It was definitely a day of summer hockey.
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup kicked off action in Czechia and Slovakia on Monday, and if goal-scoring is your thing, you would have loved Day 1. Sweden started it off with a dominant 11-1 win over a completely outmatched German team, with no chance at mercy. Canada held multiple leads against Finland, but a strong second half by the Finns resulted in a 9-6 victory in one of the more bonkers games in recent years.
In the evening games, both were relatively close for large chunks. Switzerland beat Slovakia 6-3, but nearly saw a pair of two-goal leads fall apart. The Americans had tied the Czechs at one point, but the hosts held on for the 7-2 victory thanks to a huge third-period effort.
Here’s a look at some of the best players from seven of the eight teams on Day 1, with Germany not having much of an impact:
- #12 Berkly Catton, C: We saw it in spurts during the U-18 World Championship in April, but Catton’s hockey IQ was in full display. He set up the second Canadian goal by evading pressure before setting up Sam Dickinson on the point. He then rarely beat on 1-on-1 battles, using patience to keep the puck away from trouble. His setup on Henry Mews’ 5-5 goal was deceptive, and genius. He’s a smart kid that’ll go quite early next June.
- #7 Maxim Massé, RW: Massé isn’t a great skater, but he can beat you with just the sheer tools of his game. His decision to kick the puck to his stick in front of the net was a simple, but underutilized tactic, and the Finnish netminder couldn’t do anything about it.
- #11 Henry Mews, D: Mews can get fancy, but when he simplifies his game, he can be very solid. He did an excellent job of shutting plays down near the blueline and getting the puck down to the forwards. He made a mistake on the third Finnish goal, giving the puck back to an attacking forward, but he made up for it with the game-tying goal to start the third period. He already looks game-ready.
- #8 Malcolm Spence, LW (2025): If Spence was available for 2024, he’d go early. The Erie Otters’ star assisted on Justin Poirier’s goal and nearly set up a few others. While most of the 2025 focus will be on Michael Misa, Spence has been the better player between the exhibition games, and now today.
- #12 Emil Hemming, RW: A great read by Hemming to get a shot off quickly on Finland’s second goal helped spark some life into the squad. It was a perfectly placed shot, something we’ve become accustomed to when watching him. He ended up with three assists to cap off an outstanding opening performance for one of the top Finnish players in the draft.
- #16 Tuomas Suoniemi, C: With three goals and five points, Suoniemi couldn’t have asked for a better tournament debut. His second goal was a beauty, putting pressure on the Canadians in the third. Suoniemi just seemed engaged in everything today.
- #28 Lauri Sinivuori, LW: Sinivuori did a great job of finding the open lanes and getting to the net. He put good power behind his wrister and used his quick acceleration to win battles.
- #23 Viktor Olofsson, RW: Just like the Buffalo Sabres’ forward with an extremely similar name, Olofsson’s wrister was lethal. He scored the game’s opening goal before helping set up the 6-1 goal early in the third period. Give him space, you’ll pay. Simple as that.
- #26 Alex Zetterberg, C: While his smaller frame will be an issue at the NHL Draft, nobody doubts his talent. He had two goals and four points for Sweden, with his patience to outwait the German goaltender on the wraparound on the first goal setting the pace. He’s had his ups and downs internationally, but that was one of the best, if not the best, we’ve seen of him in the yellow and blue.
- #12 Melvin Fernström, LW: There’s something to be said about being in the right spot at the right time. Fernstrom scored a pair, but he nearly had another two, and had some solid passes through traffic. Fernström finished last year off with a great run in the Swedish U-20 league, so he’ll be happy to keep the momentum rolling.
- #17 Viggo Nordlund, RW (2025): Nordlund is one of the youngest players on the roster, but the 2025 draft pick was one of the most noticeable forwards. He had a goal and an assist in his first U-18 game, building upon a season that saw him put up great numbers against U-17 competition. He’s a good skater with a good shot, and should be one of Sweden’s most important skaters.
- #16 Jordan Forget, RW: With a pair of assists in the opening period, his stick was active. He did a lot of the work to set up the opening goal and, instead of shooting from a difficult angle, he found Daniil Ustinkov for the second goal. Forget has good vision, and it showed.
- #28 Daniil Ustinkov, D: Ustinkov is the key to Switzerland’s success after being the team’s No. 1 defenseman at the U-18 World Championship. He made his impact known with the 2-0 goal before setting up Jamiro Reber for the 3-1 goal.
- #6 Jamiro Reber, C: The Swiss don’t have a high-impact forward, but Reber is the closest to it. He opened the scoring and scored the third to give his team some breathing room. The Swedish-based forward will be leaned on as Switzerland looks to establish itself as a semifinal threat.
- #14 Theo Kiss, LW: Kiss had an eventful game, spending time in the box and helping to set up the first Slovak goal. He’s one of the better forwards on this team, and one with a college commitment. The Slovaks kept getting stymied at the blueline, but Kiss was able to break through a few times.
- #27 Simon Kupec, D: He was busy, but Kupec played a good game. The Slovaks were clearly outmatched, but Kupec was able to go toe-to-toe with just about any threat Switzerland brought.
- #24 Mac Swanson, C: After putting up the best numbers of any American player on this roster in the USHL last year, he had a few good chances in his Hlinka debut. He didn’t score, but he had an assist and was one of the few that seemed to be giving it his all around the crease. His skating deficiencies were obvious on the big ice, but he’s bound to pot a few goals this week.
- #19 Aidan Park, C: Another important piece for the Americans, Park showed the flashes of speed and skill that made him so good with Shattuck’s last year. The Czech defense kept trying to punish him physically, but he had the footwork needed to create scoring chances. He probably should have had a goal to match his work ethic.
- #16 Trevor Connelly, LW: When the Americans needed some life, Connelly brought it by setting up Will Zellers and Eero Butella for their respective second-period goals. The name of his game was patience, and he used every opportunity he could to find open lanes, especially on the man advantage.
- #9 Adam Benak, C: Considered the best Czech prospect since David Pastrnak, Benak was as effective as they come for the Czechs. He set up the opening goal from Adam Titlbach before getting a second assist on Matej Kubiesa’s 2-1 power-play goal. He would leave the second period with an injury but would return for the third, only to set up a pretty power-play goal late in the contest.
- #17 Adam Titlbach, RW: With two goals and an assist, Titlbach helped carry the offense for the Czechs. He contributed to the fourth and fifth goals that wrapped the game up for the Czechs. After a great international campaign a year ago, today was an excellent start.
- #15 Thomas Galvas, D: Galvas had a quiet night on the scoresheet, but he showed everything we’re used to: great skating, two-way awareness and strong positional play. While Adam Jiricek is the defender everyone will be talking about, Galvas is a well-rounded option that gives the Czechs another big-name blueliner.
- #23 Petr Sikora, C: Sikora had the best game of his international career, scoring a goal and an assist in the win. When he wasn’t out searching for a pass, he was planted in front, creating issues for the American blueliners. A solid game, for sure.
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