It is summertime hockey, child.
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup returns to Alberta for the primary time in 2018 and simply the second time since Canada began sharing internet hosting duties with Czechia and Slovakia.
Canada, which has gained this occasion 22 occasions, skipped the match in 2021, and 2020 did not occur altogether as a result of COVID-19. The 2-time defending champions, Russia, won’t take part, so there will not be a repeat winner in 2022.
Nonetheless, Canada seems to be like one of many favorites with a number of potential high 10 picks from the 2023 draft on the roster. And that does not embody Adam Fantilli and Connor Bedard, who’re slated to symbolize Canada on the U-20 degree.
What’s nice about this occasion, and possibly extra so than the U-18 World Hockey Championship, is it is the primary likelihood of the season to get an excellent have a look at the upcoming draft class’ high expertise. It is a bit totally different this yr, with most of the high eligible gamers — Bedard and Slovakia’s Dalibor Dvorsky, for instance — as a substitute specializing in the World Junior Championship, which takes place a couple of days after the Hlinka. However there is no lack of expertise, so the scouting intrigue might be excessive.
In no explicit order, this is a have a look at 15 gamers that you must know — it isn’t a rating, however 15 standouts that’ll command your consideration as soon as the occasion begins on Sunday:
Cameron Allen, D (CAN)
Allen had a spectacular rookie marketing campaign within the OHL, successful the OHL Rookie of the Yr award with 37 factors in 65 video games. Named Canada’s captain, the speedy, robust, bodily defender is as assured as they arrive and does an excellent job of controlling the sport’s tempo with the puck on his stick. He is unselfish, has a fast launch on his shot and is constructed to be a prototypical modern-day defenseman. That is his time to shine.
Quentin Musty, F (USA)
The People not often do nicely at this occasion — their final medal was in 2016, and their final gold was in 2003. However Musty is the clear favourite to look at this yr as a participant many count on to go early within the 2023 draft. Chosen first total on the 2021 OHL draft, Musty had a good 31 factors in his first season with Sudbury and was named to the OHL’s second all-rookie staff. A dynamic playmaker, Musty retains opposing defenders guessing and makes use of his fast toes to blow by them and create offensive alternatives.
Calum Ritchie, F (CAN)
After trailing Zach Benson by some extent for the general scoring title on the 2021 Capital Metropolis Problem, Ritchie is again and prepared for extra. He and Benson proved to be a formidable duo, with Ritchie incomes further reward for his all-around skill as a shooter and a passer. In a draft class filled with gifted facilities, the Oshawa Generals pivot is coming off an unbelievable rookie season and needs to be a driving drive of the Gens this yr. Anticipate that to be the case on the Hlinka, too.
Zach Benson, F (CAN)
Talking of Benson, he was electrical on the Capital Metropolis Problem with a tournament-leading 12 factors. Benson, a star with the Winnipeg ICE, is a flexible ahead with a fast launch and has the numbers to again up his potential high 10 draft standing. The small, expert ahead has super pace and his hand-eye talents stand out when he is attempting to seize free or bouncing pucks. Benson was drafted to the WHL at 5-foot-5 in 2020 however is now listed at 5-foot-10 – adjusting to a giant improve may be difficult for a lot of prospects, however Benson had no challenge placing all of it collectively this previous season.
Theo Lindstein, D (SWE)
One of many high defensemen within the match, Lindstein is a modern-day cellular defenseman with good puck management and strong top-end pace. Lindstein received into 12 SHL video games final yr and helped Sweden win gold on the U-18 World Championship, capping off a yr that noticed him play in over 70 video games throughout numerous ranges. He’ll be one in all Sweden’s most vital gamers on the Hlinka.
Kasper Halttunen, F (FIN)
Halttunen had a implausible run with the Finnish U-18 staff as an underaged ahead final yr, scoring six targets and 12 factors in 19 video games. He led all U-17 gamers within the Finnish U-20 league with 38 factors in 41 video games, good for tenth all-time and third behind Kaapo Kakko and Roni Hirvonen (55 factors every) over the previous 5 years. Anticipate Halttunen to be close to the highest of the scoring charts.
