Future Considerations: Scouting reports on eight Canadian NHL prospects

Team Canada downed Team Switzerland by a score of 7-3 in the quarterfinal of the Men’s U18 Hockey Championship. The lopsided score doesn’t tell the entire story however. Switzerland could have easily been up a goal, or three, in the first period if not for Team Canada goaltender Carson Bjarnason (Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL). Bjarnason turned in his best performance of the tournament and now Canada advances to the semifinal round on Saturday, where they’ll face Sweden.

When an event like this concludes, NHL scouts produce “tournament reports” that summarize how a prospect has played from beginning to end. With that in mind, my process is not yet complete when it comes to Team Canada.

Here are some of my bullet points on various Canadian players so far, though:

NOTE: The number in brackets is the slot the player is ranked by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters or goaltenders.

Carson Bjarnason (No. 1)
Goalie, 6-foot-4, 187 pounds

Bjarnason had his best game against Team Switzerland. He used his size to his advantage, especially in the first period when he made saves by moving laterally and stretching out his legs. Team Canada gave up several Grade A chances early in the game. It pleased me to see Bjarnason “start on time”. He made several stops from the deep middle slot. There are times he loses his posts and it affects his angle coverage. He had a great game in the quarters, but I’m monitoring for a consistent result in the semis on Saturday.

Matthew Wood (No. 4)
Forward, 6-foot-3, 190 pounds

I have no issues with Wood’s hockey IQ offensively. He sees the ice and he’s shown he isn’t simply a shooter. In the quarters he made several sneaky plays under and through opponents. His 200-foot effort and pace was better, but his speed is going to have to go to another level when he arrives as a pro.

Calum Ritchie (No. 13)
Forward, 6-foot-2, 187 pounds

Ritchie had a goal and an assist versus the Swiss. He has great mitts. There is no doubt his puck touch and power when engaged translate to the NHL. I thought he tracked much better in this game. He was more engaged on the back check. There are times he looks like he isn’t pushing himself to the max, but big bodies are misleading. The quarterfinals were good for Calum.

Lukas Dragicevic (No. 18)
Defenceman, 6-foot-2, 181 pounds

His defending has been average plus, but I appreciated his take charge in the quarters. Lukas played to his identity in the offensive zone. He was aggressive directing pucks on goal from range. I’m looking for more deception however. His handles and shots came in straight lines. Some were also high and wide instead of being in “tip range” or “rebound capable”.

Etienne Morin (No. 19)
Defenceman, 6-foot, 180 pounds

I’m watching Morin closely this week. He’s not a heavy defender. Don’t get the wrong impression, though – he doesn’t back down, he’s simply more of a “bumper” and area defender. Morin has great feet. He can escape pressure in small areas and launch the attack with accurate outlets. I have to admit I’m not sure about his offensive ceiling at the NHL level, so getting to pucks first and moving them up ice is an important element.

Riley Heidt (No. 21)
Forward, 5-foot-10, 178 pounds

Heidt is perplexing me. He handles the puck very well, is a threat to produce on the power play and difficult to defend in the role. His offensive zone exits, and cheating while expecting the puck to arrive in quiet/uncontested areas of the ice, are standing out to me as corners he’s cutting.

Andrew Cristall (No. 15)
Forward, 5-foot-10, 165 pounds

I’ve been a massive supporter of Cristall. I envy his skill with the puck on his stick. He scored a fantastic short side goal off the rush in the second period against Switzerland that was a pure goal-scorer’s tuck. But for the first time this season I am questioning his full 60-minute impact and the pace he plays for the entire game. He has a chance to end the season on a positive note with my ranking this weekend, but he needs to be better than he was in the quarters, despite his two-goal effort.

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Macklin Celebrini (Underage, 2024 Draft Eligible)
Forward, 6-foot, 185 pounds

The most active offensive play driver for Team Canada in the quarters and for much of the tournament. The 2024 draft is shaping up to be another fantastic class and Celebrini is going to be exciting to monitor. He’s competitive on the the puck, elusive and hard to defend. He also has an extra gear to create separation in open ice. The Chicago Steel (USHL) continue pumping out quality NHL prospects from their elite program. Celebrini had a smooth two goals and two assists for Canada in the quarters.

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