With the first day of the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup Tournament in the books, there was plenty of great action across the day starting with Finland’s 5-1 beat down on the Americans, followed by the 4-3 nail biter between a big Swedish side and a young and skilled Swiss team. The Russians overpowered a weak Slovakian team 5-2, and the Canadians beat the co-host Czech Republic 3-1 (The game can be watched here on Youtube).
After watching the games and going through the score sheets the players I thought stood-out were:
Jacob Cederholm (Sweden): The highly touted 2016 draft eligible put on a great showcase against the Swiss, starting off with his game winning goal in the final 30 second of the game. Not only did he put the final stamp on the game but he was a brick wall. The 6’3 defenseman who is currently ranked 25th by Hockeyprospects.com showed off his physical stature and his defensive abilities throughout this game. He was a wall that the Swiss always had to climb when attempting to skate into the zone and was arguably the best Swedish player today.
Otto Makinen (Finland): Another 2016 eligible who had a great opening day. Putting up a 3 point performance against the Americans which included 2 goals and 1 assist. With above average size at 6’1, looked very good despite not being ranked by any of the scouting services, he showed his patience and his shooting abilities in a 5-1 victory over the US.
Alexander Nylander (Sweden): The brother of William Nylander put on a great showing. Played a really dynamic, but smart game against the Swiss and put up a good 2 point performance. Played a huge part of the Swedish power play and looked a lot like his skilled brother in the offensive zone. Still, I think he needs to work a bit on his defensive game. Nevertheless, it was a great opening day showing by futureconsiderations.com’s 14th ranked player.
Nico Hischier (Switzerland): One of the youngest players on an already young Swiss side, as he is not eligible until 2017, Hischier scored the opening goal of the game as he outbattled SWE defender Jacob Moverare in the corner before the getting the puck back on the half wall and firing the puck off the goalie’s blocker, on the PP. Hischier showed off his wide range of skill, as well as his hard working compete level. He really showed that he deserves to play against the older players. I’m looking forward to this kid next season.
Ilya Avramenko (Russia): Playing against a weak Slovakian side allowed this small forward to show off his abilities. Putting up a goal and an assist today, he played a huge part in the 5-2 win for Russia. Avramenko skates really well and uses his small size to get by defenders and open up ice, which allows him the time to show off his puck handling.
Libor Hajek (Czech Republic): Although he did not put up any points he did have a bad penalty after the play… The 6’2 196lbs defender was the best player on the Czech side (IMO). He handled the Canadian fore-check well and was able to show off his defensive abilities. Personally I think he’s one of the better defensive defenseman going into this year’s draft. With that being said he does need to work on his offensive abilities and discipline, but against Canada today he was a huge part of why the game was kept close.
Adam Brizgala (Czech Republic): The only goalie on this list goes to the Czech starter. Another 2016 draft eligible who currently sits at 6’0 209lbs. He saved 37 of 40 the shots he faced from a strong Canadian side which left him with a .925 SVG%. Big in stature and quite mobile in his crease, Brizgala made a big stop on Nolan Patrick’s penalty shot which kept the game within one.
Michael McLeod (Canada): The Mississauga Steelhead’s top 2016 eligible forward really showcased why he is on this deep Canadian team. McLeod showed off his physical upside and how he uses his 6’2 200lbs frame to fend off the other team’s players in the corner, and on the wall. He played a huge part on Dillon Dube’s shorthanded goal as he made a hit at the blue line which allowed him to send Dube alone on a breakaway. A player who I think will rise up the ranking this year, I’d love to see him round out his skating abilities though.
Tyler Benson (Canada): The final player of the day is probably the highest ranked player on this list. Ranked at 7th by FC, 27th by HockeyProspect, and 14th by DraftGeek, the 6’0 forward of the Vancouver Giants had a good game. Benson had a couple of chances on Brizgala, and sprung a breakaway on a good backhand feed. He showed good awareness and great abilities with the puck today. He did not put up a points against the Czechs but his hard work did not go unrecognized.
Day 2 of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial will feature two early games that include two 1-0 teams as Russia plays Finland, and another 1-0 team in Canada as they play Switzerland who look bounce back. Later on, the games include the two bottom teams in group B facing off in USA vs Slovakia, and as well as co-host team Czech Republic taking on Sweden. I expect a good showcase from Canada’s Jake Bean and a bounce back game from the Americans.
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