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10’s of Options: Cole Caufield

The hardest thing to do in the NHL is score goals. The league demands speed and skill and we are seeing that more and more with the evolution of the NHL superstar. Year after year we are seeing more skilled players come into the league with talent that we have never seen before, this year’s draft will not differ from that much as we will see an abundance of talent go at the top of the draft board including names like Kaapo Kakko, Bowen Byram and Jack Hughes.

There’s a player that has shot up draft boards like he was stuffed with helium this year and that is likely due to his ability to do the most difficult task for a hockey player, and that task is to score goals. Cole Caufield is who I am talking about and from watching his game there is not a lot to hate about picking him if he were to fall to the Vancouver Canucks at the ten spot in the draft.

Cole Caufield was consistently hovering around the 8-15 range in many scouts rankings throughout the season, Craig Button of TSN began his “Preseason Craig’s List” with Caufield at number 11 and Corey Pronman had Caufield at number 17 on his “Way too early top 25 for the 2019 NHL Draft” back on June 25th, 2018. Craig Button has hinted on a recent radio hit that Caufield could go as high as third overall to the Chicago Blackhawks.

I have reason to believe that the Los Angeles Kings are also interested in Caufield as he has had phone conversations with the entire front office of the Kings. If Caufield is available for the Canucks at 10 they should strongly consider selecting him as he is now the current single season record holder of the United States National Team Development Program.

Caufield had multiple games scoring more than four goals in one game, including a six goal performance earlier this season. These high scoring games were enough for him to shatter the USNTDP single season goal record held by Auston Matthews (55 in 2014-15). Though a lot of Caufield’s success is due to being a linemates with projected first overall pick Jack Hughes, Caufield was still the one who was able to get himself in the right positions to be able to bury 72 goals in 64 games.

Here’s what some of the scouts are saying about Cole Caufield.

NHL front offices talk about the team that gets you into the playoffs, and the team that wins in the playoffs. No doubt Caufield is on the team that gets you in.
-Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet

Hyper-skilled but undersized winger brings all the offensive tools you can handle. Owns the best release in the class and that helped him click at a goal-per-game with The Program. Owns good edge work and a non-stop motor but could use that extra gear at his stature. A pure finisher.
-Cam Robinson, DobberProspects

Caufield scored 72 goals this past season. That wasn’t a typo. He’s one of the best goal-scorers to become eligible for the draft in recent years. Caufield’s shot is special. There’s plenty of snipers out there, but Caufield’s wrist shot technique is like a slingshot. He gets control of the puck and fires it a million miles an hour on target.
-Corey Pronman, TheAthletic

USNTDP right wing Cole Caufield, an offensive dynamo who is just 5-foot-6 3/4 and 162 pounds, rounds out the top 10. Caufield, who recently broke Phil Kessel’s record for career markers with the USNTDP, is the best pure goal scorer available in the draft.
-Craig Button, TSN

It doesn’t take a draft guru to know that Cole Caufield can score, it’s far and above the best part of his game. Cole possesses a quick release that is as accurate as any prospect we will see in this draft. A good portion of his goals come from quick releases on the left side of the ice, whether that be via the one timer or just being able to quickly release a wrist shot with accuracy to beat the opposing goaltender, Cole gets goals.

He was sprung for plenty of breakaways this season with the USNTDP and capitalized on many of those chances and seems to always come up with a new move as there was not a lot of repeats on his breakaway chances this season.

Caufield may be the best pure goal scorer in the 2019 draft and a big reason for that is due to his positioning in the offensive zone. Cole is very skilled at finding a way to sneak around for a backdoor goal and that fit very well with the USNTDP this season as Jack Hughes & Co. loved feeding the goal scoring beast that is Cole Caufield.

The positioning in the offensive zone is great but if you don’t have the quick release to go along with being in the right spot you would not be considered a top 10 prospect, the good thing about Cole Caufield is that his shot is electric as well. USNTDP Coach John Wroblewski was quoted earlier this year that the amount of crossbars that Caufield hits in practice is ridiculous and that he has never seen anything like it.

Scoring may be Caufield’s best trait but when I asked him what his most underrated skill was he talked about his playmaking ability. This USNTDP team is loaded with offensive talent and that creates many odd man rushes for them to create some beautiful passing plays that result in some gorgeous goals.

When I asked Cole about this 2 on 0 breakaway with Alex Turcotte he laughed and said they almost passed it too many times and were lucky to get a shot off.

