By Isaiah Bouchard
Starting November 9th and continuing until November 13th, Czechia hosted the 3 nations U20 tournament in Ostrava, Czechia, and the nations of Czechia, Finland, and Sweden all took part. The tournament was initially going to be called the 4 nations tournament, but after Russia was pulled, Only the three nations of Czechia, Finland, and Sweden would take part, with Czechia and Finland offering both U19 and U20 teams.
There is no secret that there is a lot of buzz around Leo Carlsson shooting up in the rankings. He’s looking more and more like a top 3-5 pick every day he skates, and one shouldn’t be surprised if he ends up in the top 3 by 2023. Carlsson placed among the top of all players in both goals and points. Finishing the tourney with 3 goals and 2 assists, only two other names got more points than him. Being younger than both players, it’s fair to say that Carlsson lives up to the hype.
DraftPro’s head Scout Matt Hnatiuk, says this about Carlsson: “He’s fluid in his movements and possesses fast and creative hands. He moves the puck with both speed and precision when he shoots or passes and is highly accurate at both. He has excellent awareness and IQ when it comes to playmaking and creating offensive zone chances.”
DraftPro’s Director of Scouting Jared Brown, said of Carlsson “Possesses the combination of size, skill, two-way game, and play-driving capabilities, all qualities scouts look for in a future #1 center.” It’s clear to everyone here at DraftPro that we are watching a top 3 pick emerge from Sweden.
After Leo Carlsson, we have the top point-getter in the entire tournament, San Jose’s 27th overall pick last year: Filip Bystedt.
Jared Brown says, “It is rare to come across a big man with the wheels he has to transport the puck through the neutral zone.” Brown also noted that Bystedt is a player with “Good reach and puck handling,” as well as carrying an “accurate shot from within the circles.” Bystedt finished the tourney with 1 goal and 5 assists, more assists than anyone else, and tied for the most points with 6.
He and Carlsson were an unstoppable duo, with 2 out of 3 of Carlsson’s goals coming from Bystedt’s passing. After these two highlights, names such as Oskar Petterson grabbed a lot of eyes with his 3 goals, 2 assists, and 5 points performance. Not only was this the exact point total as Carlsson, but Petterson pushed his team via his excellent performance in the puck battles and his ability to get into the slot to score goals. He was drafted in the 3rd round by Ottawa last year and is still growing and developing. But it should be seen as a significant success to stick out along names such as Carlsson and Bystedt.
Sweden finished the tournament with a record of 3-1, losing only to the red-hot Finland U20 team. They beat the Czechia U19 team 5-1 and were carried mainly by their depth pieces, as the point spread was divided equally amongst the Swedish team. Next, they faced the Czechia U20 team, and while it seemed as if they were going to recreate their victory over Czechia U19, as Sweden led 4-1 after the 2nd period, Czechia U20 came in hot in the 3rd and made it a close 4-3 victory by the end. Carlsson and Bystedt got 2 points in this game, while Oskar Petterson got his 2nd goal in the tourney. Next was the Finland U20 team, which shocked many fans when Finland defeated Sweden 6-1. In this tournament, Finland proved why depth was so crucial, as many of their lower lines came up big for them in this game. In what I am calling ‘Sweden’s Revenge,’ Sweden faced Finland U19 next, where they beat the Finns 6-1. Yes, it was against a younger team, but it was a statement victory for the top players on the Swedish team. As Carlsson, Bystedt, and Petterson all scored 3 points this game.
Czechia U19 Highlights
Czechia’s U19 team lacked the most talent, which is why they finished the tournament going 0-3. That’s not to say there were no highlights from the U19 team. Jonáš Jungwirth, an 18-year-old who has had numerous solid seasons in the Czechia U20 league, had his moments in this tournament playing for the underdog Czechia U19 team. While CZE U19 was punching up for the entire tournament, a few players stood up to the challenge to create chances for their team. Jonáš Jungwirth did that for his team, and while he didn’t finish the tournament with any points, he did get the team MVP after the team’s 8-2 loss to the Finnish U20 team. After Jungwirth, Michal Vitouch had many highlights throughout the tournament. Finishing with 2 goals in the tournament, Vitouch was the primary source of offense for his team. He even made an appearance on the Czech U20 team, scoring one of his two goals against the Finnish U19 team.
