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DRAFTPRO – IIHF U18 WORLDS – LATVIA U18 REVIEW

By DraftPro Staff

The U18 World Hockey Championships just wrapped up last week in Frisco, Texas, and was a scouting hotspot in a year that was anything but the norm for NHL staffs who are charged with evaluating the next wave of NHL talent.

It is a ‘must see’ event any season holding considerable weight as a last look event, but this year in particular, it might be the only hockey some of these guys would play under the watchful eyes of NHL teams. And it was an opportunity for the players to make an impression with plenty doing just that over the two-week event.

Draft Prospects Hockey was not able to be in attendance for the event due to pandemic/logistic issues but had scheduled multiple evaluators to view each minute of play and give us a breakdown of what transpired via their video viewing.

In this ten-part series we will look at each team entry and provide some review of prospects, how they performed and how their performance might have affected their draft stock.

The Latvians were outmatched during their trip to Texas going winless in their four games eliminated before the quarterfinals. Being outscored 6-21 in those contests but were competitive, in pretty much all their contests despite the one-sided goal differential.

They played with strong effort every game, giving some of the top teams a strong challenge. They played with heart, getting in oppositions faces and engaging from start to finish. Their limited offensive weapons were their undoing in the end.

Here are some player reports from our crew on the Latvian U18 players that stood out.

13 D, GUSTAVS OZOLINS, 5’10, 181, L, DOB 06.19.2003

Ozolins was clearly the backbone to Latvia’s defense core as he was iced in every important game situation. Defensively he needs to tighten up his gap control as he can be lethargic with his stick, hoping to get a touch on the puck. Has a calming demeanor to him when starting the breakout. Poised when carrying the puck as he has his head up constantly searching for a play. Shows good pace bringing the puck through the neutral zone, slowing up to draw off defenders looking for him to dump it and then accelerating to enter the zone. He is effective using his feet to start the rush, but makes inconsistent breakout pass choices, many easily getting picked off. Forcing the pass too much. Isn’t an explosive skater but has a strong straight-line stride that produces power. Solid edges, using quick hard stops to stay with players as they pull up. Controlled puck movement quarterbacking the PP. The calmness with the puck continued to show on the man advantage but would’ve liked to see more creativity or skill execution to try passing into a dangerous area. He has a thick body which aids him in puck battles. Most of his plays with the puck were safe off the glass plays besides a few mental blunder giveaways. Ozolins is worth a look as a later round option as there are quality attributes that while they’re not amazing, could make up a bottom pairing, safe, reliable defenseman.

6 C, MARTINS LAVINS, 6’0, 176, L, DOB 04.10.2003

Gritty and grimy two-way forward that’s not afraid to get under the skin of any of his opponents no matter how big or prominent they are. Captain for his team and you can see he is beloved by his teammates. He is the type of player that puts his heart into every shift and never keeps up on a battle. The work ethic is off the charts. Plays hard on the puck and finishing his checks, looking to gather energy for his team. While his skating is an area that could use work, his strength and battle level to skate through contact, checks, sticks causing opponents to wrap their hands around him. Drew a good amount of penalties during the event due to sheer effort. Skates with pace but has a short stride and not much acceleration to his boots. A bit of an up-and-down skater and if he could continuously stay low in his stride, I think then he will then generate more power. Good puck skills showed off in his deke ability. Took one around Swedish defender Edvinsson who has a very long reach with good mobility before ringing a shot off the post. He’ll take the puck and attack straight on defenders. Takes a ton of faceoffs for his team and does well on the dot. One issue is his playmaking, he needs to be quicker to see his options and deliver his pass. Often seems like he doesn’t have a play in mind when receiving the puck and that can force him to take the puck into poor areas. We could see an NHL team taking a swing on him in the later rounds and stay patient with him, letting him develop his skill level. A strong character player with bottom six buzzsaw energy type potential.

19 RW, DARELS DUKURS, 6’0, 172, L, DOB 05.06.2003

Not sure why Dukurs played such a prominent role for Latvia as we struggled to find one area he contributed. Made a few quick dekes pulling the puck into the slot area for a shot but they didn’t result in anything. Has some decent hands to pulled and drag around players in open ice. Rushed most decisions with the puck. Making plays before taking a look. His passes were continuously missing their mark forcing his teammates to go backwards to pick up pucks. Easy to knock off the puck. Lost count how many times I saw him lying on the ice. Brings physical play finishing hits. Has a pesky stick that is quite active looking to quickly stick lift players. Has good foot speed and hip flexion when performing heel-to-heel pivots but his speed isn’t great and isn’t going to dart by players very often. He shows strong bursts to slide into open spaces or skate hard on the puck but lacks consistency. Dukurs doesn’t have a large impact on most games with the way he plays and most of his abilities are average which doesn’t help him either. We wouldn’t waste a pick on him come July.

18 RW, PETERIS PURMALIS, 6’2, 203, L, DOB 01.07.2003

Purmalis was one of Latvia’s best offensive forwards playing with a shooters mentality. All tournament long he was attacking off the rush and trying to push defenders back with his speed. He’s a big man that can produce rapid speed by using fast tight crossovers. Good puck control in flight. Has a touch of skill in his hands and to get his hands set quickly into a shooting position. Though his rush attempts were efficient, it was only benefiting himself and is very much a straight-line attacker. Isn’t looking to move laterally into the slot. This is an area that if he can start bringing the puck more towards, he has the size, strength, and shot to create more dangerous chances for himself. Great weight transfer on his wrist shots. Has the muscle mass to power through shots. He’s strong on his stick. Effective below the circles winning pucks back using his strength. Not sure he has a ton of playmaking upside as he is always looking to swing pucks towards the net before taking a second to look for a teammate. Played with good jump on the PK and sacrificed his body to get in the way of shots. Purmalis has the potential and build to become a power forward that plays heavy and with pace in a depth role in the NHL. He will have to learn how to play within a structure and not be selfish. With that being said, there are probably better players available before his name comes up.

