Hosts Matthew Coller and Timo Seppa kick off a new season of NHL hockey and a new season of podcasts. Hockey Prospectus author Tom Awad, the creator of GVT and VUKOTA, stops by to talk about his projections for 2012-13 as well as to help preview the Northeast Division, which includes his hometown Habs. Matt and Timo continue through the Atlantic and Southeast Divisions.
Stay tuned for the Western Conference preview later this week - Thursday.
Tune into NHL Network Radio’s The War Room with Mick Kern and Peter Berce on Thursday 1/17 from 11-12 am: Timo Seppa will be their guest for the entire hour, previewing the NHL season from a stats perspective. XM Radio, channel 92.
Barring any major move of which I may write a post for, I’ll post all my thoughts on any deals here:
The Flyers traded for defenseman Mark Alt, my thoughts on Alt: He’s what one NHL source describes as an athletic big man, who skates well and moves very well for his size. He’s got a high-end physical game due to his size and willingness to lay the body. Alt is still pretty raw though, trying to figure out the game in his own end and make better decisions overall. He also doesn’t bring much in terms of point production, although there’s a little offensive upside in him. For now I’d qualify him as a low end prospect.
Canucks signed Cam Barker: Barker tends to draw a lot of criticism his way, not without merit as has shown regularly to be an even strength liability and stood out in a bad way on a very bad Edmonton team last season. Still of all EDM defensemen last season he had the 2nd highest TOI/60 on the powerplay and was the only one with a positive Corsi Realtive of the top three defenders in 5v4 TOI/60. I saw Barker play a few times in the AHL this season while he was with the Dallas affiliate and he was good offensively. However this is a (debatable) NHL player in his mid 20s so that should be expected, but it is worth noting because that’s more or less where Barker’s value comes from-his puck moving. He’s at the most a #7 defenseman, but I speculate this signing comes because top D prospect for Vancouver Kevin Connauton still needs some time to iron out a few kinks and if he was brought up it wouldn’t be for such a limited role. I suspect if Vancouver is pleased with Connauton’s progression and there’s an injury on D, Connauton will jump Barker on the depth chart to take even-strength shifts.
Here’s what VUKOTA has to say about the 2013 season, with its original 82-game projections and the 48-game equivalents.
Rank Team 82 gm 48 gm
1 Pittsburgh 104 61
2 Boston 103 60
t-3 Chicago 99 58
t-3 Vancouver 99 58
t-5 Los Angeles 97 57
t-5 NY Rangers 97 57
t-5 Philadelphia 97 57
t-5 San Jose 97 57
9 St Louis 96 56
t-10 Carolina 93 54
t-10 Toronto 93 54
t-12 Detroit 92 54
t-12 Nashville 92 54
t-14 Buffalo 91 53
t-14 Colorado 91 53
t-14 Dallas 91 53
t-14 Winnipeg 91 53
t-18 Calgary 90 53
t-18 Ottawa 90 53
t-18 Tampa Bay 90 53
t-18 Washington 90 53
22 Montreal 89 52
t-23 Edmonton 88 52
t-23 Minnesota 88 52
t-23 NY Islanders 88 52
t-26 Anaheim 86 50
t-26 New Jersey 86 50
t-26 Phoenix 86 50
29 Florida 84 49
30 Columbus 81 47
Note: I’m hearing interest in getting updated team projections before the season starts. Let’s see how the next 10 days goes - if there is significant movement influencing the projections, we can provide an update.
If you’re just looking to do your own, back-of-the-envelope calculations-let’s say in the case of Roberto Luongo getting traded-just remember that 3 GVT equals one point in the standings (6 GVT equals a win). Of course, with goalies, you’ll need to factor in who’s gaining and losing starts.
As far as restricted free agent signings (Del Zotto, etc.), VUKOTA operates under the assumption that RFAs will resign with last year’s teams. So that’s already taken into account.
This was a complete game for the States, with seemingly every player contributing and most playing at a high level. The USA’s keys have come outside their forwards with Jacob Trouba (WPG) playing very well the whole tournament with Seth Jones (2013) and Jake McCabe (BUF) playing key roles as well. McCabe is a gritty defensive defender who has shown at Wisconsin he can move the puck and has offensive ability although I’d consider his skating average.
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) has really picked it up lately and scored a gorgeous goal today undressing Ryan Murphy (CAR) in the process. Gaudreau is in the discussion for a tournament all-star. The checking line for the USA did well, whose names I’ve mentioned frequently, the Grimaldi (FLA), Trocheck (FLA) and Biggs (TOR) line did well again and JT Miller (NYR) and Jimmy Vesey (NSH) contributed too on the USA’s top line.