Overall, the CZE U19 did about as well as people expected, losing 5-2 to Sweden, 8-2 to Finland U20, and 3-2 in a shootout to Finland U19.
Czechia U20 Highlights
The obvious upgrade to the U19 team, Czechia U20 had names like a 2023 draft prospect and, currently #9 overall on DraftPro’s draft rankings, Eduard Šalé. Other high-interest names include Florida’s sixth-round pick: Jakub Kos, the still draft-eligible 18-year-old Adam Dvořák, and New Jersey’s fifth-round pick: Petr Hauser. All these names performed up to expectations. Dvořák was a speedy defenseman with fast hands and stick handling that eased pressure off his team when going against strong Swedish and U20 Finnish teams. Hauser was a consistent offensive threat, scoring 1 goal against Finland U19.
Hauser carries a strong shot, making him dangerous from anywhere on the ice. Jakub Kos was also a puck-moving machine whenever he was on the ice. He showed great work ethic when carrying the puck, keeping it away from pursuers, and skating fast along the rink, with or without the puck. Jakub Kos found himself working alongside Eduard Šalé a lot in this tournament. The duo split 6 points between them, each scoring 3 points. Kos finished the tournament with 1 goal and 2 assists, both of his assists were for Šalé’s goals, and Šalé assisted his 1 goal.
Jared Brown has this to say regarding Kos: “He isn’t the flashiest of forwards, but he brings a strong two-way presence, and his big body makes him a force playing the cycle…He’s the type of winger that can do the heavy lifting for his team. A very high compete level.”
As for Šalé, he finished with 2 goals and 1 assist, synergizing with Kos perfectly. Eduard Šalé showcased his elite passing this time around. Whether it was a long pass, a quick pass to the slot, or a slick backhanded pass that he rarely screwed up, Šalé has great playmaking potential.
Matt Hnatiuk had this to say about Šalé: “He is a dual threat to either pass the puck for a high-quality chance, or he will use his laser of a wrist shot to get pucks on net. When he shoots, his accuracy is very high, and he can challenge goaltenders from any angle within the circles. He displays very high awareness and IQ within the offensive zone and is constantly looking to take advantage of any holes in the opposition’s defensive coverage.”
While the whole world seems to be focused on Leo Carlsson’s fast rising in the ranks, Šalé had a lot to prove that he isn’t a European player to overlook. And for the tournament’s first half, Šalé did well to keep up with the other top players. While he was on pace to score 4 or 5 points by the end, Czechia U20 came up against a wall of a Finland U20 team, and they were shut out, leaving Šalé with only 3 points. But this was also notably a team that shut out names like Leo Carlsson and Filip Bystedt as well.
“An ultra-skilled, talented winger with the talent to break open a game,” Brown said when asked about Šalé.
Overall, Czechia finishes 1-2. They put up a good fight against Sweden, getting three unanswered goals against Carlsson and his team. Ultimately though, Sweden took the W 4-3. They then faced Finland U19, where at first, one wouldn’t be blamed for thinking Czechia wouldn’t win any games in this tournament. What started well enough as a 2-1 lead at the end of the first saw the Finnish U19 team come back to lead 3-2 by the end of the second. That was until Kos and Šalé got one more goal to finish the second. After that, Finland U19 had no answers for Czechia U20, and they scored three more times to finish the game 6-3. The final match of the entire tournament saw Czechia U20 face Finland U20. Finland ultimately shut out Czechia with a 4-0 victory.
Finland U19 Highlights
Like the Czechia U19 team, the Finnish U19 team was filled with many depth pieces, so there were not many hot prospects on this team. But that doesn’t mean some names did not pop out and shine. Valtteri Savolainen was the only player on his team to score 2 goals, doing wonders with the positioning to score two goals against Czechia U20. He was a player with a lot of fight, finishing a lot of his checks, and was smart with his plays not to put his team in too much danger. Savolainen had Valtteri Viirret and his excellent passing to thank for the goals. Viirret was the only other Finnish U19 player to get two points this tournament, both of which were assists. Both of these players are 19 at the time of this tournament. One of the younger players on this team, and one with a lot of interest from scouts, is Arttu Kärki. And those interested in the 17-year-old should be pleased with his performance in this tournament.