Eduard Sale, F (CZE)
Sale was an integral piece of Czechia’s U-18 World Championship efforts earlier this yr, racking up 9 factors in six video games. One of many high European forwards for the 2023 draft, Sale is a formidable playmaker who performs the sport at a excessive pace and has a fast launch. He had a quiet displaying on the Hlinka final yr, however he’ll be counted on in a giant approach this time round.
Colby Barlow, F (CAN)
There’s so much to love about Barlow, a possible high 10 decide in 2023. Possessing among the finest pictures in junior hockey, Barlow had 30 targets as a rookie and one other 5 in seven playoff video games with Owen Sound. He is received the dimensions to maintain management of the puck below strain, strikes nicely and may decide corners from powerful angles.
Otto StenbergF (SWE)
A talented ahead identified for some highlight-reel targets, Stenberg had a implausible U-17 nationwide staff marketing campaign final yr and even performed on the U-18 World Hockey Championship. His 35 factors in 38 video games have been the second most amongst U-17 gamers within the U-20 Swedish league, 5 factors behind Slovakian sensation Dalibor Dvorsky. Stenberg performs with an excellent tempo and would not make many dangerous choices when beginning a rush.
Dominik Petr, F (CZE)
Like Sale, Petr isn’t any stranger to this match, having represented his nation at it a yr in the past. One of many higher total U-18 nationwide staff gamers with Czechia final yr, Petr made waves early after placing up unbelievable numbers within the Czechia U-16 league at simply 13 earlier than ultimately transferring over to Finland to play in Lukko’s system. His skating wants a bit of labor, however he is received an excellent work ethic and can make you pay if you happen to’re caught sleeping on a play.
Michael Hrabal, G (CZE)
The goalie crop remains to be a little bit of a thriller this yr, however Hrabal has the prospect to cement himself as among the finest choices early. A giant netminder at 6-foot-6, Hrabal was dynamite with Czechia’s U-17 staff final yr and is already dedicated to NCAA Massachusetts for 2025-26. He is athletic for his dimension with a terrific glove hand and total robust lateral foot motion, and, after all, you’ll be able to’t train dimension, as cliche as it’s.
Ondrej Molnar, F (SVK)
With Dalibor Dvorsky set to hitch Slovakia’s World Junior Championship staff, Molnar turns into one of many names to look at right here. Molnar was second on Slovakia’s U-18 staff in scoring final yr with 21 factors in 22 video games, highlighted by 10 factors in 5 Division IA U-18 World Championship video games. He additionally performed 30 video games within the high Slovakian league, and whereas he had simply two assists, enjoying in opposition to males helped his improvement curve. Will Molnar outdo his six-point run from final yr’s Hlinka? That Slovakian staff had way more firepower than this yr, however he’ll be a game-changer for his nation once more this yr.
Emil Jarventie, F (FIN)
The brother of Ottawa Senators prospect Roby Jarventie, Emil is making waves after a strong yr with the Ilves U-20 membership in Finland. Jarventie had a restricted function with Finland’s Hlinka staff final yr however needs to be elevated right into a extra goal-scoring-focused function. Jarventie possesses a fast wrister and is assured to shoot from nearly any aspect of the ice.
Brayden Yager, F (CAN)
A extremely touted prospect for 2022, Yager had a formidable 34 targets and 59 factors in his first full season with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. On the Capital Metropolis Problem, the primary time he represented Canada internationally, he was tied for Canada Pink’s scoring lead with 4 targets and 7 factors, a formidable first outing for him. Canada has no scarcity of scoring expertise, and Yager needs to be one of many higher choices if he performs to his full potential.
Riley Heidt, F (CAN)
Heidt’s 58 factors in 65 common season video games with Prince George final yr is spectacular provided that he did that on a staff that wasn’t remotely within the WHL standings battle. That’ll change over time if Heidt sticks round, and now he is able to deliver his stout offensive sport to Canada, the place he’ll hope to point out why some consider he is a high 10 prospect for the 2023 draft.
Different notables: Matthew Wooden (F, CAN), Scott Ratzlaff (G, CAN), Noah Dower Nilsson (F, SWE), Jan Spynar (F, CZE), Jesse Kiiskinen (F, FIN), Daniel Jencko (F, SVK).