2021 Hlinka Gretzky Preview

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup kicks off today at 9:30 am EST/3:30 pm local time (Breclav, Czech Republic and Piešťany, Slovakia). Each match can be streamed and for the a list of the matches, please visit https://hlinkagretzkycup.cz/eng/zapasy.asp. If you click on the TV icon, you will be re-directed to the stream. 

The clubs participating in the tournament are Germany, Finland, Czech Republic, Russia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States. Canada backed out of this year’s tournament. In lieu of Canada backing out, the German squad has taken their spot.

Below are scouting notes from our Smaht Scouting team on quite a few of the top 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospects participating in the tournament. In addition, we’ve also included one 2023 NHL Draft eligible prospect and one 2024 NHL Draft eligible prospect to keep your eye on.

2022 NHL Draft Prospects

Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Russia

Notes from Tobias Pettersson

High intense goal scoring winger who has one of the best shots in the upcoming draft. He’s very good on the forecheck and forces plenty of turnovers. Had a good U18s in Michkov’s shadow scoring 6 goals in 7 games. He has a solid frame at 6’1”/185 lbs and scores goals from everywhere. He uses his quick first step to create separation and has the high end skating and stick-handling to make use of that separation. I like everything about his shot, from his quick release to his excellent one timer.

Šimon Nemec, RHD, Slovakia

Notes from Josh Tessler

Nemec has top 15 (draft selection) potential written all over him. He deploys excellent gap control in the corners. Can be quite physical. Put a tremendous amount of upper body strength into his physical play. Nemec pushes into attackers down low and knows the precise time to extend his stick-blade out to capture possession mid body-check. He does an outstanding job with man on man defensive coverage in the neutral zone when defending attackers cutting through the middle. His offensive game is coming along nicely as well and does a solid job toeing the line and distributing the puck on the power-play. In addition, he looks to create re-direction or rebound goal opportunities for his teammates in medium and/or high danger.

Joakim Kemell, RW, Finland

Notes from Jordan Malette

Kemell is a highly skilled winger who possesses a lethal wrist shot that he leverages to fill the back of the net. He has an incredible set of hands that allow him to beat defenders, open up space for himself, and create highlight reel goals. You can routinely see him carrying the puck with speed through the neutral zone and using head fakes and quick dekes to open up a lane and easily enter the zone. Joakim will surely be an exciting player to watch at the tournament and also throughout the season as he suits up alongside fellow top 2021 draft-eligible Brad Lambert with JYP in the Liiga.

Filip Bystedt, C, Sweden

Notes from Alexander Appleyard

Bystedt is a big pivot who can out-skate, out-shoot, and out-muscle most players his age. For a big man he has a nice set of hands and is impressive at carrying the puck up the middle and through the neutral zone. Off the rush he is extremely dangerous. Not only can he carry the puck well and make defensemen get on their heels, but when presented with a good shot opportunity he rarely misses. He can shoot from anywhere and has a good release. Works hard defensively and a solid if unexceptional passer.

Noah Östlund, C, Sweden

Notes from Alexander Appleyard

The young Swede will be a fan favourite wherever he goes in his career. Not only does he have high-end skill, but he plays an intense, 200 ft brand of hockey to boot. Östlund has an impressive ability to get space in the offensive zone. He constantly works to find space, and as a result creates high-danger chances for team-mates as well as setting himself up for good looks on a regular basis. He also has an impressive shot, both with his wrist and one-timer, which helps him capitalise in the locations he finds himself in. With the puck on his stick on the cycle he has his head up constantly, surveying the ice to find a perfect pass, which he is often capable of making.

Elias Salomonsson, RHD, Sweden

Notes from Alexander Appleyard

For a defenseman who is still sixteen Salomonsson is about as complete as can be. He has all the fundamentals to be a top four down the line. Not only is he a plus skater who can move the puck up ice well, he is also physically developed for his age and defends his blue-line well. Salomonsson is not the kind of player to regularly “wow” you, but he does all the little things right. This, combined with a high hockey IQ and excellent technical skills, means he can dictate the game when on ice. His passing a puck skills are also high-end.

