By DraftPro Staff
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup is a best-on-best U18 hockey tournament that runs every year in August. It is the unofficial season kick off for most NHL Draft talent hounds. At the same time the World Junior Summer Showcase took place and featured a handful of the top NHL Draft eligible prospects that were seeing the ice for the first time on a fresh new season.
Our evaluators annually make these two events must see as they start the grind of watching the next draft crop enter their draft season. Below is a review of who stood out from each event with notes from various scouts.
Berkley Catton, C, Canada, 5’11”, 163, L, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
The definition of an offensive dynamo for the Canadians. Every time he has the puck, he seems to carry tremendous poise and has awareness, seems like he has eyes in the back of his head. He has elite soft touching passing skills as every pass comes flat and crisp. Even though he’s not the fastest guy on the ice, he has certainly tremendous amounts of agility as he can fend off defenders due to his tremendous edgework. Even though he is known to be more so of a playmaker with tremendous amounts of anticipation to fake off defenders, he has a rocket of a wrist shot which makes him even more lethal on both ends of the offensive spectrum. As a centerman, he is very good in the draw, and he plays like a traditional centerman as he is in position to make the right play. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Maxim Massé, RW, Canada, 6’1”, 181, R, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Maxim was a fun player to watch. He has a little bit of everything in his toolbox which was nice to see. Despite the score of games, he was pretty good in his own end and even better in the offensive end. He can make plays and score and coming out of the QMJHL he’s got some motor on him too. I found Maxim was able to utilize all his skills to help his team in any areas that were needed. Maxim is a player who I would keep a close eye on heading into his draft year as he is a player that could see his draft stock rise quickly. – Seth Silver
Cayden Lindstrom, RW, Canada, L, 6’4”, 205, L, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Big, tough, physical, plays with an edge, and the ability to show up and produce at a high level. This is the unicorn player in the NHL right now and every team is looking for it. Lindstrom has great hands and a quick release that catches defenses off guard. He skates well and makes up for his lack of edgework as a big man by having excellent speed. He plays hard and will use his big frame as an advantage in goal scoring but also intimidation. He plays hard and breaks the stereotype of power forwards lacking hockey IQ. He’s smart on the offensive end and knows where to be to receive passes or set up his teammates. Another note on his game is he has a knack for showing up in the clutch. – Colin Johnson
Ryder Ritchie, C, Canada, 6”, 175Ibs, R, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Ritchie was one of Canada’s fast and agile marksmen. When on the ice, he looks like he is a race car due his agility. The definition of a fast and electrifying sniper who seems to never miss a scoring chance whether it’s a goal or an assist. His shot is just a laser beam locked on to one target from anywhere on the ice. His agility seems to give him a huge advantage over the opponent as he is one of the best at doing wraparounds. He has tremendous offensive awareness as he seems to always be at the right place at the right time to either stop a player from making a play, or if it’s even creating his own scoring chance. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Malcolm Spence, LW, Canada, 6”, 180, L, 2025 NHL Draft eligible.
Spence was no doubt about it one of Canada’s strongest and fastest skaters. Every time he was on the ice, he was a charging bull. He is a dynamic, strong, and fast playmaking winger who has a nose for the net. He has such strong lateral movement to the point it allows him to squeeze through not one but two defenders. His puck skills are at an elite level has his hands have a quite some silk to them. His passing is very good as he is very crisp at making the short end passes and could even thread the needle through a crowd in surprising fashion. He has strong anticipation and in-game reads which he then uses his lightning speed to his advantage. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Michael Misa, C, Canada, 5’11, 160, L, 2025 NHL Draft eligible.
Misa is a special talent. Hard to pin down and very elusive. He shows off elite level vision and hands creating plays all over the ice. Sees the ice and makes passes that don’t look to have lanes but still get through. Has excellent speed and agility with the ability to handle pucks and make plays at top speed. Smart and creative. Not a physical beast but is a beast in the offensive zone. One of our scouts compared him to Mitch Marner and I can see it. – Dan Stewart
Porter Martone, RW, Canada, 6’3”, 170, R, 2025 NHL Draft eligible.
