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U18 analysis: Tij Iginla and Cole Hutson impress | Connelly makes a fool of himself
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

WARNING! In a little over 48 hours, if the Canadiens win the lottery, this text will have lost 90% of its relevance in the eyes of many readers… and maybe even the author!

But since there’s also a 91.5% probability of keeping it in its entirety, we thought it worthwhile to analyze the suspects of convenience from the U18 that just ended in Finland.

Let’s start by saying that there are only two certainties to be drawn from the last U18: James Hagens will be the first choice for the 2025 auction, and Gavin McKenna will succeed him in 2026.

As for 2024, can this tournament help us determine who the Iginla, Eiserman, Connelly and Helenius really are, and where they’ll be drafted?

And what about Cole Hutson, the “brother of the other”?

That’s what we’d like to analyze today… as we await Tuesday night’s lottery!

Tij Iginla | AG, Canada | 6 goals, 12 points, + 4

After joining Team Canada a little late, Iginla had a quiet first game by his standards, but soon found his feet again. History will now remember him as the scorer of Canada’s winning goal in the U18 finals in 2024.

Fast, incisive and solid in possession of the puck, eager to get it when he doesn’t, Son Iginla almost always converges on the right spots on the ice, and often ends up in net, with a breakthrough, a shot, a presence, or a deflection.

His offensive and defensive reads aren’t always perfect, and he’s not the best passer in the upcoming auction, but Iginla still possesses above-average game sense and excellent hands for a physical winger in his style, and his level of commitment is beyond reproach.

He regularly played on the left point of the PP1 (and sometimes on the right wall), and was also seen here and there playing short-handed.

Getting back to Iginla’s shot, perhaps only Cole Eiserman has one better than his among all the 2024 auction hitters. Iginla throws with tremendous velocity and precision from a crisp, dry draw, no matter which foot he’s leaning on. Truly impressive.

It’s also very impressive to see the level of maturity in his game and his physical strength, considering he’ll only be 18 in August. A few more weeks and he wouldn’t have been available until 2025… In my eyes, he’s really not far from the NHL and is already playing “pro” style.

I ranked him 9th in my mid-season evaluation, while many still rank him between 12th and 15th. Today, I simply don’t understand those who think he’d be a ” reach ” for the Habs between5th and 7th.

What does he need to become an excellent winger, or even a star winger in the NHL?

In my opinion, he possesses too many dominant qualities to miss out.

With this tournament adding to a rather impressive series, Iginla has risen a little further in my esteem and is likely to move up a few places in my final top-15 (towards the end of May).

However, I can’t wait to see Michael Brandsegg-Nygard again, my favorite player of the winter and Iginla’s “right-handed competitor” in terms of style and talent. MBN, a late bloomer, dominant at U20 level, a hard worker, “pro” style too, should be defending Norway’s colors at the Senior World Championship, as he will already be 19 on October 5…

Will he be able to hold on to the audacious 6th place I awarded him in February? To be continued.

Cole Eiserman | AG, USA | 9 goals, 10 points, +/- 0

Aside from his new goalscoring record for the American development program, nothing much is new for Cole Eiserman.

We’ve simply seen the elite sniper everyone knows over and over again.

But there’s nothing surprising in that: the main interested party isn’t interested in changing anything for anyone, and says so himself!

He likes it the way it is!

Isn’t that cute!

But then, I’m not the only observer/analyst who doesn’t like it as it is.

To trot out a good old cliché, Eiserman plays more for the name behind the sweater than the logo in front. It’s often obvious to the naked eye.

Folds often seem an almost foreign concept to him, as do defensive coverages and flatter work out of the offensive zone in general. Rather ordinary at 5-on-5, this explains why he didn’t finish his tournament with a positive differential in a “bundled” American team.

But, in the offensive zone, he generally works pretty hard, even going so far as to distribute some good shoulder shots. We’ll give him that.

A team that wants a pure scorer, hopes he’ll become more mature/less egocentric over time, and has a nice spot for him on the right side of its first power-play unit could perhaps be tempted into the top-10. Very likely.

It’s also interesting to note that Eiserman has virtually the same physical attributes and skills as Iginla (good size, hands, speed, shooting, flair for the net), but not at all the same willingness to do what “the game commands you to do” to speak as Martin St-Louis.

