Cole Caufield needs to be fairly snug carrying crimson, white and blue — or some combo of it — by now.
The wee winger performed for the U.S. Nationwide Crew Improvement Program (2017-19) and the nationwide staff on the U17s, U18s and world juniors. His second stint on the U20 staff was golden.
He wore crimson and white at the College of Wisconsin (2019-21), the place he capped his collegiate profession with the 2021 Hobey Baker Award as faculty hockey’s high males’s participant. And now, he’s sporting the bleu, blanc et rouge of the Montreal Canadiens within the Stanley Cup Ultimate.
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“It’s pretty special, to be honest with you,” he mentioned between Video games 2 and three. “I really didn’t expect this to happen in your first year, your first couple of years. But just to be in this moment, you kind of enjoy it every day.”
Simply over two years in the past, the 5-7 winger slipped down the draft board to the Canadiens at fifteenth general.
“It’s a perfect fit. They have a great young team right now and I’m really looking forward to being part of something like that,” he mentioned proper after being chosen within the 2019 draft in Vancouver.
Certainly. Contemplating what we have already seen, there are in all probability 14 groups kicking themselves now for not snagging the fitting winger.
At simply 20 years outdated, the Stevens Level, Wis., native made his NHL debut towards the Flames on April 26 and skated in 10 video games, notching 4 targets and 5 factors. He has now performed in additional playoff video games than regular-season video games in his younger profession. Recreation 3 of the Stanley Cup Ultimate was his 18th postseason contest and he has collected 9 factors (4 targets, six assists) in them.
“He’s extremely talented,” Crew USA assistant coach Nate Leaman instructed Sporting Information. “He’s a very good skater, very good on his edges. He can find holes quickly. He can transition, he’s got great transition skating, great transition hockey sense. And he can finish. To me, it seems the higher the pace, the better it fits his game.”
Skating on a line that features fellow younger stud Nick Suzuki and veteran Tyler Toffoli, he combines that velocity and quickness with a lethal shot and an excessive want to attain targets. The need is one thing Leaman picked up on when Caufield and Trevor Zegras have been skating for Crew USA’s gold medal-winning squad on the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship and Leaman was their head coach.
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“No matter what drill, no matter what time in a practice — it would be a warmup drill — they’re scoring and they’re legit, like, happy, excited to score,” he mentioned. Leaman known as the pair “game-breakers” and “difference-makers.”
That pleasure, that want to be “the guy” was additionally evident at Wisconsin, the place he notched 30 targets in 31 video games this previous season.
“He’s confident. He’s a goal-scorer, man. Give me the puck, I’m going to shoot it in the net. He’s always been that way,” Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato mentioned in April when he talked to SN prematurely of Caufield’s first NHL sport.
“It doesn’t matter if he’s playing in the NHL, he’s playing in college, he’s playing on the international game, playing pickup hockey. He loves to score, and he loves to help his team.”
Whereas the Canadiens are nonetheless plying away within the Stanley Cup Ultimate — and hoping to keep away from a sweep on Monday — the web page can already flip to subsequent season. With only a handful of regular-season video games underneath his belt, he’ll definitely be a high preseason contender for the Calder Trophy. And if the NHL does go to the Olympics in 2022, may he slip on his acquainted USA Hockey jersey?
The U.S. hasn’t gained gold on the Olympics in males’s ice hockey for the reason that nation “believed in miracles” in 1980 at Lake Placid.
“He’s a kid that just wants to win,” mentioned Leaman. “His first priority is winning. His second priority is scoring but his first priority is winning.”
Might this child with the massive grin and happy-go-lucky perspective, the one who mentioned “I hate to lose” on the draft, the considered one of whom Toffoli mentioned: “We haven’t had our coffee in the morning and he’s already smiling and bouncing around,” play for his nation once more? He has struggled on the worldwide stage within the final two world juniors (three targets in 12 video games), however he is rapidly turning into one of many United States’ greatest weapons within the NHL at each ends of the rink.
And possibly that is what the U.S. must recover from the hump. Guys like Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, Alex DeBrincat (whom Caufield likes to emulate), Jack Eichel, Caufield’s nationwide staff buddy Jack Hughes and sure, Cole Caufield.