Who to Watch at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup

Tomorrow, the hockey season starts as the latest edition of the u18 international tournament known as the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup begins. If you don’t know much about this tournament, let us get you caught up before previewing the 2016 version.

From the Ivan Hlinka Memorial website itself:

“The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, formerly known as the Junior World Cup and Pacific Cup, has been held annually since 1991, with the first tournament being held in Japan. Since 1997, the tournament has taken place in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, although only since 2002 has the tournament been held in both countries simultaneously.

Involving players under the age of eighteen, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup is the premier showcase for hockey talent from Europe and overseas. The teams that regularly feature in the tournament are: Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. In the past, the tournament has helped introduce the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos to the international stage.

The most successful nation at the tournament so far has been Canada, who have won gold a staggering eighteen times in twenty-two attempts. Including the Soviet Union’s 1991 victory, Russia have won gold three times, while Sweden and the USA have one gold medal to their credit so far.

The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup bears the name of the deceased Czech hockey legend who died in 2004. The name of the tournament was changed in 2012, whereas before it was called the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka.”


I enlisted the services of two ridiculously talented and “in the know” hockey prospect guys to help me with this preview. Brayden Sullivan (@SullyDraftGeek) from Draftgeek.ca has actually taken the time to write the preview you’re about to read and to give us an even better idea of the players we should be watching out for, we’ll be using some individual players reports from Justin Froese (@FroeseFC) from Future Considerations. Those will be italicized to differentiate from Brayden’s comments. 

She’s a tad long but I hope you enjoy it!

Will Joe Veleno be the 1st overall pick in 2018?
Will Joe Veleno be the 1st overall pick in 2018?

Coming into this year’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, Canada will be looking to build off of their dominant display last year where they won their 8th consecutive gold medal. Over the past 8 years Canada has managed to consistently form highly skilled and highly competitive teams that have dominated the tournament. This year is no exception as they will be led by several highly touted prospects that will look to make an immediate impact on their draft eligible year.

Three players named to Canada’s roster are still one year away from beginning their draft year, however the highly touted 2018’s, including Ryan McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads) and Joseph Veleno (Saint John Sea Dogs) will be looking to showcase their high end skill and dynamic playing styles in hopes of impressing the plethora of scouts in attendance.

Joey Veleno, C, St. John (QMJHL)- Exceptional talent is worth the hype. All over the ice making brilliance happen. Top tier awareness keeps him pacing the game when he’s on the ice. Only knock is that he could use his teammates a bit more when the pressure is on.

Ryan McLeod. C, Mississauga (OHL)- Very talented two way player who skates well and shows deception in his ability to shake opponents. Vision is top notch and he can thread a pass through a mine field. Willingness to compete is there.

Outside of those two forwards the lone 2018 draft eligible defender is Evan Bouchard (London Knights), a rangy two-way right-handed blue liner who impressed with his poised play and his crisp first pass. Expect him to anchor the Canadian blue line and be a very impactful player in this tournament.

Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights (OHL)- Big time catalyst on the backend. Shows great anticipation to jump into plays and make a difference. Excellent puck mover who can hold and show off a booming shot. Very sound defender.

Canada’s roster features many highly touted 2017 NHL draft prospects and features a variety of skill sets. Starting with the bigger bodied players in Michael Rasmussen (Tri-City Americans) and Maxime Comtois (Victoriaville Tigres), who are both capable of dominating this tournament physically and production-wise. Comtois and Rasmussen will be coming into Slovakia with a lot of confidence after their impressive showing at the summer showcase and will be given key roles in order to win the 9th consecutive gold.

Maxime Comtois, RW, Victoriaville (QMJHL)– Skilled forward who plays a dependable game. Shows up every shift and uses top end puck skill and smarts to create offense.

You’ll find a lot of mobility on the back end with players like Ian Mitchell (Spruce Grove Saints), Elijah Roberts (Kitchener Rangers) and Marcus Phillips (Owen Sound Attack) who all have the ability to impact the game offensively with their top-end skating abilities and offensive instincts with the pucks.

