Dreaming of the Draft: Lessons from the U18 Tournament

In the final tournament of the season for draft eligibles, the Under-18 World Junior Championship are where many draft selections are solidified unbeknownst to those participating. This is not so much where the top prospects see much movement but instead will have a drastic impact on those vying for the first round or even a top 100 selection. A few of those who are likely to get penciled higher up on draft boards are as follows.

Arriving in 2019

Cole Caufield was by far the story of this tournament. Continuing his torrid pace from the National Team Development Program, Caufield brought it to the big stage and scored an incredulous 14 goals in seven games on 45 shots on goal and earned him tournament MVP honors as the US team won bronze. He scored in any way one can imagine from greasy rebounds to tip goals and pure snipes, take your pick they all were highlights and his drive to the net seen below was one of many. At 5’7 Caufield will never escape questions about his size but in the era where goal scoring is more and more valuable those concerns will fall to the back burner. Slated for a probable mid-round selection prior to this tournament Caufield might now sneak into the top 10.


Jamieson Rees made the most of his opportunity after a truncated season in the OHL with Sarnia with eight points in this tournament. Rees opened a lot of eyes with his speedy tenacious play which at times got him into a bit of trouble as seen below on a hit that was penalized. He was a major spark plug however and helped keep the pace for Canada in numerous games they fell behind in. Rees could find himself in the second or third round after his performance.

On the Russian side, Yegor Spiridonov utilized his exposure well with six points in seven games as a responsible right shot two-way center with size at 6’2. As a player in the Magnitagorisk system in Russia some patience will need reserving but after a solid performance for the silver medal winning squad Spiridonov should not fall past the second round.


Impressive performances aren’t just limited to points production and forwards as defenseman Vladislav Kolyachonok captained team Belarus to a fifth place finish at this year’s U18. His team leading 27 shots on goal and five points in as many games led the way after a solid year with Flint in the OHL. Kolyachonok’s strong skating was on display as seen below on a defensive back check but puck movement is also a strength and would be a nice selection in the second or third round as well.


The 2020 Model

This tournament isn’t just for the upcoming 2019 draft eligible 17-year olds but also sets the stage for the 2020 class heading into their draft year. That class is shaping up to become a tremendous group of offensive talents and many of them stole some of the spotlight over the last week.

Lucas Raymond capped off an incredible eight point tournament with a hat trick in the gold medal game including the golden goal in overtime for team Sweden. His first goal in that game was a sight to behold of individual talent and effort to power his way to the net as seen below. Raymond is a complete player and could be a possible top five selection next year.

His teammate Alexander Holtz wasn’t far behind with seven points and is the shooter of the duo with 38 shots on goal in his seven games as he also projects as a high first rounder in 2020. Both Holtz, Raymond and their teammate Zion Nybeck were true underage 2002 born players in this tournament and made a big impact on winning the gold medal as dynamic game breaking forwards that the Swedish team usually lacks.


Carrying the torch for dynamic talent on team Finland, Anton Lundell did his part to keep his team in the competition with four points including this shorthanded goal seen below. Finland seems to vacillate between either a gold medal bid or relegation and this year was the latter portion of those options. Lundell still showed his power, speed and skill as someone to watch for next year to play pro against men but will not be at any U18 events again due to his late birthday.


One of my personal favorites from this year’s competition was Dylan Holloway who is another late birthday getting his U18 events out of the way early. Holloway formed an impressive line with two other 2019 draft eligibles in Jakob Pelletier and Philip Tomasino which provided a little bit of everything as an excellent change-up second line for team Canada as shown below which results in a tally for Holloway. He was the center of the trio and used his smart and polished power game from the position to make an impact and chip in four points. As someone who played in the AJHL this season and scored 40 goals, Holloway is ready to head to Wisconsin in the fall to begin his NCAA career in his draft year.

Connor Zary is another late birthday who shined for Canada’s fourth place squad. With his dynamic speed Zary chipped in seven points including two goals in the semi-final loss against Sweden and is someone to watch in the WHL with Kamloops in next year’s draft season.


Credit IIHF for the photo


Aka tigervixxxen, prospect junkie.

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