The Canadian blue line was a bit of a train wreck, and asides from Scott Harrington (PIT) and Xavier Oueller (DET) the other defensemen have been average or worse. Overall though this game is the shining example of the variance a small tournament can bring, as it was just a week ago that Canada beat the United States 2-1, but showed a decent amount of control in that game. It doesn’t make logical sense Canada got dramatically worse or the USA got dramatically better in that period of time, it was just one game. If the same teams play 100 times, Canada likely wins 60 times or more, but this was one of the 40.
It’s also why I disagree with piling on a player like goaltender Malcolm Subban (BOS) who despite all the criticism and all the goals against today is currently 5 th in the World Juniors in SV% with a .908. One, it’s not fair to point a finger at just a goalie, just like it isn’t fair to just point fingers at the skaters. The skaters’ job is to prevent scoring chances and the goalie’s job is to within reason and case by case, stop a certain amount of scoring chances in a competitive game. Subban has made some quality stops during the course of this tournament, and today he had goals against he probably couldn’t have stopped and some that could have plausibly been stopped. The goaltender needs to make tough stops, but it’s also why you can’t judge a goalie on one or five games, because that’s nowhere close to enough time. Heck, 100 games wouldn’t even be enough. The randomness of a short tournament needs to be evaluated in that proper context. Malcolm Subban is a very quality goaltender and I wouldn’t have blinked at him starting a hypothetical final match if Canada would have somehow win.
Canada won five straight gold medal from 2005-09, and has not since. That smells to me like regression to the mean, as it’s unrealistic to make a run like that and expect to keep winning in a short tournament. Things like one bad goaltending performance, an off night from your players, or a great night from your opponent can ruin yours quickly. Hey that sounds familiar. Canadian hockey is fine to whoever may worry; they’re a perennial heavy contender, the best amateur program currently in the world who just had an off night. That’s hockey.
I have no new thoughts to add from the Sweden-Russia match that I have not already said in this blog.
If I had a ballot right now for the tournament all-stars it would be Gaudreau, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM), Mikhail Grigorenko (BUF), Jacob Trouba, Seth Jones and John Gibson (ANA). There are other forwards in the discussion too like Filip Forsberg (WSH), Elias Lindholm (2013), Nikita Kucherov (TBL), Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) and a few others. There’s no for sure call other than Hopkins.
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.
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.
This World Juniors is turning out to be one of the more dramatic in recent years with great games in both groups although unfortunately many have been unable to see a lot of the games. Here are my thoughts from today’s games outside of Germany-Slovakia. The round robin portion wraps up tomorrow. Group A has two great games tomorrow with SWE-FIN and CZE-SUI as asides from Sweden advancing, very little has been decided in that group with the other three teams I named having a good chance to advance. CAN-RUS will also determine who gets a bye, and USA-SVK play a win and you’re onto the medal round game.
Thoughts from Finland-Switzerland (5-4 Finland SO):
Teuvo Teravainen (CHI) was arguably Finland’s best player. He scored several key goals, including one where they were making a late third period comeback but also looked very good with the puck. His hands and hockey sense are high-end.
Markus Granlund (CGY) was just decent for a good portion of the game, but he delivered when Finland needed him as he scored a deflection goal, and with Finland down a goal he knocked in a loose puck with roughly a minute left in the game. He also scored the shootout winner, although it was his second attempt as it went to extra shooters where the IIHF allows for repeat shots.
I’ve blogged over the last few days about good Joel Armia (BUF) has been but recently he’s been bad, very bad. He’s been a giveaway machine who tries all the fancy moves but unlike previous game he doesn’t generate offense when he does so. Armia’s performance swings are about as high as any current NHL prospect I can think of.
Aleksander Barkov (2013) has yet to really put up points, but he made a lot of quality plays today. His hands and vision are apparent and one has to keep in mind he’s a double underaged player in this tournament and you usually don’t expect anything from those players.
Tanner Richard (TBL) is a quality prospect whose skill was on full display today. A top OHL assist leader this season today displayed good puck possession skill as one of Switzerland’s best offensive weapons. He needs to put on a lot of muscle though. Undrafted forwards Alessio Bertaggia, Sven Andrighetto who both play in the CHL and defenseman Dean Kukan all showed good offensive ability as well.
