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January 6, 2011
World Junior Hockey Championship
by Corey Pronman
The World Junior Hockey Championship came to a close Wednesday night with Russia defeating Canada in a historically dramatic fashion as they came back from down 3-0 in the third to win 5-3 and capture the Gold Medal. Here at Hockey Prospectus, I've done my best to make the coverage of the event about the prospects for the most part, and not about the tournament. The tournament is a goldmine for prospects as a mass viewing opportunity, but in all honesty, I fail to see the appeal of the tournament relative to the degree of coverage it getsat least in comparison to the minimal coverage similar International events get.
To end our series on the tournament, I'll profile one player who was a standout, a surprise and a disappointment from the teams in the medal rounds:
Standout: This one is pretty much a no-brainer, as Los Angeles Kings' first rounder Brayden Schenn displayed why he is one of the elite prospects in hockey as he took home the Tournament MVP honors. The biggest improvement from Schenn over the last few years has been his skating, as he's brought it from a fringe level to a pro average tool. Combine that with above average hands, vision, finishing ability, physical and defensive games and you've got one heck of a prospect.
Surprise: Despite getting pinned with a suspension for a hit to the head, Sabres' prospect Zack Kassian had a great tournament. He wasn't even a sure thing to make the team, but ended up playing his way onto the first power play unit. His scoring ability and plus physical game have been documented before, but he was showing some solid to above average playmaking ability as he consistently set up teammates and made good decisions with the puck, which is a side of his game I was pleasantly surprised to see.
Disappointment: There was a trio of defenders I debated picking from. Bypassing the likes of Calvin De Haan and Dylan Olsen, I'm going to go with Penguins' prospect Simon Despres. I simply didn't see the progression in his hockey sense that I had hoped to. Despres has to take care of the puck better and make better decisions. He has the skating and physical gifts to let him get away with some stuff, but the pro game is going to be a swift kick in the rear if he plays like he did in Buffalo.
Standout: This one was a close call between the Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov and the Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko, but I'm going to have to go with the latter just because Vlad brought more dimensions to his game. He's a plus skater and shooter, with good hands, willingness to battle in the dirty areas and he can kill penalties as well. He may not have brought fans to their feet like Kuznetsov did, but Tarasenko did just about everything you would want from a hockey player, and well.
Surprise: There were only so many notable NHL prospects on this squad that the pickings for these accolades were slim, but for this one, I'm going to have to go with winger Nikita Dvurechensky. He's gone undrafted twice, but maybe performances like he had in Buffalo and at the Subway Super Series will be enough to garner late round attention if he shows an intention to come overseas. His skating has made improvements since his first draft year and his finishing ability is at a solid enough level to be effective at the pro game.
Disappointment: Despite being in the top two in defensemen scoring in the tournament and being named to the all-tournament team, I wasn't that thrilled with the Capitals' Dmitri Orlov. The scoring numbers he put up were terrific, and are a testament to how much of a power play weapon he can be with his shot and what his upside is, but there were some concerning aspects to Orlov's play as well. I saw all the Russian matches, and Orlov's game looked ridden with holesbe it from his decisions with the puck, to a fringe physical game, to trying to be too flashy, or to going out of position for a big hit, there are a lot of things the skilled defender needs to work on.
Standout: San Jose Sharks' first rounder Charlie Coyle was terrific all tournament long. I've written about Coyle several times from seeing him in the NCAA or during his U-20 stint, but the guy has kept giving reasons to be noticed. His physical game is a plus tool, along with the ability to control the puck well and finish off plays. His skating still needs to come, but he did show a fine first couple of steps, and his balance is great.
Surprise: There wasn't really any true surprise player for the States where I said, "Wow, I have never seen Prospect X play like THAT before!" but I think a lower-key guy who played relatively well is Carolina prospect Brian Dumoulin. It's hard to not at least be impressed by a physically gifted defender who can rush the puck, has decent puck skills, can be a back end power play guy, and who isn't a liability defensively. He wasn't flashing plus tools left and right, but he was an effective contributor.
Disappointment: I definitely was hoping for more from the Kings' Derek Forbort, even though based on what I've seen from him in college this year, his performance wasn't that off from how he's looked at North Dakota. He's a big defender who skates well, but he simply has to start showing more on the ice in terms of contributions in both ends of the rink.
