If you’re a big fan of prospects, these few weeks at the end of July and beginning of August are like heaven. The World Junior Summer Showcase just wrapped up and as of today the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, formerly the Ivan Hlinka Tournament will take place with more of the world’s top prospects taking center stage in these dog days of the NHL offseason. Here are five prospects that you should keep an eye on during the Hlinka Gretzky Cup from team Canada.
The cream of the crop. The offensive dynamo. The next huge French-Canadian star. LaFreniere is going to be the number one pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and for good reason. The kid has great size, a crazy set of hands and dominates almost every shift he is out there. His hockey IQ is excellent and you’re going to hear his name for a long time coming. LaFreniere will make a team very happy if they get the number one pick in two years; but for now, sit back and enjoy watching the Rimouski-Oceanic (QMJHL) star dominate some competition. Hey… weren’t there other really dominant Canadian centers that played for Rimouski…?
Dach has all the size you could want in a centerman. He’s 6’4” and 185 pounds and he’s only 17-years-old. Impressive considering that he still may have time to grow, and with a skill set like his, who knows what could be ahead for the Saskatoon Blades star. Dach will be in contention to go in the top–five in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and all eyes will be on Dach this year to see if he can help resurrect a Saskatoon Blades (WHL) franchise that hasn’t had a lot of success recently. He put up seven goals and 39 assists for 46 points in 52 games last year.
From our friend Steve Kournianos, aka the Draft Analyst: “A power center with smarts who plays a 200-foot game and has elite playmaking abilities. Dach is a strong stickhandler with soft hands who dictates the tempo of most of his shifts. His average speed is at this point the only thing keeping him from being in the conversation for first overall.“
Another exciting high-end skill guy primed to go in the top ten at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Krebs, a member of the Kootenay Ice of the WHL, put up 54 points in 67 games last season and is another Canadian player that looks primed for even more in his draft year. At 5’11 and 172 pounds, Krebs isn’t massive but he won’t get pushed around. Like Dach for the Blades, Krebs is being counted on to get Kootenay back to contention status.
From our friend Steve Kournianos, aka the Draft Analyst: “Dynamic center with leadership traits, game-changing speed, and creativity. Krebs can be a stopper in the defensive zone and a scoring threat in the opposing end. He is the kid you summon to take all the big draws or deliver a game-changing play.
Well if you like high end Canadian forwards, and by now I’m sure you do if you’re this deep into reading this, we’ve got one more for you. Size? Check. Skill? Check. 2019 NHL Entry Draft eligible? Check. Cozens joins Dach and Krebs as yet another skilled forward who can dazzle with his play. Cozens, currently playing for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL, is primed to make an NHL team very happy next June.
From our friend Steve Kournianos, aka the Draft Analyst: “The WHL Rookie of the Year had an impressive second half, including the postseason where he averaged nearly a point per game. Cozens has a great shot and knows how to finish in a variety of ways, including roofing a backhander from in close. He competes hard in all three zones and creates separation in open ice thanks to his above-average speed. Cozens also can serve as a low-slot option on the power play.
A defenseman! And a damn good one at that. Byram is most likely going to be the first defenseman off the board next June. While the 2018 draft had a gluttony of puck moving d–men, this upcoming year seems to be the year of the forward and Byram could be the lone blue-liner taken in the top ten. With that being said, whoever takes the chance on Byram will be rewarded as the kid has top pair upside and has a bit of a nasty streak in him as well. Don’t underestimate this kid’s hockey mind either as he knows how to control the game from the back end.
From our friend Steve Kournianos, aka the Draft Analyst: “Tough-as-nails defender with deceptive agility and puck handling who is earmarked for a top pairing at the NHL level. Byram is an outstanding puck mover who makes good decisions, but his powerful back skating helps him retreat in time to thwart counterattacks. He stands up at his blue line and rapidly transitions from defense to offense.