21 LW, ANRI RAVINSKIS, 6’2, 190, LW, DOB 01.02.2003

Ravinskis is a lanky left shot winger with some offensive touch. He stood out as one of Latvias most gifted offensive wingers throughout the tournament. He was on the second line creating offense both in transition and half ice situations. He has quick hands and a high IQ in traffic that allows him to dance around defenders with quick moves. He also played on the top power play unit on the half wall where he is looking for one timers and wrist shots. He scored a really nice goal that kind of demonstrated a little bit of what his game is all about on one rush. He cut in with patience as the high man trailing the play to add another layer to the attack. Yet once he saw the shot go on net he beelined to the front looking for a rebound. He found it and with quick hands at top speed curled the puck out of the goalies pads and shot it into the empty net. Really quick hands at top speed. He for sure is shoot first player but can pass it as well with decent vision. Where he ran into problems was with the puck in his own end as he was looking for the home run play each time instead of making smart plays. He has a high IQ, just gets too solo creative at times. When he plays within himself he is an excellent trigger man from the wing. He plays hard shift to shift and has a decent motor. Needs to engage physically more for his size but he mainly uses it to defend the puck offensively. He is a strong skater with a long lanky stride. He will need to improve his foot speed as he does take a while to get going. His edge work is strong and allows him to play in tight spaces while remaining a hard target to hit. He projects as a potential middle six winger that would be best playing with a talented playmaker. He is a few years away still as he needs to get stronger and work on his defensive game without the puck and checking abilities man on man.

22 LW, SANDIS VILMANIS, 6’0, 185, LW, DOB 01.23.2004

Vilmanis is a smooth, fluid skater with raw offensive abilities. Fluid pivots staying in motion. Skates with a wide stance. Stride isn’t the cleanest, if he lowered himself as well as improve his stride recovery, he’ll be able to add an extra gear. Transitioning with lateral crossovers attacking through the neutral zone and going wide on defenders. Drops the shoulder to try and gain inside body positioning to drive the net but the strength on his edges to bully his way in just isn’t there yet. Still, I like that he is forcing the defenders to make snap decisions as he attacks with speed. Causing turnovers in the neutral zone and turning them into a rush scoring chance. Efficient passer. Makes smart decisions with the puck in the offensive zone. The kid can stick handle in a phone booth and uses that too often in terms of getting out of trouble. Smooth passes after entering the zone to the trailer that, ease of receipt is solid. Could work harder in his own end. Add more aggression to apply stick pressure. Few time he was able to get a quick shot off in quality shooting position. Vilmanis has a strong offensive mind to facilitate clean passes from the perimeter that generates shot attempts. A hard wrist shot and deadly backhander. Has some intriguing potential for 2022.

1 G, LINARDS LIPSKIS, 6’2, 176, L, DOB 07.03.2003

Lipskis has a bit of an odd style in net as it is a bit of a mixture between a butterfly and old-fashioned stand-up at times. Did not feel comfortable with Lipski’s ability in tracking the puck to keep the score close. This is a clear issue for him. You can visibly seem him lose sight of the puck especially as the puck goes behind his net. Now that being said, He does hold his posts strong and stands up in his RVH. Decently quick reflexes in his legs shown when kicking out the pads. Quickness after a shot is slow and that shot recovery speed can leave ample amount of time for a team to take advantage of. Lateral quickness isn’t a thing of beauty and relies on his long legs to bail him out. Gets hunched over in his stance which I think was a big reason why he was beat above his shoulders 2-3 times only for the crossbar to save him. Has average size and could use it better with his net coverage. Holds his glove low and slightly closed. Likes to flash the glove when he snags a shot, but glove side was a clear weakness as he was beat many times on that side. Overplaying his angles. Getting caught over his posts and leaving room for shooters to shoot far side off the rush. For us he has a lot of concerning areas of his play in the crease that need fixing before even thinking about spending a pick on him.

20 G, MARKS SLAVINSKIS, 6’2, 157, L, DOB 10.20.2003

Slavinskis has a lanky frame but it allows him to be extremely light in his movements. Butterfly technique. He likes to stay down in the butterfly for extended amount of time. He sits back in his butterfly as well as playing deep in his crease in his RVH. Needs to pop his chest up so he remains big while down. Can drop prematurely into the butterfly. He’s lightning quick popping back up as well as when dropping to his knees. Great lateral quickness. Quick post-to-post when puck is below the goal line. He relies on his athleticism and quickness to make the saves but would benefit from more controlled movements. Seals his pads well blocking his five hole. Good job of covering pucks up smothering it with his glove and bringing his blocker hand in give no opportunities of the puck squirting out. Shaky rebound control on low shots, kicking out some juicy rebounds. Had some issues controlling the puck as it hit his glove and was unable to confidently squeeze it. The quickness in his legs are strengths to his play but will need to continue controlling his movements better as well as playing proper depth in the crease. Worth tracking for 2022.

Lavins, Ravinskis and Vilmanis were co-leading scorers with two point each. Lavins, Ravinskis and Ozolins were voted Latvia’s top three players of the tournament.

Contributors to this report included Dan Stewart, Matt Morrison, Alex Taxman, Kai Farenholtz and Jared Brown.
Photo credit IIHF.com

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