World U18s: 10 standouts from the preliminary round
The preliminary round of the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship is complete, with the elimination round set to kick off on Monday.
In a year of uncertainty, the World U18s have some normalcy in the scouting world. The tournament has been extremely exciting, with teams like Belarus, Czech Republic, Latvia, and Germany really putting pressure on the top teams Canada, USA, Finland, and Russia. There have been some blowouts, but there have been some surprisingly close matchups as well.
As we enter the final stretch of this tournament, let’s take a look at the players who have stood out on their teams, helping to add to the excitement of this tournament and keeping us on the edge of our seats.
Brandt Clarke, Team Canada
Coming into the tournament Brandt Clarke is among a handful of prospects vying for first overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. Through Canada’s four preliminary games, he’s done everything in his power to help his case for the top overall selection in July. He’s been playing practically mistake-free hockey, showing off his intelligence, his speed, and his offensive ability. He’s collected five points (two goals, three assists) so far.
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While Clarke is very much an offensive defender, he’s shown off a tremendous ability in his own end as well. Entering the elimination games, he’ll need to continue that to help Canada to the medal games. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him continue to elevate his game as Canada makes a strong push for the gold medal and Clarke makes a strong push for first overall. He’s currently ranked at No. 5 by FCHockey.
Lane Hutson, Team USA
With Luke Hughes out of the tournament due to an injury, the burden of the number-one defender was passed on to Sean Behrens (who was very close to being on this list himself). While Behrens has filled the role well, especially in his physical, defensive game, it’s been 2022-eligible Lane Hutson truly impressing in the offensive end, showing off some remarkable hands, tremendous footwork, and an excellent ability to find the lanes. His fearlessness in driving the net has helped him collect five assists through four games.
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Perhaps it’s because he has the same initials as Hughes, but Hutson has truly brought the offensive skill for the USA while Behrens has brought the leadership and two-way ability. The two have led the way for the Americans, and Hutson’s proving why he’s a top prospect for the 2022 NHL Draft. He’s been very close to potting a goal in the tournament (he actually did have the shootout-winner versus the Czechs), so that will be something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Danila Klimovich, Team Belarus
You might be asking yourself – who? But don’t worry, at the start of the tournament, that’s what pretty much everyone was thinking. But arguably the player of the preliminary round was Belarusian Danila Klimovich. Coming out strong in his first game against Sweden scoring the only goal for his team, he followed that up with a hat trick in his second game, and another two goals in the third game. He was held off the scoresheet versus Canada, but nonetheless, this has been an impressive outing for the prospect. In his four preliminary games, the surprising prospect has six points – all goals.
If there has been one prospect that has stood out the most in this tournament, it’s likely Klimovich. Coming out from seemingly nowhere, the forward has been one of the best players in the tournament thanks to his wicked shot and ability to find the soft ice and surprise his opponents. If Belarus stands a chance of heading home with a medal, you can bet it will be on the back of more Klimovich goals.
Fabian Lysell, Team Sweden
Sweden hasn’t had the easiest tournament thus far, but they’ve done enough to move on to the elimination round and that is in no small part due to the work of Fabian Lysell. FCHockey’s No. 10-ranked prospect has been the best player for Team Sweden – and it’s not particularly close. Lysell has five points (one goal, four assists) and has really shown off how talented he is with his hands, creating opportunities out of nowhere.
Team Sweden has been wildly inconsistent in the tournament, but Lysell has been a bright spot shift in and shift out. Moving into the elimination games, if the Swedes are going to have any chance of finishing on the podium, they’ll need their crafty winger to continue – and potentially even elevate – his performance.
Matvei Michkov, Team Russia
If the tournament MVP was given out today, it’s not hard to guess who would win it. Matvei Michkov also has a pair of hat tricks (one was actually a four-goal game), a Michigan/lacrosse goal, and a between-the-legs goal. This is on top of showing off his quick hands, his high-end creativity, and his ridiculous skating ability. He leads this tournament with 11 points (nine goals, two assists) – despite being the second-youngest player.
Russia is a strong contender for a medal in this tournament. While Michkov will likely be looking for the gold medal, he’s already putting together one of the best 16-year-old performances at this event in history. He’s staring down Alex Ovechkin’s 14-goal, 18-point performance from 2002, and looking at how he’s put up points thus far, this is not out of the question.
Logan Stankoven, Team Canada
Canada’s Logan Stankoven may not have the points that some of the others on this list have, but the play that he’s displayed has been extremely high-end. The alternate captain may be just five-foot-eight, but he plays a much bigger game. He digs in the corners, he gets the puck to his team, and he simply never takes his foot off the gas. He’s always playing in his top gear, every shift, every situation.
