BROSSARD, Quebec -- Cole Caufield scores goals, and the Montreal Canadiens are looking forward to him doing that in the NHL.
The 18-year-old forward prospect, selected with the No. 15 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, scored 72 goals in 64 games with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team last season, 38 more than center Jack Hughes, the NTDP's second-leading goal-scorer, who was chosen No. 1 by the New Jersey Devils.
"There's a lot of different ways to score goals these days and a lot of different ways to find pockets and beat the goalies," Caufield said during Canadiens development camp in June. "But for me, I think the best part of my goal-scoring ability is my brain, and I know where to be. I mean, sometimes I don't really have to put a puck in a spot where it has to beat the goalie, I just beat him to the spot. So there's a lot of different ways, but I think it's my brain and where I put myself on the ice, and I put myself in a good situation to put the puck in the back of the net.
"It's just getting lost and finding spaces where I think most people really can't."
Canadiens director of player development Rob Ramage marveled at Caufield's ability to get off his shot.
"It's quick," Ramage said. "You know, the elite scorers, he has that. You can name all the guys that scored 50-plus goals. Yeah, he's got that release."
Video: Caufield on hearing historic Canadiens call his name
Though Caufield was widely projected to be a top 10 pick in the draft, it's possible some teams may have passed over him despite his obvious offensive talents because of his size; he's 5-foot-7, 163 pounds.
"That's not going to be an issue with him," Ramage said. "He's got a quick stick. He's smart. I mean, I used to always talk about [Martin] St. Louis. Not a big guy, but he wasn't a shy guy. But you have to just be smart. You know, you're not taking on the big bodies, but these guys have great sticks. That's a great asset. That's a great weapon. That's what they have to use."
Though Caufield's first visit to Montreal was brief, the native of Stevens Point, Wisconsin said he was recognized by some fans when he arrived at the airport. After hearing his name announced by Canadiens captain Shea Weber at the draft and meeting and being interviewed by Brendan Gallagher in Vancouver, Caufield soaked in everything he could about being a member of the Original Six team before setting his sights on the rest of his summer.
He enters the next stage of his career being one of eight NTDP players taken in the first round of the 2019 draft, along with Hughes, center Alex Turcotte (No. 5, Los Angeles Kings), center Trevor Zegras (No. 9, Anaheim Ducks), forward Matthew Boldy (No. 12, Minnesota Wild), goalie Spencer Knight (No. 13, Florida Panthers), defenseman Cameron York (No. 14, Philadelphia Flyers) and center John Beecher (No. 30, Boston Bruins).
"I just want to get stronger," Caufield said. "You know, my speed and strength, it's just the next level is so much different than any other level. I mean, it's the best league in the world, so there's a lot of work to do until then. But if I can keep getting better and keep improving my skills every day, then maybe there's a chance."
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