Under-18 World Championship Preview

McKeen's Hockey
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This is a very exciting week for NHL Draft watchers with the IIHF 2021 U18 World Championship kicking off this Sunday, April 26th in Frisco and Plano, Texas. In a much-abbreviated season, compounded by the very fresh news today that the OHL season is now cancelled entirely, this will be a critical opportunity to see how the top players for the 2021 NHL Draft will compete against the best of their peer group. The stakes will be high for the eligible prospects in this most unusual year and should provide for some outstanding hockey.

The tournament is noteworthy for a number of exceptionally talented underage players that will be appearing. They are not eligible until the 2022 and 2023 NHL Drafts, but are already creating headlines, including phenom Connor Bedard, lighting it up the WHL at 15-years-old and Shane Wright, favored to be picked first overall in 2022. Brock Otten profiles ten underage players that can make an impact in the tournament.

The U18’s will feature many top prospects for the current 2021 NHL Draft and McKeen’s will provide extensive previews of the teams and the players to watch starting Thursday, April 22nd at mckeenshockey.com for subscribers. We are also just about to drop our second NHL Draft ranking ahead of the tournament, expanding the list to 64 players. It is a great time to subscribe as we head into the heart of draft season. Your subscription will include three months' worth of great content, but also a PDF download of our annual McKeen’s 2021 NHL Draft Guide magazine, releasing early June for $5.50 CDN a month (A little over $4 US approximately). Learn more by linking here

Also in this week’s column, Chapin Landvogt reports from overseas with a profile of 2021 NHL Draft eligible Brennan Othmann, who was one of several OHL players who opted to play in Europe, and now looking prescient given today's announcement. He returns in time to play for Canada in the IIHF U18 tournament and looking to bolster his draft stock. Our previous 2021 NHL Draft profiles are provided in links at the bottom of the article.

The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com

Prospects in the News: Outstanding group of 2022 and 2023 NHL Draft hopefuls add excitement to IIHF U18 World Championship

By Brock Otten

We are about a week away from puck drop at the IIHF World Under 18 Hockey Championships in Texas, so naturally, we believe it to be a good idea to acclimate you with some of the top names to be familiar with. Over the coming week, you are likely to hear a lot about Brandt Clarke, Chaz Lucius, Simon Edvinsson, Dylan Guenther, Fabian Lysell, and some of the other potential Top 10 selections for the 2021 NHL Draft. However, this tournament is often also a great introduction to some of the other future stars of this game as they suit up for their country in hopes of impressing NHL scouts for future NHL drafts. We are talking about the potential top selections of the 2022 or 2023 NHL Drafts who stand to play an integral role as underage or double underager players.

Throughout the history of the U18’s, several superstars have used this tournament as a springboard to further spotlight and hype. In 2002, a 16-year-old Alex Ovechkin led team Russia to a silver medal after scoring 14 goals in eight games (a tournament record that he shares with Cole Caufield). Who beat Ovechkin and the Russians that year? A United States team led by 17-year-old defenseman Ryan Suter. A callup from the U17 team at the time, he ended up being named the tournament’s top defender. The last time Canada won gold at the U18’s, 2013, a 16-year-old Connor McDavid led the tournament in scoring. Vezina trophy winners Andrei Vasilevskiy and Tuukka Rask played in three and two U18 tournaments respectively, both starting for their countries (Russia and Finland) as underagers. The point being the IIHF World Under 18’s are about more than just current draft eligible players.

This list aims to highlight some of the very best 2004 and 2005 born players you can expect to see at this year’s tournament.

Shane Wright - Team Canada - Center

Born: January 5, 2004

NHL Draft Eligible: 2022

Granted exceptional status to play in the OHL with the Kingston Frontenacs at 15-years-old, Wright is a superstar in the making who is the frontrunner to go first overall in the 2022 NHL Draft. Last season with Kingston, Wright surpassed Connor McDavid’s point per game mark (at 1.14) from his U16 OHL season and even was given an ‘A’ for the Frontenacs, a testament to his character at such a young age. While he has not yet played this season due to the OHL hiatus, Wright is expected to be the first line center for this Canadian team and part of its leadership group.

Wright is about as complete of a center as you will find. There really is not a weakness in his game. He already excels as a dominant two-way player because of his elite level IQ and processing ability but is also capable of electrifying offensive plays because of his dynamic skating ability and puck skill. Look for him to have a huge tournament.