Caufield will project onto a team first unit powerplay and though he was dangerous from the left side of the ice at five on five, the USNTDP decided to use Caufield in the “bumper” position on the powerplay. A spot that was very effective for him as Jack Hughes would play the right side on the powerplay and was the trigger man to feed Caufield for many shot opportunities and would take shots that generated rebounds for Caufield to finish up.

 

Caufield’s quick release and accurate shot shows the potential to grow even stronger and quicker when he gains his adult strength and that is something that would fit very nicely along side a powerplay unit of Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat.

It’s got me excited and also got Cole pretty excited.

Damn right it would be pretty cool.

In conclusion, Cole Caufield has committed to the University of Wisconsin Badgers next year and will get to play alongside some great talent like K’Andre Miller and Ty Emberson. Cole will also get to link up with his brother Brock Caufield who will be in his sophomore season with the Badgers.

The University of Wisconsin is home to one of the most respected coaches in the college hockey, Tony Granato. Granato was a four year player for the Badgers in the mid 80s and went on to play 773 games in the NHL including four season that saw him score at least 30 goals, he has spent time as the assistant and head coach of the Colorado Avalanche for 13 seasons, in which he had a winning record 12 of those 13 seasons.

The path is paved for Caufield to develop for a year or two with Wisconsin and then make an immediate impact on an NHL team as soon as the 2020-21 season, that is if he doesn’t jump into an NHL lineup at the end of his collegiate season this year, though with his size I would assume he jumps into the NHL after two college seasons.

But I have been wrong before.

Many of the most recent mock drafts have Cole Caufield going before the Canucks pick at 10. Jokke Nevalainen of DobberProspects has Caufield going eighth to the Edmonton Oilers, Dave Green of NBC Sports has Caufield going fourth to the Colorado Avalanche and TSN Hockey has Cole Caufield going fifth overall to the Los Angeles Kings.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article I believe the Kings are very interested in adding Cole Caufield to their prospect pool but if Chicago and Colorado pass up on Bowen Byram it would surprise me if the Kings were to pass on Byram. There have been crazier things that have happened at the NHL draft though, I guess that’s why a pair of tickets are going for 400 dollars on the secondary market.

My prediction is that either the Blackhawks or Avalanche don’t pass on Bowen Byram and that would open the door for the Kings to select their man Cole Caufield in the five spot.

But I have been wrong before.

If Caufield lands in Vancouver it would provide a tremendous boost to the prospect pool and having a scorer like Caufield slide into the powerplay with fellow young studs like Pettersson, Boeser and Hughes would create one heck of a first powerplay unit where all the players excel at putting the puck in the net with exceptional passing and shooting abilities.

If Caufield is there, you have to take him with the 10th pick, he scores goals and the Canucks need to score goals. It’s as simple as that.

Here are the links to the Matt Boldy and Cole Caufield interview I did last Monday.
You can also just search “Canucks Conversation” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud.

iPhone Users
Apple Podcast Link

Non-iPhone Users
Spotify Link
SoundCloud Link

Read also

Options with the 10th pick: Mathew Boldy

  • Personally, my only goal for the Canucks is to win the Stanley Cup. We’ve had Presidents Trophies, Hart winners, etc etc. Now, the only thing that matters is the big prize. We all know that the rules change 180 degrees in the NHL when the playoffs start, and smaller players get marginalized. Witness Tampa (Point), Toronto (Marner), and Calgary (Gaudreau) disappear this postseason. These are verifiable facts. Unless Caulfield plays with a Marchand style edge, which he does not, he is not helping the Canucks go all the way. I hope he’s gone by the time they pick, and we get a playoff sized guy. Still think they are taking Soderstrom, but lots of prognosticators are saying Boldy may be available, and he’d also be good.

    • Low playoff point totals for Point, Marner, and Gaudreau seem more like a product of a team fail rather than size. The other elite players on Tampa and Calgary failed to register significant point totals and those teams were eliminated in 4-5 games. Marner had higher point totals and it’s not unreasonable to think that it was because Tavares and Matthews performed better than Kucherov, Stamkos, Gourde, Johnson, Monahan, Lindholm, or Tkachuk.