Ian Mitchell, D, Spruce Grove (AJHL)  Smaller puck rushing defenseman who pushes the pace and has good instincts with the puck on his stick. Has quarter back type skills and handles the puck with finesse, manufacturing lanes and chances with his quickness and excellent awareness.

Markus Phillips, D, Owen Sound (OHL)- Steady defender has intelligence to succeed in any situation. Calm nature and has skating ability to get out of trouble or lead a rush.

Look for Elijah Roberts to break out on scouts list and be top defender in this years tournament, as he was highly impressive at the summer showcase and raised a lot of eyebrows with his mobility, puck moving abilities, and defensive awareness.

Another few players who I will be keeping an eye out for is forwards McKenzie Entwistle (Hamilton Bulldogs), Owen Tippett (Mississauga Steelheads), Stelios Mattheos (Brandon Wheat Kings) and Shane Bowers (Waterloo Blackhawks)., as well as QMJHL defenseman Antoine Crete-Belzile (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada).

Owen Tippett. RW, Mississauga (OHL)-Showed off his ability to execute under pressure. Great offensive ability.

Stellio Mattheos, C/W, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)- Skilled and strong offensive threat plays the game responsibly and with skill. No one has taken a bigger stride forward in the last 2 months. Power game and effectiveness on the rush taking center stage in the playoffs.

Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo (USHL)- 200 foot guy that works well with the puck. Great speed and natural skill. Plays with a lot of gumption and makes life hard for opponents.

While Tippett and Mattheos are two highly-touted forwards who have been on scouts’ watch lists for months, Entwistle and Crete-Belzile are two players I look forward to watching because of their notable performances at the summer showcase.

In net, I expect Michael DiPietro (Windsor Spitfires) to take the reins in net for Canada and play most of the tournament, but I do believe that Ian Scott (Prince Albert Raiders) will get the opportunity to show what he has and will strive in that moment.

Other Notable Players

The following players will grab your attention almost immediately if you get a chance to watch their games.

Nico Hischier (Switzerland): My current #2 ranked prospect going into the 2017 entry draft, Nico will have an opportunity to dominate this tournament and lead in the scoring department. He finished last year with 6PTS (3G-3A) in just 4 games and was arguably the most valuable player for the Swiss. Hischier is a highly skilled playmaker that plays the game at a high tempo and with loads of compete. He possesses elite vision and makes his linemates better by finding them on the ice in a consistent manner. Recently Hischier has followed in the footsteps of Swiss product Timo Meier and will join the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL.

Timothy Liljegren (Sweden): A top-end defensive prospect going into this years NHL entry draft, Timothy Liljegren will be looking to show scouts that he can challenge Nolan Patrick for that #1 spot in the draft. Currently ranked #3 on my personal rankings, Liljegren is a mobile offensive defender that has the potential to put up big time numbers in this tournament. He possesses a deadly wrister from the point and a laser-like first pass that NHL scouts are in awe about. A right-handed shot, Liljegren has already played in the SHL as a 16 year old and already posted a solid 5PTS (1G-4A) in 19 games. Look for Liljegren to get big time minutes for Sweden and rack up some major stats on the score sheet.

Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SWE J20 Elite)-While there needs to be some defensive work he is a rangy and excellent puck rushing defenceman who loves getting involved offensively.

Urho Vaakanainen (Finland): Another solid Finnish draft eligible who knows how to move the puck, Vaakanainen will be looking to proves to scouts that he should be treated as a top-10 pick. Going into his 2nd season in the Finnish elite league, Urho’s passing abilities have impressed on all stages of hockey he has played at. Look for Vaakanainen to eat up a lot of minutes for Finland and more importantly produce at a high-end level.

Urho Vaakanainen, D, Blues (Liiga)- Intelligent two way defender is great at turning the puck up ice. Very little risk and does a good job boxing out and managing the defensive zone.

Ostap Safin (Czech Republic): My current #10 ranked player in this year NHL draft, Ostap Safin will be looking to lead the Czech Republic into the medal stages. Another big power forward, Safin put up very impressive numbers in the Czech U20 league last year and I believed he would have came over the NA this upcoming season. I fully expect that Safin will be in the run for MVP since this is his opportunity to show NA fans what he can do.

