Notebook: World U18s edition v3
Every season, FCHockey’s scouts are scouring the globe to get eyes on prospects eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft and beyond.
They spend countless hours, watching both live games and game tape, to get the best possible analysis on the prospects entering the NHL Draft. Our Unpacking the Notebook series takes a look at some of the reports that FCHockey’s scouts have filed over the past week.
With the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship recently wrapped up, we’re highlighting recent reports on some of the participants in the tournament.
Brandt Clarke, D, Team Canada
Canada 10 – Czech Republic 10 – May 3, 2021
Scouting report by Dylan Krill
I believe out of all of the players in this draft, Brandt Clarke may have the smartest ‘hockey brain.’ Understanding how to approach many different situations, being able to join and contribute offensively, while still playing a responsible and reliable defensive game. Clarke is an above-average skater who doesn’t have much explosiveness to his stride, lacking a high-end top speed. He does have great edge work and is able to use it very effectively to quickly escape danger or turn on a dime to avoid an opponent. He has a bit of a long stride that has room to improve, which would increase his speed to become more effective. As skating is an audible concern to the scouting community, I see the potential to grow and become a very strong skater. Adding effective skating to his toolbox will make him one of the intriguing players in this draft. He will need to improve his shot selection, as he made a poor shot attempt from low danger. He does have good accuracy but could work on the power behind his shot. Clarke may be the best defender while under pressure. He stays very calm and understands where he needs to go or what he needs to do to become less vulnerable. He uses a lot of deception to fake out opponents to get out of high danger areas and does so very effectively with his great decision-making. He is one of the most creative and accurate passers on the blue line in this draft. Understanding where his teammates are consistently, rarely ever looking overwhelmed with the puck, and being able to stay focused on the play ahead of him. He understands that he isn’t the biggest guy so he uses an active stick to tie up and stick lift opponents in the slot and in front of the net. He is still able to use his body to win positioning in front of the net, and does a good job of boxing out opponents. He was effective while defending one on one, and displayed solid gap control and stick placement, not giving up much space, while applying pressure and forcing his opponents to make a move. Although he acts as “a fourth forward” at times, he does not become a liability defensively because he understands that if he’s going to join the rush, he must be aware of his positioning and still play a responsible defensive game, which he does consistently. Clarke definitely has room to grow and things to improve, but I also believe he has one of the highest ceilings and potential in this class.
Aidan Hreschuk, D, Team USA
Czech Republic 1 – USA 2 – April 29, 2021
Scouting report by Olivia McArtur
Aiden Hreschuk had a slower start to this game. He had minimal hustle and didn’t rush into the corners for the puck, but I found that he had better speed late into the period. He had accurate passing abilities, and a good accurate shot with a quick release. He’s okay defensively, he was able to try and block shots in the zone but wasn’t always successful on the attempt. Towards the end of the game, he stayed on quiet ice for passing relief for his linemates. He was usually a couple of seconds ahead of the play when it turned defensively which helped him to recover the play and get it back into defending possession to turn the play around. He showed to have a good slot and home plate presence late in the game and was able to break up the play. In overtime, he showed the best possession and control than he had throughout the first three periods. He seemed to almost always be open and free for a pass from his linemates, especially in the overtime period. Hreschuk had a really good backcheck and was on a one-on-one and able to disrupt his opponent’s puck handling to get the puck away from him and into defending possession.
Ville Koivunen, LW, Team Finland
Germany 0 – Finland 10 – April 30, 2021
Scouting report by Austin Broad
Ville Koivunen and Finland dominated the game against Germany. He spent the majority of his time in the offensive zone or with the man advantage. On the power play, Koivunen was a dangerous creator. He worked from below the goal line and worked the puck into the slot or back to his defense with ease. Koivunen had two assists in this game but should have had a few more if teammates converted some chances. His first assist came off the rush, he completed an entry pass late in the second and his teammate beat the German goalie. Koivunen’s second assist was his most impressive play of the game. He completed a difficult pass to the side of the net, hitting his teammate right on the tape for an easy backdoor finish. Late in the game, he added a goal, Koivunen picked up the puck at the half-wall and worked towards the high slot before beating the goalie with a nice wrist shot through a screen. His passing was his best attribute in this game, he passed the puck with purpose and almost every completed pass resulted in a shot attempt for his team. While the points came long after the game was out of hand, it was more of a reward for a great performance rather than him stepping up when the game didn’t matter.
