August 9, 2021

Broad Strokes: 10 Takeaways from the Hlinka Gretzky Cup

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup is finished and it gave us a good glimpse at some of the talent available in the 2022 NHL Draft. 

As one of the first events on the draft season calendar, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup is usually filled with some great storylines, and this year was no different. Canada didn’t participate, Germany did as a result, Slovakia stole the show with an extremely talented roster, and Russia dominated most of the event.

All that and much more went down at the event and with that being said here are my 10 takeaways from the Hlinka:

Slovakia stole the show

Despite falling to Russia in the championship game, it was hard not to root for the Slovakians in this event. They were fun to watch and enthusiastic after every win, and if this event is any indication, they’re going to be one of the storylines during the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft.

Defenseman Simon Nemec with forwards Juraj Slafkovsky and Filip Mesar all put on amazing performances at the Hlinka. 

Slafkovsky led all Slovakian draft eligibles with nine points (three goals, six assists), followed by Mesar with eight points (two goals, six assists) in five games. Nemec also put up a strong performance by getting six points (one goal, five assists) while being able to impact both ends of the ice.

It isn’t inconceivable that all three of these guys go in the first round of the draft and there’s a real possibility that Nemec and Slafkovsky go within the top-10.

Miroshnichenko No. 2?

While the 2022 draft is headlined by Shane Wright, there’s an open battle going on for the second overall spot in the class. Russian forward Ivan Miroshnichenko is one of the players locked in on that battle. He followed up a strong 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship performance in May with a great showing at the Hlinka. The production was there, scoring nine points (four goals, five assists) in five games, but his play was dominant in almost every game.

Miroshnichenko has an elite skillset, and he was able to show it off early in his draft year, while there’s a long road ahead for him I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as the second-best prospect in this class once the draft rolls around.

Kemell puts out a statement performance

Going into this tournament, Joakim Kemell was a player I was really interested in seeing. I had some decently high expectations for him heading into this event and he exceeded them with his performance. Kemell was Finland’s best forward throughout the tournament, putting his lethal shot on display to the tune of five goals (second in the event) in five games.

He tied for the team lead with six points (five goals, one assist) and has really raised my expectations for him going into his draft year.

The class is loaded with high-end defensemen

One of the early observations of this class is that it is loaded with high-end, two-way defensemen and the Hlinka only added fuel to that fire. Aside from Nemec, Swedish defender Elias Salomonsson, Swiss defender Lian Bichsell and Finnish defender Kasper Kulonummi all stood out as having intriguing upside early in this class, based on their Hlinka performances.

If your organization needs a high-end defensive prospect, then the 2022 draft seems like and excellent place to find one … and there will be no shortage of options based off some of the performances at this event.

Lutz flashes some of his potential

Before the tournament Julian Lutz was the lone German player on my radar, and I thought this event would be a good chance for him to show what he can do. While the Germans were in tough for most of their games, I thought Lutz was able to flash some of the potential he has in his game. He was able to use his skills and generate some offensive chances for Germany, he scored twice in four games and was able to show the aggressive and tenacious style he brings to the game.

Lutz seems to be carving a path to the NHL and while there were struggles against the tough competition, I liked some of the things I saw from him.

Slavicek flies under the radar

Simon Slavicek was the Czech player I was most looking forward to watching, I liked him in his energy and shutdown role at the World Under-18s in May and wanted to see how he’d play when he’s one of the older players on his team. He didn’t flash any high-end potential that I was hoping for, and while he managed to score one goal in four games for the Czech Republic, he didn’t quite have the performance I was hoping for. 

Kulich stands out For the Czechs

Full disclosure, I didn’t have Jiri Kulich on my radar as a player to watch before the tournament. He made me look silly for that, as he was arguably the best Czech player at the event. He led the team in goals (3) and points (4) and managed to impact the game in many other ways. When I watched the Czechs looking to see Slavicek, Kulich quickly stole my attention. He’s a goalscoring winger that has some potential to really grow throughout his draft year. 

Kulich is a name that people should be aware of, and I’m very interested to track his progress this season. 

Gazizov has a strong performance for Russia

It feels like this tournament’s headlines were all dominated by either Russia or Slovakia and for good reason. Those teams were the best at the event and were the most entertaining to watch throughout. A big reason for Russia’s entertainment factor was Ruslan Gazizov. Gazizov was third in tournament scoring with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) with and was the highest-scoring 2022 draft eligible player. He dazzled with his shifty footwork and creativity with the puck on his stick.

The Russians were a loaded squad, so for Gazizov to be one of the top performers for them is definitely noteworthy.

Lund a bright spot for the Americans

The Americans had some decent performances from their group of 2022 eligibles, but Cameron Lund was the one that stood out to me. Lund was able to use his big body, and goalscoring ability to impact the game. He ended up finishing second on Team USA with five points (four goals, one assist) and led the team in goals — by averaging a goal-per-game through four appearances. 

After only two appearances for Green Bay in the USHL in 2020-21, Lund’s performance at the Hlinka should provide him some momentum heading into the most important year of his life. 

2023’s stole the show

The 2023 NHL Draft is a long ways away, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some of the performances the underagers put on at this event.

Three players in particular come to my mind, Russia’s Matvei Michkov, Slovakia’s Dalibor Dvorsky and USA’s Michael DeAngelo.

Michkov led the entire event in scoring en route to a championship and he continued his dominance at the U18 international level. If you combine the Hlinka and the Under-18s, Michkov has 29 points (20 goals, nine assists) in 12 games for Russia. He’s a phenom that will battle it out for the top spot in the 2023 class.

Dvorsky was a bit of a surprise for me. The Slovakian underager finished second in the tournament behind Michkov with 12 points (eight goals, four assists). While he was a bit inconsistent at times, there’s so much to like about his game — especially with two years to go before his draft.

DeAngelo was Team USA’s best player at this event. With a November 2004-birthdate, he missed the cutoff for 2022 draft by just a few months. His seven points (two goals, five assists) in four games led Team USA and he was the most noticeable player in every American game that I watched. 

The Hlinka provided a lot of great storylines, and it was just the beginning of the draft season. There’s a ton of hockey to be played and it will be interesting to see how things shake out over the course of the year. 

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