Ostap Safin, RW, HC Sparta Praha (Czech U20)- Large and offensively gifted. Builds momentum to overcome adversity. High IQ and creates chances with skilled passes or individual sequences.

Klim Kostin (Russia) : The 1st overall pick in the 2016 import draft, Klim Kostin is a big bodied power forward who has amazing offensive scoring abilities. He will most likely be the Captain for Russia and will be given the biggest responsibility in this tournament, to lead Russia to a medal. A player who may play against men in the KHL next year, I’m looking for Klim Kostin to make a huge impact in this tournament physically and production wise. A player who I believe will be in the run for tournament MVP alongside Safin and Hischier.

Klim Kostin, RW, Dynamo Moskva (Russia U17)- Man sized guy who can dominate for stretches with the puck. Works his tail off and leads by example. Could be top Russian off the board.

Isac Lundestrom (Sweden) : Not eligible till the 2018 NHL Draft, the Swedish forward will be looking to make his mark at this tournament as an underage. A top end puck handler who protects the puck well, Lundestrom has the talents to shine at this tournament. Also, he has already played in the SHL but was unable to put up any points. I fully expect that Lundestrom will be a crucial part to the Swedish roster and will be hassle to deal with as a defender, thanks to his NHL caliber speed.

Isaac Lundestrom, C, Lulea HF J20 (Super Elit)- Poised puck handler is capable of leading a play and makes quick decisions when he is flying. Puts himself in the right spot to execute consistently.

Filip Zadina (Czech Republic) : A high-end dynamic offensive threat, Zadina will also be going into this years Ivan Hlinka tournament as an underage player, not being eligible until the 2018 NHL draft. Coming off of a solid year in the Czech U20 league, Zadina will suit up this upcoming season with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL and will be looking to showcase his talents to the North American fan. Personally I love his offensive game and I feel he will be able to produce big time numbers at this tournament alongside Ostap Safin, but will struggle against much faster teams and will need to get over that in order to be successful here. Expect a big time tournament out of Filip Zadina.

Filip Zadina, F, HC Pardubice (Czech U-20)– Absolutely dynamic skillset and a premier puckhandler. Has blazing speed and the thought process to think 3 steps ahead. Conscious efforts to defend. Capable of domination.

Michael Pastujov (USA) : Once highly regarded as a 1st round pick in this years upcoming NHL draft, Pastujov will be looking to show scouts that he is still capable of playing at that level. The University of Michigan commit is coming off of an injury riddled season that saw him only play 14 games with the USNDTP of the USHL. I expect we’ll see a heavily motivated Pastujov.

Rasmus Dahlin (Sweden) : As one of the lone 2000 players in this year tournament, Dahlin will be pushing for ice time and responsibilities on a stacked Swedish blue line. A player to remember for the 2018 NHL draft, Dahlin possesses similar offensive abilities to teammate Timothy Liljegren and will hopefully be able to produce at this tournament. Currently ranked #6 on my list of 2018 draft eligible, this will be Dahlin’s chance to lock his name into scout’s rankings.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Finland): One of the only highly-regarded goaltenders going into this years Ivan Hlinka tournament, Luukkonen will be batting with Canadian goalie Michael DiPietro to prove that he is the #1 goalie in this year’s NHL draft. Coming off of a season with HPK U20 where he posted a 1.98 GAA and a .924 SV%, Luukkonen is looking to carry those top end number into the tournament and be named the top goalie of the tournament. At 6’3 196lbs, Luukkonen is certainly NHL goalie size.

Nando Eggenberger (Switzerland): A late ’99, Eggenberger will be coming into his 2nd Ivan Hlinka tournament looking to improve on last year’s performance. Last year Eggenberger finished the tournament without a point and at a brutal minus-5, he was very under-utilized and will be looking towards being a more impactful player this time around. Not being eligible until the 2018 draft, Eggenberger will have a head start on all the other eligibles. Eggenberger is a solid 6’2 power forward who has a solid drive to go to the net and battle for his points. He plays hard in all 3 zones and has a reliable defensive game that scouts will be looking for.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the tournament! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!

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Beer League Hero Written by:

I’m the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I’ve been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I’ll never leave my Oilers, no matter what!

They’re with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!