Martone was the definition of an offensive dynamo for the Canadians that was hard for opponents to stop. When that puck is on Martone’s stick, that puck is not coming off until Porter decides to either let it rip or dish. Martone is a dynamic, agile and playmaking centerman who has an arsenal of weapons. Every time he has the puck, he seems to carry tremendous poise and has awareness like none other as it seems like he has eyes in the back of his head. He has elite soft touching passing skills as every pass comes flat and crisp. Even though he’s not the fastest guy on the ice, he has certainly tremendous amounts of agility as he can fend off defenders like none other due to his tremendous edgework, especially being a guy at 6’3. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Zayne Parekh, D, Canada, 6”, 170, R, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Parekh no doubt about it is one of the most electrifying defensemen that Canada had to offer. Parekh is an agile, smooth skating offensive defenseman. Blessed with tremendous confidence, Zayne displays tremendous poise handling the puck under pressure followed by precise execution of his plays as it shows in his fast and smooth hands. His ability to visualize the oncoming pressure and then fake the opposition into going one way as he exits the other way is truly exciting. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Sam Dickinson, D, Canada, 6’3, 195, L, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Dickinson was the best player on the ice during many games. At 6’3 and 195 pounds, Dickinson has the physical maturity to play at the NHL level. He bullied the opposition along the boards in his own end to stop the play and move the puck up ice. He anticipates plays at a high level and intercepted a pass in the neutral zone during the third period to create an odd man rush for Canada. The London Knight also has strong skating ability. He uses his edges to spin off of forecheckers which creates time and space to make a play up ice. Dickinson’s offensive skills makes him a complete player. He has great poise with the puck and is not afraid to hang on to the puck until passing lanes develop. In the offensive zone, he sifts pucks through opposing wingers to create net front opportunities. – Andreus Kostopoulos
Henry Mews, D, Canada, 6”, 180, R, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Mews was one of the most attack minded defensemen of the Canadian team. Every time he lugs the puck, he looks like he’s gliding on water. An agile, smooth skating offensive defenseman with very good passing abilities. Blessed with a lot of offensive confidence, Henry displays tremendous poise handling the puck under pressure followed by precise execution of his plays as it shows in his smooth hands. He is very good at bringing his opponents near him and dishing the sauce back the other way calmly or even escapes with the puck the other way. In-game reads, anticipation is very good offensively. His ability to visualize the oncoming pressure and then fake the opposition into going one way as he exits the other way is truly fascinating. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Adam Benak, C, Czechia, 5’6”, 140, L, 2025 NHL Draft eligible.
At just 16 years of age, Benak has already defined himself as the best player of Czechia. Every time he is on the ice, he is the definition of a wizard with the puck. He has such strong lateral movement to the point it allows him to squeeze through not one but two defenders, even along the boards. His puck skills are at an elite level as his hands have a quite some silk to them. His soft touch passing abilities are world class to the point where even if there are 3-4 players screening him, he will still somehow thread the needle through a giant crowd. He has strong anticipation and in-game reads which he then uses his lightning speed to his advantage. Benak still has to improve his physique by building a bit more muscle, but he no doubt about it is going to be a force to be reckoned with for 2025 NHL draft. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Adam Jiricek, D Czechia, 6’2”, 152, R, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Jiricek might be the best skater in the 2024 draft class. He evades forechecking opponents on a consistent basis by using his elusive edgework and going around them. He plays the game with a poise that belies his age. Even in high-pressure situations, he never panics. For that reason, he plays a lot of minutes in all situations: powerplay, penalty kill, must- score, hold-the-lead, etc. One thing that sets Jiricek apart from the rest is his passing. He sees the game as well as anyone, which allows him to transition the puck seamlessly from the defensive zone to the neutral zone. – Brogan Houston
Trevor Connelly, C, USA, 6’1″,161, L, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Connelly is gifted with blazing speed which he uses to beat defenders on both the inside and outside of the puck. His goal scoring ability from inside the faceoff dots makes him a threat every time he’s in the offensive zone. Trevor’s shot may be one of the best in his draft class, as his velocity and accuracy helps showcase his shoot first mentality. Connelly has a nose for the net which most goal scorers possess, he’s able to slide into open ice and demand the puck in high scoring areas. Highly skilled passer with exceptional on-ice vision, he seems to surprise his own teammates with his ability to dish the puck in tough situations. Willing to throw the body around and not be outworked physically when battling for the puck. Trevor plays with a chip on his shoulder, which helps to highlight his overall character and willingness to become a leader when called upon. – Steven Pratas
