Five Nations Cup Offered Plenty of Talent

The November break in most European leagues is an important date in a scouts diary. Whether it is the Deutschland Cup, Karjala Cup, U20 or U18 tournaments, there is a lot of International games to catch with some of the best draft eligible prospects of the year participating. This was the case for the U18 five nations tournament as well, which was held in Monthey, Switzerland between November 4-8. Team USA came out on top against Finland, Czech Republic, Sweden and the hosts. The team coached by Danton Cole won all of their four games and finished the tournament ahead of the Czech Republic.

There were a lot of very interesting prospects playing in this tournament including Finland’s top prospects Janne Kuokkanen, Otto Makinen and 2017-eligible Emil Oksanen, which were building the first Finnish line and probably also the most dangerous line in the entire tournament. The Swedes had a heavy blue line consisting of big d-men Jacob Cederholm and Jacob Moverare as well as 2017 top eligible Adam Thilander. Krisitan Reichel, son of former NHLer and Czech U18 Coach Robert Reichel, was part of the Czech team.

No surprise there were hundreds of scouts in the stands and had an early look as some of the top prospects went head to head. The games were entertaining and especially the Finnish first line featuring Kuokkanen, Makinen and Oksanen as well as USA’s top line with Bellows and Keller played spectacular hockey. They surely have found their names noted down in notebooks of scouts. “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. Latter will be only eligible in 2017 but is already leading the scorer list of the Swedish U20 junior league.

There were a lot of interesting prospects playing which deserve to be mentioned here. This read focuses on European players only though, there will be a separate article published in the coming days for the US-born prospects. So let’s have a look on the five European players which stood out most to me.

Lias Andersson (C, Team Sweden)

2017-eligible Andersson had a great tournament collecting three goals and three assists in four games. He was on a line with 2017-eligible Elias Pettersson, which turned out to be the most dangerous of all Swedish lines. Andersson is a very intelligent player who uses his hockey smarts to make plays. He is a very good puck protector and he was hard to knock off the puck as he used his entire body to keep opponents away from the puck. He is a very reliable two-way center who backcheckes well. Andersson is a dangerous forechecker as he used his stick actively to be in passing lanes and to set opponent players under pressure.

Lias is the son of former New York Islander Niklas Andersson, who played 165 NHL-games in the mid-90s. Lias is considered to be a top prospect in 2017 and his performance in Switzerland is confirming this projection. He is a player I did like a lot as he makes very smart decisions and is ahead of his age with his matured understanding of the game.

Jacob Cederholm (D, Team Sweden)

Towering defender Cederholm is an impressive leader on and off the ice. He captained this U18 Swedish team and if you watched and listened him, you knew why he was selected as their captain. He led the pre-game warm-up exercises and was a great communicator on the ice later in the game. He constantly corrected fellow team mates on plays and his present was felt even till high up in the stands.

Cederholm is a stay-at-home defender who displays very strong defensive positional skills alongside a responsible own zone game. He uses all of his big frame to keep forwards away from scoring on rebounds as he utilizes his strong upper body to have their stick under control. He keeps the game simple and doesn’t take unnecessary risks.

Don’t expect a lot of offence from him as he focuses to shut down opponents. He could work on his pass accuracy as well as shot power. Cederholm might not be the most skilled defenceman but he plays with a lot of dedication and has a good work ethic. A player you want to have in your team to shut down the opponent’s top line. His older brother Anton Cederholm was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks back in 2013 in the fifth round. Expect Jacob getting drafted earlier than that. In our preliminary rankings we had him even within the top 30.

Jacob Moverare (D, Team Sweden)

Defenceman Moverare from Swedish club HV 71 has a similar big frame like Cederholm. Moverare was probably the Swede with the most ice time in the tournament as his coach used him on the powerplay as well as to kill penalties. The part I like about Moverare is his combination of size, skill and mobility. He plays responsible in his own zone and has some offensive upside. He can be a dangerous weapon on the blue line of a powerplay unit as he possesses a powerful shot and likes to use it. His shot timing is decent and he is dangerous on one-timers. Moverare was very calm with the puck and made smart decisions. He barely panicked and often made a toe-drag on the offensive blue line to buy himself time and space.

Moverare already played four games in the Swedish Hockey League as well as two games in the Champions Hockey League. Expect him to play more games in the highest Swedish League. As of now I would say Moverare is the best Swedish defender of the 2016-draft class next to Cederholm, maybe even slightly ahead of him as Moverare brings better offensive skills to the game.

Emil Oksanen (RW, Team Finland)

Oksanen was arguably the best 2017-eligible player in the tournament and was the fourth best overall scorer notching three goals and four assists. He played on the Finnish top line together with 2016 top prospects Makinen and Kuokkanen. Oksanen is a great stickhandler and has silk smooth hands. He always kept his head up in order to have a great overview of the game. Oksanen can read plays very well and showed good awareness. He does not have a shoot first mentality but his wrister is quite dangerous, powerful and accurate.

He is a smooth skater and I enjoyed watching him a lot. He did show a reliable own zone game and backchecked well. The Kirkkonummi-native is already now one of the best scorers in the Finnish U20 junior league and I expect him getting drafted in one of the earlier rounds in 2017.

Otto Makinen (C, Team Finland)

Contrary to Oksanen, Makinen is a true goal scorer. The tournament’s second best overall scorer has a nose for the net and positioned himself perfectly for scoring chances. He always seemed to be in the right position for a dangerous shot and was often in the right spot to execute rebounds. He also showed a decent play away from the puck in the offensive zone and was constantly moving to make it hard for defenders to track him down. He has pretty powerful first strides and his top speed is decent as well.

Some pre-draft rankings are having Makinen in the top 30, like for example ISS hockey. I would be surprised if a team picks Makinen in the first round as I see him more being picked somewhere in the second round as of now.

Other notables:

  • Janne Kuokkanen (C, Team Finland)
  • Oskar Steen (RW, Team Sweden)
  • Elias Pettersson (C, Team Sweden)
  • Kristian Reichel (C, Team Czech Republic)
  • Frantisek Hrdinka (D, Team Czech Republic)

Stay tuned on THW for more from the Five Nations Cup.