Thoughts from Canada-USA (2-1 Canada):
I thought Dougie Hamilton (BOS) was better today. He’s not playing at his best, but he was defending better than in previous games and once he gets rolling, hopefully for Canada soon, he’ll make a good blueline great. I asked one scout about Hamilton and he said he feels he’s pressing and needs to simplify his game. The scout and myself do agree Hamilton can do a lot more than he’s done so far. Scott Harrington (PIT) continues to impress with his steady defensive play and ability to make little helpful plays everywhere.
This was a game of goaltenders as two top goalie prospects in John Gibson (ANA) and Malcolm Subban (BOS) were at the top of their games. They are slightly different in skill sets, Subban a little better with his athletic tools and Gibson a little better with his positional game, but both of them have the qualities to be starting NHL netminders.
Jacob Trouba (WPG) has been great really dating back to early last year and he continues to get better. He was a force at both ends today and while his strength is his defense, as he’s high-end in that department thanks in part to his great physical game, he showed good ability with the puck as well. He’s quickly climbing my board in terms of his rank among NHL prospects.
Seth Jones (2013) has not had his best tournament and has not been reminiscent of the Seth Jones I’ve seen for the last few years. His hockey sense is elite and his best quality, yet his decision making has been average as of late.
USA’s top scorers haven’t well… scored or better yet produced enough chances to give them opportunities to score. John Gaudreau (CGY), J.T. Miller (NYR) and Rocco Grimaldi (FLA) can, have and should be better than they’ve been so far.
I liked Jake McCabe’s (BUF) performance today. He’s been a physical, quality defensive player. That’s the kind of game USA Hockey has had him perform as a U18 player too but as he’s shown regularly at Wisconsin he have offensive upside too. He did take a dumb penalty at the end of the game though.
Thoughts from Czech Republic-Latvia (4-2 Czech Republic):
Dmitrij Jaskin (STL) and Tomas Hertl (SJS) were very good again. I have heard scouts the last year refer to Jaskin’s upside as a third line winger, but it’s hard to see that. He’s a large man who has been exhibiting above-average hands and offensive sense to go along with improved skating. Jaskin also has a plus power game. Hertl is clearly the most skilled player on the ice whenever he touches a puck. His hands are great and he has unique stickhandling ability for his size.
Radek Faksa (DAL) still hasn’t arrived at Ufa but hopefully for the Czech Republic he does soon because they need a win tomorrow to advance. Martin Frk (DET) did finally show up though with two classic Frk goals, one time slap shots from the point that the goalie never saw even though he was completely unscreened both times.
David Musil (EDM) continues to be average. As a defensive defenseman who excels in tight spaces due to his below-average skating, I’m not sure a big ice surface and a role as an offensive player has been the best situation for him.
Lukas Sedlak (CBJ) was promoted to the Czech’s top PP unit to play in front of the net. He played well again today, showing great work ethic and some decent offensive ability too.
Today was another slow day at the World Juniors before we have 8 games in 2 days to finish off the round robin portion.
Thoughts from Latvia-Sweden (5-1 Sweden):
Sweden’s second line was clicking again, especially top 2013 draft prospect Elias Lindholm who was all over the ice. On Sweden’s first goal, he made a ridiculous no look pass to Emil Molin (DAL) while the puck was up and in a scramble. Lindholm displayed good work ethic on top of his great hands and creativity. Molin did what he’s been doing all tournament which was creating with the puck and showing good hockey sense. Sebastian Collberg (MTL) hasn’t really been a player who the play has flowed through, but he does make some plays and did score on yet another great mid distance shot, his third in three games.
There may not be a more snake bitten player in this tournament than Filip Forsberg (WSH) who has had a horde of chances but hasn’t been able to finish, although he got two assists today. He has 1 goal on 20 shots, roughly 8-10 of them I’d say were quality shots too and a few posts. He’s at times tried to do too much but he’s creating a lot of offense, it’s just not going in which will even out over time.
The Swedish defense was better today with good performances from Emil Djuse (undrafted) and Tom Nilsson (TOR). Nilsson has been solid so far, showing good ability in his own end and landing some crushing hits. He’ll occasionally try to get involved on offense but it’s not his game.
Viktor Arvidsson is another small undrafted player like Filip Sandberg from Sweden I like. Both are highly skilled players who work hard at both ends and I think would be worth a draft selection this summer.
William Karlsson’s (ANA) play lately has been average and while he likely will, he needs to pick it up more going forward as he’s had too many significant stretches where he’s not noticeable.
