Between the 6th and 10th of November we had the U18 Five Nations tournament here in my hometown of Sundsvall. I attended every game except one which was the Switzerland vs Czech Republic game.
In this piece I’ll go through the most high profile players and some of the stand outs and let downs. I’ll start with a quick summary of their tournament and then go through their noticeable strengths and weaknesses from what I saw over this week of hockey.
Huge shoutout to Anton Johansson (@antonj85) for making GIFs of the tournament.
Kasper Simontaival – Winger – 2020 NHL Draft – 5’9″ 172 lbs
Kasper played on Finland’s top line and down low on PP1. He ended the tournament with 5 goals and 3 assists which meant he was the top scorer in the tournament. So this means he dominated the tournament, right? Not exactly, Kaspers skill was noticeable in every game but 6 of his 8 points came in the 7-4 win over Switzerland on the last day. In the tougher games against USA and Sweden he showed glimpses but for the most part he was neutrialized.
Strengths: Automatic zone entry– he skates through the NZ in an effortless way. He has an excellent shot with a quick release.
Weaknesses: He’s a really good passer but tends to hold onto the puck for too long, has to work on his decision making. Needs to stay healthy.
Zion Nybeck – Winger – 2020 NHL Draft – 5’8″ 176 lbs
For the first two games, Zion was on the top line with Niederbach and Ekmark. In the last two games, the coaches threw the lines in the blender and Nybeck was all over the lineup. He also ran the PP from the right half wall with very good success. Nybeck finished the tournament with 1 goal and 5 assists which meant he was Swedens top scorer. He had a good but not great tournament at 5v5 while he was very good on the PP (4 of his 6 points came with a man advantage). One thing that stood out was his chemistry with HV71 J20 teammate Emil Andrae, resulting in plays like this:
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) November 6, 2019
Strengths: High end playmaking, ran the PP in a very effective way. Great agility and edgework makes him really shifty in the offensive zone.
Weaknesses: Straight line speed could use improving. Consistency is an issue at 5v5, I wouldn’t say he takes shifts off but he does disappear from time to time.
Matthew Beniers – Winger – 2021 NHL Draft – 6’0″ 168 lbs
Was on the “BBB” line with Berard and Bordeleau and they dominated this tournament except for the first game where the entire USA team was sluggish. I was told they landed just hours before the game which would explain it. Beniers was excellent on the forecheck throughout the tournament and his speed was very noticeable, regularly beating D-men on the outside and cutting in to the inside. Beniers finished the tournament with 3 goals and 3 assists for 6 points, leading Team USA in scoring. Hopefully this tournament was the catalyst to Beniers season after a somewhat disappointing start, at least on the score sheet.
Strengths: Powerful skater, he just bombs up and down the wing with a very powerful stride. Hockey IQ, especially off the puck where he’s pretty much always in the right position but also on the puck where he can make plays like this one
Weaknesses: He doesn’t really have any major flaws that I could see, though if he could improve his shot that would be great. It’s not bad but also not great.
Juuso Mäenpää – Center/Winger – 2020 NHL Draft – 5’7″ 141 lbs
Played both center and wing on the top line and ran PP1 from the left circle. Mäenpää is a very fun player to watch– he’s fast, shifty and is an excellent playmaker. I thought he was Finlands best player over these four games as he was always engaged and noticeable in a good way and it didn’t hurt that he had 3 goals and 4 assists either. He ran the PP in a very efficient way and had a lot of a slot line passes over to Järventie who just couldn’t convert. His forechecking stood out and forced quite a few turnovers of which at least one led directly to a goal
Strengths: Passing– threads passes through the slot with ease. Very agile skater with good pace aswell.
Weaknesses: At 5’7″ 141 lbs, he is quite easy to get off the puck when you have him cornered.
Emil Andrae – Lefthanded Defenseman – 2020 NHL Draft – 5’9″ 183 lbs
Man is he fun to watch, but also quite difficult to scout. Andrae never takes the easy way out. There isn’t a position on the ice where he is scared to dangle. Luckily, he’s very good at it and almost always comes away with the puck in a good spot. His high risk high reward play lead to him having 4 assists in 4 games. Defensively he was very aggressive which I like and it fits his style, but make no mistake about it, he’s an offensive defenseman.
Strengths: Composure is off the charts. He has ice in his veins. High end passer, everything from short little flip passes to full rink breakaway passes. Incredible dangling in tight spaces.
Weaknesses: Plays an extremely high risk game and should simplify it a little bit at least. Defense is a work in progress. I like that he’s aggressive but there’s lots of work to be made off the puck.
