Forget his diminutive size, scouts say, and concentrate on his explosiveness, his laser shot, and his uncanny scoring prowess.
It is why 5-foot-7, 163-pound right winger Cole Caufield will be chosen in the first round of the NHL draft on June 21, and why there are questions of whether he will be available when the Flyers make the No. 11 pick.
If he is still on the board, the electrifying forward might end up wearing orange and black.
Caufield, who is committed to the University of Wisconsin, had 72 goals and 100 points in 64 games with the national development program. Regarded as the best pure scorer in the draft, Caufield is frequently compared to Chicago’s 5-7 Alex DeBrincat, a left winger who had 41 goals this season.
Craig Button, draft expert for TSN in Canada and a former general manager with the Calgary Flames, likes Caufield’s quick release and elite puck handling. He ranks the 18-year-old as the fourth-best prospect in the draft. Other draft experts have Caufield lower. McKeen’s Hockey and Elite Prospects rank him at No. 13. Two of NHL.com’s experts have him going at No. 7, and another has him at No. 8.
Some of Caufield’s offensive production was on a line with Jack Hughes, the center who is expected to be the No. 1 pick. But Caufield excelled even without Hughes.
Caufield’s hockey IQ is off the charts, and he has good speed that will probably need to get even better if he is going to flourish in the NHL.
“He knows how to find holes, and he does it every game,” said Brent Flahr, a Flyers assistant general manager who heads the amateur scouting department.
Ryan Wagman, director of prospect scouting at McKeen’s Hockey, said, “He’s a good skater who has better wiggle than pure speed. He’s slippery and a good puck handler, but his shot is what’s key.”
Flahr is enamored with Caufield’s all-around ability.
“You can pick apart his size, but he’s a pure goal scorer,” Flahr said. “He’s a competitive kid, and he has a lot of the intangibles that allow him to play as a small player. The one thing he does is score and score consistently against all competition. He’s an intriguing guy.”
Does Flahr expect Caufield to be available at No. 11?
“Some teams won’t draft him because of his size, and others aren’t worried about it,” he said. “There’s a grouping of his own teammates that could go in any [first-round] range there.”