The CHL-Russia series is on right now, with Russia taking the first contest against the WHL in overtime. While world junior management for both Canada and Russia will be watching closely, there has been a lot of international play going on lately. Team USA hosted and won an under-18 Five Nations in Michigan; Sweden hosted and won an under-20 Four Nations in Gothenburg; and Canada hosted the World Under-17 Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, with Sweden taking gold. Let’s take a spin around the prospect world and catch up on everything, shall we?
Cal Foote, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): One of the few draft-eligible players to suit up for the WHL in the Russian series, Foote comes from the most solid of hockey backgrounds. His dad is Adam Foote and while both play defense, Cal brings skill and skating instead of his father’s brute force. Needless to say, growing up in Colorado had its privileges.
“I got to go to the rink sometimes and be around the guys,” he said. “That was pretty special to me. Matt Duchene lived with us for two years and he was awesome.”
A dual citizen, Foote’s eligibility for Team Canada’s world junior squad was in question this summer because he only began playing in the country last season. But he’s definitely one to watch in the future and the fact he suited up for Canada in the summer at a WJC camp tourney in Michigan tells you where his allegiance lies. As does the fact he plays for the Rockets, an organization closely tied to Hockey Canada.
“It’s special,” Foote said. “Winning is in the culture there and it’s amazing to be in a great organization like the Rockets. All the defensemen they’ve brought through – you can’t really turn that down.”
He gets the play with younger brother Nolan on the squad, while his dad can always be counted on for help, too.
“He helps me before every skate and every game,” Foote said. “I always get a text message giving me little pointers. I’m very fortunate to have him.”
Foote was held scoreless against the Russians in Game 1, but he’s one of the top defenseman available in the draft this summer in part because he can put points on the board. The Rockets rearguard has 12 points – all assists – through 19 games.
In the Pipeline
Givani Smith, RW (Detroit): Guelph is markedly better than it was last season and the continued evolution of Smith has helped. The power forward has shown off some nice skill lately and has 16 points through 16 games. The Storm’s not a playoff team yet, but they’re not the worst overall, either.
Julius Honka, D (Dallas): The Stars have blessed themselves with a great pipeline of defensemen and while Honka waits his turn, he’ll busy himself by destroying the AHL. The slick offensive blueliner has 10 points through 11 games with Texas.
Cliff Pu, C (Buffalo): We had Pu as a late first-rounder in Draft Preview and the Sabres ended up getting the London Knights pivot 69th overall. So not to say “I told you so” but with Pu now the team’s No. 1 center, the smart and quick pivot has blasted out of the gates in the OHL with 27 points in 14 games.
Brett Seney, LW (New Jersey): Small is OK; we’ve pretty much beat that into the ground by now. So it’s not much of a surprise that Seney is off to a great start with Merrimack. The talented winger leads the NCAA squad with 10 points in 10 games, largely in a playmaking role.
Kirill Kaprizov, LW (Minnesota): Simply put, Kaprizov is having an incredible season with Salavat in the KHL. The 19-year-old has 20 points in 24 games, putting him top-20 in league scoring, despite averaging 13:33 of ice time. The two-way force will be huge for Russia at the world juniors and he’s coming off a nice Four Nations tourney in Sweden.
Vitek Vanecek, G (Washington): Veteran goalkeepers kept Vanecek in the ECHL last year, but now he’s up with the Hershey Bears and thriving in the AHL. The quick Czech netminder is rocking a .949 save percentage and 1.51 goals-against average through four decisions.
2017 Draft Stars
Samuel Bucek, LW – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): A big kid with a hard shot and decent wheels, Bucek played in the USHL for Chicago last year and has adjusted nicely to the ‘Q.’ The Slovakian national has 18 points in 17 games, making him one of the top rookie scorers in the league.
Scott Reedy, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL): This NTDP group hasn’t had a lot of success so far, so it was good for them to win the under-18 Five Nations on home ice. Reedy, a Minnesota commit, had the winning goal against Finland in the final game. The smart, two-way pivot had four points in three games.
Elias Pettersson, C – Timra (Swe.): Sweden rode the big line of Pettersson, Carl Grundstrom and Lias Andersson to victory at the under-20 Four Nations in Gothenburg, with each player notching seven points in three games. Pettersson combines high hockey IQ with a great shot and good size.
2018 Draft Star
Alexander Khovanov, C – Irbis Kazan (Rus.): Since I’ve already talked about Andrei Svechnikov lately, let’s show some love for Khovanov, another high scorer at the World Under-17 Challenge who helped Russia to bronze. Khovanov has some nifty offensive moves and has scored everywhere he’s gone in his career.