One of the top American goal scorers yet to sign a National Hockey League contract is rumored to be looking to play in Europe. Also, two young stars, one drafted and one soon-to-be drafted, are off to great starts playing in Russia. Finally, we will look at one of the best goaltending prospects heading into next month’s draft.
Caufield to Sweden?
A day after they parted ways with Edmonton Oilers’ prospect Raphaël Lavoie, Rögle BK is back in the news again. According to a report from Mattias Persson of HockeyNews.se, they are now trying to lure Cole Caufield to the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).
Rögle’s sports director Chris Abbott was asked about the rumor and he simply stated that he had no comment.
Caufield was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens with the 15th pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The dynamic forward scored 19 goals and 36 points in 36 games during his freshman season at the University of Wisconsin in 2019-20. With the start of the 2020-21 NCAA delayed until at least January, many players are looking for another option to play this fall.
Since Caufield has not signed with the Canadiens yet, the team cannot loan him like so many other prospects have. General manager Marc Bergevin has recently said that he prefers Caufield to spend the season playing professionally in Europe. He just might get his wish.
Kravtsov Off to Scorching Start
Things are certainly looking good for the New York Rangers when it comes to their future. They have Artemi Panarin seemingly entering his prime and will be adding Alexis Lafrenière with the first pick of the next month’s NHL Entry Draft. Add in some good young goaltending and the Blue Shirts could have something special in the works.
They used the ninth overall pick of the 2018 draft to select Russian forward Vitaly Kravtsov. After a somewhat disappointing season with the Hartford Wolfpack of the American Hockey League (AHL), the youngster is spending the entire 2020-21 season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with Traktor Chelyabinsk.
Kravtsov is off to a great start, averaging a point per game through the season’s first seven contests.
His goal in Traktor’s 5-0 win over Amur on Sunday marked the fourth straight game where he has found the back of the net. He is currently tied for second in the KHL with six goals, trailing Teemu Hartikainen but just one. This is exactly the type of progression the Rangers wanted to see and he will be fun to watch through the remainder of the season.
Askarov Commits Robbery
Kravtsov isn’t the only one off to a hot start in the KHL. The top goaltending prospect of the 2020 draft class, Yaroslav Askarov, is showing off just exactly why he will be a first-round pick in October.
On Sunday, SKA St. Petersburg dressed their youngest lineup in team history, with the 18-year-old Askarov in goal, as they beat Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2-1. He made 29 saves in the game and none bigger than this amazing stop.
Playing in one of the top professional leagues in all of the world has not intimidated the young netminder in the least. In his three games this season, he is given up just two goals on 76 shots for a .974 save percentage (SV%) and 0.74 goals-against average (GAA). He leads the entire league in both categories for any goaltender with more than one start. Goaltenders are rarely taken in the top-10 of a draft unless they are a rare talent. Askarov is one of those.
Prospect of the Day – Joel Blomqvist
We will stay in the blue paint and take a look at another goaltending prospect that should hear his name called during this year’s draft. NHL’s Central Scouting ranks Blomqvist as the third-best European goaltenders. THW’s draft expert Larry Fisher has him ranked as the second overall goaltender behind Askarov.
Related – THW’s 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Blomqvist did his best work of the 2019-20 season playing for Karpat’s U20 team in his native Finland. In 34 appearances, he picked up 26 wins to go with a .931 SV%. He struggled in his two games in Liiga, but that did not take away from an overall great season.
While he is shorter than the ideal NHL goaltender, at 6-foot-1, he makes up for it with some great athleticism. He is very good at tracking shots through heavy traffic and has a very quick glove hand. Blomqvist has great lower-body strength and he uses it to move well in the crease. Throw in excellent rebound control and superior stick-handling skills and you have a prospect with some serious potential.
Our own Mathieu Sheridan feels that he has the tools to become an effective netminder at the highest level.
Like any other goalie, it will take years for Blomqvist to develop. While everyone agrees that it is extremely hard to predict how goalies will turn out, all the signs point to him being able to become an NHL starter one day. He has great technique and is ready to handle a big workload when needed. Whichever team drafts him this year will have a goalie with great potential in their system.
Blomqvist could be the second goaltender selected after Askarov and he could be an excellent consolation prize. It will be interesting to see exactly where he slots. We could see him going as early as the third round.