by Corey Pronman
The round robin portion ended in great fashion, with three entertaining games. The quarterfinals start on Wednesday.
Thoughts from Switzerland-Czech Republic (4-3 Czech Republic OT):
Today was yet another great display from the Czech’s top line of Dmitrij Jaskin (STL), Tomas Hertl (SJS) and Tomas Hyka (LAK), specifically the former two who have thus far been among the best players at this World Juniors. Jaskin stole the show with highlight reel offensive plays on two of the Czech’s goals and displayed a good physical game as well. Hertl notched the OT winner and his puck skills were evident all game long.
The Czechs did get some decent performances from their secondary options as Radek Faksa (DAL) had his first solid game offensively, and David Musil (EDM) was quality at both ends after a subpar round robin portion. Musil was physical, smart in his own end, and showed some offensive instincts too.
Some of Switzerland’s undrafted prospects, who are their top players, stood out again specifically Alessio Bertaggia but also Sven Andrighetto. Both play in the CHL and with their level of skating ability and offensive skill they look like candidates for a draft pick.
I was a little disappointed with Christoph Bertschy (MIN) this tournament; in fact I think I liked him more at the previous WJC. The 6th round pick did score today on a long shot, but I haven’t seen the offensive possession ability I saw last time.
Thoughts from USA-Slovakia (9-3 USA):
Vincent Trocheck (FLA), Tyler Biggs (TOR), Cole Bardreau (undrafted), John Gaudreau (CGY), Jimmy Vesey (NSH) and J.T. Miller (NYR) were among the standout from today’s game for the USA.
I was surprised initially the USA’s coach Housley gave Trocheck a limited offensive role. While he does have a good work ethic and defensive value, he’s really gifted with the puck as well. Gaudreau also had the big game many were waiting for out of him. He has the ability to dazzle observes with his talent level and he did so today such as on the goal where he turned a defender and made him look silly. Jimmy Vesey took Rocco Grimaldi’s (FLA) place on the top line as Grimaldi was benched and Vesey made Housley look very wise. He was good with the puck, made a high-end pass to set up Jake McCabe’s goal and overall looked like he belonged on a scoring line. Tyler Biggs set up or was involved in a few scoring chances, while playing physical and exhibiting solid defensive value.
Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) had his worst game so far of the tournament, and even then he still got two points. For long stretches he didn’t generate much and made a costly turnover that led to a Slovakia goal. It’s nothing to worry about, as he will bounce back in all likelihood.
Thoughts from Sweden-Finland (7-4 Sweden):
The two undrafted players for Sweden shone again as little guys Filip Sandberg and Viktor Arvidsson have been just dynamite. They are both are my draft boards and climbing as they are both highly skilled players with defensive value. Sandberg can stickhandle in a phone booth, while Arvidsson has a quality shot.
The tale of Joel Armia (BUF) was in full display today. He scored twice, on beauty snipe goals and was named the team’s player of the game. However at the same time with his team down a goal, needing to get to overtime to advance to the medal round, and a minute left, while on the powerplay, he takes an offensive zone penalty and sapped any energy Finland had for their comeback. He’s a fantastic talent, who when he’s on shows great hockey sense, but when he’s not he makes simply horrible decisions. I’m not sure if today he was on or off.
Victor Rask (CAR) had his best game of the tournament showing a great amount of puck skill and was in on a few chances. His skating is still a significant issue though.
Emil Molin (DAL) may be the breakout prospect of this tournament as he’s simply impressed in every game and has been one of Sweden’s best players. He’s skilled, smart, plays with pace and has a good shot. On a line with Elias Lindholm, who is a top scorer in the SEL now, Molin has not been a passenger.
For William Karlsson and Rickard Rakell, fellow Ducks prospects, this may have been a somewhat forgettable round robin. Even though Rakell is tied for Sweden’s scoring lead he can play better.
Aleksander Barkov (2013) is an elite draft prospect who was one of Finland’s top defensive and offensive players this tournament and he turned 17 months ago. 17 year olds don’t generally play well at the World Juniors, even really good ones. It will be interesting to see Barkov if he goes to the Under-18’s this spring because he’s seemingly forever played beyond his age group. I will want to see how much he can dominate versus his peers.
Thoughts on Canada-Russia (4-1 Canada):
Asides from saying Dougie Hamilton (BOS) and Ryan Murphy (CAR) I thought played better, there aren’t many great new thoughts I can add here, so I’ll devote this section to discussing Jonathan Drouin (2013).
Drouin was on CAN’s top line and was named player of the game. He is a 17 year old who turns 18 in March. For a player his age to get that kind of responsibility at the World Juniors, on a stacked team up front is highly unusual and very lofty praise from his coach Steve Spott. At the same time his linemate in the QMJHL Nathan MacKinnon (2013) has been on the fourth line. Drouin has been quality all tournament and was very good today. He has a higher points per game than MacKinnon in Halifax as well so today the theme was on twitter: Is Drouin better than MacKinnon?
Well there’s a few points that need to be made:
1. This is not a debate that has been created the last few days, for a month or two this has been a topic of discussion for scouts. There are nights where Halifax plays and either of MacKinnon or Drouin looks like the better NHL prospect. This is a tough call to make. I had Drouin 5th when I did my preseason rankings (MacKinnon 1st) and when I update my draft rankings shortly Drouin’s placement will be the toughest because he has a legitimate argument talent wise to be up there with the best of the 2013 draft class. In fact I believe one can make a reasonable argument for him to be at the top spot. I’m not saying I would put him there, but there’s a case, and you wouldn’t get laughed out of a room full with NHL front office types if you proclaimed such a case, as long as you made it well (not using the WJC and stats as the main arguments).
2. Steve Spott’s usage of Drouin and MacKinnon is one man’s opinion or that of one coaching staff. Drouin or MacKinnon is a debate, and thus some people will view the player’s value-present and future- differently. Spott sees it one way, but it’s very possible a different coach would use both of the players in a different way.
3. The large ice surface is a major factor to consider as well too. One only needs to look at European leagues individual scoring with all the locked out NHLers and see how replacement level players compare to NHL players on the big ice to see there’s a major difference between the American and European game when it comes to kinds of players who can produce.