April 23, 2022

10 draft eligibles to watch at the 2022 World Under-18s

We’re not far off, now.

With the 2022 IIHF World Under-18 Championship underway in Germany, the amateur scouting world will fix its eyes firmly on Landshut and Kaufbeuren to help round out full-picture reports on some of the 2022 NHL Draft’s top talents.

There’s no shortage of it.

From a handful of projected top-10 picks to a dozen potential first-round hopefuls, the Under-18s is a can’t-miss for scouts and fans alike hoping to better identify which are future NHLers and where they may fit down the road.

And with the draft set for July, it’s the last major international showcase for prospects to put their best skate forward.

Here’s a look, in alphabetical order, at 10 prospects to track at the Under-18s:

Logan Cooley, C, Team USA
FCHockey Rank: 2

Logan Cooley, the top-ranked 2022 NHL Draft eligible to participate in the tournament, has the chance to put an exclamation mark on a season that has already been more than impressive. The soon-to-be 18-year-old has netted 65 points (24 goals, 41 assists) in 45 games for the US National Team Development Program this season, impressing scouts in not just the offensive end but all three zones of action.

“I love his all-around prowess…he’s a dynamic player at both ends of the ice,” Auston Broad, FCHockey’s head US scout, said. “He can manipulate the defensive coverage with his eyes to create passing lanes and if you allow him to get the puck in the high-danger area he has the shot to make you pay. I fully expect him to be USA’s top performer at this tournament and one of the best players at the event.”

Lane Hutson, D, Team USA
FCHockey Rank: 27

Lane Hutson will be a tournament favorite and one of the most-watched blueliners in the Under-18 showcase. The dynamic offensive defenseman stands at just 5-foot-8 and 148 pounds, so he’s a curious case. It’s hard to question what he’s able to do in the offensive end after posting 55 points (10 goals, 45 assists) in 54 games this season. There are bigger questions about how he’ll handle opponents at higher levels, but there’s no discounting the fun-factor that Hutson brings when he steps on the ice.

“Hutson is an extremely fun player,” Broad said. “He has strong offensive instincts and high-end skating ability that allow him to activate from the back end and provide an offensive spark whenever he’s on the ice. I expect Hutson to play a big role for the USA, producing points on a regular basis throughout the event. He has potential to be a standout player at the U18s.”

Joakim Kemell, RW, Finland
FCHockey Rank: 7

Few players in this draft class have the sheer goal-scoring capability of Joakim Kemell, who can use the opportunity to put some shine back on his draft status after a bit of an up-and-down season. Few scorers in Liiga, draft eligible or otherwise, scored at his pace through the first quarter of the season, but injury slowed that sniping ability. There’s plenty of reason to expect that form again at the Under-18s.

“Kemell is a winger with great finishing abilities,” FCHockey scout Joshua Frojelin said. “Aside from his shot, he is a superb skater who can easily transition his team to offense. I think the Finnish sensation’s early season shooting success saw him slightly overrated, and he is more fairly valued as a fringe top-10 pick.”

Jiri Kulich, LW, Czechia
FCHockey Rank: 22

Jiri Kulich, who will captain the Czech entry, is far from a forgotten quantity playing pro hockey with HC Karlovy Vary. He’s gone a long way to cementing his first round consideration this season with his 14 points (nine goals, five assists) – sixth-most all-time among U18 players in the league. A speedy, two-way forward that plays with a high motor, Kulich will be at the forefront of his country’s efforts in the tournament.

“He creates space on and off the puck, is a very fast skater, and playing among his peers I expect him to show more of his soft hands, one-on-one skills, ability to delay and maintain the possession of the puck that he flashed in my viewings of him at professional level,” European-based FCHockey scout Miroslav Simurka said.