Connor Bedard - Team Canada - Center

Born: July 17, 2005

NHL Draft Eligible: 2023

The first player (along with fellow 2005 Brayden Yager) to be granted exceptional status to play in the WHL as a 15-year-old, Bedard has thus far lived up to the hype. The talented Regina Pats center was leading the WHL in scoring before leaving for the U18’s, averaging nearly two points per game. Of all the players granted the opportunity to play in the CHL at 15 years of age, only Sidney Crosby managed to lead his league in scoring; a remarkable feat.

The expectations being placed on Bedard for this tournament are probably unfair. Many are pointing to McDavid leading Canada to gold (as previously mentioned) in his double underage performance at this event and expecting the same from Bedard. That said, he is certainly capable of filling those shoes. Bedard is an elite level play creator due to his speed and skill combination. Equal parts goal scorer and playmaker, he commands attention on the ice because of how he can create goals out of nothing and elevate the play of those around him. It will be exhilarating to see how he elevates his game at this tournament.

Rutger McGroarty - Team USA - Center

Born: March 30, 2004

NHL Draft Eligible: 2022

One of five U.S. players promoted from the U17’s to the U18’s for the tournament, McGroarty has actually been seeing consistent action with the U18 team for a while now due to injuries, performing admirably. The tenacious center was a standout with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies program a year ago and the Honeybaked program before that (where he has been a consistent teammate of injured U17 defender Hunter Brzustewicz). This season in the USHL, McGroarty was one of four U17 players to average over a point per game (along with Howard, Cooley, and Frank Nazar, who was not promoted to the U18 team for this tournament).

As mentioned, McGroarty is a feisty, power center who is at his best when he is driving the middle of the ice and crashing the net. He is adept at creating space for himself and his ability to drive time of possession makes him an outstanding playmaker. McGroarty’s already polished and complete game made him a shoe in to be included in this event, given that he has the strength to matchup against and succeed against older competition.

Isaac Howard - Team USA - Left Wing

Born: March 30, 2004

NHL Draft Eligible: 2022

The current leading scorer of the U17 prior to the U18’s, Howard is an offensive standout. Like McGroarty, he has also seen significant time up with the U18’s this year and has averaged over a point per game on that team too. As a winger, he probably has the greatest probability of making a significant impact of the five promoted U17 players at this tournament.

A former standout for the Shattuck St. Mary’s program, Howard is a University of Minnesota-Duluth commit. Do not let the assist totals at the U18 level this year fool you, Howard is the elite goal scorer of the U17 crop. A strong skater, Howard is also a highly intelligent player who consistently finds the soft spots in coverage and has a deep understanding of how to play away from the puck in the offensive zone. Look for him to be a solid complementary piece for this U.S. team at the event.

Logan Cooley - Team USA - Center

Born: May 4, 2004

NHL Draft Eligible: 2022

Another U17 player averaging over a point per game this season, Cooley is a dominant two-way center who actually may be considered the top draft option from this terrific U17 crop next season thanks to his all around. A Pittsburgh native, Cooley is committed to the University of Notre Dame and is only the start of a strong group of talented young kids from the area who grew up idolizing Sidney Crosby while playing for his “Little Penguins” program.

While his role at this event remains unclear, Cooley’s well-rounded game and effort in all three zones makes him a versatile weapon for Dan Muse and his staff. Blessed with speed and skill to match his IQ, Cooley could play in a variety of situations and excel. Of course, with so many U17 forwards on the roster, the U.S. could also ice a strictly U17 line too.

Matvei Michkov - Team Russia - Right Wing

Born: December 9, 2004

NHL Draft Eligible: 2023

Neck and neck right now with Connor Bedard to be the favorite for the first overall selection in 2023, Michkov is coming off a record-breaking season in the Russian junior league (MHL). His 56 points on the year broke Nikita Kucherov’s record for most points by a U17 player in a season as he finished eighth in MHL scoring. At last year’s Youth Olympic Games (attended by United States, Canada, and other nations), where he matched up against other players on this list, Michkov torched the tournament to the tune of nine goals in four games.

