Five prospects who turned heads at the Hlinka-Gretzky
With the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup come and gone, the scouting season for the 2019 NHL Draft is now underway. The week-long, eight-team tournament in Edmonton and Red Deer gave scouts and other onlookers an excellent opportunity to become better acquainted with many of hockey’s top young prospects.
With important eyes watching them, many of these top prospects did not disappoint, establishing themselves as players to watch and, potentially, future NHL stars.
While they’ll have to wait until 2020 before plucking dynamic Alexis Lafreniere, who captained Canada to gold, there was no shortage of enticing talent from the tournament that will be available this June.
Here now is a look at the top performers from the tournament who are eligible in 2019.
Philip Broberg, D, Sweden, 6-2, 190, 25-6-2001
Broberg was an easy player to notice at this year’s Hlinka tournament. The big defenseman was a force on the breakout, conducting a number of explosive puck rushes into the offensive zone, one of which resulted in a jaw-dropping goal against Slovakia. He also showed off his ability to defend, playing heavy minutes in the semi-final game versus Russia and helping to limit a high-flying Russian offense to just one goal.
“Big and an impressive presence, Philip Broberg is a tall but super mobile defenceman,” said Dennis Schellenberg, Future Considerations’ European head scout. “His skating is above-average and it is a pure joy to watch the towering defenceman accelerate. His top speed is surprising and he can beat opposing players with only a few powerful strides. Because of his long reach and physical presence he is hard to pass by, especially on the boards, and he is good at keeping the puck carriers away from the crease.”
Bowen Byram, D, Canada, 6-1, 190, 13-6-2001
Byram was one of the most consistent and effective players in the entire tournament, using his advanced intelligence, mobility and puck control to manage the play for Canada whenever he was on the ice. Finished the event with four points in five games, including creating the primary assist on a goal in the gold medal game that cut Sweden’s early lead down to 2-1 and helped to spark Canada’s comeback victory.
“Byram is the complete package from the back end,” Western Canada scout Donesh Mazloum said. “He is patient and poised with the puck, and excels at quarterbacking the play. Perfectly suited for the modern day, possession-based game as he is unflappable under pressure and usually finds passing or skating lane out of his own end and into the offensive zone He defuses dangerous situations so quickly and quietly it sometimes looks like he’s barely breaking a sweat.”
Dylan Cozens, F, Canada, 6-3, 180, 9-2-2001
Cozens used his performance in Edmonton to solidify himself as one of the top prospects to watch for the 2019 draft. He wasn’t one of the tournament’s leading scorers, recording five points in five games, but he was a constant offensive threat throughout, so those totals could have easily been a lot higher. His play in the other two zones was superb as well. Scored the controversial tying goal in the dying seconds of the semi-final game against the US.
“I thought this tournament was a really good showcase of Cozens’ versatility, as he was tasked with going against the opposition’s top line each game while still chipping in offense,” Mazloum said. “He is big, rangy and has the potential to be a force when he fills into his frame. He is a really good skater for his size, showing good jump, agility and top speed. There’s a reason he was given an ‘A’ for the Canadians, as his enthusiasm and energy is contagious.”
Kirby Dach, F, Canada, 6-4, 200, 21-1-2001
Playing on Canada’s top line with Lafreniere and Peyton Krebs, Dach was an overpowering offensive force, finishing with seven points in five games. Normally a center, Dach had no trouble at all lining up on the right wing. Previously known primarily for his penchant for scoring, he used this tournament to also showcase his versatility and ability to be relied upon in all three zones and in all situations.
“He did everything I wanted to see from him, and then some,” Future Considerations scout Keith Fries said. “He showed himself to not only be a poised playmaker, but also potentially someone who could play on the penalty kill with good physicality, playing to his size.”
Vasily Podkolzin, F, Russia, 6-0, 185, 24-6-2001
Podkolzin might not have been a familiar prospect to North American scouts before the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, but he sure is now. The dynamic Russian winger was a human highlight reel all tournament, dazzling onlookers and scoring multiple electrifying goals. He finished tied with Lafreniere for the overall lead in points with 11 in five games, eight of which were goals; more impressively, he scored a goal in every single game he played.
“Podkolzin possesses quick hand, great top speed and is very quick on his feet,” Schellenberg said. “He enters the offensive zone with speed and only has scoring on his mind. So good at splitting the ‘D’ and cutting breaches into opposing defenses. Able to attack the net directly and take the puck to the tough areas.”