May 6, 2022

Scout Survey: Making sense of what we saw at the World Under-18s

If the 2022 NHL Draft is the main course, the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Germany was the sampler.

The tournament, the last major tune-up before the 2022 draft in July, served scouts and fans alike with memorable moments, spectacular performances, and reasons to either go all-in or fold on certain prospects.

But how does one break it all down?

We enlisted the help of five FCHockey scouts — Austin Broad (head US scout), Derek Neumeier (head Western scout), Rasmus Tornqvist (Finnish-based scout), and Douglas Larson (US-based scout) — to tell us just that.

Welcome to our World Under-18’s scout survey.

Scout survey: Making sense of what we saw at the World Under-18s

Which forward impressed you most, regardless of expectation coming into the tournament?

Jiri Kulich was the most impressive forward to me. He was able to elevate his game and carry Czechia to a bronze-medal game appearance. I know he relied heavily on the PP, but to see his shooting ability and his impressive off the puck movement on full display was an absolute treat. I think he was arguably the best player at this tournament, and there’s no doubt he helped boost his draft stock more than any other player.” — Broad

Logan Cooley. Team USA was dominant at driving possession all tournament long, and no one was more effective at it than Cooley. While he didn’t end up leading the tournament in scoring, Cooley easily could have given all the chances he created. He was just so good shift over shift, in all three zones, from his first game to the last.” — Neumeier

“There were so many good players at the tournament, but I have to give the nod to the MVP in Kulich. It was obvious how important he was to his team. His teammates knew it and so did he as he delivered in every game throughout the tournament. He showed he’s got a lethal shot. Kulich was someone who was mostly thought of as a borderline first rounder, but I think he just showed us why he should for certain get chosen on day one of the draft.” — Larson

“Team USA had a lot of impressive forwards for sure, but I think I have to go with Jonathan Lekkerimaki on this one. I really enjoyed watching him play and show what he brings to the draft class. From what I’ve seen earlier of him I thought of him as more of a goal-scorer, but he showed he is a lot more than that.” — Tornqvist

Which defenseman impressed you most, regardless of expectation coming into the tournament?

Ryan Chesley, and there’s no question about it. I have seen a ton of him this year and even though I was always impressed by him I needed to see him take his offensive game to another level. His performance at this tournament proved he has that ability. His skating, transition play, and effort at both ends of the ice made him one of the more complete defenders in this tournament, and I thought he was tremendous each and every game he played in. If he can continue to produce the way he did at this tournament, the sky will be the limit for his NHL career.” — Broad

“I just love watching Lane Hutson play. He’s so smart and he never takes his foot off the gas. I don’t think he’ll become the best NHL defenseman out of the ones who played in this tournament, but I thought he was the best one there and then. He was an instrumental reason why the Americans tilted the ice in their favour all tournament.” — Neumeier

“While my decision for the forward who most impressed me was a difficult one, the most impressive defenceman was an easy one for me in selecting Hutson. Easily the most thrilling, dynamic defender I watched this tournament. He was exceptional in providing offense from the back end and made some incredible plays. While the knock on him is his small stature — I couldn’t care less how tall he is — the kid can flat out play. He made a few mistakes defensively, but overall held his own. Hutson was a crucial part in the United States silver medal and his draft stock should see a bump with his play the last couple of weeks.” — Larson

Kasper Kulonummi was really good in my eyes. He never panics with the puck and always finds a way to keep the play alive with his own team instead of dumping it out of the defensive zone. He really impressed.” — Tornqvist

Who has surprised you, either positively or negatively, with their play?

