2019 NHL draft profile: Forward Cole Caufield

ST. PAUL, MN - SEPTEMBER 19: Team Leopold forward Cole Caufield (14) celebrates his 3rd period goal during the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game between Team Leopold and Team Langenbrunner on September 19, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. Team Leopold defeated Team Langenbrunner 6-4.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - SEPTEMBER 19: Team Leopold forward Cole Caufield (14) celebrates his 3rd period goal during the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game between Team Leopold and Team Langenbrunner on September 19, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. Team Leopold defeated Team Langenbrunner 6-4.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Canuck Way’s 2019 NHL draft prospect profile series continues with a deep dive into scoring phenom Cole Caufield. And next month, the Vancouver Canucks may have a chance to take him at No. 10 overall.

NHL hockey is not what it used to be when the smallest players in the draft were overlooked until the bottom rounds, if at all, even despite outstanding talent.

Cliff Ronning, who spent six of his 17 NHL seasons delighting Vancouver Canucks fans, had a whopping 136 points in his 1983-84-WHL-rookie season just before his draft. But the St. Louis Blues only dared to select the 5-foot-7, 160-pound centre in the seventh round, after all the big-bodied boys with only half of Cliff’s skill had already been selected.

No wonder it might surprise when Cole Caufield‘s name shows up on some analysts’ top-10 lists predicting the eventual draft order in June. The Canuck Way has the 5’7, 163-pound forward pegged at No. 8 overall, climbing in rank significantly.

Apparently, due to lack of size, some draft boards have projected him late in the first round. According to the various rankings noted by Eliteprospect.com, Caufield is a bonafide first round pick who ranks anywhere from 13th to 26th overall.

Next season, he’ll have extra time to bulk up in the weight room when he laces up for the University of Wisconsin — where the cerebral Caufield may decide to spend the next few seasons developing his mind as well as his body.

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Hearing Caufield in an interview (at the 10:30 mark) with former The Canuck Way contributor —Chris Faber of Canucks Conversation —  the young statesman even sounds like Ronning, in that they both seem so intelligent and well balanced, and always sure to credit the supporting cast around themselves.

You might even say Caufield sounds a bit like Troy Stecher, another classy, small Canuck who oozes leadership. Caufield’s team-first character also reminds of other great Canucks, the Sedins and Trevor Linden — a giant gem for whichever team calls his name out from the podium next month.

This kid is the purest of goal scorers with a legendary shot not unlike that of Robin Hood as he splits arrows with other arrows.

Over his entire junior hockey career from 2014-19, including 318 games playing at either wing or centre, Caufield has scored 324 goals for just over a goal-a-game average.

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Despite his small skate size, Caufield has proven his doubters wrong with every stride, winning awards annually at every level.

For the past two years, he’s won awards for the most goals scored at the U17 and U18 international tourneys, proving his huge talent translates to the highest junior level, where his efforts have gone on to help his USA squads win gold, silver and bronze medals.

In fact, his accolades seem almost endless and overflowing.

An in-depth article published by Caufield’s home town Stevens Point News details his acclaimed background, noting the freshman was awarded a 2015-16 First Team All-State selection, and the following year a Unanimous First Team All-State selection.

In that 2016-17 season with Stevens Point Area High, the ace shooter wore the “C” for 22 games and scored 50 goals – more than two goals a game.

Wearing an “A” for the USA bronze-medal team at the 2019 U18 World Championship last month, Caufield tied Alexander Ovechkin‘s record for most goals at the tourney by netting a jaw-dropping 14 goals in 7 games – again that’s two goals a game.

If you ever dreamed up an eventual hockey star with the talent to break Wayne Gretzky’s unbreakable record of 92 goals in one season, it surely wasn’t a teeny teen who may just have the smallest skate size of any pro athlete on the continent.

Agreed, it sounds outlandish to break that unbreakable record but the goal scoring upside of CC is unparalleled, and major change is in the air these days with goals being on the uptick. This year there were 45 30-plus-goal scorers, while last year there were 32, and the year before only 15.

To maximize offence, the Canucks could ice CC on the left wing with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes, and hopefully and eventually add a healthy dose of Nikita Tryamkin, the apex predator who once lead the KHL in penalty minutes.

Stop for a moment to imagine what these all-world shooters could accomplish supported on defence by the Zone Entry Machine rushing the puck up the ice, and Mount Tryamkin policing the blue line. The kids would be safe and have all the creative space they need to unfold their wings. The Stanley Cup would overfloweth.

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As The Canuck Way site editor David Quadrelli pointed out last month, Caufield could even be a fit on Bo Horvat‘s right wing, with apparent goal-scorer Tanner Pearson on the left. This would give the Canucks two lethal options, making them more balanced and harder to game plan for. Being a right shot, Caufield is a natural for the right wing five-on-five, but also considers himself a centre as well, with a playmaking side that lays dormant while he’s busy cherry picking in goalscorer mode.

Caufield’s overwhelming scoring dominance at the 2019 U18 World Championship was acknowledged with awards for Most Valuable Player, Best Forward, and the first All-Star Team forward, even ahead of linemate and projected-No.1-overall, draft-eligible prospect Jack Hughes.

Over Caufield’s 64-regular-season games this past season with the U.S. National U18 Team, the littlest assistant captain had a record-breaking 72 goals, plus 28 assists for 100 points.

Watch the video highlights and see his legendary accuracy, ultra coordinated movement and incredible hockey sense. It may take him a few years, but mark these words, Caufield will be a star sniper one day, a future “Rocket” Richard Trophy king, and the key to the power-play for whichever team dares to draft him.

Hockey is in a different place today, where undersized skaters oozing with talent can become NHL stars. In 2016, the Chicago Blackhawks drafted a similar-sized NHL sniper in Round 2 at No.39 overall — Alex DeBrincat — who now three years later has just finished the World Championship tied for the scoring lead with 7 goals.

If GMs are truly embracing the new NHL with its trend towards a softer more skilled game, then Caufield will be off the board long before his widely predicted draft range of 13-26 overall.

The Canucks will likely need to trade up from their No.10 spot if they want a shot at loading this little gun into their lineup. But of course, trading up is easier said than done.

As predicted in my own mock draft, Caufield could be selected as high as fifth overall by the Los Angeles Kings, a team that could use a sniper prospect to replace tired, old Dustin Brown.

That Caufield waxes like a rising star could mean coveted power forward Matthew Boldy wanes down the draft board closer to the Canucks at No.10, oror fans can only hope. Finding a big winger for Petey’s left wing seems paramount this offseason.

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While the club needs to bolster an already undersized roster, it also needs to add goals, and lots of them. If Caufield is still available when the Vancouver Canucks are drafting next month, general manager Jim Benning will feel like a kid in a candy shop.