The U18 five nations tournament, which was held in Monthey, Switzerland, offered plenty of talent to watch for scouts. There were a lot of very interesting prospects participating, including three US born players projected being selected in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft. Namely it were forwards Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows and defenceman Chad Krys.
USA’s top line featuring Bellows and Keller played spectacular hockey and often found their names in notebooks of scouts. They led USA to win all four games and capturing the tournament win. Keller and Bellows were the best, and the third best scorers of the tournament. “Keller put on a show. I really liked his performance a lot as well as the one from Lias Andersson of team Sweden”, one scout said after the tournament.
Preparing U18-5Nations Monthey. No Laine, no Puljujärvi, no Hischier BUT e.g. Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows! Great players, come and watch
— Thomas Roost (@thomasroost) October 29, 2015
Which five US-prospects stood out most to me?
Clayton Keller (Center, 5’10”, 170 lbs)
Keller was the best player of the five nations tournament, which was not only displayed by him leading the scorer list with 12 points in four games, but also by his outstanding performance. He was the type of player which makes the crowd gasping and cheering. He displayed extraordinary vision and his passes were very accurate. He was very well aware of his line mates, sometimes even surprised them with unexpected passes. He built the most dominant duo together with Bellows. Keller knows how to score goals by himself, even tallied a highlight-reel goal when he made a nice toe-drag and finished off the play with a shot up high.
Some scouts might refer to his lack of size, which could hinder teams from picking him early, but Keller’s skill level is simply too high to not have him projected getting picked as a first rounder. He is a treat to watch, a great playmaker who is extremely good in tight space as he still manages to maintain puck control with opponents around him. It will be interesting to see if he gets selected ahead of Bellows in 2016.
Kieffer Bellows (Left Wing, 6’1”, 194 lbs)
Edina, Minnesota-native Bellows is living up to his last name. He is the son of former NHLer Brian Bellows who scored over 500 NHL goals in his active career. Most obviously his father gave him similar scoring genes, Kieffer has already scored 15 goals in 16 games with the U18 program and finished off last season with the Sioux Falls Stampedes of the USHL with 33 goals. “It was a hard decision leaving Sioux Falls after such a great year,” Bellows said. “When I went to visit the Program, coach (Danton) Cole made me feel like I was already part of the team. The guys made me feel comfortable too and I can’t thank them enough for that.”
Every time I see Kieffer Bellows, I'm further impressed. USNTDP stud looks like a force-to-be-reckoned-with. Easily in top-10#2016NHLDraft
— Michael Fabrig (@gotitotti) November 13, 2015
Bellows possesses a rocket of a shot, very powerful and accurate. His elite shot was the best of the tournament, his net presence too. He had a nose for the net, was very hard to move away and defenders didn’t manage to prevent him from executing rebounds. He is a strong skater, showed good balance on the skates and played with drive to the net. Of course, having Keller on the line to feed him with perfectly timed passes helped a lot, but Bellows showed he is not only a dangerous scorer, he worked also well defensively and executed his defensive tasks responsibly.
Bellows is going to play for Boston University next year where he will continue to play with friend and team mate Clayton Keller. That is exciting news for BU fans, both players will most probably be selected in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
Adam Fox (Defence, 5’10”, 183 lbs)
Point wise, Adam Fox was the best US defender of the tournament with seven points, all of them being assists. He was even before projected first rounder Chad Krys who had “only” four points. Fox is only rated a C by NHL Central Scouting in their first rankings of the season. However, Fox was offensively the best US defender of the tournament in my opinion. He was very confident with the puck and liked to lead break out rushes. He was a calm puck carrier and showed a lot of patience with the puck when playing on the powerplay. He made smart decisions in the offensive zone and was constantly delivering offensively, especially on the powerplay.
Not surprisingly, Adam Fox – not Chad Krys – led USA's defense in scoring with 7 assists compared to Krys' 4.
— DraftBuzz Hockey (@draftbuzzhockey) November 10, 2015
Fox’ hockey career started in the basement, where he played roller hockey, – But as a goalie: “We would play for hours and hours in the basement – my brothers, my cousins and I. It was a good way to get me into it,” said Fox. “I had a roller rink in the basement that my dad got for me. My dad loved ice hockey and he just got me into it. My brother was playing so it was good for us to play.”
“They made me play goalie. They would fire the pucks at me and as a little kid it wouldn’t bother me. I never wanted to be a goalie; I always wanted to be a forward but I ended up on defense in real hockey. It turned out to be pretty good.”
Ryan Lindgren (Defence, 6’0”, 196 lbs)
Ryan Lindgren captained the USA team because of his strong leadership skills, which he displayed throughout the tournament. He is rather a defensive defenceman and keeps focused on his own zone game instead of joining rushes. One area where he is ahead of his age is his leg strength and skating balance. He was very hard to shove around in front of the net and owned board battles. He used an aggressive stick to keep pucks alive in the offensive zone and showed good timing. Lindgren’s only offensive inputs came on the powerlay where he was an important puckmover on the blue line. He fired the puck a lot and displayed his good shot power.
I liked Lindgren’s matured and calm play. He showed a good defensive understanding of the game and didn’t commit a lot of mistakes. Lindgren commits to play hockey for the University of Minnesota next season.
Graham McPhee (Left Wing, 6‘0“, 174 lbs)
USA’s scoring was very one-sided, having the top line produced most of the goals. Graham McPhee had only one goal and an assist in the entire tournament, but convinced me in other areas, being one of the best forwards for USA next to Keller and Bellows. He might not possess high-end offensive skills but he brings a good work ethic and two-way game to the table. McPhee has very powerful first strides and he is extremely strong on his skates. He was hard to knock off the puck and looked like a man playing against boys in this regard, protected the puck exceptionally. He is an athlete with a high compete-level and his work ethic is ideal.
Nice finish in slot by BC recruit Graham McPhee as beats Vladar high off good pass from Frederic from half wall. Tied 2-2.
— Russ Bitely (@russbites) October 31, 2015
McPhee will join Boston College next year, which is coached by Jerry York. Graham won’t be the first McPhee coached by York, his dad George McPhee played for the Bowling Green State University under York. Graham hopes coach York can do the same for him what he did for his father more than three decades ago.
“I think Graham had heard me say enough good things about York over the years that when the opportunity to play for him was there, he jumped at it and we’re delighted that Graham is going to be in Jerry York’s hands for four years of his life,” George McPhee said.
If you are interested in reading about the five European prospects who stood out most, click here!