NHL Draft: Canada, Finland Boast Strong Classes


The Ivan Hlinka Memorial U18 Tournament is a great opportunity for prospects eligible for the upcoming draft to showcase their skills and prove their worth. Over the preliminary rounds, Canada and Finland have come out as the nations with the best skaters for the 2016 NHL Draft.

Finland has dominated the teams they have played with relentless offensive power. Canada has handled their opponents very well with an all-around game.

The US was no match for Finland as they cruised by to a 5 to 1 victory. Their toughest test came with Slovakia. Finland won the game 4 to 2, but still had numerous chances to increase their lead. Wednesday Finland rolled past Russia in a 3-0 shutout.

In all three games, Finland has been consistently better than the opposition when it comes to offensive play. They use their offensive game to prevent the competition from creating their own chances in their end.

The Fins have received game changing plays from draft prospects like Otto Somppi, Otto Mäkinen, Janne Kuokkanen, and especially Aapeli Räsänen.

Räsänen, 17, is a bit of a bigger forward at 6’0″ and 196 lbs. He uses his frame to his advantage by outworking his man from the outside, cutting to the inside and making slick passes to the open man. While playing with Tappara, playmaking has always been a strong suit. While with the U18 club he tacked on 21 assists in 36 games. Räsänen is now using the Hlinka tourney to show scouts how he can dish the puck with ease.

This is an excellent example of what Räsänen brings to the ice. He beats the man trailing him with his body, then makes a terrific pass to Tuulola.

This pass from Räsänen has been one of the best in the tourney so far. A crazy saucer pass from across the ice. Otto Somppi does a nice job here of recognizing the opportunity and coming off the boards.

Team Canada has scored 14 goals in their 3 games so far in this tournament. This was highly influenced by their 9 goal effort on Wednesday against Switzerland.

During their 3 game start, Canada has played a similar style to Finland where they have used a competitive offense as a good defense; however, their physical play has been superior.

Michael McLeod has been one of the best players on the ice, for either team, so far. Protecting the puck and out-working the opponent have been noteworthy skills the Mississauga Steelhead has used during the first three games. TheScout.ca explains his other strengths and weaknesses.

"“A high potential forward who has the tools to be one of the best players in the age group. The MVP of the 2014 OHL Cup where he lead his team to a provincial championship. A puck possession pivot with soft hands and incredible elusiveness. Protects the puck superbly, aided by smart body positioning. A magnificent skater with elite acceleration, balance, and edge control. Masterful at taking advantage of his second gear and gaining the inside edge on defenders. Slick puck handler, has quick hands in tight and an ability to paralyse opponents with his one-on-one moves. Elite weapon is his dynamic wrist shot and unpredictable release point, one that keeps goaltenders guessing. Puts quick, soft feeds on the tape, both fore and backhand, and can carve up defences with inspired no look set ups. Too passive defensively, struggles to stay involved in the game when the puck is in his defensive zone. Can be puck focused, suffers bouts of tunnel vision, attempting to skate through his opponents and not utilizing his teammates. Must continue to physically mature, adding depth and strength to a somewhat thin frame.” – Sean Lafortune, TheScout.ca"

Another prospect that has played with the same style has been Brandon Wheat King Nolan Patrick.

Tyson Jost showed up a bit late in the tournament but came in with a bang by scoring a hat trick on Wednesday in Canada’s 9-2 win against the Swiss.

Canada and Finland both enter the semifinals on Friday. Finland will take on Sweden and Canada will be playing Russia.