Size doesn’t always necessarily determine skill. With players well under the average height of most NHL players not just succeeding, but thriving offensively, Cole Caufield could be a steal for a team that’s willing to take a bet on a skilled, offensive winger.
Caufield, 18, has spent the entirety of his career playing within the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP). During this time he has not only shattered multiple records, but shown that despite his size he is an incredible player with an incredibly high ceiling. Primarily playing on a line with Jack Hughes, Caufield racked up an astounding 70 goals and 97 points in 62 games played for the U.S National U18 team. Along with this he tallied 29 goals and 41 points in 28 games in the USHL under the USNTDP Juniors program. During this sensational season Caufield shattered the program’s record for all-time goals previously held by Phil Kessel.
Caufield’s excellent play hasn’t been limited to the USHL and NTDP. Caufield and Hughes have been a huge reason why the United States have gone 5-0 and is headed to the semifinals against Russia in the U18 World Juniors. During their 5-0 run thus far Caufield has tallied a tournament leading 12 goals and 15 points. This broke another record for most goals scored by a USA player in the tournament (9 both held by Phil Kessel and Brett Sterling) moving him within 2 goals of Alex Ovechkin’s record (14) set in 2002. Not only does Caufield have an excellent chance to tie and break Ovechkin’s record if Team USA goes all the way, but could be his first international gold medal after receiving silver at last year’s tournament.
As was the case with Alex DeBrincat in the 2016 NHL Draft, Caufield could slide down the draft due to his size. Coming in at 5’7″ would make Caufield one of the smallest players in the NHL. However, this hasn’t stop previous players such as DeBrincat (5’7″) and Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau (5’9″) from dominating in the NHL. Despite all of the talent and offensive flair he’s shown over the past few years, he will likely drop in the draft as did DeBrincat in 2016. Caufield is currently listed at #8 on NHL Central Scouting for North American players along with being ranked anywhere from #13 to #26 from other sources such as TSN, Hockeyprospect.com, ISS Hockey, Future Considerations, etc. It will be hard to determine where Caufield will be selected, but it will still likely be somewhere in the first round and whichever team does get him will be getting a player with exceptional goal scoring ability. Elite Prospects had this to say about Caufield:
“A game-breaking goal scorer that, despite his diminutive frame, thrives under pressure and is difficult to contain. He’s a silky smooth skater that traverses all three zones with jump and jam. Defensively, he’s uncomfortable having the puck in his own end for long and he’ll make the extra effort to pressure around the blue line and take away cross-ice options. Upon procuring puck possession, he’ll be the first to explode up ice in-transition. The hallmark of his game is his exceptional goal-scoring ability. He has a shot that absolutely leaps off his stick with pinpoint accuracy when he lets loose and a low centre of gravity that facilitates fast and flashy puckhandling at pace. He affords his linemates options by taking advantage of any allotted attention he garners, generating time and space by drawing guys in; he’s perpetually hard to play against. All-in-all, Cole Caufield is an electrifying goal-scoring machine that makes some of the most otherworldly plays look like child’s play.”
Wherever Caufield is drafted, his new team won’t need to rush him as he has committed to playing the 2019-20 season at the University of Wisconsin. It will be very interesting to watch how Caufield translates his game to the NCAA. You can check out a highlight reel of Caufield below: