The Blackhawks leaped up nine spots to the No. 3 spot in the NHL draft during last month’s draft lottery. The shift from No. 12 to No. 3 gave the Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and his scouting staff added incentive to attend the under-18 World Championship for an up close look at draft-eligible players.
The Devils and Rangers are projected to select American forward Jack Hughes and Finnish winger Kappo Kakko, respectively, with top two picks in the NHL draft June 22 in Vancouver. The Blackhawks pick at No. 3 is anyone’s guess, but it appears they’ll draft a forward based them drafting three defensemen in the first round in the past two years.
There’s a group of forwards that have separated themselves from the pack and emerged as candidates for the Blackhawks at No. 3. Most of those players participated at the U18 World Championship, where host Sweden defeated Russia 4-3 on Sunday to win gold for the first time. The United States secured their 16th-consecutive medal with a 5-2 victory against Canada in the bronze-medal game.
United States: Cole Caufield (RW), Alex Turcotte (C), Trevor Zegras (LW/C)
Caufield shined the most among the American trio with a tournament-high 14 goals along with four assists for 18 points, which ranked second only to Jack Hughes in the tournament. Caufield’s 14 goals tied Alex Ovechkin’s tournament record from 2002 and surpassed Phil Kessel and Brett Sterling’s American record of nine goals in the tournament. Caufield, a 5-foot-7 sniper committed to Wisconsin, has drawn comparisons to Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat based on his size and scoring prowess. Caufield was recently ranked eighth among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s final draft rankings.
Turcotte, another Wisconsin commit, scored four goals and five assists. The Island Lake, Illinois native has a bigger frame (5-11, 185 pounds) than Caufield and plays a more complete 200-foot game. He was ranked fourth among NA skaters in NCS’ final rankings.
Zegras, who played at left wing on the top line alongside Hughes and Caufield, didn’t find the back of the net, but he was a facilitator with nine assists in only five games. The Boston University commit Zegras plays a two-way game and creates scoring chances for himself and teammates in space. He was ranked sixth among NA skaters in NCS’ final rankings.
Canada: Dylan Cozens (C), Peyton Krebs (LW/C)
Cozens is one of the favorites among Blackhawks fans to be picked by the team based on his speed, compete level and size (6-3, 181 pounds). He had nine points (four goals, five assists) for Canada and only trailed Krebs in team scoring. Cozens is ranked No. 5 among NA skaters by NCS.
Team Canada ties it up late in the first period on a nice play from Dylan Cozens. He goes give-and-go with Alex Newhook and beats Spencer Knight glove side. #U18Worlds #NTDP pic.twitter.com/OkEURSYhEo— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) April 28, 2019
Krebs, the Canadian captain, led the team in scoring with 10 points (six goals, four assists). Like Zegras, Krebs can play at center or wing. Krebs, who was one of the few bright spots for a bad Kootenay team in the WHL this past season, was ranked No. 10 among NA skaters by NCS and would be a surprise pick by the Blackhawks.
Russia: Vasili Podkolzin (RW)
Podkolzin didn’t have the tournament one would hope to see on the scoresheet, with only one goal — coming in the gold-medal game — and three assists overall. Even though he didn’t produce as many points as expected, he did display his speed and ability to generate scoring chances. The main downside to Chicago selecting Podkolzin is the fact that he has two years remaining on his KHL contract with SKA St. Petersburg. He’s ranked No. 2 behind Kakko among European skaters by NCS.