By @MichaelCaples –
If you want to see future NHL stars – or even just some really, really, really good international hockey – you should make plans to stop by Plymouth this week.
USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, to be exact.
The home of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program is hosting the 2018 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament – an event that brings together some of the best 2018 NHL Draft-eligible players from the U.S., Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.
One of the top 2019 Draft-eligibles, too, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Tickets can be purchased for as little as $7 for the tournament, which spans Tuesday, Feb. 13 to Saturday, Feb. 17. Team USA – which will be primarily the NTDP Under-18 Team – takes on Sweden on Tuesday, the Czechs on Wednesday, Russia on Friday, and Finland on Saturday. All games start at 7 p.m.
There is, to put it bluntly, an absurd number of elite prospects slated to compete in the tournament. Six of the top 25 players on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings for North American skaters are expected to be competing – five from Team USA and Andrei Svechnikov, the Muskegon Lumberjacks alum and little brother of Red Wings draftee Evgeny who will be starring for Team Russia. Svechnikov is expected to be the No. 2 overall pick in this summer’s draft. A quick look at the European skater rankings reveals just as impressive of numbers; at least 13 of the top 25 are expected to be in Plymouth.
At least 70 players on NHL Central Scouting’s lists are expected to be skating in Plymouth next week.
Here is a look at some of the top names to watch at the upcoming Five Nations.
Oliver Wahlstrom – No. 7-ranked skater (North America)
The Massachusetts native and Harvard commit is leading the NTDP Under-18 Team in scoring with 31 goals and 53 total points in 38 games. He’s fired a remarkable 176 shots on goal so far this season.
Joel Farabee – No. 11-ranked skater (North America)
A Boston University commit and Cicero, N.Y., native, Farabee has recorded 25 assists and 44 total points for the NTDP this year.
Mattias Samuelsson – No. 17-ranked skater (North America)
The guy who switched his commitment from Michigan to Western Michigan this season, Samuelsson’s 6-foot-4, 217-pound frame has scouts eager to call his name at the NHL Draft in Texas.
Bode Wilde (Birmingham native, Michigan commit) – No. 22-ranked skater (North America)
The Wolverines commit leads the NTDP blue line unit with 24 points in 38 games. Wilde also leads the U18s with a +19 rating on the season.
Patrick Giles – No. 19-ranked skater (North America)
Hailing from Chevy Chase, Md., Giles has racked up 18 points in 38 games – along with 38 penalty minutes. And yes, that’s really his hometown. Pretty cool, huh?
Drew DeRidder (Fenton native, Michigan State commit) – No. 28-ranked goaltender (North America)
The Spartans’ future netminder is thriving in his first year with the NTDP. DeRidder has recorded a 15-8-0-1 record with a 2.85 goals-against average and .896 save percentage in a season full of NCAA and international competition.
Johnny Gruden (Rochester native) – No. 48-ranked skater (North America)
A Miami commit, Gruden is third on the NTDP Under-18 Team in scoring with 26 points in 37 games.
The younger brother of Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes, Jack has impressed the NTDP coaching staff so much that he has been permanently called up to the Under-18 Team from the U17s. That means that in the same year he’s a 16-year-old USHL rookie, he’s also taking on NCAA teams. How’s he handling it? Twenty points in 12 games, which means he’s already No. 7 on the U18s scoring list despite being more than 20 games behind the rest. Hughes is widely regarded as the frontrunner for the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft; come see him shine against the best in the age group above him next week.
Andrei Svechnikov (Muskegon Lumberjacks alum) – No. 2-ranked skater (North America) – Team Russia
He’s the No. 2 prospect on virtually every draft list, and rightfully so. Svechnikov, as mentioned earlier, is a remarkable talent. The Muskegon Lumberjacks alum and brother of Red Wings prospect Evgeny would be worth the price of admission alone – come watch him take on other elite draft-eligible prospects.
Adam Boqvist – No. 2-ranked skater (Europe) – Team Sweden
So we don’t get to see Rasmus Dahlin at the Five Nations because he’s busy with the Olympics. Who we do get to see, however, is the guy ranked just below him on NHL Central Scouting’s European list. Adam Boqvist, a 5-foot-11 offensive defenseman, appears to be quite the consolation prize for a team who can’t land Dahlin in the draft.
Grigory Denisenko – No. 3-ranked skater (Europe) – Team Russia
Ranked No. 10 by Hockeyprospect.com and No. 17 by ISS Hockey, Denisenko is another forward on Team Russia to certainly keep an eye on. Sportsnet says he has magic hands. Magic Man 2.0?
Matej Pekar – No. 87-ranked skater (North America) – Team Czech Republic
The Oakland Jr. Grizzlies alum is impressing with the Muskegon Lumberjacks this year – Pekar has recorded 35 points in 39 games as a USHL rookie. The Czech native has committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, so he’s staying in the States for the foreseeable future.
And other top-ranked skaters:
- Jacob Olofsson (No. 5) – Sweden
- Adam Ginning (No. 7) – Sweden
- Jesperi Kotkhaniemi (No. 9) – Finland
- Filip Hallander (No. 12) – Sweden
- Filip Johansson (no. 17) – Sweden
- Jakub Lauko (No. 18) – Czech Republic
- Niklas Nordgren (No. 19) – Finland
- Axel Andersson (No. 22) – Sweden
- David Gustafsson (No. 23) – Sweden
- Jonatan Berggren (No. 24) – Sweden
- Finland – Justus Annunen – No. 5
- Finland – Jere Huhtamaa – No. 12
- Sweden – Olof Lindbom – No. 4
- Sweden – Jesper Eliasson – No. 13
- Russia – Amir Miftakhof – No. 2
- Russia – Daniil Isaev – No. 9
- Czech – Lukas Dostal – No. 2
- Czech – Daniel Dvorak – No. 10
- U.S. – Jonathan Mor – No. 15
- U.S. – Drew DeRidder – No. 28