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Top 10 at 10: Caufield & Knight

...a weeklong preview of the best players Vancouver could select 10th overall

by Ryan Biech @ryanbiech / Freelance writer

It seems that the options are endless this year for the 10th overall selection.

Every one of the players that could be available provide varying skillsets that make them all seem like options to join the organization.

On Monday, we took at look at Trevor Zegras and Matthew Boldy, both of whom are forwards that would add some instant offensive punch to the organization's prospect pool. Yesterday, we took at a look at Swedish defencemen Philip Broberg and Victor Soderstrom and how they could boost the organization's backend.

Today, we'll look at a couple of American born players that may not seem like the most conventional choices at 10th, but both are extremely talented options.

Cole Caufield

Watch: Youtube Video

He's a goal-scoring winger who just never stopped scoring goals this season.

In 64 games with the US National Team Development Program, Caufield scored 72 goals. The next closest goal scorer on the team was projected top two pick Jack Hughes, and he had 34 goals. No one has come close to that number of goals in the history of the program, in fact the next closest was Auston Matthews with 55 goals in 2014-15. At some points this season, it felt like Caulfield was going to score a hat-trick every single game.

So, if you are looking for a goal-scoring winger at the top of this draft class then Caufield is the best of the bunch. The issue that is holding him back from rising even further up the draft boards is the fact that he measures in at 5'7" and 165 lbs. No matter how good his shot is or how often he generates shots on net, he averaged 4.3 SH/GP, there is still trepidation about how his game will translate to the professional ranks.

Despite the small size, Caufield is so effective at finding space in between opponents' coverage and then exploiting the little bit of daylight left open by the opposing netminder. He actively puts himself into areas that give him the time to use his best talents. That also speaks to his awareness on the ice and his ability to process the game one or two steps ahead of his opponent.

Caufield isn't the fastest skater, but is good at adjusting lanes and keeping control of the puck. He can quickly change his direction and then get off a shot. Given his size, he does have some trouble dealing with larger defenceman, but does a very good job of resetting his engagement and then reengaging the battle.

Like any player of his size, there will be questions about how effective he can be when the game ramps up. There is still some risk to taking Caulfield in the 1st round, but his ability to score goals at such an impressive rate and in the ways that he did, should allow him to continue to be an effective sniper when he is placed with the right linemates.

It will be a matter of figuring out if the risk is worth the potential reward, but there is little doubt that if he can reach his ceiling, the payoff may be immense.

Caufield will head to the University of Wisconsin next season.

Spencer Knight

Watch: Youtube Video

We don't see many goalies get taken in the 1st round of the NHL Entry Draft anymore, but Spencer Knight appears to be on track to break that norm. He will be the first goalie taken this year and could be the highest goalie selected in the last five years.

Knight started 33 games with the US National Development Program and finished with a 2.36 GAA and 0.913 SV% in those appearances. He ended the year with a fantastic showing at the U18 World Juniors with a 1.51 GAA and 0.936 SV% in six starts to help the USA win a bronze medal.

The 6'3" and 198 lbs is one of the most-technically proficient goaltenders of this draft class and combines that with a fantastic read of oncoming attacks. He rarely appears to be behind the play and looks to be constantly be in control. Knight is willing to be aggressive on opponents when he recognizes that they don't have many options other than shooting the puck at him.

His calmness, confidence, and read of the play allow him to seem to never get rattled or scramble to make a safe. He is always in control and there to make the big save.

Obviously, taking a goalie early in the draft comes with some risk, but if you are sure that netminder is going to be a starting goalie for your organization for the next 10 years, it's not a stretch to take that leap. The organization has depth in the position, but it may be an avenue that gets discussed in the scouting meeting purely based on the upside of Knight. Or maybe it's a road that they go down if the organization makes a trade.

Knight is committed to Boston College and will almost certainly be the starting netminder for the Eagles. He has also has a very good chance to be the starter for USA at the U20 World Juniors this December.

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