Hlinka Gretzky Cup: Top 2024 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup is upon us, and while the focus will be on the 2023 draft prospects, these five names from the 2024 draft will also demand your attention:
Aron Kiviharju, D (FIN)
The favorite to go first overall in 2024, Kiviharju is an incredibly intelligent and talented blueliner. He is a difference-maker in every zone, understanding the transition game and any defensive prospect his age in recent memory. He manipulates the puck on his stick, creating space with his shifty skating ability and deft hands.
His offensive game is still maturing and rounding into form, but that hasn’t prevented him from picking his opponents apart with his tactical approach to the game. He was a productive player at the World Under-18s in the spring, setting the record for scoring by a U-16 defender at the event.
Don’t be surprised to see him play in the Liiga as a 16-year-old defenseman this upcoming season.
Adam Jecho, RW (CZE)
A 6-foot-3 winger, Jecho has produced everywhere he has been, from the Czech junior ranks to the U-18 SM-sarja in Finland. There has been some hype slowly building around Jecho for a couple of years now, playing with the Czech U-17 and U-18 teams at 15 and 16 years old.
Jecho is a dual-threat offensive player who uses his size well to protect the puck and hold off opponents with one arm in their chest and the other on his stick. Jecho is also a good shooter, with the ability to fire off a one-timer from in his feet or curl and drag as he cuts to the middle.
Jakub Chromiak, D (SVK)
The younger brother of Los Angeles Kings prospect Martin Chromiak, Jakub is a puck-moving defender who was the first blueliner selected in the CHL import draft. Chromiak looks like he could be a difference maker at this tournament for Slovakia with his ability to play at both ends of the ice and continue to showcase the advancements in Slovak hockey the last few years. He was one of the only 2024 draft eligible players to see time at the top level of Slovak hockey.
Chromiak uses his mobility at both ends of the ice. He understands how to create space offensively and take away space defensively. Chromiak is a good passer on the breakout, hitting forwards in stride and allowing the transition game to attack quickly. Chromiak will have to earn his ice time, but there is no reason he won’t find a role at the Hlinka.
Tanner Howe, LW (CAN)
Tanner Howe was on Canada at the World Under-18s in the spring, playing a small role for the Canadian squad but should have a bigger role this time. He will be the youngest player on this team but far from the least talented. An equal shooter and passer, Howe has displayed the ability to keep up with high-end talent in the past and should excel if given that same opportunity at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Howe has a massive one-time shot despite having a diminutive frame standing just 5-foot-8. He plays with a high battle level, willing to go to the net when needed and fight for a loose puck around the net. The Regina winger also showcases slick passing ability, threading the needle through legs and traffic in the slot to put the puck on teammates' sticks in high-danger areas. Howe had 69 points in 64 games last year as a rookie in the WHL and he should be a candidate to put up massive numbers again in the western league this year – the Hlinka Gretzky Cup could very well be his coming-out party.
Emil Vinni, G (FIN)
Could Emil Vinni go in the first round in 2024? Quite possibly. The 6-foot-2 netminder is favored to claim the starter's role for the Finns at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup as a 16-year-old after spending most of last year at the U-20 level.
Vinni will likely grow a bit over the next couple of years, which will only make NHL clubs even more enticed by the Finnish netminder. Vinni could begin solidifying his standing for the 2024 NHL draft and start putting his name firmly in the first round the way Jesper Wallstedt and Yaroslav Askarov did a few years ago.