Fabian Lysell, LW, Team Sweden
Sweden 1 – Canada 8 – May 5, 2021
Scouting report by Austin Broad
Even in a game that was so one-sided, Fabian Lysell was able to stand out as a bright spot for Sweden. His passing was on full display, especially on the power play. Lysell used the extra space to his advantage was able to complete high-danger passes through Canada’s PK setup. On Sweden’s lone goal, Lysell completed a perfect cross-seam pass to Isak Rosen on a 5-on-3, and Rosen fired the puck past Benjamin Gaudreau. At 5v5, Sweden struggled to generate a lot of offense but Lysell was aggressive on the forecheck and made life as difficult as he could for Canada’s defense. He has great foot speed allowing him to quickly close the gap between himself and his opponents and the feistiness to win those important 50-50 puck battles. Lysell is comfortable with the puck on his stick and driving the offensive play for his line. He had a few great end-to-end rushes that put his full offensive arsenal on display. Lysell’s combination of speed, puckhandling and offensive instincts make him one of the more exciting prospects at the top of this year’s draft class and he used the U18s to show the world the type of player he is.
Prokhor Poltapov, RW, Team Russia
Russia 11 – Czech Republic 1 – May 1, 2021
Scouting report by Derek Neumeier
Prokhor Poltapov was truly electrifying in this match. It seemed like every time he touched the puck he was a serious threat to do something magical with it, and he finished with two goals and an assist to prove it. His ability to control the puck in traffic is among the best in this entire draft class, as he can easily and quickly swing it wide of his body or deftly maneuver it through sticks and skates. He has a true attacker’s mentality with the puck, willing to drive forward and push the pace. Really shines with his exits and entries on the power play when he has the extra space. Tracks the play well without the puck and has the stick precision to pickpocket it from opponents, though his short strides and so-so quickness make it a little difficult for him to get close enough to opponents at times. His wrist shot is really dangerous from the circles, with good accuracy, some power and a tricky release to read. His play on the defensive side of the puck isn’t notable, though I think that’s more for a lack of commitment than a lack of awareness, and he seems competitive enough that he’ll put in that work later at the higher levels when he realizes that he can’t skip it. Poltapov will need to add another gear to his skating in order to really succeed with his playing style, but if that happens he could be a really nice point-producing winger in the NHL.
Olen Zellweger, D, Team Canada
Switzerland 0 – Canada 7 – April 30, 2021
Scouting report by Justin Froese
I was high on Olen Zellweger coming into this tournament and had rather lofty expectations for this tournament but I’ve been completely astounded by his game. A key question I had coming in was if he could implement his style and pace of game to a higher level of play amongst his peers and he has made quite the impression as he’s put his stamp on each and every game. Zellweger’s used his whole bag of tricks to show off skills he’s developed to manipulate and tilt the ice in his team’s favour and showing that his hockey IQ and awareness is high end. I do still see some areas where he could benefit with a little more safeguarding off pressure plays and explosiveness in his stride but his skating ability is a huge asset. He’s got a strong stacked knee and is efficient in all directions, showing good agility and deceptive stride rhythm which allows him to remain evasive and slip into space as it becomes available. I really love how he manages ice pre-touch and can find seams or set up skill plays to allow for added room to be created. He’s efficient at freezing opponents by shifting his weight efficiently and making plays between checks by feeding false information with even something as subtle as a stick angle or looking off a pass. Has the impulse to always get into the middle and will often press low to stress the D and look for cross seam plays or an available shot. I do think he can get himself into trouble at times and did get rubbed out on the wall a few times but shows that knack to bounce back and adapt to get his leg up on how teams are trying to counteract his style and. Even though not a big guy I think that for me his play recognition is a big strength in how he plays defensively. He’s good at recognizing incoming threats and can step up to time routes and use his stick and speed to eliminate chances ahead of the touch. Boxing out and consistently badgering opponents will be key areas for him to work on as will stick detail, but I really think he’s got a good knack for knowing when to transitionally defend and when he needs to gap and control pace to eliminate dot lane chances. Lots to love here in this package as he could be an efficient transitional defender and power play threat at the next level. Will fill out over time but will need to work on that explosiveness to keep himself ahead of his peers. he’s going to creep up my list and press for a top 30-40 slot.