ORNSKOLDSVIK, Sweden — Inside the left faceoff circle and just below the dot, as the U.S. men’s national under-18 team finishes its warm-up, Cole Caufield stands next to a blob of pucks. He slides each puck to his stick and fires off shot after shot into the opposite corner of the net. The best goal scorer in the 2019 NHL draft class won’t miss any opportunity to shoot the puck.
Over the course of this season, Caufield scored 72 goals in 64 games for the U18 team at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. He rewrote every section of the NTDP’s goal-scoring record book, leaving distance between himself and many players who have gone on to become NHL stars.
To say this is an unprecedented level of scoring is putting it in the mildest of terms. His season total shattered the previous single-season record at the NTDP, Auston Matthews‘ 55 set during the 2014-15 season. And Caufield almost tied the record last season, scoring 54 as a U17 player. His 126 career goals over his two seasons at the Michigan-based NTDP dwarfs the 104 goals Phil Kessel scored over his two seasons there.
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“It’s safe to say it’s an NTDP record that won’t be broken for a lot of years,” says Jack Hughes, Caufield’s linemate and projected No. 1 pick of the 2019 NHL draft, of the 72-goal season. “To see a guy like that do it, just a pure hockey player who just loves the game, it’s special.”