    • Patrick Kane just called, he & Martin St Louis would like to discuss your theory.
      Every rule has exceptions and if the Brackett & Benning think this kid is an exception and draft him, I more than trust them on USHL players. As well, last year Marner had 9 points in 7 games & Point had in 16 in 17 games so they don’t always disappear.
      Not saying I’m advocating for Caulfield because I haven’t watched enough of any of these guys to make any call. I’m just saying if he’s available and the brass think he has the most potential to impact games of those left, I’ll trust them and hope he’s like Patrick Kane.

      • Caulfield also played the entire season with Jack Hughes, whom people are speaking of as a generational talent. And in a system where physical play is not predominant. Think that may have affected his stats? Remember, Blair McDonald scored 46 goals one year playing with Gretzky. And Marchand and StLouis are outliers. Both are/were very tough hockey players.

        • Perhaps one factor to consider are the zebras: setting the tone of the game based on how the game will be officiated. In my opinion, the teams that recognizes this factor and adjust the quickest will probably set the tone of the game based on their strengths and a team like Boston that has some well known nasty but skilled players seems to thrive as officiatting gets more passive. Also in these playoffs, the two teams with hottest goalies are in the finals… just my two cents.

    • I read that Sam Cosentino quote as though he is inferring the same thing, he will get you INTO the playoffs, but…

      Regardless, IF this kid is there (big IF), you can’t pass on that kind of skill. He is all but guaranteed to have elite talent.

  • Some sources say that Caulfield doesn’t have the same speed as other smallish scores int he league.
    I m favoring Boldy or Krebs at 10. Boldy offers size and scoring with an intense drive whereas Krebs has high end hockey IQ and leadership to go with his offensive prowess.

    • I, too, wonder about Caufield’s skating. I just did a quick survey of scouting reports and, for the most part Caufield has been regarded as an excellent skater. Mostly Habs Eyes on the Prize raises the biggest alarm.

      Good Skating:

      The Hockey Writers: What Caufield lacks in size, he makes up with in speed, a great motor and an unreal release…His speed and unbelievable shot will make him dangerous at any level.

      Draft Analyst: Caufield is an excellent skater with a devastating change of pace and explosive first step. He is slippery, elusive and possesses very good balance considering his playing weight.

      Puck Prose: Combine this with Caufield’s top-notch skating and you’ve got someone who is smart enough and skilled enough to play in anyone’s top six.

      Mile High Hockey: Caufield’s skating is another strength that more than compensates for his lack of size. He’s agile and always keeps his feet moving to find the open space on the ice – both with and without the puck.

      Pucks of a Feather (Ducks): Caufield has great skating ability, paired with the ability to get in and out of his cuts at a frantic pace and leaves him able to turn on a dime.

      Ok Skating:

      Habs Eyes on the Prize: What the diminutive forward will have to work on most is his skating form. He gets around the ice effectively, beating most of his Junior opponents in a race in the USHL, but he won’t outrace many NHL players unless he becomes a more powerful skater in the next few years. Average NHL skating is pretty good for a player with more range, but he will probably need to be a level above to translate his offensive upside to the next level due to his size.

      Dobbers: If his skating was high-end, there’d be little reason to keep him out of the top-five conversation.

      Last Word on Hockey: While he has very good top end speed, his best attributes are his acceleration and agility.

  • I’d be interested to see some sharp analytics on regular season vs. playoffs for smaller skilled players. I’m a huge fan of Martin St. Louis and his regular season vs. playoffs is stunningly consistent. He’d go from great in the reg to incredible in the playoffs. Can another smaller player duplicate this over a career? Yes, but it seems to me to be quite the outlier. Caufield might (if things go right) dazzle during the regular season, but come playoffs, that’s a completely different scenario. I don’t deny his apparent skill, but as Beer Can Boyd points out, “Unless Caulfield plays with a Marchand style edge, which he does not, he is not helping the Canucks go all the way.” I can’t see Benning going this way.

    • Not saying Caufield is the answer or that he will be a playoff performer (because who would actually know that) but to say he won’t because he is small is dumb.

      Brad Marchand (5’9) is the second leading scorer of this years playoffs. Jaden Schwarz (5’10) is the third leading scorer Patrick Kane (5’10) is one of the best playoff performers of this generation. Daniel Briere (5’9) was one of the best playoff performers of the previous generation..and as you mentioned St. Louis (5’8).

      Some small players haven’t performed well in the playoffs. Some big players haven’t performed well in the playoffs. The end.