Julian Lutz was a pleasant surprise for me. I had high expectations for him at the start of the year and he was a bit underwhelming up until this tournament. I thought his performance against Canada was one of the better individual performances of the entire Under-18s. Lutz helped carry the German squad at this event and was able to remind people like myself why he was highly regarded in the first place. I think Lutz really showed he can hang with the best players this draft class has to offer and really deserves a ton of credit for his showing.” — Broad

Noah Ostlund really opened my eyes with his play in Germany. I had only seen him twice before and his game didn’t really pop for me in those viewings, so I was wondering how much of his success this season was tied to his teammates. But I thought he really proved himself as a play-driver and difference-maker of his own merit.” — Neumeier

“I’d have to go with Lekkerimaki for this one. It was my first time getting eyes on him, with my understanding about him being a one-trick pony with his elite shot. That was not the case. I thought Lekkerimaki facilitated the puck well in the games I saw him in. It wasn’t him just making simple one-touch passes either. He and his linemates did the heavy lifting in leading Sweden to a gold medal.” — Larson

“Out of individual players, I’d probably go with Topias Leinonen in goal and Otto Salin on defense for Finland as players I expected more out of, even though Leinonen was decent in the medal games. Kulich is someone I think was able to surprise a lot of people, and definitely boost his draft stock.” — Tornqvist

Who has left you with more questions than answers coming out of the tournament?

“It might sound crazy but I’ll go with Joakim Kemell here. When he was on, he was the best player on the ice, but much like his Liiga season it felt like his tournament had a lot of inconsistencies. He would be the best player on the ice one night, and a virtual ghost the next. Kemell has all the tools to be an elite goal scorer and a top-five player in the 2022 class, but after this tournament I find myself once again wondering if he can be a consistent performer.” — Broad

Cutter Gauthier. I’ve seen some people talk of him as a potential top-10 pick, but that has always felt a little rich for me. In this tournament I thought he was the least impressive out of that group of top-end American forwards. His tools are still good enough to justify him getting picked somewhere in the teens, but now I’m a little more wary about how effective he’s going to be in the future once he’s not in such a prime, conducive environment.” — Neumeier

“One of my favorites I’ve seen this year with Seamus Casey. He got off to a real slow start in the first couple of games for the States, and I never really noticed him which really isn’t a good thing for the way he plays the game. He plays and has all the skill in the world to be a solid puck-moving defender that brings offense from the backend, and he wasn’t really doing that to start. I then thought he strung together a few good games where I saw flashes of him providing offense. Overall, he was just really inconsistent for me, and leaves me wondering why some games he’s real quiet and others he’s everywhere.”

“Salin. He missed the last couple of games, so it is possible he was dealing with an injury or something, but he definitely didn’t look like the player I’ve seen flashes of for HIFK this season. I still think his ceiling is very high, but he needs to be a lot better both defensively and with the puck if he wants to make the Liiga team for HIFK next season.” — Tornqvist

Which member of a future draft class (2023, 2024) left you most impressed?

“While Connor Bedard is the sexy pick, I was really impressed with Czechia’s Eduard Sale. He was the Robin to Kulich’s Batman. Sale finished tied for second in the tournament with eight assists and was involved in almost all of Kulich’s goals. In a tournament that featured Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Aron Kiviharju and more, Sale really stepped up and showed that he will be a name that people will want to remember when they think of the 2023 and 2024 draft classes.” — Broad

“The obvious answers here are Bedard and Fantilli, but I’ll switch things up and say Kasper Halttunen. I liked him a lot before this tournament and thought he did a very good job in Finland’s top-six as an underager. He’s not getting nearly enough buzz yet as a top prospect for 2023, but that will change sooner rather than later.” — Neumeier

“While I realize how ridiculous Bedard is, I’m going with his 2023 eligible teammate with Fantilli. The games I watched of his he was just showing off his amazing skills. He’s a bigger guy, but he doesn’t let that stop him from flying up and down the ice out there. His hands were quick and decisive, allowing him to have success when setting up his teammates. While Fantilli has been highly touted for awhile now, I think he’s showing everyone it’s not just a two headed monster at the top of next year’s draft.” — Larson

“Hard not to say Kiviharju on this one. Bedard was obviously very impressive offensively, but what Kiviharju did as a two-year underaged defenseman has never been seen before in this tournament. He was one of the best players on the Finnish team already, and his hockey IQ is off the charts. Can’t wait to see what he will look like in 2024 — his draft year.” — Tornqvist

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