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Prospect profile: Cole Caufield

Diminutive winger scored 72 goals last season

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Beyond the top two picks, the first round of this year's NHL Draft figures to be as unpredictable as ever. 

Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, in some order, will almost certainly be the first two players off the board on June 21. After that, the consensus seems to be that it's a deep first round with a fairly wide range of players who could fall in the top 10.  

Having said that, it's important to cast a wide net when trying to predict who the Sabres might select with the seventh overall selection. We're going to look at seven of those potential names over the course of the next week, beginning with USNTDP winger Cole Caufield. 

 

Cole Caufield, RW - USNTDP

Video: 1-on-1 with Cole Caufield

Caufield might be as an intriguing a prospect as there is in this draft, thanks in part to two numbers. The first - and most jarring - is his goal total. He scored 72 times in 64 games last season, including a tournament-best 14 goals in seven contests at the U-18 World Championship (where he earned MVP honors). 

The other number that stands out regarding Caufield is his height - he measured out at 5-foot-7, 163 pounds. But, as director of NHL Central Scouting Services Dan Marr explained at the combine, that might not matter so much. 

"[Teams] don't look at size anymore," Marr said. "They look at good players, the best players, what they bring to the table."

And why should they? Alex DeBrincat has almost the exact same measurables as Caufield, and he scored 41 goals and 76 points for the Blackhawks last season. Cam Atkinson is also coming off a 41-goal campaign, and he's 5-foot-8. Johnny Gaudreau and Jonathan Marchessault both check in at 5-foot-9. The list goes on.

Those names have paved the way for a player like Caufield, who is ranked eighth on Central Scouting's list of North American prospects. Even that might be modest - NHL.com's Adam Kimelman and Mike Morreale both had him going seventh to the Sabres in their latest mock draft
 

What they're saying 

USNTDP forward Trevor Zegras: "You're just watching our games, you think 'goals.' But he does so many great things. I think his speed is really underrated. I think a couple goals he scored at the world tournament were kind of just getting behind the D. He's such a smart player too, finding those little pockets. It made it really easy to play with him."

USNTDP goalie Spencer Knight: "He's got probably the best shot I've seen for our age. He's a sniper. I mean, he put up 70-something goals. It kind of speaks for itself. But besides his shot and all that, he's got some other parts of his game that you guys might not see but his stickhandling, his vision too has just gotten so much better over the past two years. And the nice thing about him is he almost always does it with a smile. I mean, he's smiling all the time. … He's always in a good mood." 


What he's saying

Caufield said he models his game after Atkinson in that he uses what he lacks in size to his advantage in terms of elusiveness.

"He has a lot of speed and uses that to his advantage being a smaller guy," Caufield said. "… I think my strength is a big part of my game, too. Just being the smallest guy, I think I'm pretty strong for my size."

His results at the combine support that claim. He finished in a four-way tie for first in the pull-up test (16), seventh in the bench press (at 50 percent body weight) and sixth in the vertical jump. 


Why he could be picked at 7

Look no further than general manager Jason Botterill's comments regarding another seventh overall pick with a knack for filling the net.

"I think big picture, he came in and he scored goals," Botterill said after signing forward Jeff Skinner, who went seventh overall in 2010, to an eight-year contract on Friday. "It's pretty much what the game's about, is scoring goals."

Caufield has done a whole lot of that since joining the USNTDP, which could be enough to make him an attractive option for the Sabres if he's available. 

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