The Canadian has done well for himself in the points department as well though, collecting five (two goals, three assists) through four games. An unquestionable leader on this team, don’t be surprised to see the forward step his game up even further in clutch situations down the line. If he was on the bubble before, FCHockey’s No. 20-ranked prospect is proving to be a first-round talent.
Fyodor Svechkov, Team Russia
Fyodor Svechkov has had a very impressive season in Russia, emerging as the top-ranked Russian for FCHockey, coming in at No. 18 in the Spring rankings. Now at the World U18s, he’s continued that performance. One of the top two-way forwards in the class, Svechkov has shown off his puck thievery while putting together an intriguing stat line of four goals, three assists and seven points.
Along with Michkov, Nikita Chibrikov, and Danila Yurov, the Russian have displayed high-powered offense in this tournament, and show absolutely no signs of slowing down. Entering the medal rounds, they look to be Canada’s biggest threat for the gold medal and you can expect Svechkov to be right in the thick of things moving forward.
Samu Tuomaala, Team Finland
The Finns have been one of the best teams in this tournament and Samu Tuomaala has been leading that charge, showing off one of the best shots that the 2021 NHL Draft has to offer. Tuomaala and Ville Koivunen have both been involved greatly in the team’s success, both having nine points in the preliminary games. Tuomaala has collected five goals and four assists.
Finland is in the hunt for a medal in this tournament and Tuomaala will be leading that charge with his impressive scoring ability. Ranked No. 46 in FCHockey’s Spring ranking, the forward has proven to be extremely clutch in this tournament. In Game 1 against the Russians, he had the game tying goal to force overtime where they won in a shootout. In Game 2 versus the Czechs, he led another comeback, collecting two goals and an assist, including the game-winner with 18.1 seconds left, to grab another win. Expect more of this moving forward.
Shane Wright, Team Canada
Not eligible until the 2022 NHL Draft, Shane Wright has proven to be exactly as advertised – despite playing in just two games. In the first game of the tournament, the captain for Canada potted a hat trick in Canada’s 12-1 thumping of Sweden. He was then held out for the next two games for precautionary reasons, coming back against Belarus just to score two more goals, giving him five points (all goals) in the tournament.
Wright looks like he should be good to go through the tournament, and considering he’s come into game action fairly cold for both games and had two multi-goal games, you can expect him just to get better through the medal rounds. If you’re an opposing team, this is very much a player that you need to be worried about.
Olen Zellweger, Team Canada
Finally, one of the more surprising standouts of the tournament has been Olen Zellweger – unless you’ve caught some of his WHL action that is. In his four games prior to heading to Texas, the defender had eight points in four games. Now guarding Canada’s blue line as one of the top defenders on the team, he’s continued his production with six points (one goal, five assists) in four games. All of those points came in the final two games of the preliminary round.
Zellweger has improved every game thus far, looking better and better every time he hits the ice. If this continues into the elimination rounds, watch out. Even if he maintains his current game, this is a defender that’s not afraid to jump up into the play, acting as a fourth forward on an already overpowering offense. Ranked No. 55 in FCHockey’s latest ranking, expect him to push up many boards after his performance in Texas.
Honorable mentions: Connor Bedard (🇨🇦), Sean Behrens (🇺🇸) Nikita Chibrikov (🇷🇺), Aleksi Heimosalmi (🇫🇮), Ville Koivunen (🇫🇮), Dmitri Kuzmin (🇧🇾), Brad Lambert (🇫🇮), Sasha Pastujov (🇺🇸), Isak Rosen (🇸🇪), Yegor Sidorov (🇧🇾), Danila Yurov (🇷🇺)
Ahead of Monday’s quarterfinal action, catch up on the preliminary round action, including FCHockey’s three stars of each day and the highlight of each day:
- April 26 | Day 1: Third: Fabian Lysell (🇸🇪), Second: Lane Hutson (🇺🇸), First: Nikita Chibrikov (🇷🇺)
- April 27 | Day 2: Third: Danila Klimovich (🇧🇾), Second: Brandt Clarke (🇨🇦), First: Shane Wright (🇨🇦)
- April 28 | Day 3: Third: Mason McTavish (🇨🇦), Second: Karlis Mezsargs (🇱🇻), First: Samu Tuomaala (🇫🇮)
- April 29 | Day 4: Third: Kaidan Mbereko (🇺🇸), Second: Fabian Lysell (🇸🇪), First: Matvei Michkov (🇷🇺)
- April 30 | Day 5: Third: Samu Salminen (🇫🇮), Second: Olen Zellweger (🇨🇦), First: Francesco Pinelli (🇨🇦)
- May 1 | Day 6: Third: Sasha Pastujov (🇺🇸), Second: Shane Wright (🇨🇦), First: Matvei Michkov (🇷🇺)