NHL Draft Profile: Cole Caufield

If goals are what you want, goals are what Caufield will give you. The diminutive winger is one of, if not the top, premier goal scorers in the Draft. Riding shotgun on Hughes wing all season, can the undersized sniper translate his game to the next level? Rising up rankings all year, putting questions of his size to rest along the way.

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Name: Cole Caufield

Date of Birth: January 2, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): American (Stevens Point, WI, USA)

Hieght: 5’7″

Weight: 168lbs

Shoots: Right

Position: RW

Rankings

Ranked #18 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown, Caufield excels exact where you’d expect him to. Goals. He tends to be a bit of a one trick pony, but the trick is pretty great. Scoring goals is an elite talent and if a player is to excel in one area so strongly, the goal scoring department in the right place to be.

You want goals? Cole Caufield is the best there is in this draft. Caufield scores in a variety of ways, not letting his size affect his play. The diminutive sniper is generously listed at 5’7″ but he plays bigger than that. Unafraid of getting bumped around in front of the net, he bounces off defenders into open ice allowing for a pass to him in a dangerous position. The American goal-scorer does a good job at converting on a variety of scoring chances. Caufield can score on the rush or set up in the zone.

Tweet courtesy of @StevenEllisTHN

He scores on a wide array of shots. His most elite skill is finding some space on the power play and opening up in the left circle for a one-timer. His tendency for finding rebounds and putting them in the back of the net is uncanny. His shot is heavy and accurate. He has the unique ability to change the puck position with a variety of subtle stick moves. Similar to the way that Maple Leafs phenom Austin Matthews does, Caufield is skilled at pulling the puck in or reaching out and firing the puck from a variety of angles. In the video below, you can see Caufield score in a variety of ways. The first goal is on the rush with the excellent stick work to change the angle at the last second. The second goal is scored on a scramble in front of the net, he cleans up the garbage while fighting through traffic. The final goal is a one-timer. Caufield sets up at the left of the net while Alex Turcotte collects the rebound and finds Caufield for the easy goal.

Tweet Courtesy of @USAHockey

Caufield isn’t an elite skater in any sense. A bit of a red flag as its preferred that a player of Caufield‘s size has blazing speed whereas his speed is just slightly above average. Where Caufield does excel in terms of his skating is his edge work and agility. He uses his small frame to dart in and out of traffic to find the open space. He’s shown the ability to keep up with the likes of Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras depending on the line he’s played in the last two years. This is mostly due to an exceptional offensive awareness, having a keen knack at getting out of the defensive zone as soon as his team gains position.

In the defensive zone, Caufield is a hard worker. He may not have the defensive awareness to match his IQ offensively, but he never seems out of the play because of his high-motor in his end. He doesn’t win board battles with any sort of regularity as he can be pushed around in board play. This leads to the undersized winger often being the second man into the scrum, using his stick to try and pull the puck out rather than engaging physically.

Preseason Outlook

Coming off an excellent U17 season, Caufield was set to continue his goal scoring tear. After potting 44 goals in 49 games on the U17 USNTDP team he got a chance to play with the U18 team as an underager, he added 10 goals in 19 games. This all as an undersized, underaged player on a good team. Knowing that he was coming into the year likely on the right wing of top ranked prospect Jack Hughes, Caufield was poised to have a breakout season, slowly silencing the critics who fixated on his stature.

Exceptional play with USNTDP

72 goals. 5’7″ Cole Caufield scores 72 goals in 64 games this year for the USNTDP U18s. This smashed the NTDP goal scoring record. Riding shotgun with one of, if not, the best playmakers in the draft, Jack Hughes, Caufield took advantage of the attention that Hughes drew. Shifting into soft zones in the defensive zone coverage with ease, he opened himself up to receive passes and consistently worked to stay open in dangerous areas.

Tweet courtesy of @CoreyPronman

Just breaking the record for goals in a USNTDP season would have been an accomplishment. What Caufield did was borderline abusive. Scoring 72 goals total in 64 games, he demolished Auston Matthews record of 55 goals. While often scoring goals utilizing his elite one-timer, he displayed scoring touch in many ways. Rush shots, one-timers, collecting rebounds, coming out front from behind the net or looping behind the net for a wrap around, Caufield was lethal from every area of the ice with the puck on his stick, even if it is their for less than a second.

Tweet courtesy of @StarsStripesHKY

Putting Himself on the Map

Coming into the World U18 Championships, Caufield was consistently spoken of as one of the first prospects outside of a really strong top-10 draft eligible prospects. This tournament changed that. Stepping into the tournament as a player looking to prove he was a top prospect, Caufield forced the hands of many. Now more likely to be chosen fifth than 15th, the American with a small stature provided big goal totals. He tied Alexander Ovechkin’s tournament record for goals with 14 and finished just three points back of Nikita Kucherov’s tournament record for points.

The US team dominated the round robin play, seemingly scoring at will. However, the stacked American team fell victim to a hot goalie in Russia’s 16-year-old sensation Yaroslav Askarov in the semi-finals. This lead to a bronze medal matchup with the rival Canadians. Despite Caufield being held off the score sheet, the Americans succeeded with a 5-2 win. Even with a bronze medal in hand, Caufield and Hughes setting tournament and team records respectively, the third place finish was a disappointment for the Americans.

What the Detractors Say

If you’re going to have one dominant trait, goal scoring is a good one to have. However, because of this there are some questions with Caufield’s game. One of the most obvious faults is that he isn’t the fastest skater. As a smaller forward, barn-burning speed is often desired and Caufield certainly doesn’t have that. While he isn’t a slow skater and he isn’t a poor skater in a technical sense, the lack of elite top speed is a concern.

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The other major concern is the effectiveness of his defensive game. While the effort is certainly there, saying that Caufield will be a strong defensive player is a bit of a stretch. Unless he puts on an unexpected amount of strength or he developed a skill-based defensive game similar to former Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk, Caufield will likely be at best an average player in his own end. As a winger the defensive side of the game isn’t as integral so he could very well be covered up by playing with a center who has good defensive coverage while still being a good playmaker.

Cole Caufield will be taken…

After the top-four, before the top-10 is finished. A goal scoring threat this good can’t be overlooked. Regardless of his diminutive stature, the American sniper is too highly productive to pass up. Caufield will likely play at least one, probably two, seasons at the University of Wisconsin before making the jump to the NHL. Teams that could have heavy interest in Caufield could include Detroit, Edmonton and Vancouver. All three teams have a center that could be an excellent fit with the legitimate 40-goal potential that Caufield possesses. Whether it be a two-way, do-it-all center like Dylan Larkin or high-skilled elite play makers like Connor McDavid or Elias Pettersson, Caufield has plenty of great landing spots as a prospect, not limited to the teams above. If you want goals, draft Cole Caufield. He will likely give you more than you think.

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Hockey Reference, Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com

 

Author: Tony Ferrari

Born in Ottawa, Ontario and raised in Windsor, Tony has loved hockey his entire life. Growing up as the lone Maple Leafs fan in a household of Red Wings fans, he followed both teams since he was a child. Having been through Toronto’s rebuild as a fan, Tony is ecstatic to be along for the ride and watch the Wings get back to their glory days. Having previously written about the Detroit Lions, Tony looks forward to bringing you content from the hockey world in a series of deep dive articles and analytical points of view that can help you better understand the little things we don’t all notice because they don’t show up on the stats sheet.