Michkov’s success largely comes from his ability to keep the puck on a string as he carves up opposing defenses. His footwork is tremendous, and it makes him such a difficult player to pin down. As a result, whenever he has the puck, things tend to happen. Russia has had some great prospects in recent years, but no question, Michkov is tracking to be their best since Ovechkin and Malkin. He has a legitimate chance to lead this tournament in scoring...and he is not eligible for the NHL draft until 2023 (due to a late birthday).

Ivan Miroshnichenko - Team Russia - Left Wing

Born: February 4, 2004

NHL Draft Eligible: 2022

One of the top players eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft at this moment, originally Miroshnichenko was denied entry into the United States for this tournament and was not going to be able to play for Team Russia. Interestingly enough, this was the second time his entry had been denied, as he was expected to play for Muskegon in the USHL this year before being rejected. However, it is now being reported that the issue has been resolved and he will play for Russia in Texas.

The talented winger is expected to be a leader offensively for this talented Russian team, likely playing on a line with Michkov, as the two have shown terrific chemistry previously. He possesses blazing speed and a killer instinct as a goal scorer. His shot and aggressiveness in seeking out shooting opportunities has drawn some comparisons to Alex Ovechkin. Look for Miroshnichenko to show that he belongs in the conversation with the likes of Wright and Lambert at the top of this 2022 draft class.

Julian Lutz - Team Germany - Left Wing

Born: February 29, 2004

NHL Draft Eligible: 2022

Germany has really emerged as a burgeoning hockey nation in recent years thanks to stars and potential stars like Leon Draisaitl, Tim Stutzle, Lukas Reichel, JJ Peterka, and Moritz Seider. While the 2021 NHL Draft does not offer anyone of this caliber for the Germans, it appears to be only a small blip on the radar as talented forward Julian Lutz is the next in line for 2022.

Lutz plays at the storied Red Bull Hockey Academy and saw significant action in two different men’s leagues this year (the AlpsHL and the ICEHL). In fact, Lutz became the youngest player to ever suit up for EC Salzburg, stealing that mark from the aforementioned JJ Peterka. His two goals in the ICEHL also allowed him to pass Michael Grabner for the most by a U17 player in the league’s history. Standing at 6’2 already, Lutz is a powerful goal scorer who excels playing between the dots and is already difficult to separate from the puck. If Germany wants to avoid relegation at this event (due to the fact that the 2003 group is not their strongest), Lutz will be key.

Elias Salomonsson - Team Sweden - Defense

Born: August 31, 2004

NHL Draft Eligible: 2022

At this point, Salomonsson looks like a candidate to be the first Swede off the board in 2022 after a very strong season in Sweden. As a 16-year-old, Salomonsson finished fourth in J20 league scoring by defenders (a league whose season was cut short due to COVID). Salomonsson put up the highest point per game rate of any U17 defender in league history (1.07), better than Erik Karlsson (1.00), Rasmus Dahlin (0.92), Adam Boqvist (0.89), and Victor Hedman (0.74). He also became the first 2004 born player to debut in the SHL with Skelleftea.

Obviously, with production like that, you would be correct to guess that Salomonsson profiles as a smooth skating, offensive defender. However, he is more than just a potential powerplay QB because of his exceptional IQ and awareness at both ends. That said, do not be surprised to see Salomonsson quarterbacking the Swedish powerplay already at this tournament, along with top 2021 draft prospect Simon Edvinsson.

Joakim Kemell - Team Finland - Right Wing

Born: April 27, 2004

NHL Draft Eligible: 2022

While all eyes will be on star in the making Brad Lambert at this tournament (who is also 2022 draft eligible because of a later birthday in 2003), Kemell will look to make a name for himself too. Earlier this year he became the first player born in 2004 to score in Liiga action (with JYP). In fact, he was the only 16-year-old to play in the highest tier men’s league this season. The rest of the year was spent with JYP’s U20 team, where he finished top 20 in league scoring, despite his age.

Kemell blends together high-end skating ability, strong puck skill, finishing ability, and physical intensity to be a very well-rounded player for his age. He profiles as an energetic and tenacious goal scoring winger who could easily be the second Finnish player drafted in 2022 behind the aforementioned Brad Lambert. Considering that Kemell outperformed many players on this team in the U20 league this year, do not be surprised if he plays a key role for the Finns.

