Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol discusses the team’s Game 7 and playoff series win over the Colorado Avalanche, saying “who cares?” when asked about critics and doubters going into and during the best-of-seven bout.
Semifinal Saturday resulted in two lopsided results here in Basel, Switzerland, as Team USA rolled over Team Slovakia by a score of 7-1 and Team Sweden beat Canada 7-2. It’s fitting that the two best teams in the tournament are set to face-off Sunday in the gold medal game, while Canada and Slovakia battle for bronze.
Here are some of my observations:
• The Americans’ top line (Ryan Leonard, Will Smith and Gabe Perreault) have combined to score 21 goals and 21 assists in six games. They are the top three scorers at the tournament.
• Team USA’s starting goaltender, Trey Augustine, is the third ranked North American goaltender for the draft. The more I watch him, the more he impresses me. He made several key stops in the win over Slovakia. His lateral tracking is quicker than his counterparts (Carson Bjarnason and Michael Hrabal) who are ranked ahead of him heading to the draft in Nashville. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Augustine selected ahead of the other two.
• There’s another Hutson on the radar. Last year the Montreal Canadiens selected Lane Hutson in the second round and the 2024 draft will see Lane’s younger brother, Cole Hutson, drafted early in the proceedings. He’s a lot like his brother, a take charge offensive juggernaut who leans transitional “D” and power play quarterback. Here are his stats at the tournament so far:
• When Team Slovakia is producing offence, the puck is going through Dalibor Dvorsky. He continues to show well at the tournament. Dvorsky will be selected in the top 20 of the upcoming NHL draft. Some scouts believe his skating, on straight lines, needs to go to another level. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I also feel his mechanics are sound. If he puts in the work, he should be able to get another 10-15 per cent out of his open ice separation in time. He’s been slippery, otherwise, and consistently found pucks in high danger scoring areas the entire tournament. I will be watching closely to see how motivated he, and Team Slovakia, are to close out the U18 with a bronze medal.
Here are Dvorsky’s stats heading into the bronze medal game versus Canada:
• I can’t understate how impressed I have been with Team Sweden’s captain Otto Stenberg. He has carried the team offensively and plays a competitive, 200-foot game. He’s difficult to defend in small areas due to his somewhat compact frame, and the fact he has an exceptionally strong core to go along with fantastic balance. Stenberg isn’t shy about ripping pucks on net from all angles. He also battles his way to the crease area looking for tips and rebounds. I originally thought Stenberg would be selected between 28-32 in the first round. I now believe he is more likely to go between 12-18. Here’s what Stenberg has accomplished so far at the U18:
• The tournament has been disjointed for Team Canada. They haven’t really established a consistent identity as a group. They’ve endured some lopsided losses and walked away with some wins the same way. They were the second-best team, by a wide margin, in their semifinal loss versus Sweden. They had chances to make the game closer on the power play – Team Canada had two five-minute man advantages – but were unable to capitalize.
• Matthew Wood is the leading draft eligible scorer for Team Canada. He’s been a net front presence on the power play and shown he can extend plays along the wall. Wood leans power forward on projection. He has solid puck skill and the ability to make plays under the sticks of opponents. He’s more of a shooter, in my opinion, than distributor but he does make some sneaky small area plays that surprise opponents. One area Wood needs to work on is his agility. Defending in his zone can be a challenge when smaller players are twisting and turning off his check, especially when his team is playing man vs man coverage. His containing/fronting his check has been exposed at times.
• It will be interesting to see how motivated Team Canada is in the bronze medal game against Team Slovakia as well. This is the last chance for most of these players to impress scouts before the draft. It speaks to a player’s character how he prepares for a game like this after being focused on playing for a gold medal 24 hours earlier.