August 8, 2023

Here’s who impressed at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup

We’re on the road to the 2024 NHL Draft.

And while there’s still 10 months until players and teams alike will congregate next June for the 2024 draft, the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup officially kicked off the journey.

There’s no shortage of buzz coming out of the tournament already with several top prospects showcasing well, giving shape to what at least part of the top of the draft class could look like.

Here’s who impressed FCHockey scouts at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup:

Adam Benak, C, Czechia

Adam Benak, not eligible until the 2025 NHL Draft, turned heads for multiple reasons. The undersized pivot showed his flash and dash, and highlighted the fact that despite being just 16, the stage wasn’t too big for him. Benak paced Czechia with 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in just five games in helping his country to a silver finish.

“Benak is just a bundle of joy to watch on the ice, and it’s both easy and difficult to process that he’s not eligible until the 2025 NHL Draft. On one hand, he’s significantly undersized. On the other hand, he’s absolutely dynamic in his approach and he has a motor that’ll back it up. He doesn’t shy away from any area of the ice and his constant go, go, go attitude makes him a curious case to follow almost 22 months away from his draft day.” — FCHockey prospects scout Aaron Vickers

Berkly Catton, C, Canada

Berkly Catton, a top-five contender for 2024, did nothing to dispel that notion with a productive tournament in leading Canada both figuratively and literally. The captain paced the entire tournament with eight goals, and shared the event’s lead with 10 points.

“Catton imposed his will on the opposition and got better as the tournament progressed. His leadership and ability to do the little things in all three zones really stood out as that little bit extra that separates him from most of his peers. His offensive abilities are immediately noticeable but it’s the maturity of his game and the character he plays with that I think will ensure he has a long NHL career.” — FCHockey chief Western scout Donesh Mazloum

Trevor Connelly, LW, Team USA

Trevor Connelly elevated his play to match the tournament’s top producers, also netting 10 points (five goals, five assists) in the five-game exhibition. Slick hands and offensive instincts shone through in Connolly’s performance. He might’ve thrust himself into the conversation as a potential first-round pick as a result.

“Connelly had a very productive tournament with his speed and offensive zone instincts often being the catalyst that started the USA attack. He is an adept finisher in regards to his shooting and playmaking, capable of completing some impressive goals. That said, I have some concerns about his play-driving ability and over-reliance on using strictly his hands to beat defenders.” — FCHockey crossover scout Greysen Goudy

Sam Dickinson, D, Canada

Sam Dickinson, who some consider to be a candidate as the first defenseman off the board in 2024, showed his headiness at both ends of the ice at the Hlinka Gretzky. Though he logged just three points — all assists — the top-pair defender on the tournament’s top team did nothing to dispel the notion that he’s a projected top-10 pick.

“Dickinson’s powerful skating and strength allow him to easily win puck battles in his own end and his confidence with the puck, both under pressure and to generate offensive looks, can give a coach peace of mind when Dickinson is out there, regardless of who he’s matched up against.” — FCHockey regional scout Joseph Aleong

Emil Hemming, RW, Finland

Emil Hemming showcased himself well at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, showcasing himself as a skilled winger who thrives with the puck on his stick. Hemming netted nine points (four goals, five assists) in five games, finishing with a share of fourth overall in tournament scoring. He’s a potential first-rounder in 2024.

“I think Hemming is one of the best shooters in his age group. What makes him especially dangerous is that if you take his shot away, he’ll find a way to pass the puck to a teammate in a better position. In addition, his ability to carry the puck coast-to-coast and go past defensemen at high speed while keeping precise possession of the puck makes him a unique player for the 2024 draft.” — FCHockey regional scout Arttu Myllymaki

Ryder Ritchie, RW, Canada

Ryder Ritchie had himself a productive Hlinka Gretzky Cup, too, with nine points (three goals, six assists), re-enforcing his early projection as a mid first-round pick in the 2024 draft. He’s got some versatility to his game, too, which he showed over the five-game showcase.

“Ritchie caught my eye immediately in this tournament and could certainly end up being one of my favorite 2024 draft prospects when all is said and done. He had an impact on every shift from puck drop until the final whistle through his tenacious work ethic and forechecking ability. He is an incredibly quick and beautiful skater with some great offensive tools. Ritchie projects to be a versatile player at the NHL level — a guy who can play power play, penalty kill, be a top-six complimentary scorer, and even in more of a third-line checking role if need be.” — Goudy

Tuomas Suoniemi, C, Finland

Tuomas Suoniemi opened eyes with his play and production — nine points (four goals, five assists) for Finland — and certainly put himself on the radar to go in the opening couple rounds of the 2042 draft. The two-way center certainly intrigued.

“This tournament showed why NHL scouts should pay attention to Suoniemi in the coming year. His hockey IQ is magnificent. He has a special ability to create scoring opportunities for his teammates in places that no one can foresee. His puckhandling is absolutely incredible, and he can create highlight reel goals completely out of nowhere, as we saw against Canada, for example. Opponents really need to know when this man is on the ice.” — Myllymaki

Adam Titlbach, C, Czechia

Adam Titlbach elevated his draft stock with a standout performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Only Catton had more goals in the tournament than Titlbach’s five snipes, and only six others produced more than his eight points in five games.

“Titlbach is a speedy skater and has great puck skills but what impressed me the most about his play was the ability to make plays happen in stride and at speed. He showed great chemistry with Benak.” — FCHockey chief European scout Miroslav Simurka

Will Zellers, LW, Team USA

Will Zellers had himself a productive tournament with seven points (five goals, two assists) in five games, but it was his heady nature and ability to process and problem solve that impressed the most. The Team USA standout finished second in scoring amongst Americans.

“Zellers was a player I was keen on seeing, and he lived up to the billing. He didn’t explode off the tape as a player who has a whole host of elite physical attributes, but his hockey sense, decision-making, and anticipation were all off the charts. His problem-solving capabilities make him an intriguing two-way player, and he has me curious to see how he can continue to develop throughout the 2024 draft scouting season.” — Vickers

More Stories

June 12, 2024

Here are the top European 2024 NHL Draft prospects according to analytics

June 11, 2024

Here are the top North American 2024 NHL Draft prospects according to analytics

June 9, 2024

FCHockey releases 2024 NHL Draft Guide with immediate download

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

Sign up now