One of the final major events on the scouting calendar begins this week as the world under-18s kick off in Sweden. We all know by now how potent Team USA will be thanks to Jack Hughes and his crew, but there is a lot of talent overall in the tournament. For some players, this is the last chance to make a good impression on the ice and while scouts always consider the body of a player’s work in their evaluations, the under-18s are a great barometer.
So who needs to put in some work in Sweden? I’m making this week’s Prospect NTK a special edition, where I focus entirely on players who either have something to prove, or simply will benefit from the spotlight at the under-18s. Let’s take a look at those candidates, all of whom are eligible for the 2019 draft.
Philip Broberg, D, AIK (Swe.): With size and skating, Broberg’s attractiveness is obvious, but his play has tailed off after a red-hot Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in the summer. Scouts saw less confidence from the kid’s coaches once he returned from the world juniors, so the under-18s offer Broberg an opportunity to show he can still be a difference-maker. NHL arrival: 2021-22
Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie Colts (OHL): He came into the year as the OHL’s top prospect, but now Suzuki could be the second or even third taken from the circuit. A lack of linemates hurt him in the second half (Barrie was a seller before the deadline), but scouts want to see more drive from the Canadian playmaker. He’s got the hockey sense to be great. NHL arrival: 2020-21
Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay Ice (WHL): Krebs had a similar problem to Suzuki in that he didn’t have much to play with in Kootenay, but scouts never got down on him in the same way. In fact, Krebs is on this list because he has a great opportunity to show what he can do when surrounded by similar talent on Canada. Smart player with great vision and work ethic. NHL arrival: 2020-21
Antti Saarela, LW, Lukko Rauma (Fin.): The best-case scenario for Saarela is a healthy under-18s with Finland. The younger brother of Canes prospect Aleksi Saarela has been ravaged by concussions early in his career and that worries scouts. But the left winger is ultra-fast and reminds talent evaluators of Erik Haula. Saarela has a great shot, too. NHL arrival: 2022-23
Spencer Knight, G, U.S. NTDP (USHL): He may be the greatest goalie in the history of ‘The Program’ and that’s with all due respect to John Gibson and Thatcher Demko. Now, the Boston College commit has the chance to seal the deal with a gold medal in Sweden with the dominant Americans. A total package netminder, Knight has size, athleticism and poise. NHL arrival: 2022-23
Albin Grewe, C, Djurgarden (Swe.): Scouts seem very torn about Grewe, who was nicknamed ‘T-Rex’ by one of his coaches for the way he hunts down opponents on the forecheck. Is he a grinder? Is he a scorer? Bouncing between the SHL and junior, he has shown both. How he performs for Sweden at the under-18s may bring some much-needed clarity. NHL arrival: 2021-22
Patrik Puistola, LW, Tappara (Fin.): He has put up points wherever he goes and can do so as both the triggerman or the playmaker, but does Puistola have the drive to be an NHLer? His foil is hardworking Finland linemate Aku Raty and the two were clicking early in exhibition play. It will be interesting to see who gets drafted first this summer. NHL arrival: 2022-23
Michal Teply, LW, Bili Tygri Liberec (Cze.): The Czechs won’t be a favorite at the under-18s, but Teply will have the chance to make his presence felt after spending most of his season playing against men back home. Consistency is an area of concern from scouts, but they love his size and they love his shot. Will he have the linemates to make plays with? NHL arrival: 2020-21
Martin Hugo Has, D, Tappara (Fin.): The foundation is there for a solid player and at 6-foot-4, 194 pounds already, Has is NHL-sized already. But scouts have questions about his mental makeup and his physical package. Can he put together his raw, natural gifts and become an impact player for the Czechs? This tourney gives him a chance. NHL arrival: 2022-23
Ilya Nikolaev, C, Loko (Rus.): By all measures, Nikolaev has been quite successful in his draft year. Really, he’s on the list because Russians are the hardest group to scout and his presence at the under-18s will help team execs in particular get a beat on his game. What they can expect is a high-end center who works well with fellow elite talents. NHL arrival: 2022-23