It doesn’t take a genius or someone with multiple degrees to realize that Cole Caufield is a tremendous hockey player. He was an unexpected but welcomed surprise when he was still on the draft board when Montreal was next to pick. Everyone knew his name was going to be called. Everything fell into place and the team drafted the best goalscorer in the draft, period.
The biggest thought surrounding Caufield was his lack of size. Sitting at 5’7 – 163lbs, Caufield is very small. What he lacks in size and strength he has in skill, perseverance, and hustle. He will be an undersized player for the rest of his life unless he hits a magical growth spurt.
With his greatest attributes being skill-based: His shot, all-around awareness, and his drive, Caufield thrives with quicker and faster players. He and Jack Hughes played so well together for the 2019-2019 USTDP that it felt they were on another level vs. opponents.
As previously mentioned, Caufield is not big. He’s also the only player in history to be drafted in the top 30 being under 5’8. So he had to be good at something to be selected this high.
Cole possesses an NHL caliber shot. It’s not by accident that he finished his USNTDP stint with 126 total goals scoring 72 in 2018-2019, setting a new record. He also tied Alex Ovechkin’s U18 record of most goals in a single tournament with 14. He not only has an accurate shot but his use of quick puck handling allows him to release the puck at lethal velocity. Many of his goals last year were quick releases where he kept the puck for a few moments before scoring. He can also score goals when he’s given time and space. His lower center of gravity allows him to put more power and energy into his shots a lot sooner which tends to catch opposing goaltenders off guard. His arsenal is limitless. He’s just that good. While his shot is great he also possesses pinpoint accuracy which he showed during the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan. He manages to place pucks in very tight areas which seem impossible to do. The process he goes through shows he has a lot of confidence in his shot which has him shooting at high rates. He took 282 shots last year which averaged out to just under 4.5 shots per game.
One of the most underrated attributes a player can have in awareness. This is also called hockey sense or IQ but basically, Caufield is a smart hockey player. The way he sees plays unfolding is what allows him to do is position himself in the right areas on the ice and be prepared for any pass he receives whether he’s in the slot, high circle or any other high danger scoring area. He’s also a player who moves around a lot on the ice and rarely stands still. His continuous movement makes opposing teams shift around opening areas for his teammates. Even if he’s not shooting he’s creating plays with his presence. It’s like a star wide receiver being covered by two defensive players, he opens up his teammates for a better matchup. A very overlooked quality to have.
He’s got a lot of Brendan Gallagher in him. He’s got a high motor and is an aggressive checker. He doesn’t have a long stick but he uses it efficiently when it comes to playing defense. He is also engaged in every zone and hunts down the puck when he loses it like a wolf hunting his food. He’s also not afraid to attack the middle of the ice. Even for his lack of overall stature, he goes north-south and is not a perimeter player at all. It’s a showing of character and buy-in to the system mentality.
The Jack Hughes Effect
A lot of talk coming into the draft was that Caufield’s goal totals were a product of playing Jack Hughes who went first overall in 2019 being drafted by the New Jersey Devils. While players do benefit playing with elite talents like Wayne Gretzky, Niklas Backstrom, and co. those centers wouldn’t have the assist totals if it weren’t for players like Jarri Kurri and Alex Ovechkin. Talented players compliment other talented players. Caufield still had to put the puck in the net and the goals he scored that came off Hughes’ passes were not always tap-ins. Many of them were one-timers and some stayed on Caufield’s stick for a while before shooting. It’s not a cause and effect duo. It’s two skilled players complementing each other well and having tremendous chemistry on the ice knowing exactly what they can and can’t do and go from there. They both benefited from each other.
They won’t anymore as Caufield is heading to the University of Wisconsin to play with fellow teammate Alex Turcotte as well as his brother Brock and Canadiens prospect Jack Gorniak. Hughes is set to start the year with New Jersey as he did not commit to the NCAA. New teams but both expected to produce at a high-level long term even without each other on the same line.
With Caufield expected to start the year in Wisconsin, the expectation is that he’ll be a one-and-done in the NCAA and will be present for the 2020-21 main camp in Montreal. He doesn’t have to change his game, his form or anything of that matter. He just needs to gain knowledge and experience and he’ll get a lot of help from head coach Tony Granato does good work for that program. Caufield is a special talent and the Canadiens are glad he was available because goal scorers are hard to find. The team landed a good one and now it’s time to develop him into a premier offensive force.