Beau Schmitz of Team USA recently signed on to play for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario League this season. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament brings some of the best under-18 players in the world together in Slovakia and the Czech Republic each summer for a quick and fiercely competitive week of hockey.
The tourney also becomes a springboard for NHL prospects about to enter their draft year and exposes them to scouts, even though media coverage is still sparse. In order to correct this, The Hockey News commissioned three of North America’s top players in the tournament to keep us updated on all the talent they are facing over there and provide quick scouting reports on the top players.
From Team Canada and the Ontario League’s Windsor Spitfires, we have center Taylor Hall and defenseman Ryan Ellis. Representing Team USA and the Western League’s Kelowna Rockets is defenseman Collin Bowman. The boys mentioned a few players who’ve caught their eye so far through a couple of exhibition games and the start of the tournament:
Dalibor Bortnak, C - Slovakia: “He was the only real player who stood out for me in the game,” Bowman said. “He was a big body who always seemed to be in on the mix and making plays. His persistence and presence on the puck really made him stand out in my mind.” Bortnak plays for HC Liberec in the Czech Republic and is draft eligible in 2009.
The U.S. won the exhibition match 6-2, led by two goals from Tyler Pitlick, a Minnesota State-Mankato commit who plays for Centennial High School in Minnesota.
Taylor Hall, C – Canada: “Taylor Hall was clearly the most impressive from the forward point of view, netting three goals and an assist with the empty-netter,” Bowman said of his fellow player-scout. “Taylor's outside speed and quick shot were the hardest to handle.” Hall has a late birthday and therefore is not draft eligible until 2010.
Stefan Elliot, D – Canada: “Noticeably solid with the puck, made some great plays,” Bowman said. Elliot plays for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL and is draft eligible in 2009.
Team USA lost 6-4 to Canada in exhibition play.
Reto Schappi, C – Switzerland: “He had good size and a pretty high skill level,” Ellis said. “He mainly stuck to the European style of hockey and didn’t use his size much, but he was effective nonetheless.”
Added Hall: “Schappi was pretty good. He was a big player and had good timing with the puck and in going to the net.” Schappi plays for the ZSC Lions in Switzerland and is draft eligible in 2009.
Canada beat Swtizerland 5-3 in the tourney’s opening match. Schappi had two goals.
Beau Schmitz, D – USA: “Easily their best player,” Hall said. “Small guy, but he’s tough to play against in his defensive zone and he had good offensive instincts as well.”
Added Ellis: “He’s an undersized defenseman, but strong in his end and fairly physical for his size. Also, for a blueliner he has a decent skill set and is good at moving the puck up to his forwards.” Schmitz played for the U.S. NTDP Under-17 team last year, but recently signed on with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers.
Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis and Collin Bowman will provide their own scouting reports as they play through the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, which concludes August 16.
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