April 19, 2023

10 NHL Draft eligibles to keep close tabs on at the 2023 World U18s

The 2023 World U18s will bring together some of the top prospects in one place for a near best-on-best tournament, serving as the final on-ice showcase for the 2023 NHL Draft. There’s no shortage of talent set to hit the ice in Basel and Porrentruy, Switzerland from April 20-30, 2023.

Every year, the event provides excellent storylines heading into the draft and gives some of these prospects a last chance to increase their draft stock, and these 10 days will be no different. This year, there is an excellent crop of talent for the 2023 draft — and beyond.

Here are some names to keep a close watch over at the 2023 World Under-18s:

Colby Barlow, LW, Canada
FCHockey Midterm rank: 16

Colby Barlow is arguably the best player that the OHL has to offer for the 2023 NHL Draft. He is an extremely talented goal scorer who lives in the prime scoring areas of the offensive zone. With his size, shooting ability and nose for the front of the net, Barlow has the potential to be an all-situation player for Canada.

“Barlow has great stickhandling abilities and consistently wins 1-on-1 puck battles in dirty areas of the offensive zone,” FCHockey scout Joseph Aleong said. “He flashes soft hands in the slot area, with good hand-eye coordination from the net-front and good finishing ability tight to the crease.”

Eduard Sale, RW, Czechia
FCHockey Midterm rank: 8

Eduard Sale had a rough showing at the WJC in December, but will look to continue to show that he’s one of the elite players in this draft class. He was excellent at last year’s U18 tournament and will likely have a big role again this year. He’s an extremely smart player who sees the game well and can consistently make efficient plays with the puck. This will be a great chance to show that he still has the offensive prowess that many thought he had coming into the season, as well as showing how effective his all-around game is.

“He’s a big winger with high-end skating abilities and puck skills,” FCHockey scout Miroslav Simurka said. “He is very smart on the forecheck, especially as F1 and F3, and also a good backchecker as he recognizes if he should track within the middle lane or take the wide forward.”

Matthew Wood, LW, Canada
FCHockey Midterm rank: 27

Matthew Wood is a talented power forward who has size and a very good shot. He’s not a one-trick pony, and can affect the game in a variety of ways. He’s got a great power/finesse combination that makes him tough to play against and allows him to open up space for himself and for others. Wood getting a shot to play in a best-on-best tournament will be a big chance for him to prove he belongs near the top of the draft class.

“He’s a big frame who is hard to knock off the puck, even if he isn’t the best skater,” FCHockey scout Douglas Larson said. “The talent is there, it’s just a matter of if he can put it all together and be a play driver for his team.”

Will Smith, C, USA
FCHockey Midterm rank: 6

Will Smith is a shifty offensive center who can beat you by himself or by hitting his teammates with his great vision/playmaking combination. He should be a big factor for the Americans in this tournament. He was awesome at the NTDP throughout the season, and this event would be a great way for him to cap off an impressive draft year.

“He’s someone who will surely catch your eye if you’re watching him for the first time with his electric offensive toolkit,” Larson said. “The skating strength for him isn’t necessarily his speed; it is that east-west quick twitch type stride that makes him elusive with the puck. He can make moves and create offense nearly every shift.”

Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Sweden
FCHockey Midterm rank: 12

Axel Sandin Pellikka is a technical defender who can have massive impacts at both ends of the ice. His attention to detail and situational awareness are impressive to see in a defender his age. He was awesome at the WJC for Sweden and will be the #1 blue-liner for them during the U18s. He will log massive minutes in all situations and likely be one of the best defensemen in the entire field during this event.

“The IQ makes Sandin-Pellikka a very effective blue-liner,” FCHockey scout Fredrik Haak said. “He handles pressure and aggressiveness of the forecheckers extremely well.”

Nick Lardis, RW, Canada
FCHockey Midterm rank: NR

Nick Lardis exploded onto the scene after being traded to the Bulldogs in the OHL. After the trade, he showcased his scoring and offensive prowess, becoming one of the most productive players in the OHL after the move. This event will give him a shot to prove that the player we saw in the second half of the season is truly who he is and that he deserves a lot of the hype he has been getting as of late.

“He is a competitive and skilled forward who excels at playing a high-paced style of game,” FCHockey scout Brandon Holmes said. “He’s best used in the offensive zone as a goal scorer, as his scoring touch around the crease is advanced while also showing a capable snap shot that allows him to score from medium range.”

Tom Willander, D, Sweden
FCHockey Midterm rank: 61

Tom Willander is a mobile blue-liner who can play at both ends of the ice and eat up minutes for his team. He played really well at the J20 level and even saw some action in the SHL for Rogle. Willander has all the tools to be a strong NHL defender, and this tournament will be a chance for him to show how he stacks up against his peers.

“His ability to move in all four directions with fluidity, which, when combined with his long reach, allows him to cover ground very quickly,” Holmes said. “He displays very good vision with the puck on his stick, able to identify passing lanes through the neutral zone effectively or make plays with the puck when joining the attack from the offensive blue line.”

Dalibor Dvorsky, C, Slovakia
FCHockey Midterm rank: 26

Dalibor Dvorsky had a ton of hype before the season started, and though the buzz died down a bit he is still one of the more intriguing players in this tournament. He has tremendous offensive abilities and has shown flashes of a strong two-way player. His season in the Allsvenskan was good, not great, but this event will be a good chance for him to re-establish himself as a top talent in the 2023 draft class.

“He is extremely poised and patient with the puck on his stick,” FCHockey scout Mitch Savard said. “Dvorsky has all the tools to become a very good second line center who’s capable of playing a 200-foot game, and chipping in on a power play unit in the NHL.”

Kasper Halttunen, LW, Finland
FCHockey Midterm rank: 26

Kasper Halttunen has the potential to become a skilled power forward, creating quality scoring chances around the net front. He has a big frame, coupled with soft hands, making him tough to knock off the puck, and allowing him to create through the cycle. With his shot and skillset, he should play a big role for Finland and secure a spot on their top powerplay unit. He will have ample opportunities to impress at this event and cement himself as a potential first-round selection.

“He is great in transition, pushing into dangerous areas with his smooth hands, and fearlessly taking on opponents,” FCHockey scout Wige Karle said. “The best part of Halttunen’s game is when he possesses the puck, but he has also shown a strong ability in his off-the-puck play.”

Andrew Cristall, RW, Canada
FCHockey Midterm rank: 9

Andrew Cristall has the potential to be one of the most dominant players in the entire tournament. He excels in many different areas and doesn’t have a ton of weaknesses in his game. His WHL season was phenomenal, leaving scouts very excited to see what he has in store for the U18s.

“He is one of the most efficient players at adjusting and adapting to play in small spaces in the offensive zone,” FCHockey scout Joel Henderson said. “He’s relentlessly creative and outrageously dangerous when he has control of the puck when there are moving parts in the offensive zone.”

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