Standout: I can't be anything less than impressed by how the Red Wing's Calle Jarnkrok played. If the 2010 draft was to be redone, I'd be shocked if he went 51st overall again as he did last summer. He's a solid skater, with true plus puck skills and great hockey sense who just found ways to create every time he touched the puck. His hands move so quickly that it's hard for defenders to try and poke the puck away, and by the time they close, he's found an open man and dished it off.
Surprise: Predators' fifth rounder Patrick Cehlin certainly wasn't expected to be one of Sweden's top scorers, but he ended up turning many heads. His skating is a plus tool and he was flying all over the ice in every game he played. He forechecked well, forcing turnovers, showed solid puck skills and potted four goals to boot. His physical game is a deterrent and I'm not completely in his court as a future NHL scorer, but he definitely gave reasons to remember his name.
Disappointment: The last time the Wild's second rounder Johan Larsson was on the international stage, he put on a scoring clinic at the Under 18's, scoring six goals and 14 points in five games, which was second in both categories. Johan definitely didn't look like a top scorer at this U-20 tournament. He simply didn't show the kind of finesse or movement abilities that could project as a scorer at the next level. To his credit, he did show above average hockey sense and solid passing skills, but if Minnesota was hoping for a potential top six winger from Larsson, I'm not so sure they're going to get it.
Standout: Everyone stand up and welcome Teemu Pulkkinen back to the limelight. Once considered a surefire first rounder in 2010 and possibly a top ten pick, his stock fell like an anvil to the fourth round after suffering from injuries and a poor draft season. He's no stranger to international success, as he was the top scorer in the U-18's last year, third in the U-18's two years ago, tied for sixth in the U-17's two years ago and tied for 11th in the U-17 three years ago. In Buffalo, he was just doing what he's done for the last few seasons: score. He's a terrific shooter with a plus slap shot, and combines it with above average puck skills and terrific vision. Did I mention he's a Detroit pick too? It's still a ways away until I do the list, but don't be surprised if you see Teemu Pulkkinen in my end of year Top 100 Prospects.
Surprise: This one was close between Erik Haula and Joonas Donskoi, but after seeing so much of Haula in the NCAA this year, his great performance wasn't as much of a surprise as Donskoi's. The Panthers' fourth rounder shows solid to above average skating ability, with solid puck control and scoring ability. His physical game still needs to come somewhat, but I think his frame will fill out to be at least around average for the pro game.
Disappointment: I was definitely hoping to see more from the Oiler's Toni Rajala. While I don't think he was horrid and while he showed flashes of above average puck skills, if he's going to make it as a pro, he needs to be more than what he showed in this tournament because of his well below average physical game. His skating isn't really above average either, so that means the rest of his offensive game needs to rise to a plus level to compensate.
I refrained from doing a profile on Switzerland as they only had a handful of prospects that were worth watching and I covered them all pretty well in the blog posts I made throughout the event.
Here is a summary of my work over the past few weeks if you want to scan through everything I've written:
January 5th Notes and Thoughts (Unfiltered)
January 3rd Notes and Thoughts (Unfiltered)
January 2nd Notes and Thoughts (Unfiltered)
Preliminary Round Wrap-Up (Premium Column)
December 31st Notes and Thoughts (Unfiltered)
December 30th Notes and Thoughts (Unfiltered)
December 29th Notes and Thoughts (Unfiltered)
December 27th and 28th Notes and Thoughts (Unfiltered)
December 26th Notes and Thoughts (Unfiltered)
General WJHC and The Field Preview (Premium Column)
Team Russia Preview (Unfiltered)
Team USA Preview (Column)
Team Sweden Preview (Premium Column)
Team Canada Preview (Column)
USA's Selection Camp (Unfiltered)
Canada's Selection Camp (Unfiltered)
I couldn't get all my notes down, because it simply wasn't realistic outside of me just copying and pasting the pages and pages that I took down throughout the competition. If there was someone you wanted an opinion on who I didn't write about, feel free to contact me using the contact tab at the bottom of this column.
These last few weeks have been exciting and I hoped everyone enjoyed our coverage of the World Junior Hockey Championship. I'll have something up on the Islanders' acquisition of Ty Wishart soon, and then I'll return later this month with thoughts on the Under-17 Challenge.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.
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