Tournament organizers may have considered making a new Norris Trophy after the performance Team USA’s top center put on at the recent 5 Nations Cup U-18 event in Sundsvall, Sweden on Feb. 8-12. Josh Norris not only led all skaters with three goals and four assists, he was the catalyst for an improbable comeback that led to a stunning US tournament victory.
In a thrilling final game that saw Sweden overcome a 3-1 deficit to go up 4-3 early in the third, Norris tied the game with a shorthanded goal at the 19:57 mark of the third period, and after a scoreless overtime scored on both attempts in the shootout to propel the US to victory.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the home side given that they were three seconds away from victory; perhaps this was the “Swedish massacre” Donald Drumpf was referring to last week.
Here is a glimpse at how the top draft eligible players performed for each team at the five-day tournament.
Semyon Perelyayev – I was told before the tournament to keep an eye on the 6-2 blueliner, and while he failed to make a huge impression with his hockey sense or reads in the two games I scouted, he did flash some offensive flair and ended the event with four points in four games. He looks to have decent enough skill but no dynamic dimension from what I can discern.
Here’s what one scout had to say about him – “There may be something there but I don’t know him great. I questioned his decision making in the game I saw but only one game. Good physical attributes.”
He will be well studied at the U-18 championships, and if he once again produces and convinced scout there is some offensive upside, he may be a mid-round pick in the draft.
Kirill Slepets – Highly regarded since he was a productive scorer for Russia intrnationally as a 16-year-old and high on some independent lists going into his draft year, Slepets had been disappointing scouts for the most part this season and sliding down lists. At 5-10 there were already size concerns, so when he isn’t competing at a high level he’s not going to tickle most scouts’ fancy.
From what I saw at this tournament and from various reports afterwards, Slepets is back in the mix for the top three rounds after above-average performances in his four games even if he wasn’t able to finish top 25 in scoring.
He was a constant force on the forecheck with his quickness, anticipation and tenacity..causing headaches for opposing defencemen and creating numerous turnovers and scoring chances. He has good edges and quickness, which also keeps defenders on thir toes.
One NHL scout was particularly impressed with the Slepets after not having him on his radar before the tournament. “He’s talented,” said the scout. “He’s got the most skill on that team.”
Alexei Toropchenko – If you’re at least 6-3 and can skate, NHL scouts are going to give you the time of day, and even though the lanky winger had just one point and wasn’t particularly noticeable in any of the matches aside from towering over most of his teammates, he will be making some teams’ draft list and more than likey will be selected on draft day.
“I don’t mind him, he’s a draft,” said one scout, who thinks only Slepets and Toropchenko are worth selecting on draft day. “He’s got some pro potential.”
Toropchenko is producing at a reasonable clip in the NHL, having tallied 17 goals in 41 games this season, so there is some offensive upside..and he looks like a decent bet to be picked by the mid rounds.
Pavel Shen – He caught the attention of a few scouts after leading the Russians in goals with three, and playing a feisty style despite being only 5-9. His lack of size may prevent his from being chosen but don’t be surprised to see his name called late in what is shaping up to be a relatively thin draft crop in later rounds
Kiril Popov and Maksim Marushev were the other two prospects to watch going into the event, but by tournament’s end no one was scrambling to move them up their lists. Neither would end up with a point, and while Marushev still managed to draw some interest from at least one scout who still likes the size/skating combination, his lack of finish is a concern.
Summaries of Finland and Czech Republic can be found below for subscribers.