Who could return from the Hlinka Gretzky Cup?
by Ondrej Kalat|20 AUG 2019
The Russian U18 national team celebrates its first triumph since 1995 at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
photo: Werner Krainbucher
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup was won by Russia. Which of the players could appear at the World Junior Championship?

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup, for players under 18 years of age, is now over, but soon there will be another prestigious international hockey event to take place in the Czech Republic. Trinec and Ostrava will host the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship for players under 20. Let‘s see which players could possibly appear at both of these events.

The first player that must be mentioned is Cole Perfetti, who set a new Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament record this year with 12 points (8+4). It was Canada’s shootout win over Sweden where Perfetti really left his mark. Although the Canadians have many future stars under 20 years old, it is possible that Perfetti will appear at least as a depth player. If he continues his performances as in Breclav, it would seem likely.

Leading the Russians to victory was goaltender Yaroslav Askarov, who showed what he can do in the group stage in Piešťany and in the final in Breclav, where he excelled with a 95.97 save percentage. He was the main reason for the overall success of the Russians, and he should be taken n the first round of the NHL draft. Although he has competition in the Russian goal, he has a great chance to reappear in the Czech Republic in December.

We can find more talent on the Nordic teams.

Another interesting player is Roni Hirvonen, who slayed the Czech team in Breclav with a hat trick. Last season, the young Finn managed to play 13 games for the U18 national team. Needless to say, he would need a bit of luck to present himself at this year's World Junior Championship because the Finns have a deep lineup. However, his selection cannot be ruled out completely.

The Swedes left a very good impression at the tournament when they fell in the semi-finals in a shootout to Canada. Their top scorer was Daniel Ljungman, who scored five goals, including a shootout-winner in the last game of the group stage to advance. An invitation could well go to Zion Nybeck, who last year helped the U18s to the gold medal on home ice and finished this year's Hlinka Gretzky Cup with three points. Both players were 17 in the spring. Would the coaching staff consider either?

Talented players Raymond and Holtz should appear at the World Championship, but unfortunately they did not play in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup because they were in a U20 tournament in the U.S.

Will any Slovaks get the call?

From the Czechs, Swiss and Americans, there won’t likely be anybody. The Slovak U18 team will be fighting this year to return to the elite group at the World Championship, while at this year's Hlinka Gretzky Cup, they played close games against all teams. The captain was defenceman Samuel Kňažko and great up front was Matej Kašlík. Given that the Slovaks do not have as many hockey players to choose from as other superpowers, these players could have a good chance to play in Trinec and Ostrava.