Dylan Peterson – Winger – 2020 NHL Draft – 6’4″ 192 lbs
Powerful and feisty winger who was the one trying to drive USAs 1st line that never really got going. On the PP, where he was used as the net front or slot guy, he was very good.
Actually, he got all his points on the PP (1 goal and 2 assists). He took a few dumb penalties but overall I thought he had a good tournament and was held back a bit because his linemates were struggling through the tournament.
Strengths: Uses his size well to shield the puck. His off the puck play is very good which I believe is due to a high hockey IQ.
Weaknesses: Took too many low percentage shots from tough angles.
Michael Krutil – Righthanded Defenseman – 2020 NHL Draft – 6’0″ 165 lbs
Krutil was a bit of a revelation for me, looked into his EP page before the tournament and was less then impressed but he had a great tournament here. His skating is good; combine that with his very good positioning and decent size and you get a good defender. On the puck, he was really calm and had some good breakout passes. He also got a chunk of PP TOI and didn’t look out of place. I really don’t know why he seemingly can’t get points at any level; he even scored a beauty penalty shot top corner.
Strengths: Composure. Wasn’t scared to hold onto the puck under pressure to find a clean breakout. Very good positioning off the puck.
Weaknesses: Couldn’t see any obvious ones on the ice. However, on his EP page I found a huge weakness though. His production is next to nothing.
Eemil Viro – Lefthanded Defenseman – 2020 NHL Draft – 6’0″ 168 lbs
Viro was one of the players i was really looking forward to watch in person so i’m sorry to say i wasn’t impressed. Viro played a very high risk style here and he wasn’t good enough to pull it off unlike Andrae, Viro got himself into trouble more times then i could count by just skating himself right into the forecheck. He was on Finlands top pairing and PP1 for the entire tournament but he probably shouldn’t have been. You can see that he has the tools but at least in this tournament he forgot the tool box at home.
Strengths: Very good skater, both in a straight line and laterally.
Weaknesses: Decision making was really poor. Defensive positioning was off.
Theodor Niederbach – Winger/Center – 2020 NHL Draft – 5’11” 172 lbs
Started the tournament on the top line and PP1 for the first two games, after that Swedish coaches jumbled the lines completely, probably just to try different things. Theodor had a strong tournament in my book, he finished with 3 goals and 2 assist, most on the PP which was a theme with Sweden as a whole. He did a good job throughout the tournament of driving play using his strong neutral zone game.
Strengths: Very good release, it’s quick and deceiving. Obvious skill on the puck and the vision to be a great playmaker.
Weaknesses: Loves the puck a bit too much, should work on moving it faster in the offensive zone. Not really a weakness but he missed his entire D-1 season through injury so he needs to stay healthy.
Jake Sanderson – Lefthanded Defenseman – 2020 NHL Draft – 6’1″ 185 lbs
Sanderson has that prescence on the ice, he commands the ice when he’s out there and dictates the tempo. He was on USAs top pairing and PP2 and on the PK. He only had one point, a goal, but to me he was the best defenseman in the tournament at 5v5, using his skating and hockey IQ to dominate play.
Strengths: Great skater which allows him to play very aggressive in the neutral zone both on and off the puck. Reads the play well.
Weaknesses: Positioning in the defensive zone needs some work.
Lorenzo Canonica – Center – 2021 NHL Draft – 5’10” 163 lbs
On a very young and pretty weak Switzerland team Canonica was the stand out. As an early September 2003 birthday he’s very interesting to me for the 2021 Draft. He played in all situations and centered Switzerlands top line using his excellent skating to consistently get through the neutral zone and establish play in the offensive zone, something the other Swiss lines had big issues with. He finished the tournament with 1 goal and 1 assist.
Strengths: Skating, quick first step, nice neutral zone pace and good agility. Playing a mature two-way game when he just had his 16th birthday is impressive.
Weaknesses: No obvious ones but not sure how good his offensive game really is, will be interesting to follow him over the next 1.5 years.
Roby Järventie – Winger – 2020 NHL Draft – 6’2″ 185 lbs
Järventie had an interesting tournament on Finlands 2nd line and PP1. At 5v5 I thought he was good for the most part. He used his skating, hands and power to gain the zone under control at will and on the forecheck he was relentless. On the PP he was their main entry guy which he excelled at but in the offensive zone he just couldn’t finish, he was setup as the trigger guy in the right circle and he blasted shot after shot but couldn’t find the net. He finished the tournament with 1 goal and 2 assists, all in the final game against Switzerland.
