Caufield it is..
Scorer, risk / reward pick
Pure scorer , elite level with potential shortcomings... but that's the draft..
Maybe huge pick for the habs:
( as just posted I thought Krebs would have been it, more complete safe pick ) but hey don't mind this pick either, had to be one of the 2. Both final rankings consensus top 10!
" ....USNTDP teammate Jack Hughes said: “His shot can find the smallest openings. He can catch a pass, with no stick handle, and put it bar down. You give him two good looks, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll score on one. He has a drive to score every game. If he’s not scoring he’s pissed.”
"...project Caufield to be a star NHL winger due to his world-class shot, his elite hands and his great hockey sense. He should be a regular on the goal-scoring leaderboard in the NHL..."
full article from athletics:
USNTDP winger Cole Caufield scored 72 goals in 64 games this season between the USHL, NCAA and international play, so he obviously merits some consideration as a top prospect.
One of the best goal-scorers to become eligible for the draft in recent years, Caufield is No. 5 on my draft board.
You are going to be shocked by the assertion that I believe a 72 goal scorer has a pretty good shot.
Now that we’ve gotten past that drama, let’s delve into that part of his game. Caufield’s shot is special because of his wrist shot.
“My shot is quick. My release is very quick, it fools goalies at times,” Caufield said. “I also think it’s very accurate. I can put pucks in places that nobody else can in my opinion.”
It’s hard to argue when you see the tape. Caufield scored some absurd goals this season. Picking corners where he gave goalies no chance.
The two goals he scored this season that always come back to my mind both came from the February U18 5 Nations tournament.
This first one versus the Czech Republic is an incredible snipe.
It almost seems like the puck teleports from Caufield’s stick to the top left corner. How quickly and accurately that puck comes off his blade is unique. It’s shots like this that led to Caufield getting an 80 grade on his shot. The goalie had no chance to make this save.
Then there was this shot versus Sweden. Caufield gets the puck in a tight spot, with a large goalie blocking most of the net except for a few inches in the top corner. His shot is so quick I can’t even see it go in. I had to ask him after if it went top corner (it did). Picking a corner isn’t novel, but to do it at that angle, with that little space, and to have it go in as quickly as it did is another example of a special shot.
Goalies are never safe, as he can snipe a corner when they least expect it.
And he can snipe when in stride
Plus he can score in a variety of ways. He gets hard goals in the paint. He’s good for regular breakaways. And he has a good one-timer.
But his wrist shot is what makes him unique and is why Caufield is such a dangerous goal-scorer.
Figuring out what to make of Caufield’s skill level was a two-year endeavor for me. There were stretches where I didn’t see anything particularly special about his puck game and touches, but I’ve grown to really appreciate that part of his game, giving his skill a 65 on the 20-80 scale, indicating I think it’s near elite level.
“I’ve never seen purer hands coming through the NTDP. When he catches a puck, it lays flat. Every pass or shot explodes off his stick. It’s not the flashy dangles, it’s pure, it’s clean,” said USNTDP coach John Wroblewski.
Caufield has the flashy hands to make the cute plays. And despite his reputation as a goal-scorer, he does have a lot of offensive creativity.
“His ability to create his own chances is a huge part of his game,” said Wroblewski.
Here are examples of how he can dangle opponents:
But what makes his hands stand out is, as Wroblewski specified, how pure his touches are. Caufield’s handles are so crisp. Every time he gets the puck he’s moving the puck back and forth very quickly to either confuse defenders or get it into shooting position. He catches tough passes very well. Look at this play where he corrals a saucer pass in a perfect shooting position and launches it top shelf.
Or in this instance where Caufield catches the puck while breaking down the wing, and without making a second touch and fending off a check, lets the puck roll up his stick into shooting position and then launches an absolute rocket off the crossbar from an awkward position.
On this play, Caufield receives the puck and makes five incredibly quick touches with the intent to both evade a check and get the puck into shooting position. This is the type of play he made often.
In this instance, he must make at least a dozen touches on one rush, while looking off a defender before firing a bullet off the iron. How quickly he handles the puck is very deceptive for a defender to read what he’s trying to do.
This final play is a good summary of his puck skills. Caufield makes a dangle to get past a defender, doesn’t complete the play, recovers the puck, makes two or three quick touches to move into a good spot past a checker and the puck into a shooting position, and away it goes.
It’s easy to look at the 28 assists versus 72 goals for Caufield and come to the lazy conclusion he’s not a great passer, but Caufield sees the ice very well.
He often executes seam passes like these, especially when he’s set up on the flank on the power play.
But he’s also shown the ability to make creative plays where he finds teammates:
I wouldn’t call his playmaking his biggest strength, but I think it’s a very good part of his game.
“I like to have the puck. I want to make plays,” Caufield said.
Often Caufield is the shooter on his line or on the power play. Plays are developed to finish on his stick so he’s asked to make these kinds of plays often. With that said, he has it in him, and if he doesn’t have a Jack Hughes on his line, he can be a driver with his vision.
Caufield is a good skater. He’s above-average and at times I’ve seen flashes of high-end speed from him. It’s an area of debate about his game among scouts. Wroblewski pointed out how often Caufield gets breakaways and how well he pulls away from defenders with his speed.