Lian Bichsel, LHD, Switzerland

Notes from Jordan Malette

Bichsel played a substantial role for the Swiss at the U18 World Championship as one of the few 2004 born players on the team, so expect nothing else at the Hlinka. He is a big defender that has solid defensive instincts, especially when defending the rush. Lian likes to control the puck in all areas of the ice, but especially in the offensive zone, where he isn’t afraid to use his strong shot from the point. Bichsel has an intriguing combination of size and skill, but refinements to his skating are required to be considered a top defender in this class.

Hugo Hävelid, G, Sweden

Notes from Josh Tessler

Hävelid is the twin brother of fellow Linköping teammate, Mattias Hävelid. The last time that Hugo was measured per EliteProspects, he came in at 5’10”/174 lbs. But, that was likely prior to the 2020-2021 season and he could have grown quite possibly to 6’0” since. While Hävelid isn’t the tallest goaltender, don’t judge the book by it’s cover. He possesses a quality glove and has shown to capture glove saves no matter if he is facing shots from high, medium or low danger. Hävelid is an excellent puck tracking goaltender and utilizes quality edges/pivots when looking to properly align himself with the puck carrier. In addition, he controls rebounds extremely well as he pushes quite a few of them to low danger and reacts quickly to shots. Drops to the ice at a quick rate and that allows him to complete pad saves with ease. 

Mattias Hävelid, RHD, Sweden

Notes from Jordan Malette

Mattias Hävelid, twin brother of Hugo, is an offensive defenseman who thrives with the puck on his stick. He displays tremendous confidence when carrying the puck up the ice and doesn’t hesitate to jump up in the rush when the opportunity presents itself. Mattias was a regular on Sweden’s power-play at the U18 Word Championship a few months ago, so watch out for him to take on a more significant role in this tournament as he is now among the oldest of the age group.

Filip Mesar, RW, Slovakia

Notes from Matthew Somma

Mesar stands out as one of the smartest players when he is on the ice. He excels at finding gaps in defensive coverage and exploits them to create offensive opportunities. His high-end hockey sense and skating make Mesar one of the more exciting players on the ice. Mesar looked confident at the top level in Slovakia this past season, so I’m excited to see what he can do against some of the best players in his age group.

Juraj Slafkovsky, F, Slovakia

Notes from Josh Tessler

At the 2021 World Juniors, there was a lot of hype around Slafkovsky and rightfully so. He’s a big power forward at 6’4”/218 lbs. Slafkovsky implements quality pressure on the forecheck and the back-check. Well-rounded puck hungry forward. In the offensive zone, he loves to sit at net-front or in medium danger, get open and pepper pucks on net. 

While he has the frame and the upper body strength to be tough to handle for puck carriers, when he is in possession of the puck he has a tough time with puck security. His stick-handling is still under development. When Slafkovsky faces man-on-man defense, he struggles to swerve the puck around pressure and get to the crease. If he can work on rounding out his stick-handling, his offensive upside will be extremely high.

Julian Lutz, F, Germany

Notes from Paul Zuk

The 6’2″, 180lbs forward from Red Bull Akademie Juniors in the Alps HL enjoyed a fairly successful DY-1 season, with play spanning across four separate leagues in Austria. Lutz spent the majority of the season in the Alps HL, where he racked up 26 points in 31 games. He seems to be next in line to the German talent pipeline which has produced some excellent names as of late, so look for Lutz to build on his successful DY-1 season, as well as a strong U18’s for Germany this past April.

Lutz is a talented forward who is a skilled passer, and can play an effective 200 foot game. He can provide a significant amount of offence, and is quite physical when needed. His best attribute may be his skating, which he uses to exploit open ice and pressure opponents with the puck. Lutz’ development will certainly be interesting to watch at the Ivan Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he’ll be a standout on the German squad.

Jackson Dorrington, LHD, USA

Notes from Paul Zuk

Dorrington hails from North Reading, MA and spent last season with the Boston Jr. Bruins in the NCHC, where he was one of the better defenders in the league. He scored two goals and added 18 assists for 20 points in 33 games. He also suited up for two contests with the USNTDP U17 squad last season, and will be seeing a good chunk of ice for the NDTP this upcoming season. In addition to playing for the USNTDP, this will be Dorrington’s first international tournament suiting up for the USA.