Could the Habs managers who want to add talent and weight to the attack take the “Eiserman gamble” and make him a more complete player?

It’s doubtful…

Trevor Connelly | C/AG, USA | 4 goals, 9 points, + 7

There’s no doubt that Trevor Connelly is a lot of fun to watch…when he’s not whacking his opponents in the head and costing his team the tournament.

His flamboyant style is reminiscent of a cross between Mike Ribeiro and Mike Modano.

No, really, he’s cute.Especially if you like the half-ballerina, half-sociopath type

But now, after his swastika stories and racist remarks, Connelly has “given gas” to all those who believe that deep down he’s a ” total d*ck “, an ost*e de cave in Québécois.

On that subject, we wonder if Simon “Snake” Boisvert will now join them, who as we know ranked him 2nd in his mid-season evaluation for the June draft.

As the excellent RDS analyst Marc-André Dumont philosophically asked after the game: was it a simple error of course, or did his action reveal his true character (as a finished cabochon)?

Imagine, Connelly was a last-minute addition to the team, not part of the development program (USNTDP)!

I’m not sure his team-mates in the program, who have been dreaming of this gold medal for the past two years, appreciated his little stay with them…

In any case, unless I’m mistaken, he didn’t return to the ice to pick up “his ” silver medal.

What a waste!

Stupid gesture and questions about his attitude aside, Connelly remains an active player on the ice. He’s not lazy, gets involved in all three zones and distributes the puck as much as he shoots at the net.

But, despite some fine goals, his shot still doesn’t strike me as a terrifying weapon, and his awkward skating stroke isn’t sensational…

Finally, in addition to the thickness of the “slice of steak” between his ears, the other big question concerns his very “east-west” style of play. Will he be able to play this way in the NHL without getting his head ripped off at the zone entrance, when he’s a bit of a slobberer at times, and already not the type to earn the respect of his opponents on the ice?

Eleventh in my mid-season evaluation, you can now take him out of the top-15. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, you can write ” no draft “.

Cole Hutson | D, USA | 4 goals, 13 points, +14

Here’s one who could fit in much better with the organization’s values! Cole is a carbon copy of his brother Lane, except for a few subtle nuances. He’s a carbon copy of his brother Lane.

In my opinion, in terms of talent, Cole Hutson, the new record holder for points for a defenseman in USNTDP history, has absolutely nothing to envy the 5-6 defensemen almost always associated with the top-10 this season.

Voted USA’s player of the match in the final, if you ask me, the Americans’ #23 was his team’s2nd best player of the tournament after superstar James Hagens.

As with his brother, it’s simply his modest size that explains why he’s generally placed outside the top-20, or even the first round, on the various pre-draft lists. It’s worth noting, however, that he’s already 2 inches taller and around 15 pounds heavier at the same age as Lane, and that he’s a bit robust in general.

If he’s still available around No. 27 for the Habs, he’ll be hard to ignore. After his brother’s prowess, I don’t think the other 31 NHL teams will let him slip to the end of the2nd round.

We now have a pretty good idea that the Hutson’s style and determination can get them to the NHL pretty easily. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a lucid club that took a few notes drafted him in the top-20.

If Cam York is already 14th…

Konsta Helenius | C, Finland | 0 goals, 7 points in 5 games, + 1

After a very ordinary U20 in the middle of the2nd line during the holiday season, how was Konsta Helenius going to respond to the U18 at a much lower level of play?

In a word: ordinary (again).

No goals, seven assists in 7 games, blanked in the quarter-final against Sweden…

He’s got a pretty good feel for the game, but he’s often a spectator, staying out of the action. Quite simply, Helenius doesn’t seem to want the puck enough, and isn’t that keen to make a difference. There’s not enough urgency and determination in his game.

In other words, he’s just too passive, too beige to become an NHL impact player.

Forget top-6 in his case. He’ll be a3rd-line player at best.

And that, in my opinion, pretty much answers the question of many who wonder why we’re not talking more about Helenius in the top-10 of the next draft: he simply doesn’t fit into the conversation.

Unless you’re interested in drafting some kind of right-handed Lars Eller, smaller and less good. That’s your business…

I’ll even go so far as to make a bold prediction: as with several other high-profile Finns in recent years, Helenius may never establish himself in the NHL if he doesn’t stick on a3rd line.

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