on goal. He would also be a great second day draft target.


Additionally, this event was not just for the 2018 NHL draft eligibles as several high end talents for the 2019 draft took the stage. They no doubt left strong early impressions going into next season where they will receive a lot of attention.

The early favorite for first overall in 2019, Jack Hughes recieved promotion from the Under-17 to the Under-18 USNTDP squad near the turn of the calendar year and competed in this event with that squad. He dazzled and showed off his high end skills (as seen below in this highlight package). Hughes came in tied for third in tournament scoring with seven points including three goals. Hughes centered a line with Joel Farabee and Oliver Wahlstrom on his wings, not bad company. They ended up with four and eight points respectively with a nice showing all around for that line.


Another name which will be well-known sooner than later is Finnish phenom Kaapo Kakko. He recently began playing some games with the men’s TPS Turku Liiga team. A 6’1 left shot right winger, Kakko shows skill and hockey sense well beyond his years. He ended the tournament with four points including a goal against the Czech Republic. Below is a five minute compilation video of Kakko in that contest thanks to Hokinaittii. Kakko has the potential to go top ten or even higher in the next draft.


Draft prep and coverage will roll on as the CHL enters the playoffs and rosters for the Under-18 Championship take shape. Exciting times ahead this spring.


Aka tigervixxxen, prospect junkie.

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