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2021 NHL Draft Prospect: Productive Swiss adventure has forward Brennan Othmann looking to

verify draft ranking with strong U18 World Championship

By Chapin Landvogt

Brennan Othmann, LW

2020-21 Stats: EHC Olten, SL 34GP-7G-9A-16PTS

As the fall came along and both OHL and WHL seasons were nowhere in sight, a number of draft-eligible North American players, most prominently Canadians, decided to head to Europe to play some form of pro or junior hockey. With a Swiss pass in tow, Brennan Othmann was one of the first players whatsoever to find a spot in Europe and did so by following in the footsteps of his father Gery and uncle Robert, both of whom spent the bulk of their careers playing in Switzerland’s minor pro circuits. The latter even continues to live and coach in Switzerland.

Joining Swiss League EHC Olten, Othmann was welcomed with open arms right from the start by a team very much ready and willing to invest in his development. He was housed by the team’s president, where he was later joined by fellow OHLer and 2021 draft prospect Mason McTavish. Although he was hitting the ice with players up to twice his age or older, his step-by-step development ultimately saw him able to garner a top six role in the team, one that included power play time. The league itself is Switzerland’s second tier pro league and features a good variety of other North American players who have established strong European careers. The team’s two import players, and top scorers, are Canadians Dion Knelsen and Gary Nunn, both of whom were quick to take Othmann under their wing, both on and off the ice.

Now called into duty for Canada’s entry in the upcoming U18 World Championships, Othmann’s season for Olten concluded with him contributing 1-1-2 in a 4-game first round sweep, helping the team advance to the semifinals. In all, Othmann racked up eight goals, 18 points, 64 penalty minutes, and a -2 rating in 38 total games, leaving him tied with McTavish as the league’s top scoring U19 players.

What the scouting community learned about Othmann in Switzerland is that he is a legitimate NHL prospect who will likely be a top 45 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. As with any kid his age, there are plenty of things he’ll need to work on if he wishes to carve out an NHL career, but a lot of the tools that scouts like to see are indeed there and Othmann combines them will a large dose of gumption, a chip on his shoulder, and a real nice thinking man’s noggin. Capable of producing as a goal scorer or set-up man, Othmann’s play over the past few months leave little doubt that he was in line for quite a production boost had there been a “normal” OHL season after having put up 17-16-33 in 55 OHL games for the Flint Firebirds in his rookie year in the circuit.

Armed with both a truly vicious wrist shot and extremely hard and accurate one-timer, the scouting community is now gearing up to see him put his intelligent play and slick ability to set up teammates in strong scoring positions on display for what should be an exciting Team Canada at a U18 World Championship in Texas. In light of everything he’s learned playing in a pro circuit and Othmann’s constant work on understanding and thinking the game, he surely recognizes that this tournament will serve as a more important measuring stick than usual should a summer draft be held as planned. In fact, his adventure abroad in which he basically played a full season of action should give him a bit of an advantage over a number of his opponents at the tournament, many of whom didn’t see anything close to a full regular season, much less at a pro level.

Othmann is one to watch in Texas and a name you can expect to hear at an early stage of the upcoming NHL draft.

PAST NBC EDGE MCKEEN’S 2021 NHL DRAFT PROSPECT REPORTS – In this weekly column we cover an NHL Draft prospect. Check out what we have written to date here listed by our most recent ranking.

#1 - Matthew Beniers C, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’1” 175 lbs

#2 – Owen Power, D, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’6” 215 lbs

#3 – Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP U18, D, 6’2” 175 lbs

#4 - Jesper Wallstedt G, Lulea, Sweden, G, 6’3” 200lbs

#5 – Simon Edvinsson, D, Vasteras, Allvenskan, 6’5”, 200lbs

#6 - Brandt Clarke, D, Nove Zamky, Slovakia, D, 6’1” 180 lbs

#7 – Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton, WHL, 6’0” 170lbs

#9 – Aatu Raty, D, Kärpät, Liiga, Finland, 6’2” 185lbs

#10 – William Eklund, LW-C, Djurgårdens IF,SHL, Sweden, 5’10, 175lbs

#11 – Carson Lambos, D, JYP, Finland, 6’0, 200lbs

#12 - Kent Johnston, C, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’1” 170 lbs

#16- Brennan Othmann, LW, EHC Olten, SL 34GP-7G-9A-16PTS