Dorrington is a very smooth skater, especially for someone with his 6’2″, 192 lbs. frame. He’s also a very physical defender who will punish opponents when given the chance. Dorrington’s shot has the potential to be quite lethal when given the time and space to release it, and is quite accurate at picking open spots in the net from distance. It’s yet to be seen how he fares against older and more skilled opponents, but look for Dorrington to be an intriguing player for Team USA over the course of the tournament.

Sergei Ivanov, G, Russia

Notes from Josh Tessler

Ivanov has outstanding athleticism to counteract quick puck movement. Has good side-to-side speed, especially when he is in the butterfly. The Russian net-minder can create glove stop after glove stop on shots from low danger. When he’s facing shots from medium danger and high danger, Ivanov will struggle with his five hole at times. He’ll cough up a little too much room with his five hole. But, in general, he protects the post well in all-situations when in the butterfly. He doesn’t feel the need to overlap the posts as his pads sit right at the post and don’t open up gaps too often.

Servác Petrovsky, C, Slovakia

Notes from Paul Zuk

Petrovsky is one of several 2004-born Slovakians making quite the noise overseas in the various Slovak leagues. The Velky Saris, SVK native was forced to play in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic due to COVID league shutdowns this season, but Petrovsky tore it up playing for the U18 Slovak National Team in the Second Tier Slovakian League. He recorded 16 goals and 16 assists for 32 points in 26 games. Petrovsky signed with the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack this past week, and will be looking to light up the OHL in 2021/22.

The 5’11” 168 lbs. center certainly has a nose for the net, and possesses a shot that is utilized from pretty much anywhere on the ice, with a high level of success. He has very good passing skills, and his vision allows him to pinpoint teammates in the offensive zone and provide them high danger scoring chances. Look for Petrovsky to link up with Adam Zlnka and Adam Sykora to form one very potent Slovak line at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Matyas Sapovaliv, F, Czech Republic

Notes from Matthew Somma

Sapovaliv skates well for a player that is six-foot-four and has the tools that could make him an NHL power forward. Sapovaliv isn’t a bruiser but he does use his physicality on the forecheck and in puck battles. I’ll be interested to see what makes Sapovaliv stand out in this tournament. The size and skating alone are enough to warrant a late-round selection for some teams, but he’ll need to show more than just that to move up on the draft board.

Pavel Bocharov, RHD, USA

Notes from Matthew Somma

Bocharov wants to be involved in the offensive zone. He’ll attack the puck along the boards, join the rush, and even try and sneak into the slot to catch defenders napping. There are times when he acts more like a forward than a defenseman, even. Bocharov is a mobile defenseman that has some raw skills to make him a possible draft pick, but his defensive play and creativity leave much to be desired at this point in his development. I’ll be curious to see if he’s on the United States’ power-play.

2023 / 2024 NHL Draft Eligible Prospects

Matvei Michkov, RW, Russia

Notes from Tobias Pettersson

He’s coming off a historic MHL season where he broke Nikita Kucherov’s scoring record, worth noting that Michkov was about 6 months younger than Kucherov at the time. He’s not the biggest at 5’10”/159 lbs but he doesn’t shy away from the tough areas as most of his goals are scored from in close where he uses his low center of gravity in combination with his elite hands.

Elite offensive talent who does it all, both a prolific goal scorer and an excellent playmaker. He’s one of the most agile skaters I’ve ever seen using his elite edge-work to always give himself space, the only thing he lacks in his skating is pure straight line speed.

Adam Jecho, F, Czech Republic

Notes from Josh Tessler

There isn’t a ton of video on 15 year old Adam Jecho and most of the video I’ve seen of him is gameplay against 17 year olds. Jecho is still developing the necessary speed to compete at a high level and he’s not quite on the same level as several 17 year olds. But, he is getting there. With that being said, he can be a tad slow on the forecheck and reacts a tad slower on the back-check when matching up against 17 year olds. But, he possesses soft hands and can completely silky smooth passes to medium danger/the slot. In pre-tournament play against the United States, he scored a re-direction gaol off of a pass from Matej Prčík. Hopefully we will see quite a few goals from Jecho at the Hlinka Gretzky as he looks to make his mark on the world stage.

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