Even less than two months after watching Jack Hughes selected first overall by the New Jersey Devils, scouts and prospect evaluators are already hard at work putting together their boards for the 2020 draft class. One of the premier tournaments for the following year’s prospects is the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, an international tournament that happens in August before junior seasons get underway. Tomorrow will mark the gold medal game between Canada and Russia after the two countries have had perfect records so far.
To get the Canadians there, top 2020 prospect Cole Perfetti put on a show against Sweden. The 17-year old forward scored twice on breakaways during regulation and then converted three times in the shootout including the game-winning goal. In international play the shootout winner is credited with a goal, meaning Perfetti’s hat-trick takes him to eight goals on the tournament—tying the record set by Vancouver Canucks draft pick Vasily Podkolzin last year. Playing for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL in 2018-19, Perfetti recorded 37 goals and 74 points as a rookie which already had him at the top of many early rankings. His performance at the tournament will only help his cause and put him among the first few names selected next spring.
Canada has also received outstanding performances from Jamie Drysdale—who may end up as the top available defenseman next June—and Hendrix Lapierre, and looks like it will have an impressive wave of prospects coming through in the next few years. This team doesn’t even include Alexis Lafreniere, who currently projects as the top overall pick. Lafreniere captained the Canadians at the tournament last summer and recorded 11 points in five games.
For Russia, the scoring has been driven by Alexander Pashin who has five goals in four games but the real story has been goaltending. Yaroslav Askarov has allowed just three goals on 87 shots and continues his absolute dominance on the international stage. Following Spencer Knight’s selection 13th overall in June, Askarov may well be the next goaltender to go in the top half of the first round.
Elsewhere around the tournament have been solid performances by undersized Finnish forward Roni Hirvonen who had five points in four games and Swedish star Daniel Ljungman who also scored twice in the shootout against Canada and has four goals in four games.
USA Hockey had quite the disappointing tournament, especially after all the international success the program has experienced over the last several years. The team lost to the Czech Republic in overtime today to finish sixth.