The Journey: Players to Watch at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup Finals

Hadi Kalakeche

2021-08-07

Welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way.

In this week's edition, I wanted to focus on a tournament that is always worth watching when attempting to gauge the year's draft-eligibles: the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. The tournament features under-18 players from the eight greatest hockey nations in the world, who are mostly eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft, along with a handful of 16-year-olds who are exceptional enough at the sport to join older teammates and competition.

Below you will find a list of players to watch for each of the four teams remaining in the tournament, who will face each other for their respective medal games on August 7 — keep in mind that Team Canada opted out of the tournament due to travel risks, opting instead for scrimmages with their U20 team back home.

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Slovakia

Starting with the team that has caught the scouting world by surprise, the Slovaks just ended a thrashing of the Finns with a 6-2 win to reach the finals of the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, after beating Sweden 4-3, the United States 5-2, and Germany 12-2.  They will hope to beat out Matvei Michkov and the Russians to win their first-ever gold medal at this tournament, but are also guaranteed their highest-ever placement if they lose with a silver medal.

Dalibor Dvorsky, C – 2023 NHL Draft-eligible

Dvorsky has been absolutely lights-out for the Slovak team, earning 12 points in only four games so far, including eight goals. He already owns the record of highest-scoring Slovak in documented Hlinka-Gretzky history, leading by three points with two more games potentially left to play.

His ability to beat a goaltender clean is near-unmatched in this tournament, and he often shoves his nose in the middle of scrums to dig out and poke pucks behind sprawling goaltenders. His tenacity and his hands allow him to take control of puck battles and stickhandle through defenders. A great talent with high hopes for the top-end of the 2023 NHL Draft.

Juraj Slafkovsky, LW – 2022 NHL Draft-eligible

With eight points in four games, Slafkovsky