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Caufield hopes to continue as big goal scorer for U.S. at World Juniors

Canadiens forward prospect makes up for lack of size with high hockey IQ, strong work ethic

by Dave Hogg / Independent Correspondent

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- Cole Caufield is a small hockey player and that never will change.

Instead, the 5-foot-7, 162-pound Montreal Canadiens forward prospect is focusing on making himself into the best hockey player he can be. And for Caufield that means scoring goals.

Lots of goals.

After setting records for most goals in a season (72, 2018-19) and career (127) with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, Caufield's next step is to continue to score for the United States at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, which runs Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2020 in the Czech Republic.


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He was one of 28 players at USA Hockey Arena for National Junior Team Selection Camp, which took place Monday and Tuesday. The selection process will continue in the Czech Republic on Friday, with the final 23-man tournament roster expected to be named after a final pre-tournament game Dec. 23.

Caufield has continued to pile up the goals as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin this season. He scored two goals in each of his first three college games and leads NCAA freshmen with 12 goals in 18 games.

"Obviously college is a little different than playing for the NTDP, but I think things have gone pretty good so far," Caufield said. "(Scoring) is what I know how to do and it is something I want to continue to do."

After shattering the NDTP scoring records, Caufield was selected by the Canadiens with the No. 15 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft. Questions about his size and how much of his big numbers were because of playing on a line with No. 1 pick Jack Hughes could have been reasons he wasn't selected earlier.

But Caufield doesn't feel too offended by being selected later than some might have expected.

"It's in the back of my mind, but those were great players going in front of me, and getting drafted was a dream come true," he said. "(The Canadiens) have the most history in the League, they've won all those (Stanley) Cups and it's a great place to be. The fans love hockey as much as anyone, and that's the best part."

Caufield isn't the first undersized player to have big numbers questioned because of a superstar linemate.

Alex DeBrincat scored 167 goals in three seasons with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League, but two of those seasons came with Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome as his primary center. The 5-foot-7 165-pound forward was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round (No. 39) of the 2016 NHL Draft, and has 77 goals in 198 games in three NHL seasons, including 41 last season.

Caufield also would like to emulate Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau (5-9, 165), who was selected by the Flames in the fourth round (No. 104) of the 2011 NHL Draft, but has 414 points (143 goals, 271 assists) in 430 NHL games, finished fourth in voting for the Hart Trophy last season and has played in the NHL All-Star Game five times.

"You have to give those guys a lot of credit for starting this," Caufield said of DeBrincat and Gaudreau. "The way the game is changing, they've been able to have a lot of success and I just want to follow that."

Caufield's quick start at Wisconsin also has answered some of the questions about how he would fare without Hughes.

"He's just a great goal scorer," said Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings), Caufield's center at Wisconsin and a teammate with the NTDP the previous two seasons. "He's super smart and he knows how to get into spots and getting pucks on the net. I'm more of a playmaker so I think we work really well together."

U.S. WJC coach Scott Sandelin already has seen what Caufield can do up close. The coach at the University of Minnesota Duluth, he watched Caufield score two goals in a 6-2 Wisconsin win Oct. 18, and Caufield had four shots on goal in a 3-1 Wisconsin win the next day.

"I think we all know he's a goal scorer, and I saw it firsthand when we played Wisconsin," Sandelin said. "He just loves to play. He's got a smile on his face, he loves to come to the rink and he loves to score goals. You don't score 72 and not be a goal scorer, but I just love how he puts himself in position and is ready to shoot."

Caufield doesn't know how long he'll stay at Wisconsin beyond his first season, so he's already focused on getting himself prepared for the pro game.

"I think I just need to keep working on my game," he said. "I think there are a lot of things that you have to work on to get to the next level. You always can get better and you can never stop. It's the best league in the world."

The U.S. trimmed its selection camp roster by three players to 26 Wednesday, releasing defenseman Ryan Johnson (Buffalo Sabres) and forwards Jonathan Gruden (Ottawa Senators) and Robert Mastrosimone (Detroit Red Wings). The roster also includes forward Oliver Wahlstrom, who was released for the tournament by the New York Islanders on Tuesday.


GOALIES: Spencer Knight, Boston College, HE, (Florida Panthers); Isaiah Saville, Nebraska-Omaha, NCHC (Vegas Golden Knights); Dustin Wolf, Everett, WHL (Calgary Flames)

DEFENSEMEN: Ty Emberson, Wisconsin, BIG10 (Arizona Coyotes); Jordan Harris, Northeastern, HE (Montreal Canadiens); Zachary Jones, Tri-City, USHL (New York Rangers); Christian Krygier, Michigan State, BIG10 (New York Islanders); K'Andre Miller, Wisconsin, BIG10 (New York Rangers); Alec Regula, London, OHL (Chicago Blackhawks); Mattias Samuelsson, Western Michigan, NCHC (Buffalo Sabres); Spencer Stastney, Notre Dame, BIG10 (Nashville Predators); Cameron York, Michigan, BIG10 (Philadelphia Flyers)

FORWARDS: John Beecher, Michigan, BIG10 (Boston Bruins); Bobby Brink, Denver, NCHC (Philadelphia Flyers); Cole Caufield, Wisconsin, BIG10 (Montreal Canadiens); Jack Drury, Harvard, ECAC (Carolina Hurricanes); Parker Ford, Providence, HE (2020 draft eligible); Curtis Hall, Yale, ECAC (Boston Bruins); Trevor Janicke, Notre Dame, BIG10 (Anaheim Ducks); Arthur Kaliyev, Hamilton, OHL (Los Angeles Kings); Shane Pinto, North Dakota, NCHC (Ottawa Senators); Jacob Pivonka, Notre Dame, BIG10 (New York Islanders); Nicholas Robertson, Peterborough, OHL (Toronto Maple Leafs); Alex Turcotte, Wisconsin, BIG10 (Los Angeles Kings); Oliver Wahlstrom, Bridgeport, AHL (New York Islanders); Trevor Zegras, Boston University, HE (Anaheim Ducks)




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