The Hlinka Gretzky Cup kicks off the scouting season and gives those who performed well a head start going into their draft season. There were many standout performances and players to take note from the 2019 draft class plus early looks at some of the best of the 2020 group. The upcoming draft class is shaping up to be an exciting one and will take all season to introduce and discuss those players. For now, the most important storylines from the Hlinka that was.
The perception that this is a insignificant summer warm-up tournament will begin to change after the exposure these players recieved playing in Canada and at Rogers Place in Edmonton under the bright lights broadcast of TSN and NHLNetwork. The US does not send their National Team Development Program players to this tournament instead opting to give CHL, high school and other USHL Americans a chance. That means Jack Hughes was not in attendance but for the 30 other NHL teams who will not draft him they got a great look at what their options will look like next June in Vancouver. The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in 2017 alone saw 77 participants selected in the 2018 NHL entry draft with 19 of them first round selections. In just the gold medal game between Canada and Sweden there were at least ten likely future first round picks participating.
First surprise for the tournament was the exclusion of Alex Newhook from the Canadian team. As someone who is a possible top five selection and plays for Victoria in the BCHL, Newhook is someone who needed both the exposure and opportunity to play some stiffer competition. It is a long year with many more avenues to prove himself but the World Junior A Challenge looms large for Newhook, especially as he was left off the roster for that event last year as well.
Vasili Podkolzin had a massive coming out party in this tournament despite having a productive U18 tournament in the spring and already appeared on some early top 31 lists. He captained the Russian squad and played a large role in all situations, scored a goal in every single game, was a master of transitioning the puck out of the defensive zone and zone entries, was great along the boards with puck protection and retrievals plus showed his keen vision and playmaking ability. All that to go along with a share of the tournament and all-time best 11 points plus a new Hlinka tournament record of eight goals, breaking the mark of six which several players including Brock Boeser and Jeff Skinner held.
Where Podkolzin really left his mark was in both the semi-finals and the bronze medal game he scored an amazing individual effort goal late in the third period just after the opponent scored. One of his goals shown below completed the hat trick against the US to win the bronze medal game 5-4 for Russia. He will now have the challenge of keeping the momentum going as he plays in the SKA junior system in Russia but should also have the chance to play in several more international tournaments.
— David Nestico (@davidnestico200) August 11, 2018
Thus far there hasn’t been a declaration of who is the best defenseman in the 2019 draft class. My personal favorite is Bowen Byram from Vancouver in the WHL who played a big role for team Canada scoring four points in the five games and was leaned on quite a bit defensively. TSN’s Craig Button has decided Philip Broberg of the AIK system in Sweden is his choice. The dynamic puck moving defenseman was all over the ice and scored four points as well including three goals. The clip below shows what should have been a goal but Broberg scored the go ahead goal on a shot from the blueline not long after. Both left handed defensemen are potential top ten selections.
— MGOBlue (@MGOBlue_25) August 10, 2018
What’s a good international tournament without controversy? It appeared as if the US was going to hold on to beat Canada 5-4 in the semi-final but literally just as time expired Dylan Cozens scored to tie the game as seen below. Replays showed the puck crossed the line after the clock hit zeroes but replay was not available in the tournament so the goal stood. Canada went on to win in overtime for a 6-5 final score and a trip to the gold medal game. Cozens had five points in the tournament and doesn’t show as flashy of a game as others do as a power center but he is a great skater and solid in all areas, thus is regarded as a top pick for the 2019 draft class. Cozens will look to build on his rookie of the year campaign in the WHL with Lethbridge.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 11, 2018
Would be neglectful to not mention that Alexis Lafrenière, captain of the Canada squad, is still dominating two years before he’s eligible for the draft in 2020. With five goals and 11 points he along with Podkolzin tied the Hlinka record of 11 points in five games held by the one and only Nathan MacKinnon. Lafrenière scored big time goals in important situations as seen below and was an all-around force with his intelligence and incredible hands. His two goals in the gold medal game sealed the 6-2 win for Canada. Next up for Lafrenière is to keep producing with Rimouski in the QMJHL and hopefully find a place on the Canadian World Junior Championship team.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 12, 2018
Also keep the names Alexander Holtz from the Djurgårdens system and Lucas Raymond from the Frölunda system in mind, a dynamic duo for Sweden would be an understatement of their abilities. Neither are eligible for another year but burst on the scene with their performance at this event. Both scored seven points in five games for team Sweden en route to a silver medal. Ironically, Raymond scored five goals but controls the play and is more a distributor than the sniper Holtz who only had two goals but five assists. They could each challenge for top five selection in the next draft with the track they are currently on.
#Hlinka: Swedes draw first blood against Canada as 2020 Draft prospects RW Alexander Holtz and C Lucas Raymond combine on the power play. Sort of a broken play but Holtz made some nifty moves to gain entry, and Raymond buried it despite being a bit off balance. pic.twitter.com/cWKZba6fnI
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) August 9, 2018
The Draft Team at Burgundy Rainbow selected some of the best individual performances and Rudo3 produced a shift by shift from that game.
Prelim: Russia (7) vs Finland (2) – Vasili Podkilzin
Prelim: Sweden (4) vs Slovakia (2) – Oliver Turan
Prelim: Canada (10) vs Switzerland (0) – Ryan Suzuki
Prelim: Sweden (5) vs Switzerland (0) – Philip Broberg
Prelim: Canada (4) vs Slovakia (2) – Graeme Clarke