Russia took home its first Gold medal at the annual Hlinka Gretzky Cup since 1995.

The summer is winding down and hockey is already in pre-season mode for many leagues. But the real beginning of draft season started with the puck drop at the annual U18 best on best tournament in early August, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. That is where NHL scouts get their first chance to see many of the 2020 draft crop going head to head in their draft season; that is if they could see through the fog the summer heat often causes in those European rinks. The 2019 event was back in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, after being hosted in Canada last season, and featured many 2020 first round candidates.

Here were ten of the top performers in our estimation from this must see event.

Yaroslav Askarov (G) – Team Russia – Ranked 10th Overall

“Generational” has been the word tossed around after his performances holding off the best U.S. NTDP U18 squad ever assembled last April at the U18’s and then shutting down the competition including one of the better Canadian teams ever sent to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, despite being outshot 37-13 in the gold medal game.

“He tracks the puck extremely well, stays in strong position, is fluid in his movements, shows quick reflexes, controls his rebounds and plays with zero panic in his game. But while his talent level at the position is off the charts what impresses most is that he is absolutely clutch.” said Dan Stewart of Draft Prospects Hockey. “He rises to the occasion and remains cool and calm when the stakes are highest.”

Alexander Pashin (RW) – Team Russia – Not Yet Ranked

Like a water bug quickly darting atop the water, Pashin was hard to contain when he sensed a scoring opportunity. He potter seven tally’s in five contests leading the Russian offense. Performances like these usually have a way of boosting a prospects stock and we have no doubt Pashin’s name will be listed in our October top 100.

Evaluator Paul Renaud noted “(Pashin) is not afraid of physical play and not only does he not shy away, he is the aggressor at times. He displays an accurate, hard wrist shot. He has stand out speed and went right after Canadian defenders in the Gold Medal game despite his lack of size. He has very quick feet, was agile, and always moving.”

Vasili Ponomaryov (C) – Team Russia – Ranked 21st Overall

This solid playmaking center was an integral part of the Gold medal winning Russian squad as he used his offensive skill-set and high-end smarts to control the play. He protected the puck well and distributed it accurately at just the right times finishing the tournament with six points.

“Was a work-horse and dominated puck possession whenever he stepped on the ice. He used his slick hands and very good stickhandling skills to beat opponents and drive to the net. He possesses fantastic passing ability and sees passing lanes that other playmakers wouldn’t even consider as an option. Ponomaryov finds different ways to score and plays a responsible two-way game.” said evaluator Julius Dabrowski.

Cole Perfetti (C) – Team Canada – Ranked 5th Overall

Perfetti has jumped out of the draft season blocks like a short track sprinter with this spectacular showing in Europe declaring himself as one of the top goal scorers eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft!  His Hlinka Gretzky Cup record eight goals and twelve points led the way for all scorers. His clutch game against the Swedes, scoring five goals, to get Canada to the Gold Medal game, was a memory sure to be burnt into the minds of NHL GM’s.

“His work with his hands in tight is special and his skill level is off the charts. His dekes and elusive movements, combined with his excellent hands lead to many scoring chances. Once the defense gives him a little bit of space, he becomes very dangerous. A pure goal scorer.” noted Draft Prospects Hockey contributor Ryan McArthur.

Hendrix Lapierre (C) – Team Canada – Ranked 8th Overall

The offensive driver for Canada’s top line, the one who distributed the puck and put teammate Perfetti in prime scoring opportunities much of the time, was Chicoutimi centre Hendrix Lapierre. He was dangerous from start to finish and ended up with an impressive eleven points, including eight assists, in five games.

“He is so intelligent and seemingly sets the tone with control of the puck. He really slows the game down and skates with the puck with relative ease looking for his teammates almost as if he is always on the PP. He skates very well. He is good on his edges, tight turns and starts and stops at full speed while controlling the puck. He always looks to pass and is very confident to make a pass through defenders or a crowd. This tournament his decision making and IQ were at an elevated level than his peers.” Renaud noted.

Jamie Drysdale (D) – Team Canada – Ranked 7th Overall

The tournament’s top defenseman was this fleet-footed puck mover who is expected to have a big year for Erie in the OHL. He was an integral part of the Canadian offense distributing the puck and running their power play, producing at a point per game pace. The team’s captain was a general on the ice and example of professionalism off it.

McArthur says “Drysdale has killer speed, and he generates an exceptional amount of power off his backwards crossovers. His edges are breath taking and he is arguably the best pure skater in the 2020 draft. His puck distribution was excellent, especially with the slap passes towards the net for tips and his breakout passes. He is excellent at beating the opposition one-on-one and as he tracks down pucks.”

Quinton Byfield (C) – Team Canada – Ranked 2nd Overall

Big, powerful pivot centered the second line and looked good in doing so pouring in a point per game. He generated plenty of scoring opportunities for himself and teammates, displayed strong playmaking ability both on and off the power play as well as a propensity to take the puck directly to the net. His physicality down low and along the wall were dominant. The raw developing tools and abilities coupled with the high upside he holds has plenty of NHL team excited. 

“He did pretty much whatever he wanted in the tournament and did it quickly. His zone entry, drive to the net, forecheck battles and back check were all done with speed and physicality. He easily pushed defenders off of him and dealt with defensive pressure easily. Byfield with the puck is very creative and smart. He always seems to find a way to get the puck on his teammates stick or to the net.” noted Renaud.

Tristan Lennox (G) – Team Canada – 2021 NHL Draft

Canada’s No. 1 netminder at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup did not disappoint as was an integral piece to a dominating team until his injury against Sweden. His size (6-3), ability to read the play and move quickly impressed us. As a late 2002 he will be a first-round candidate in the 2021 NHL Draft.

McArthur said “Lennox was a beast in the crease. He has superior athleticism and excellent NHL size. But despite all his attributes, the thing that impressed me the most was how he stayed in during the shootout versus Sweden when he was hurt. The fact that he won the game showed true grit and mental toughness.”

Martin Chromiak (LW) – Team Slovakia – Not Yet Ranked

Chormiak was the best player on his squad by a wide margin and showed to a large extent why he is considered the most talented prospect from Slovakia in this draft. His strength lies in his smarts, shot and his positioning where he often found a way to get off a dangerous shot or set up his teammates with a pass through traffic for a scoring chance. Plays at a fast pace and bigger than his size (6-0) would indicate. He produced a team high five points in four games despite leading a talent deprived Slovak team.

“He had a very good tournament, scoring two goals and assisting on three other.” said Dabrowski “He was the offensive leader for the Slovakian team, taking many shots and creating chances in the offensive zone. He was fast off the wing and was able to get into the slot with nifty moves and quick hands. He looks to be a future NHL scoring winger with a good shot and offensive instincts.”

Michal Gut (C) – Team Czech Republic – Not Yet Ranked

Top Czech player at this event I the eyes of many, he utilized his speed very well cashing in on scoring opportunities and playing a solid overall game. He will get lots of attention playing this season in Everett of the WHL but the Hlinka Gretzky was his coming out party for many evaluators seeing him for the first time.

“Gut showed off an intriguing combination of slick skating, offensive skills and competitive instinct. Specifically his goal-scoring ability was a threat that stood out as he found open space and from there usually generated a dangerous opportunity. Also showed a responsibility in the defensive game where he worked very hard to play a well-rounded game.” Said Draft Prospects Hockey evaluator Joel Lander.

Keep your eyes peeled for our Draft Prospects Hockey: 2020 Draft Preview magazine available for download in early October. In those pages you will find comprehensive scouting reports and notes from the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and much more.

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