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NO SMALL FEAT

5-foot-7 Cole Caufield draws comparisons to Gaudreau, DeBrincat, and looks to bring all-star scoring prowess to the pros

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

Standing out on that team was no small feat.

There was Jack Hughes and Alex Turcotte.

Trevor Zegras and Matthew Boldy.

Cameron York and more.

And yet, on this - a 'generational' version of the U.S. National Team Development Program - Cole Caufield did something no one else in that star-spangled crew can lay claim to.

"Do you believe you're the best goal-scorer in the draft?" we asked him at the NHL Scouting Combine earlier this month.

"Yes," the talented sniper assertively replied.

"I do."

Caufield set a program record for the most goals in a single season last year with 72, surpassing the 55 the 2016 first-overall pick Auston Matthews bagged during his 17-year-old campaign.

Seventy-two, folks.

In 64 games.

He also now holds the record in all-time goals scored by a NTDP player with 126, eclipsing Phil Kessel's 104.

 

 

He is, by the definition, the purest of the pure - a game-breaking goal-scorer that has impeccable speed and agility, the power to create space for himself and his teammates, a rocket of a shot and the vision to flourish in a creative, offensive system.

In other words, he has all the tools off the wing.

And he relishes the role of a lamp-lighter like no other in the draft class.

"That's the best asset in my game - scoring," said Caufield, the No. 8-ranked North American skater. "The goalies are only going to get better from here, so you've got to keep working on it and I think it's always come natural to me. I'm always going to keep working at it and it's something I want to be really special at.

"You'll regret it if you don't [draft me]."

So why, then, with this kind of elite marksmanship, is Caufield not earning press as a possible No. 1 pick like his talented teammate, Hughes?

Standing at 5-foot-7 and weighing in at 163 lbs., he's the biggest guy out there - nor has he been tested against more physically mature players, like Finnish phenom Kaapo Kakko, who spent the entirety of the 2018-19 season honing his craft against men.

 

Video: Cole Caufield says he's the draft's best goal-scorer

 

Caufield, who's committed to the University of Wisconsin, will get that chance next year alongside his older brother Brock with his home-state Badgers.

In the meantime, he's drawing comparisons to Johnny Gaudreau and Alex DeBrincat for what he's been able to accomplish so far.

And in his mind, this is only the beginning.

"Scoring goals is probably the most fun thing about hockey," he said with a wry smile. "It never gets old for me.

"And I want to keep doing it for a long time.

"Size isn't really a factor with the way we (Gaudreau, DeBrincat, et al) play. I think we're going to be able to have an impact, no matter what team we play for. That's not a risk anymore."

 

 

Dan Marr, the Director of NHL Central Scouting, agrees.

In his eight years heading the sanctioning prospect bureau, he's had a first-hand look at how scouts (and teams) have evolved, philosophically.

There was a time in the not-to-distant past when players of a certain size were passed up entirely.

Now, they're seen for what they are and how the game is played nowadays.

"NHL clubs, they don't look at size anymore," Marr said. "They look at good players, best players and what they bring to the table.

"Scouting has changed in that way, too. You don't pick apart a player, and look at what they don't do well because a lot of that you can coach. You dwell on what they bring to the table and what they do well.

"Once you know at the level that these kids are playing at, competing at, if they can deliver, chances are they're going to deliver at the National Hockey League level as well."

And the smaller Caufield looks poised to do that in a big, big way.

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