At the end of the day, I gave Caufield’s skating a 55 grade, but it’s certainly a strength of his game. He’s probably not the most explosive 5-foot-7 forward you’ll ever see, but his speed doesn’t hold him back.
The Inevitable Alex DeBrincat Comparison
So the Alex DeBrincat comparison to Caufield is inevitable. I’ve had dozens of conversation with hockey folks the past year about Caufield, and 95 percent of them had at least a passing mention of DeBrincat.
When I asked Wroblewski if Caufield could be as good as DeBrincat, the coach agreed, while mentioning he doesn’t know DeBrincat as well as Caufield.
“I watched (DeBrincat) a lot when he was playing with Connor McDavid in Erie and I fell in love with the type of player he is,” said Caufield. “I try to model my game a little bit after him. He’s a little more feisty.”
Caufield is a better skater than DeBrincat was at the same age and has more goals. The comparison is more interesting when you think of how they are perceived.
There are some NHL scouts who are not enamored with Caufield. They claim he doesn’t drive offense at an elite level, he’s the benefactor of Hughes and he’s not an elite skater for such a small player. These similar claims were made about DeBrincat as he entered his draft season.
I was particularly high on DeBrincat when he was 18, ranking him 15th on my 2016 board, which in hindsight was still way too low and a clear error. I saw good feet but not elite, a high skill level but also nothing special for 5-foot-7. I did like his elite sense, shot and tenacity. I didn’t like how he played at the U20 level internationally.
The question then becomes does the fact Caufield is a highly skilled and quick 5-foot-7 forward but scores at an elite level circumvent any nitpicks about his game?
Maybe history isn’t repeating itself perfectly in this instance. They aren’t 100 percent the same player, and their situations differed, but history is rhyming here.
Caufield’s list of accolades is long. A 72-goal season for the USNTDP, destroying Auston Matthews’ record of 55 after scoring 54 in his U17 season. A six-goal game in the USHL. A 14-goal IIHF U18, tying Alex Ovechkin’s tournament record. Being named MVP of the U18s.
Caufield scored 29 goals in 28 USHL games. Only 25 U18 players have ever scored more goals in a USHL season. A USHL season is typically 60-plus games, which the NTDP 18s don’t come close to playing. He was arguably the best U18 goal scorer in the USHL since Thomas Vanek.
Did Hughes, his most frequent linemate, make Caufield? It’s hard to really do splits on how well they played apart because it was a rare occurrence this season.
“Does Cole need Jack on his line? No. Look at his production right after Jack got called up from the U17s to the U18s last December. Cole rattled off two or three hat trick in January,” argued Wroblewski.
Hughes is obviously a superior player, but there was certainly some give and take between the two players. It wasn’t like Hughes’ numbers were clearly better than Caufield’s indicating one player was lugging most of the weight. Caufield was only the fourth NTDP player to ever clear 100 points in a season, joining Hughes, Matthews and Clayton Keller.
Hockey World’s Impression
An NHL scout said: “Elite goal-scorer. I’ve seen him score every which way. He’s got quick hands, his knack for getting open is impressive. He’s got a bullet of a shot. He could play on an NHL power play right now.”
An NHL executive said: “He’s obviously a top goal scorer, but the most important point is that he scores goals in all different ways. He scores goals in the paint, off the half wall, off rushes, etc. The hardest thing to do in hockey is to score goals and he does that. Can’t teach that type of skill.”
An NHL scout said: “He’s the second best player on the NTDP this season. How many more did he need to score to prove to people how good he is?”
USNTDP U18 coach John Wroblewski said: “His shot is so accurate. He hits so many crossbars and elbows in practice it’s insane. He loves the game. He’s got a smile on his face all the time. Our goalies love stopping him, but they can’t do it.”
USNTDP teammate Jack Hughes said: “His shot can find the smallest openings. He can catch a pass, with no stick handle, and put it bar down. You give him two good looks, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll score on one. He has a drive to score every game. If he’s not scoring he’s pissed.”
And what will Hughes miss the most about playing with Caufield? “Easy points,” Hughes joked.
Cole Caufield said: “I try to find spots in the offensive zone that not many people can. I’m not the biggest guy, but I feel my shot and release are pretty elite. I don’t mean this in a cocky way, but I feel like I’m the best goal scorer in the draft.”
Caufield scored 72 goals this season. I’ve said it many times but it bears repeating. It bears repeating because it’s easy to pick apart his game. I’ve done it for two years. I’ve done it in conversations with scouts, coaches and fellow media members. And every time there’s a mention of the fact he doesn’t have the most elite speed or Johnny Gaudreau’s dangles, I would say to myself, “Yeah, but it’s a lot of goals.”
When he had that six-goal game against Green Bay, I wouldn’t have called any of them highlight reel goals. But it was still six goals. It’s a lot of goals.
Everyone makes mistakes. That’s a part of being human. You live and you learn. The learning being the key element in this discussion. You don’t want to make the same mistake twice. Caufield presents that opportunity. I underrated Alex DeBrincat. When I wrote about that mistake, I mentioned how an NHL executive who also missed on him said the lesson he learned was “don’t underrate goals.”
I project Caufield to be a star NHL winger due to his world-class shot, his elite hands and his great hockey sense. He should be a regular on the goal-scoring leaderboard in the NHL.
Don’t underrate goals. Cole Caufield scored 72 goals. It’s a lot of goals.
(Top photo: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)