August 8, 2022

What we learned at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup

The 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup might’ve ended in a bit of a predictable fashion, but that certainly didn’t deter scouts from taking in the first event on the 2023 NHL Draft calendar, and some early returns along the way. 

A few of those lessons started with Canada, too, who has won 17 championships in the past 22 tournaments, outscored opponents 34-3 in five games en route to gold. 

Ethan Gauthier was a player that far exceeded my expectations,” said FCHockey scout Donesh Mazloum, who was in attendance live at the tournament. “I thought he might play a lower line energy role for Team Canada after his performances in the selection camp but he settled in right away on the top line with Benson and Yager and ended up leading the tournament in goals.”

Gauthier, who had 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) in 65 games with the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2021-22, starred for Canada.

He netted six lamp-lighters in five games — including the one that eventually served as the tournament-winner. He added an assist to those totals to finish with a share of fourth overall in Hlinka scoring. 

He wasn’t alone in impressing from Canada.

Caden Price, who patrolled in Canada’s top pair, averaged a point-per-game through the five-content tournament, recording one goal and four assists, while providing steady minutes en route to gold.

“I thought Price elevated himself into early first-round consideration,” said FCHockey scout Derek Neumeier, who also took in some live action from the Red Deer, Alberta based event. “I thought he was constantly engaged and competitive, and managed play very, very well all tournament. 

“He wasn’t flashy and played relatively conservatively, but he just kept driving possession positively for Canada, and chipped in a little on the score sheet as well. Very smart and mature in his approach, very pro-like. He’ll be a highly-watched prospect this season.”

Canadian prospects weren’t the only ones to impress. 

Goaltender Michael Hrabal backstopped Czechia to a fourth-place finish with some spectacular heroics. Though his .917 save percentage and 2.72 goals-against average weren’t tournament-leading, his effort certainly was. 

Only Samuel Urban of Slovakia kicked aside more shots than Hrabal’s 122 saves over four starts — an average of nearly 31 per outing.

He was Neumeier’s biggest surprise of the tournament. 

“I hadn’t seen Hrabal before and now I can’t wait to watch more of him,” Neumeier said. “It’s always exciting to see a netminder who is that huge but one who also has really strong fundamentals for the position. His puck-tracking and rebound control look advanced. 

“I really liked how he maintained his composure as the tournament went along, despite the team in front of him getting outplayed in the semifinals and the bronze medal game. If he keeps playing like he did at the Hlinka I could see him pushing for a selection in the first round.”

Neumeier was equally impressed with forward Eduard Sale, who paced Czechia in scoring finished overall in Hlinka scoring with six points (four goals, two assists) in five games. 

“Sale wowed me from the first game to the last, especially given his circumstances,” he said. “He did very, very well despite a lack of support around him and some questionable usage from his coach. There weren’t many players who could single-handedly open things up offensively like he did and he really solidified his status as a top prospect for this class.”

Not everyone impressed, though, and a pair of forwards left FCHockey scouts a little dissatisfied. 

Kasper Halttunen was clearly the biggest disappointment in this tournament and looked extremely pedestrian from the outset of the Hlinka,” Mazloum said. “He entered this tournament with buzz as a potential top ten pick however I doubt many will still have him ranked that high after scoring only one goal in five games.”

Halttunen, arguably a top-10 talent in the draft,  did leave the Hlinka with bronze, but the 17-year-old was kept at bay for the most part with just three points (one goal, two assists).

So too was Theo Lindstein, who netted silver with Sweden. 

He had a more productive tournament with six points (one goal, five assists) in five games, but the stat line didn’t tell the whole story.

“There was buzz about Lindstein coming into this tournament, but he really struggled,” Neumeier said. “He just didn’t leave any kind of positive impact when it counted the most, against the stronger teams and in the elimination games. I also didn’t see specific tools or traits that looked high-end. Turnovers were a problem. I’ll come back and watch more of him throughout the season, but it’s safe to say that his draft stock took an early hit.”

The five-game set, however, isn’t a make-it-or-break-it scenario for any of the aforementioned prospects, both positive performance or not. 

The 2023 draft remains 10 months away with a season’s worth of work to sway scouts in either direction.

More Stories

June 22, 2024

Cole Hutson is a dynamic wildcard in the 2024 NHL Draft

June 21, 2024

2024 NHL Draft Mock: Predicting the first round with draft day nearing

June 20, 2024

Anton Silayev is literally the 2024 NHL Draft’s biggest unicorn

Get insider content and scouting reports you can’t find anywhere else.

Sign up now