      • As I stated in the first sentence of my comment, I’d be interested to see some sharp analytics on regular season vs. playoffs for smaller skilled players. But you’re cherry-picked 5 players (with JS specifically having an ‘anomaly-style’ strong playoffs) is not quite that. Thanks for adding your wisdom and goodwill to the discussion.

        • Except his 5 players are small but also high-end players, there can’t be that many comparables, to be honest. I think everyone agrees, for the most part, that whether you’re for or against picking Caulfield, it’s a risk. A risk with a potentially outstanding reward, but there’s a reason he’s not a slam-dunk top 5, and it’s all related to his size and that it comes with average, not blazing, speed.

          Personally I’ve already said before, I’m in the camp that believes if the Canucks braintrust have him ranked top 5, and he’s there at 10, you take him. If they feel he’s in that nebulous 7-12 spot, then you might choose a safer pick instead. When all is said and done, only time will tell which teams made the best picks, it’s such a crapshoot.

    • Dionne was 5’9″ and weighed just under 200lbs with a low centre of gravity. He also came with a 250lb temper. Zero comparison to this smurf.
      Sure hope this guy is gone so the Canucks dont even get to think about it.

    • Small players have always been part of the NHL:

      Andre Boudrias. 5’8”. Offensive dynamo for the Canucks
      Cliff Ronning. 5’8”. Great stick handler and set up man for the Canucks
      Yvan Cournoyer. 5’7”. Canadiens captain and 428 goals
      Doug Jarvis. 5’9”. 964 consecutive games, four Stanley Cups.
      Theo Fleury. 5’6”. 1084 games – 1088 points.
      Henri Richard. 5’7”. Won 11 Stanley Cups
      Stan Mikita. 5’9” 1394 games and 1467 points.

      Now I am not saying that Caulfield will be as good as any of these, just that smaller players certainly can be successful in both the regular season and the playoffs

  • I do remember BJ Mcdonald, and Rob Brown scoring 49 goals in 68 games with Mario. As mentioned, I’m not advocating for Caufield. I’m just saying if Benning/Brackett draft him, I won’t be upset because they’ve been really good at assessing USHL talent and I choose not to get upset about things I have no way of knowing the future about. If Hughes was the catalyst, then hopefully Benning & Brackett are aware and he’s not our pick, if they do draft him, I will assume they considered this and think he’s a 40 goal scorer in the NHL with a lesser centre.

    • Just watched the Draft Scouting Meetings vid on Canucksdotcom. I’m confident the team there has done their homework and we’re getting someone very good. Clearly Caufield warrants serious discussion. So many variables, so many players…. all good.

      • Yeah. I’m still terrified of July 1st and how Benning spends our cap space but I’m not worried about their decision with the pick. I’d likely agree with Beer Can, I’d prefer size on my wings, but I’d assume if they took Caulfield it was because they thought he has a chance to be special and not just good.

  • DeBrincat is most comparable sizewise at 5`7 – 165 lbs scoring 41 goals but attitude would be the difference maker as he carries a high stick and a Tkachuk disposition.

  • Craig Button says he’s the best goal scorer in the draft and since we can’t score goals for sour apples, sounds like he fills a need. He’s small, but is he tough?

  • Yeah, but Debrincat wasn’t exactly playing with Gumby and Pokey either. And Caulfield playing with Jack Hughes really may make him look better than he is. Not a fan of drafting munchkins anyways. There is an axiom: A great big player will go father than a great small player, apologies to the outliers of course.

  • A fast slippery player who can get open and capitalize on the passing of an elite playmaker? Sounds like just what the canucks need. People are concerned about how much of his production is due to playing with Hughes, but its not like he’ll be lining up with Sutter and Virtanen. I suspect he’ll be off the board at 10

  • With a first round pick you have to swing for the fences and go for the player who has the most potential. I would take Caufield ahead of Soderstrom, Boldy, or Zegras. Krebs is the only player in the Canucks’ likely draft range I would take over Caufield.

    • Yes, swinging for the fences is key, try to get that top line forward and/or top pairing D. It may be a stretch at 10, but you never know.

      Admittedly my bias’ points to selecting a larger player over a smaller player, but the team’s sum of its parts and its ability to compete in the playoffs is the key. A successful playoff team should be speedy, skilled and tenacious, with larger players who can offset physicality on the other team. It’s better when these physical players naturally play a lot of minutes (ie, top 2 lines and top 4 D). Hence, what can be a slight advantage if you’re able to draft a bigger player at the top end of the draft.