There has been some buzz around Cole Caufield and the Blackhawks lately, and with good reason. Caufield projects to be very similar to a current Blackhawks player who recently had a breakout season, Alex DeBrincat.
DeBrincat vs. Caufield
When you look at Cole Caufield, the first thing you think of is Alex DeBrincat 2.0. Caufield is 5’7″, 163 lbs. Whereas, DeBrincat is 5’7″, 165 lbs. If you watched Caufield play for the USNTDP (United States National Team Development Program) without seeing his nameplate, you would immediately believe DeBrincat was skating around and scoring big-time goals.
Caufield and DeBrincat both score a lot of goals, and I mean a lot of goals. Caufield had 72 goals for the USDTP this year, and DeBrincat has scored 69 goals in two seasons with the Blackhawks. It is not IF Caufield is going to score, but more of WHEN. Goal scoring is something you cannot teach and these two players have done it for whatever team they have been on so far.
Not only do they have excellent shots, but they have the hockey sense to find open areas on the ice and the ability to create scoring chances every time they are in the offensive zone.
The one main difference between the two is that DeBrincat has been classified as more “feisty” than Caufield. DeBrincat has already had a couple of fights in the NHL. He also plays with more of a fire and edge than Caufield and likes to be involved in scrums.
DeBrincat played with Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome in juniors. Caufield played with potential #1 pick Jack Hughes this year. Some may say their production is based on the impact of their linemates. Jack Hughes most certainly disagrees with that statement.
According to an interview between Athletic’s NHL prospect writer Corey Pronman and Jack Hughes, Hughes describes playing with Caufield as, “Easy points”.
Caufield not only has the best shot in the draft class, but also, an elite brain. Playing with talented players such as Jack Hughes is not easy as you have to keep up with his pace and be able to make plays at a high level. Caufield has to get open for Hughes to give him the puck, and he certainly did that this year.
Proving Doubters Wrong
Alex DeBrincat and Cole Caufield have been doubted their whole lives based on their size and how it impacts their games. One can attest that they have made a lot of their doubters look silly thus far.
Before DeBrincat was drafted by the Blackhawks he was tearing up the OHL with the Erie Otters. DeBrincat scored 50 goals in 3 consecutive seasons and won MVP in 2017. Still, DeBrincat had his doubters and concerns that his play would not translate to the next level because of his size.
Due to the concern, DeBrincat slipped out of the first round and landed in the Blackhawks’ laps with the 43rd pick in the 2016 NHL draft. Two years into the league, DeBrincat has scored 69 goals and 59 assists good for 128 points in 164 games. If the 2016 NHL draft were redone today, DeBrincat would easily go top 5.
The production of Alex DeBrincat today proves to NHL general managers that goal scoring wingers are incredibly valuable and hard to find, no matter how big or small the players are.
This sets the scene for 18-year-old Cole Caufield. Caufield is from Steven Points, Wisconsin and currently had one of the best seasons ever for the USNTDP. He currently stands as #1 in the most goals scored ever in that historic program. His 126 goals top current NHL Stars Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, and Auston Matthews.
Where does Caufield go in the 2019 NHL Draft? He most certainly has the shot, skill, and skating to go in the top 10, but the question is where? Many general managers have seen the success DeBrincat has had in the NHL, especially with his size, and will look at this as a model for Caufield.
Caufield to the Blackhawks at #3?
Now, the questions arise for the Blackhawks: Do they take the chance on Caufield? Would they want another 5’7 forward in their top 6? Would he play with DeBrincat?
All of these questions will come for Blackhawks’ General Manager, Stan Bowman, and Director of Scouting, Mark Kelley. It will be their jobs to determine what would be best for the Blackhawks’ future.
The Blackhawks will surely look to draft the best player available at #3, but they have many options. Do they draft the best defenseman in Bowen Byram? Do they draft the forward with the best playmaking ability in Trevor Zegras, or do they take the best pure goal scorer in the draft with Cole Caufield?
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Through these options, it is important to see out how each of these prospects will fit into the Blackhawks’ plans in the next couple of years. Cole Caufield is attending University of Wisconsin next season to play college hockey, but I would expect him to contend for a roster spot the next year.
I think the biggest question for the Blackhawks to determine is if it is ultimately smart to draft another 5’7 forward and add him to their top 6. The Blackhawks currently have a small forward group with Patrick Kane being 5’10”, DeBrincat 5’7″, Drake Cagguila 5’9″, and Dominik Kahun 5’10″.
It is important for the Blackhawks to have a strong balance of the smaller quicker forwards who play on the outside and the big, strong power forwards who drive to the net. How would a DeBrincat-Strome-Caufield line look? Definitely undersized, but with a ton of offensive production and a ton of heart.
Through my analysis of Cole Caufield, I have determined it would be in the Blackhawks’ best interest to avoid drafting him at #3. Caufield is the best goal scorer in the draft and has a ton of talent, but he just doesn’t fill a need for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks already have their diminutive and dynamic scorer in DeBrincat and adding Caufield would make an already small forward group even smaller. I think the Blackhawks have a bigger need in defensemen and centers as this draft approaches.
Adding Caufield to an already abundance of undersized wingers on the team would be an unnecessary move for the Blackhawks going forward. Ultimately, Caufield is going to be an extremely good player, but I question his fit with the Blackhawks.
Although, the team that drafts Caufield will be very happy as he will definitely be an exciting player to watch going forward.