The Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament recently wrapped up in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The tournament is one of the most significant viewing opportunities for 2012 draft prospects that scouts will get all year, as a ton of the best Under-18 players take part. More importantly, Team Canada sends over its A Team, something it doesn't do at the Under-18 Championship due to the CHL Playoffs. I was able to catch Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia and the US teams at least once and some of them multiple times.
Mark down the name Andreas Athanasiou (Center, London-OHL) because he's a prospect I think has the abilities to fly up draft boards, and possibly end up a top 15 pick. He looked nothing short of brilliant in viewings, displaying plus skating and puck skill abilities. He looks to have a grown a bit over the last few months, too.
I thought Matia Marcantuoni (Center, Kitchener-OHL) looked solid, but he wasn't overly impressive. He definitely has a nice offensive arsenal, as he is a smooth skater, has good coordination with the puck and has the ability to make plays, but he looked like he was forcing things and simply wasn't making good decisions.
Matt Dumba (Defense, Red Deer-WHL) is an electric player whose skating looks beyond plus. His agility is nothing short of elite and he's the type of player who makes you get antsy with anticipation over what his next rush will be when he picks up the puck behind his own net. He's got pretty good puck skills and passing abilities as well and is a tough player in the physical aspect. I'm not completely sold on the hockey sense which keeps me from blowing him up, but he's certainly got all sorts of potential.
I wasn't really impressed with Morgan Rielly (Defense, Moose Jaw-WHL) at the last Under-18 Championship, but that certainly wasn't the case at this event. He's a tremendous puck-mover who makes above-average to plus distributions at a regular rate and a very agile skater. The frame is pretty underwhelming though, and he looks to have quite a few years ahead of him at the gym to get it to an average level, but that's not a real concern. The skills and sense will get him picked high.
Slater Koekkoek (Defense, Peterborough-OHL) should be an interesting player to follow this year. Aside from the top two round type talent, I'm more interested to see how many radio and TV personalities butcher his name pronunciation. On the ice, he's an above-average skater with a top-end first step. He thinks the game at an above-average level at ends, showing calculated aggressiveness offensively and solid defensive awareness. He doesn't really have an above-average offensive upside, but I could see him as a heavy defensive zone start type that could still put up decent numbers.
Michal Plutnar (Defense, Tri-City-WHL) isn't the type of player who will overly impress, but there's some mid- to late-round projection to his game. He's got a decent frame, but it's skinny as heck. He's an average skater who can be a fringe-average to average puck-mover. With him transferring to the WHL this year, he's a prospect I'll at least keep an eye on.
I didn't get a whole lot of notes on Patrik Machac (Center, HC-Kladno-Czech Republic), but I could certainly see the hands and creativity that several sources have raved about. Like Plutnar, I think he's more of a second half type of the draft player who I'll keep partial tabs on throughout the season.
I was very pleased with the performance that Ville Pokka (Defense, Karpat-SM-Liiga) turned in. He's a fluid skater with really nice footwork and a top-level passer. He makes such quick and smart decisions with the puck and can regularly execute above-average distributions. In a draft loaded with defensemen in the first round, I think Pokka can certainly get into that group.
Teuvo Teravainen (Right Wing, Jokerit U20-Finland Jr.A) is a pretty skilled winger with above-average to plus puck skills. His hands and feet move pretty quick, making him an agile player who's hard to get the puck from. He also displays pretty good vision and can be an effective distributer. He's a smaller player without a dangerous top gear, but there's a fair amount to like in his possession abilities.
Mikhail Grigorenko (Center, Quebec-QMJHL) didn't look like the destructive force he was at last year's Under-18's, but I still have him as the top prospect in the 2012 draft class. His combination of puck skills and hockey sense are off the charts and his reads are quite advanced for a player his age. He's a solid skater who touches above-average level. His frame is also pretty filled out for his age.
Alexander Timirev (Right Wing, CSKA-MHL) certainly got my attention after I barely knew who he was coming into the tournament. He's an above-average skater with plus hands and great creativity and he even showed some penalty kill prowess. I'm certainly going to remember his name for the rest of the season.
Egor Malenkikh (Defense) is a pretty toolsy blueliner. He is listed at 6'3", moves at an above-average level for a big defender and has solid puck skills. His decision-making and overall sense for the game are a ways off though. He has some nice potential, and the offensive tools with his physical projection will likely get him drafted.
I didn't really get much on Slovakia, but this looks like a weak draft year for them. Daniel Rzavsky (Winger) is a decent skater with some skills, but other than him, there wasn't much on the team that stood out to me.
Alex Galchenyuk (Center, Sarnia-OHL) was one of the star attractions of this event. He's a plus puck carrier who simply knows how to create offense, and Team USA certainly built some plays around him. He has great vision as a playmaker, makes quick decisions and has pretty impressive hockey sense, although there were times when he was overdoing it too much by himself. He skates at an above-average level, has a nice frame, and works hard defensively. In my opinion, he's a top five prospect right now for the 2012 draft.
Cristoval "Boo" Nieves (Center, Kent- US High School) looked pretty good in this tournament and it's always nice to get a few viewings of a top prospect headed to high school for his draft season in a higher-competition environment. He's a plus skater who effortlessly accelerates and regularly pressured defenseman with his speed. He's got solid skills with the puck, showing beyond that at times such as when he embarrassed some Russian defenders on a rush which ended up with him scoring a highlight reel marker. His frame is tall, but has a ways to go in terms of filling out and he's not that effective in the physical game.
Filip Forsberg-Left Wing: I didn't get to see Forsberg at this event, which was a shame as he dominated the score sheet from the word go, but I did talk to a few sources and I have my notes on him from the Under-18's a few months ago. He's a solid skater who accelerates very quickly. His skills and hockey sense are both plus, as he's a very instinctive player, but can also show a flashy side in terms of his hands and ability to make top-level distributions. I don't know if he's in the elite forward group with Nail Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko and Alex Galchenyuk, yet in my eyes, but he's certainly a top-ten prospect in the 2012 class now.
Extra Bonus Profiles: 2013 Draft Prospects
Sean Monahan, a center prospect from the Ottawa 67's in the OHL, looked very good for Team Canada at this event. He's got solid skills, and is just so smart as he always seems to be in the right place, making the correct decision and keeping possession rolling in the right direction. He's got a pretty good frame for his age too.
Finland has two very good prospects coming up in the 2013 draft in Rasmus Ristolainen (Defense) and Alexander "Sasha" Barkov (Center).
Ristolainen is a very good skater for a 6'3" defenseman, with above-average speed, all-around mobility and coordination. He moves the puck at a decent level and has good two-way awareness. His only real issue is that he doesn't play his checks that tight physically.
Now Barkov is on a whole other level. He's only 15 years old and looked like one of the best players in the entire tournament. He has beyond plus hands and hockey sense, with a great frame for a late 1995 birth date. His skating is a little underwhelming, but when you consider that he's a few days removed from being a 2014 draftee, where he is in his development is nothing short of exceptional. He's at the top of the 2013 draft boards right now.
I have notes on many others at this tournament, but I didn't want to write a book about the Ivan Hlinka. If you want to inquire about a particular player, either use the contact tab below or leave a comment.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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