Topias Leinonen, G, Finland
FCHockey Rank: 76

Topias Leinonen is in consideration among a small group of goaltenders that could come first off the board on draft day. It’s not an overwhelmingly strong group between the pipes this year, giving Leinonen a leg-up should he be able to have a strong showing in what will likely be his final showcase of the season. His 2.28 goals-against average and .916 save percentage impressed in U20 SM-sarja, giving him momentum heading into the tournament.

Rieger Lorenz, C, Canada
FCHockey Rank: 40

Few prospects can boast the offensive resume that Rieger Lorenz pieced together this season, leading all draft-eligible Junior A scorers with 85 points (38 goals, 47 assists) with the high-powered Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Lorenz has been at the forefront of his club team all season, and has the chance to showcase his adaptive skills with a deeper Canadian team.

“Lorenz is an athletic, competitive forward with explosive skating ability who does his best work on the forecheck and the backcheck,” said Derek Neumeier, head Western scout at FCHockey. “He’ll play far fewer minutes and in a very different role for Canada compared to what he’s used to, including more defensive usage, though that will give scouts a more well-rounded understanding of his abilities and long-term upside.”

Julian Lutz, LW, Germany
FCHockey Rank: 51

The Under-18s could be a bit of a launching pad for Julian Lutz, who slipped down the rankings with an injury-riddled campaign. He played just 14 games for EHC München in DEL, leaving less-than-ideal opportunity to see a full season of growth out of the 18-year-old from Weingarten.

“This tournament will be crucial for Lutz´s draft position as he missed most of the regular season due to injuries,” Simurka said. “Lutz is a big forward with a lot of power who can do it all – he can skate, control the puck at full speed, he has great net-front presence, and can score goals from anywhere in the offensive zone. His physical presence, forechecking and winning physical battles for pucks will be essential for the Germans.”

Liam Ohgren, LW, Sweden
FCHockey Rank: 30

Liam Ohgren was a curious case this year in what can be described, to some degree, as a tale of two seasons. He impressed immensely in leading all J20 Nationell participants with 33 goals – accomplishin the feat in just 30 games (Nils Bolin, the next closest scorer at 31 goals, played 50 games). Ohgren, however, wasn’t able to translate that success to the Swedish Hockey League with just two points (one goal, one assist) in limited minutes with Djurgårdens IF.

“Ohgren is a truly offensive weapon that you don’t want to see entering the offensive zone with the puck in control if you are an opponent,” Swedish-based FCHockey scout Fredrik Haak said. “With speed, strength, and smartness, he can create chances and score from so many different situations. This tournament could be a huge international breakthrough and he could be one of the players to see in the top of the point scoring league when we sum up the tournament.”

Owen Pickering, D, Canada
FCHockey Rank: 32

Few defensemen in the 2022 NHL Draft, if any at all, have the pure combination of size and skill that Owen Pickering possesses. The Swift Current Broncos blueliner boasts the size – he stands at 6-foot-5 – but offers a unicorn-like blend of skating and skill to top up the package. The Under-18s will be an excellent opportunity to showcase that on a larger stage.

“Pickering is one of the biggest wildcards for the 2022 draft, so he’ll draw a disproportionate amount of attention this tournament,” Neumeier said. “His skating and puck skills are already quite good and are still improving. Could he develop into an all-situations, top-pair defenseman at the NHL level? That’s the role he’ll play here for Canada, so it will be a great test for him.”

Elias Salomonsson, D, Sweden
FCHockey Rank: 26

Perhaps few skaters participating in the Under-18s has more to show than Elias Salomonsson, who has constantly bounced around the draft board – and not necessarily for the better. The defenseman has been as inconsistent as any projected first rounder, struggling at the SHL level with Skellefteå AIK. There’s plenty of reason to believe in his game – he has exceptional skating and his greatly improved awareness – but not the once top-10 status he was thought to carry.

“Salomonsson is a dynamic, all-round blueliner that loves to be in control of the puck and could contribute at both ends,” Haak said. “There has been high expectations and this tournament is really a chance for Salomonsson to show everyone what he is capable of and what to expect in the coming years.”

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