by Corey Pronman
This is going to be brief just because the deeper we get into the tournament the fewer games take place and there are less new observations to make.
Thoughts from Czech Republic-USA (USA 7-0):
The vaunted top line for the Czechs I’ve discussed here frequently of Hyka (LAK, )Hertl (SJS), Jaskin (STL) didn’t show up as much as previous game, but one has to give credit to the USA for that. Housley, the USA coach went from a rolling lines type of style to matching his checkers of Pietila (NJD), Bardreau (undrafted) and Hartman (2013) against them and they effectively shut the line down. Hartman has shown quality effectiveness at both ends this tournament. Hertl did stand out though as he generated a lot of chances, but there was no finish.
[The real] Seth Jones (2013) showed up today; a player with elite hockey sense, and a player who can seemingly do everything well. He was great as a shutdown player against the Czech’s best forwards and showed good offensive puck skill and puck moving ability.
This was a forgettable tournament for Radek Faksa (DAL) and David Musil (EDM). Hopefully they can both have quality second halves in the CHL and put this behind them.
Thoughts from Switzerland-Russia (Russia 4-3 SO):
Despite only getting one win all tournament, this was an impressive showing from the Swiss club. The drafted prospects Richard (TBL) and Bertschy (MIN) did well with Bertschy really coming alive at the end of the tournament. The team has several undrafted players like Alessio Bertaggia, Sven Andrighetto, Dean Kukan, Mike Kunzle and a top 60 2013 prospect in Mirco Mueller among others in their ranks. Their program has taken quality strides.
I’m going to devote my thoughts on the Russian club to discussing the tournament thus far of their top two players: Nail Yakupov (EDM) and Mikhail Grigorenko (BUF).
Yakupov: It isn’t really a stretch to say Yakupov has underperformed in the five games Russia has played even though he has been decent. Most are used to seeing a lot more from Yakupov, and while I’ve said multiple times I expected him to turn it around, he hasn’t yet every time I’ve proclaimed so. That being said, I still am not concerned about Yakupov. I’m not pleased, I wouldn’t point someone to this five game stretch for evidence of why Yakupov is a for sure elite prospect, but that’s why I have hundreds of other games he has played the last few years to reference. Yakupov’s speed has been evident but he has not been showing as much offensive creativity, puck skills and distribution skill as he usually does. It could be because of “home court” pressure, or he’s gripping his stick, or some other reason but it’s likely because it’s a five game sample. That kind of random variance happens in short samples, it’s just a shame it happened now. Despite the subpar tournament, my projection of Yakupov has not changed. He’s an amazing prospect.
Grigorenko: Speaking of sample size, there was an 11 game stretch Grigorenko played last spring in the QMJHL playoffs where he underperformed and maybe even a little before that, drawing harsh criticism of his play and pessimism on his prospect stock, despite showing he was an elite prospect for years. Yet in a stressful quarterfinals game he assisted on the late game tying goal (albeit it coming off his blocked shot), scored in the sudden death portion of the shootout, and was named player of the game. Did he just find his clutch switch and say, “O that’s where it was?!” Or there’s another potential scenario, in that one can’t comprehensively evaluate Grigorenko’s play in this one good game he had, nor the five good games he’s had at the World Juniors, just like one can’t evaluate him in the 11 playoff games he had (where he may have potentially been ill too). Players stocks that have been high for a long time shouldn’t just randomly fall for a cherry picked reason in the spring, just like they shouldn’t spark insanely high in the winter after a short tournament. That’s why players are consistently evaluated over a long period of time and if that is done correctly, any movements on a player should be very, very gradual. That being said on Grigorenko’s performance he’s been very good at the World Juniors which shouldn’t be surprising because he’s been very good for years.
The moral of the story with World Junior performances or any other form of short sample performance evaluation even if it is “high pressure” is it usually never matters. The big picture matters and those games are a small piece of that big picture.