The casual hockey fan may not be paying attention to Frisco, Texas, next week, but NHL scouts will be there in force. Among that group will be the Seattle Kraken scouts to watch the top draft prospects compete in the IIHF U18 World Championships in preparation for the team’s first NHL Entry Draft in July.
Scouting the amateur, draft-eligible players this season has been rough. Covid has limited games, and in some cases canceled them altogether, and that has put NHL teams in a bind trying to get the proper amount of viewings in.
Those viewings are essential and that’s why the U18 Championships have become critical for the NHL – and Seattle Kraken – scouts.
Not every top player will be there, but for the ones who are playing, it’s a chance for NHL scouts to watch them in a setting where they’ll be competing against top competition while also playing for their country. Stocks will rise and fall, as the players look to handle the pressure on and off the ice.
Everything kicks off in Frisco on April 26 and runs through May 6.
Here are some players whose performances Kraken fans should keep track of:
Potential Kraken first-round picks at the U18 Championships
The Seattle Kraken will get a pick in the first six selections, and while we will have to wait to see how the lottery balls fall, there are some players in the U18 World Championships who potentially could end up being their first ever pick.
Dylan Guenther, F, Edmonton, WHL
Guenther is a pure scorer and busted out of the gates for the Oil Kings this season. When he left for Texas he had 24 points in 12 games. That’s some impressive production and it’s vaulted him into the top five prospects of the 2021 NHL Draft.
He has the speed, hands, and vision to score at the NHL level. He has played mostly on the wing but could be converted to center and like most players in junior, could stand to add some muscle to his frame. Guenther will be one of the top-line players for the Canadians at the U18’s.
Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie, OHL
Perhaps reading the tea leaves correctly, Clarke decided to play overseas to start his season this year and it may end up helping the defenseman. He’s been seen by NHL scouts and heads into the U18’s after playing well in a Slovakian pro league. A puck-moving defenseman, he’ll lead Canada and will most likely anchor their power play.
Clarke, depending on who your favorite NHL Draft prognosticator is, should be a top-ten pick in July. The U18 Championships will give him a chance to improve his stock even more, and since his skill set is much desired by NHL clubs, he could sneak into the Kraken territory in the top six.
Chaz Lucius, F, USNTDP
Another player who has been consistently ranked in the top ten but perhaps below the Kraken range, Lucius is fun to watch. He can work the puck and is a dynamic scorer who will draw attention from the defense on the ice and scouts off it. His season started slow due to injury, but he finished strong by scoring just over a point per game.
Playing in the U18 Championships gives him a chance against elite competition and if he plays well, he could creep up the draft boards, maybe even on the Kraken list. He’s committed to playing for the University of Michigan next season.
Potential later-round targets
The U18 Championship rosters are loaded, and while the bulk of the players won’t go in the top six, there are guys who could rise up or be available when the Kraken select in the later rounds.
Of all years, this one will offer the most unpredictability, so dismiss a propect at your own risk.
Here are some other players to look for at the tournament:
Fabian Lysell, F, Lulea, SHL
The Swedes are always tough in international play and they’ll be in the mix again to win the gold medal at the U18’s. Lysell will be a top-line player for Sweden and has tons of skill, speed, and offensive creativity. He may be too good to stick around for a second Kraken pick but is still a name to keep an eye out for.
Simon Edvinsson, D, Vasteras IK, Allsvenskan
Edvinsson spent this season both with his Swedish junior team and playing up in an elite league. He’s got the size for the NHL and could be a riser. Offensively, he hasn’t exploded, but if he can show more offensive upside and potential from the blue line he could be an intriguing draft pick.
Nikita Chibrikov, F, SKA ST Petersburg, KHL
A skilled winger, Chibrikov spent 16 games in the pro KHL this season playing against older and experienced players. One of the better Russians playing in Texas this month, he has a shot to be one of the best forwards overall.
Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks, AJHL
Committed to play for the Badgers at Wisconsin next year, Ceulemans, is a smart two-way blueliner. He may not be as dynamic a scorer as some of the higher-rated defensemen at the U18 Championships or in the draft, but he’s an NHL-level player.
Logan Stankoven, C, Kamloops, WHL
Listed at 5-foot-8, Stankoven isn’t the biggest forward on the board, but that hasn’t stopped him from scoring in the WHL. He’s got the speed and the skill and has started the season with 10 points – seven of which are goals – in the Blazers’ first six games. Could he slip to the Kraken in the second round?
Mason McTavish, F, Petersborough, OHL
Another OHLer who fled to Europe to get ice time, McTavish is an interesting prospect to watch now that he’ll be playing against elite talent. He’s a strong forward who has the size to compete.
Local players Kraken fans can root for at U18 World Championships
There are four local WHL players who will be representing their countries over the next month. They won’t be the first pick the Kraken make, but their U18 Championships performances could make them attractive picks in later rounds.
Conner Roulette, F, Seattle, WHL
After receiving an ‘A’ rating from NHL’s Central Scouting, Roulette was just heating up as he left the Thunderbirds for Texas. He’s a creative and dynamic scorer who always seems to find the puck on his stick. Roulette has played well for Canada in past tournaments and has a chance to raise his stock at the U18’s.
Thomas Milic, G, Seattle, WHL
Milic’s rookie season in the WHL was off to a great start before he left for the U18’s. He was invited to Canada’s Hlinka-Gretzky camp this summer and was one of the top goalies at last year’s U17 tournament. This year he’ll have a chance to impress NHL scouts more after not playing in the WHL last season.
Olen Zellweger, D, Everett, WHL
It seems every year the Silvertips have a defenseman who garners attention from NHL scouts. This year its Zellweger and he started the season with a ‘C’ rating from the NHL. He’s a solid defenseman, responsible in his own end while being dangerous at the other. Don’t be surprised if a good U18 performance raises his ranking.
Braden Holt, G, Everett, WHL
Holt’s addition to Team USA was a bit of a surprise only because he hasn’t played much with Everett. Hailing from Montana, he’s been watching and learning from Dustin Wolf and has only been in 10 games over the past year-plus. When he has played, he’s played well and the U18’s will be an even bigger chance to showcase what he is capable of.