Strengths: His skating looked really powerful, generating lots of speed through the neutral zone. Excellent on the forecheck.
Weaknesses: Decision making. The way he just put his head down and skated end to end at times was frustrating, needs to look up and find the pass because he’s a good passer. Maybe it was just a bad four games when it comes to his shooting but his one timers were hitting everything but net.
William Eklund – Winger – 2021 NHL Draft – 5’10” 172 lbs
Eklund started the tournament with a bang. He was my man of the match in the first game against Switzerland even if he was held off the score sheet. He dominated play both on and off the puck at 5v5 and created lots of chances. The puck luck was definitely against him there. He was good for the rest of the tournament too but his play did fall off a bit, finishing without a point.
Strengths: Very good skater who uses it with much success on the forecheck. High hockey IQ which he uses on both sides of the puck.
Brett Berard – Winger – 2020 NHL Draft – 5’9″ 152 lbs
As mentioned earlier, the “BBB” line absolutely dominated this tournament and Berard was a big part of this. He scored 3 goals, had 2 assists and displayed great smarts and fantastic hands. Berard was the guy who made the small nifty plays in the offensive zone to create chances. He also showed off some nice finishing ability and positioning in the slot.
Strengths: Skating, and in particular his agility and lateral movement. Stick handling in tight spaces.
Weaknesses: Could definitely get stronger on the puck.
Marek Blaha – Righthanded Defenseman – 2020 NHL Draft – 5’7″ 132 lbs
Sadly I only got to watch about 1.5 games of Blaha. I couldn’t see his game against Switzerland and then he got benched with an injury in their 3rd game against Finland, and was left completely off the roster on the final day. But what I did see from Blaha was really good. He is tiny but he doesn’t let that stop him from being effective. He’s very aggressive in defending his defensive blueline because he knows he has the skating to get back if he times it wrong. On the puck he has great composure and a very good breakout pass while also having the ability to skate the puck out of trouble.
Strengths: Very smooth skating, his lateral movement, agility and edgework are all high end. Puck moving ability, he’s pretty much an automatic zone exit.
Weaknesses: His size does give him issues defending in deep. His straight ahead speed needs improvement, this will likely come as he improves his strength.
Oskar Magnusson – Winger – 2020 NHL Draft – 5’10” 165 lbs
I thought Magnusson had a great tournament, he was engaged in every game and noticeable in almost every shift. He was on Swedens 3rd line all tournament with some time on PP2. He was definitely the one driving his line which I like. He finished the tournament with 1 goal and 1 assist but he really should have had a couple more assists at least, as his linemates missed quite a few chances he setup for them.
Strengths: Excellent work rate. He’s up on the forecheck yet still there to defend. Quick release. Good skater.
Weaknesses: Given his playstyle he really does need to hit the gym and put on some weight to win those board battles.
Thomas Bordeleau – Center – 2020 NHL Draft – 5’9″ 179 lbs
Bordeleau had a very good tournament centering the BBB line. He wasn’t as noticeable as his linemates but he was still very good as the playmaker on the line, finishing the tournament with 5 assists. He took a slightly less aggressive role which balanced it out nicely.
Strengths: High hockey IQ which he displayed on both sides of the puck. Excellent hands.
Weaknesses: Felt a bit soft on the puck at times.
Daniel Torgersson – Winger – 2020 NHL Draft – 6’3″ 205 lbs
Torgersson had a very strong tournament, He was a main stay as the net front on Sweden’s PP1 and was leaned on at 5v5. He had 3 goals and 1 assist and was Sweden’s most consistent forward using his strength and straight line speed to bulldoze his way through the neutral zone. Once he was in the offensive zone he displayed some very good passing and overall good offensive instincts. He has a nice hard shot too.
Strengths: Very good at using his size to his advantage. Smart player, reads the play really well.
Weaknesses: While his straight line skating is good, his edgework and lateral movement need work. In general, he is a very raw prospect.
Tyler Kleven – Lefthanded defenseman – 2020 NHL Draft – 6’4″ 201 lbs
Kleven had a strong game against Switzerland where he scored a nice goal and had an absolutely beautiful assist. His tournament as a whole was okay but he’s not my type of defenseman, with his puck moving ability leaving a lot to desire with so many errant passes. He finished the tournament with the aforementioned 1 goal and 1 assist.
Strengths: Uses his size well defensively. Good at clearing the crease.
Weaknesses: Skating looks really clunky and he got caught flat footed a few times. His passing wasn’t good at all, especially his outlet passes which went all over the place.