While he only finished with 1 point, it was a goal, and it was against an oppressive Swedish team. He also displayed two critical traits in his game: his excellent passing and his puck handling. It wasn’t easy getting the puck off of Kärki’s stick, as he was quick to defend the puck from pressure whenever an opponent’s stick attempted to force a turnover. If the heat was ever too hot for Kärki, one of his excellent passes could redirect attention from himself.
“Showcases great confidence and deception handling the puck and luring forecheckers. He has a soft touch to his passing skill and can make plays in motion with ease.” Brown said when asked about Kärki.
The Finnish U19 team finished with a 1-2 record. Both losses came from the U20 groups. Their win against Czechia U19 was a fierce battle and arguably the most exciting game of the entire tournament. The teams were evenly matched, and both likely saw this game as their only chance for a win. The next game saw the U19 Finns fight valiantly against the U20 Czechs, and it wasn’t an easy win for Czechia.
This game is where Savolainen and Viirret got their 2 points and made the Czechia U20 team sweat a little bit until the third period. Finally, the U19 Fins when up against Sweden, and Sweden punished them throughout the game. It wasn’t until Arttu Kärki got his goal in the 3rd, where Finland U19 could walk away with some pride that they managed to defy Sweden’s older team a little bit.
Finland U20 Highlights
The ultimate winner of the tournament, Finland had an excellent showcase of talent this year. Finland U20 came into this tournament with many high-end players and prospects. Starting with the man who tied 1st overall in points in this tournament, we have Jani Nyman. Seattle’s 49th overall pick, Nyman finished the tourney with 3 goals and 3 assists, showcasing his pure finishing ability on the ice. He’s not afraid to shoot for the net, and he’s not afraid to make big plays to put his team in a favorable position. Nyman certainly has an argument for MVP of the entire tourney.
Jared Brown said, “His strength and puck protection against contact will aid his transition to North American hockey once he makes that move.”
After Nyman, we have Carolina’s 51st overall pick, Ville Koivunen, who put up 4 assists by the end. “Posses soft hands and is an excellent puck handler,” Brown said about Koivunen. He made easy and safe plays, and while he wasn’t particularly flashy compared to his teammates or certain opponents, Koivunen put up points and created offense for his team. Like Koivunen, there was Konsta Kapanen, another player who finished the tourney with 4 assists and 4 points. And similar to those two, we have Sami Päivärinta, another player who finished with 4 assists.
Jared Brown said this about Päivärinta: “He may be on the smaller side, but he’s engaged in board and 50/50 battles and has a good stick to come away with possession.”
Players like these three set up Finland to dominate this tournament. Even going up against stronger U20 teams, Finland beat them by simply overwhelming their goalies and firing rocket shots from all over the blue line and slot. Even if these players were not particularly flashy, Finland benefitted from so many talented playmakers. Finally, there was Kalle Väisänen, who unlike the previous three, finished the tourney with 4 goals and 4 points. This was the most goals out of all the players in the tournament, and he was also the only player to score a hat trick. While he is 19 years old, and this dominant performance should be expected, that shouldn’t take away from the Ranger’s 4th round pick. He was fast, read the game well, and capitalized on the opponent’s mistakes.
Finally, there was Aron Kiviharju, the 16-year-old, who finished with 2 assists. This makes him one of the youngest players in the tournament and not yet a draft-eligible player for the 2023 draft. However, the fact that he could get a point, let alone two, shows that he could very well be something big one day. As a young player, he still needs to work on deciding when and when not to pass, there were a few turnovers he had, but this is to be expected by such a young player. When he does pass, it is accurate, and like Arttu Kärki, he has excellent stick handling. It will be exciting to see where these two young Finnish defensemen end up in the years to come.
Finland U20 finished the tournament with a 3-0 record, enough to take home gold. What was most impressive with Finland this year, was that they made every game seem one-sided. Czechia U19 had no chance. The faster and more accurate Finns crushed the U19 Czechs 8-2. The big match that everyone thought would be a real battle ended up being another squashing. Sweden didn’t fair much better than Czechia U19 as they lost 6-1 to the Finnish. Finally, they faced Czechia U20. This time around the Czechs gave Finland the most trouble, but only enough to make it 4-0.