William Felicio, D, USA, 5’10”, 160, L, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Felicio was the best Americans defensemen on the attack. Every time he is on the ice, he is the definition of a wizard with the puck. He is a dynamic, agile, and calm offensive defenseman who his very poised to make the right play. He has such strong lateral movement to the point it allows Will to deke around any opponent he wants. His puck skills are at a very high level has his hands have a quite some silk to them. His soft touch passing abilities are very good the point where even if there is a crowd, he can still make the accurate pass. He has strong anticipation and in-game reads which he then uses his edgework to his advantage. His shot may not be the most powerful, but it is still quick enough and accurate to get the goaltender off guard with his quick release to get it through traffic. Due to his strong poise, he too has good defensive abilities as he has a very good active stick. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Christian Kirsch, G, Switzerland, 6’2”, 174. L, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Kirsch has a decent ability to get out and set up the puck, and demonstrated some comfort. He is good with rebounds and absorbs most shots that he should. Kirsch can over move if there is lateral puck movement and speed coming up the ice, he needs to keep his game more simple at times. He typically plays deeper in his crease, which allows him to move quickly from side to side. Kirsch settled his team down time and time again and gives them a reason to believe they can win. Kirsch is a player who works through adversity and is determined to give his all from puck drop to the end of the game. He moves his all and is a resilient goaltender. If Kirsch continues this play throughout the upcoming season his name will be called in the upcoming 2024 NHL draft. – Andy Miller
Leo Sahlin Wallenius, D, Sweden, 6’0”, 176, L, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
An excellent, two-way defenseman who will be of high interest come the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. Comfortable puck carrier. You immediately notice his ability to carry the puck from his defensive zone into the opposing zone to create offensive pressure. Spends his shifts winning puck battles in the defensive zone and providing accurate breakout passes to his linemates. Had the confidence of his Swedish coaches. A workhorse. – Logan McBride
Herman Liv, G, Sweden, 5’11”, 159, L, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Quick and athletic puck stopper has bloodlines as his father was Stefan Liv. He held Sweden in games making saves he had no business making and robbing more than a few shooters. Strong mobility and agility, works hard and challenges shooters aggressively, flashes exceptional reflexes. While the size is not NHL ideal, he screams a late round pick an NHL team will stow away as a development project that could turn into something special. – Dan Stewart
Aron Kiviharju, D, Finland, 5’10”, 165, L, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
Was one of the most complete defensemen on the ice for the Fins. In any situation he seems to be in the right place at the right time. He’s a highly skilled, puck moving, offensive defenseman who also has a reliable defensive game. Displays tremendous poise handling the puck under pressure followed by precise execution of plays. Elite passer. He is very good at bringing his opponents near him and calmly dishing the sauce back the other way. In-game reads, anticipation, and deception are all top notch. His ability to visualize the oncoming pressure and then fake the opposition into going one way as he exits the other way is truly fascinating. Elite edgework and his tremendously quick feet. He is currently a muffin shooter but hopefully that can be improved with added strength. Kiviharju should contend for a high selection of the 2024 NHL Draft and may develop into a dynamic top four NHL defender once he gains strength. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Konsta Helenius, C, Finland, 5’10”, 170, R, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
A versatile, exciting, poised forward. His hand speed seems to have matched his electric skating. He’s a very mobile, puck fast skating, playmaking center who was also very lethal on the wing during this event. Due to his tremendously quick feet and strong lateral movement, he is hard to defend against. His hands are as smooth as silk to the point where he connects each passing play he makes to perfection. Helenius is already proving himself to be a top 2024 NHL Draft pick and can become a 1st line NHL playmaker. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
James Hagens, C, USA White, 5’10”, 152, L, 2025 NHL Draft eligible.
Exceptional skater with loads of offensive sense and playmaking skills. Makes smart decisions showing high IQ and awareness. Has an underrated shot that will only get more deadly as he gains strength, already catches tenders by surprise with his drag and release mechanics. Played relentless on both sides, strong forecheck and work rate. Just creates so many opportunities for both his teammates and himself. Top prospect for next year’s draft with top line NHL potential. – Dan Stewart
Cole Eiserman, LW, USA White, 5’11”, 192, R, 2024 NHL Draft eligible.
A fast, charging, marksman who has a real nose for the net. His anticipation in the offensive zone is outstanding as he tries to put him into a position to make his teammates around him better. Cole has arguably one of the hardest, quickest shot releases of the U20 US team as they seem like they come off his blade almost like arrows that never miss their target, especially his very fast toe-drag like wrist shot. A huge competitor to become the 1st overall pick of the 2024 NHL draft and become the next top goal scorer for an NHL team someday. – Tyler Ballesteros-Willard
Graphics by Kelsey Rutherford & Dan Stewart