Colorado Avalanche: Cole Caufield Packs a lot of Talent into Small Package

ST. PAUL, MN - SEPTEMBER 19: Team Leopold forward Cole Caufield (14) celebrates his 3rd period goal during the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game between Team Leopold and Team Langenbrunner on September 19, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. Team Leopold defeated Team Langenbrunner 6-4.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - SEPTEMBER 19: Team Leopold forward Cole Caufield (14) celebrates his 3rd period goal during the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game between Team Leopold and Team Langenbrunner on September 19, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. Team Leopold defeated Team Langenbrunner 6-4.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The Colorado Avalanche might take a flyer on a rising prospect, Cole Caufield, despite his small size. He’s big on scoring, though.

The Colorado Avalanche might have a new darkhorse candidate for the fourth-overall position, though he’s more of a Shetland pony. The diminutive winger, Cole Caufield, just climbed the ranks to reach the #4 position on Craig Button’s draft rankings for TSN.

The Avalanche have two picks in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft. The first is at #4, and the second is their own, #16. The top two draftees are set, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. So, as GM Joe Sakic said, the draft starts at #3, which belongs to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Avs have a lot of options at that #4 position. I don’t necessarily know if I think Cole Caufield is their best bet at that position. But then, I didn’t fancy Cale Makar, who also rose through the ranks at the end, and we see how that worked out.

Anyway, let’s look at what the small forward brings to the table.

Cole Caufield

2018-19 Team: USNDT/USHL
Date of Birth: Jan 2, 2001 (18 years old)
Height: 5’7″
Weight: 163 lbs.
Position: Center/right wing
Shoots: Right

Ranked #11 by HOCKEYPROSPECT.COM
Ranked #12 by FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS
Ranked #9 by ISS HOCKEY
Ranked #13 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #8 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Ranked #13 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #18 by TSN/McKenzie

As you can see, Cole Caufield wasn’t ranked in the top 10 by much of anyone when the Elite Prospects rankings came out. However, as noted above, Craig Buttons sees a lot in this prospect.

I’m sure it has a lot to do with his incredible World Juniors U18 performance — 14 goals and 4 assists in 8 games. That was good enough to match Alex Ovechkin’s record and earn Caufield MVP honors.

Here’s what Button said of Caufield:

"“Caufield is an elite scorer. The elite scorer needs an elite playmaker [Hughes] but it cuts both ways because the playmaker can’t be prolific in his game without the finisher. Caufield has an excellent scoring IQ and arrives at the right places at the right times. He’s the best pure goal scorer available in this draft.”"

It’s hard to argue with the elite scorers label. Caufield earned an impressive 100 points (72 goals, 28 assists) in 64 games with the U18 Team “A” and an additional 41 points (29 goals, 12 assists) with the juniors squad. All this season — 141 points, 101 of them goals.

Buttons credits Cole’s “ability to score in multiple ways.” He adds:

"“He handles the puck with ease, beats obstacles, breaks down goalies and has a lethal release that makes him very difficult to stop.”"

Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects calls Caufield a “game-breaking goal scorer,” pointing out that he “thrives under pressure and is difficult to contain” despite his small stature. In fact, Joe considers his “exceptional goal scoring ability” the hallmark of Caufield’s game.

However, Joe sees more to Cole’s game, too. He admires how well the prospect skates, saying he “traverses all three zones with jump and jam.” He also notes that the player explodes up the ice in transition. Some final high praise:

"“Cole Caufield is an electrifying goal-scoring machine that makes some of the most otherworldly plays look like child’s play.”"

Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey concurs with the other two men. He admires Caufield’s speed, acceleration, and agility. In fact, he describes his style as “darting.”

Both Kerr and Joe consider that defense is a slight weakness in Cole’s game, largely due to his size. Kerr observes, “He has a tough time containing bigger opponents in the cycle game.” However, both men do admit his speed and anticipation help his defensive game.

Of course, Kerr’s highest praise is for Cole Caufield’s offense. He lists the prospect’s arsenal, including multiple types of shots, dekes, toe drags — all of it. Kerr finishes, “Overall, he has all the offensive tools one looks for in a player, with the exception being his lack of height.”

Cole Caufield in action:

Cole Caufield and the Colorado Avalanche

More from Draft

I’m going to make the same observation every single other person makes — Cole’s tiny. He’s 5-foot-7, 165 pounds. However, I’ll add a couple caveats. He’s already taller than what Theo Fleury maxed out at (5-foot-6) and already beefier than Johnny Gaudreau (150 pounds).

The other caveat: Cole is a teenager. Teen boys are still growing. He could well max out at Gaudreau’s height (5-foot-9) and Fleury’s weight (180 pounds). And, hey, diminutive statures worked out ok for Johnny Hockey and Fleury.

You never know what’s going to translate to the NHL. It’s hard to argue with Caufield’s production, but it’s also hard to argue he didn’t benefit from being on a line with Hughes.

I’d say I’d be uncomfortable with Cole at #4 and absolutely delighted with him at #16.

Here’s the entire list of the Colorado Avalanche’s picks:

#4 (from Ottawa)
#16
#47
#62 (also from Ottawa)
#78
#140
#171
#202

You never know if a trade might affect any of those picks.

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The 2019 NHL Draft takes place in Vancouver, with the first round on June 21 and the second round on June 22. The time for the first round hasn’t been announced, but I’m expected last year’s start time of 5:30 pm MT.