Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko and Moritz Seider, all born in 2001, are considered exceptional talents. At the Ice Hockey World Cup, they also have to realize that the Hege era is over.
Until a few days ago, Jack Hughes was behind bars. The 17-year-old did no wrongAs the Americans say, he had done nothing wrong, which would have justified imprisonment. He was just a 17-year-old who, like all 17-year-olds in the world – at least in those countries where one is considered 18 at the age of 18 – longed for his 18th birthday. Last Tuesday it was time. Since then, Jack Hughes of Orlando, Florida, has been playing ice hockey in front of his face without a protective grid. And everyone can see that behind this grid was still a very young face.
Hughes is next to his brother Quinn, 19, the youngest in Team USA, which meets on Sunday (16:15 clock) at the World Cup in Slovakia on the German team. Behind his name stands as a club statement: U.S. National U18, Hughes captained the junior national team to bronze this winter, the year before the US boys won silver with Hughes, and silver in the U20 in January. All relevant scouting agencies have him for the upcoming talents draw the professional league NHL (Draft) at number one, the scouts, who are also in the World Cup in the arenas, overturn in their judgments: "tremendous start"; "inconspicuous, because he is small (1.79 meters, editor's note), but open your eyes when he has the puck"; "an electrifying player"; "can decide games"; "always one step ahead". The talent education takes place at the end of June in Vancouver, where Brother Quinn plays as a professional for the Canucks. At the World Cup, Jack Hughes acts rather inconspicuously so far, after four games he is still without a scorer point, which would be completely normal for a 17-, 18-year-olds given the abundance of stars in the industry, the speeding in Bratislava and Kosice over the ice: The Russians have Alexander Ovetshkin, the top scorer of the NHL, they have Malkin and Dadonov, the Swedes have "King" Henrik Lundqvist and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Czechs Jakub Voracek, the Americans Patrick Kane, veterans with experience from hundreds of NHL games , all around the age of 30 or older. However, a designated future leader like Hughes is expected to show what he can at this level. Just like the Finn Kaapo Kakko does.
The striker from Turku, since February 18, has electrified the professional world with six goals in the first four games at this World Cup. With seven points scorer he is among the top ten of the tournament, on the same with the Swiss Nico Hischier, who has already turned 20 in January. Hischier plays in the NHL for the New Jersey Devils, who are the first to pull out of the talent pot this year. Two years ago, Hischier himself was still the number one draft pick.
Kakko disputes Hughes number one status. In the junior World Cup tournaments, in which the Americans won silver, Kakko won gold. "There are not many players in the world like him, and when he has the bat on the ice, only the sky is the limit," says Finland coach Jukka Jalonen.
Hughes, Kakko and the German Moritz Seider, all born in 2001, are united by their age and talent: they represent the trend to take highly talented players into account earlier and earlier. In Scandinavia and Finland, the in-cold water throwing has long been a principle: swimming or staying amateur is the motto. Kakko played in the past Champions League season for TPS Turku, with 17 and still with grid in front of the face. Patrick Hager of Turku's group opponent EHC Red Bull München, says: "It was amazing how far such a young player can be, and after a year in the Finnish league, it does not surprise me that he plays at this level at the World Cup . " Kakkos 1: 1 in the 3-1 win against Denmark on Thursday belonged to the sassy, technically most demanding and filigree, what this World Cup had to offer so far, the commentators whispered: "Spectacular!" His goal against Slovakia with only one hand, he later described himself as: "It was really cool."
Kakko obviously enjoys the attention he gets at the World Cup. Moritz Seider also says: "This is a giant stage on which I can present myself." Seider is the biggest German defender talent. His season in fast motion: Rise with the German U20 in the top division of the World Cup. Best defender of the tournament. Newcomer of the year in the DEL. German champion with Mannheim. First international match, first World Cup, two goals. Two goals by an 18-year-old defender at a World Cup last 1978 by the Finn Reijo Ruotsalainen.
"He's a good boy," says Leon Draisaitl, NHL pro at the Edmonton Oilers. "He comes over very calmly, he will make his way." Into the NHL, says Draisaitl. Dominik Kahun (Chicago) says that Seider, Kakko and Hughes are "already the greatest talents". The best in each year started today "with nine, ten years with things on, we did not have at that time". Your training options are "crazy," says Kahun – and he adds: "It was not that long ago that I was ten." It's easy to forget that Draisaitl and Kahun are only 23 years old. Seider calls them "my idols".
On Tuesday against Finland there could be a direct duel with Kakko before the NHL scouts. On Wednesday, however, Seider first had to experience what it means when the time of the Hege is over. Slovakia's Ladislav Nagy, 39, world champion in 2002, jostled him without much ado. Seider left with suspected concussion.
The excitement that has sparked around him at this World Cup leaves him so far cold. "I'm not so upset," says Seider. "I just try to be myself, the issues do not change, and at the end of the day, you're just playing ice-hockey against maybe better opponents." He still tries to "inhale the whole thing here", because the first World Cup was "certainly something special".
Beyond the bars, out in the adult world, other constraints are already lurking on Kakko, Seider and Hughes.
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