Teodors Blugers (PIT) was one of the few Latvian players who stood out. His goal was a nice mid distance snipe and he exhibited fine offensive instincts with the puck.
Thoughts from Germany-Russia (7-0 Russia):
Tobias Rieder (EDM) was a bit of a surprise addition to the German line up after a foot injury he suffered in OHL play. Even Canada’s coach, who is Rieder’s coach in the OHL seemed surprised Rieder was able to play. He simply hasn’t been able to get anything going and one has to wonder if the injury is playing a part.
Russia’s top line got rolling again with Daniil Zharkov (EDM) plugging in for the injured Sigarev and he alongside Alexander Khokhlachev (BOS) and Nail Yakupov (EDM) were able to generate offense. Yakupov looked like the usual Yakupov although I’m sure observers will be more satisfied if he performs at a high level again vs. Canada in two days.
Yaroslav Kosov (FLA) got a hat trick and for a player consistently penciled in on Russia’s bottom 6 if not the 4th line is an interesting player. He shone at the last World Juniors and he’s a gritty, quick player who has shown the ability to produce offense. I’m uncertain now as to whether he projects as a bottom six player or if he’s got another level.
The top pairing for Russia of Nikita Nesterov (TBL) and Albert Yarullin (undrafted) has continued to be quality. Nesterov is a tough, mobile player who can be a decent puck mover. Yarullin is a player who I had in my Top 100 Draft Prospects two seasons ago, but didn’t rank last season due to getting no notes on him during 2011-12. Here’s my write up on Yarullin from 2011 who I then ranked 37th. This is from two years ago so it’s not obviously a recent report and I would change my stance for example on his shot somewhat:
Albert Yarullin is a prospect who has flown under the radar in Russia’s Junior league, and while he doesn’t put up the counting numbers (his terrific Under-18’s not withstanding), those who have followed him know about the possession assets he brings to the table. He’s a decent skater who doesn’t bring a pro-level top speed, but is somewhat agile and his all-around mobility is at an average level. His puck skills are average but his passing is solid-average, as Yarullin makes a good first pass and can distribute well on the power play, but you won’t see him stretch the ice or try to squeeze a distribution between a tight lane. His shot is hard, but his technique is poor on his slapper as he takes a while to wind it up. His physical game is fringe, but could get to below-average as he is pretty gritty, works hard and makes forwards earn their territory if they go in the crease area. He’s listed at around 6′0″, 200 lbs., but in regards to his muscle mass he looks pretty small out there. Yarullin thinks the game at an above-average level and rarely makes a mistake on the ice, relying on a conservative game, but his calm plays and smarts translate well as a power play quarterback. His defensive game is also notably advanced and the last few years he has played beyond his age group. If he’s drafted, the team that takes him will have to wait for his body to develop and ideally the skating, but his smarts and to a degree his puck-moving skills are good enough to take him to the pro game and excel there.
Day 3 was pretty action packed and there’s a lot to talk about so let’s get to it. Again I’m covering all the game on Twitter (@coreypronman).
Thoughts from Finland-Czech Republic (3-1 Czech Republic):
The Czechs were poor in their game vs. Sweden but came to play today especially their top players. The first line of Tomas Hyka (LAK), Tomas Hertl (SJS) and Dmitrik Jaskin (STL) were all excellent. Hyka showed great speed, a good shot on the Czech’s first goal and fine playmaking skills. Hertl had several “wow” caliber shifts where he dangled through 3 or so Finnish players and exhibited a very high level of offensive upside. Jaskin brought some nice if not surprising offensive creativity to go along with a good power game. Jaskin was named player of the game for the Czechs. Lukas Sedlak (CBJ) played well too, showing good speed, solid hands and great work ethic.
Radek Faksa (DAL) and Martin Frk (DET) had another poor game from an offensive standpoint as they created very little. Faksa though showed solid defensive ability at even-strength and on the penalty kill.
Finland’s top guns didn’t do as much as they have over the last few days. Joel Armia (BUF) had good flashes but wasn’t as dangerous as I’ve written about recently. The top line as a whole didn’t do all that much but they weren’t ineffective and did create some chances. On their second line Aleksander Barkov (2013) had a pretty good game as did Teuvo Teravainen (CHI) from a puck movement standpoint but asides from one goal and an odd chance there wasn’t a whole lot of offense.
Finland’s goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (CBJ) held them in the game, stopping a barrage of quality scoring chances. I liked his athleticism for his size and he moves around the crease with good quickness. Some of Finland’s defensemen struggled, but I did like Rasmus Ristolainen (2013) and Ville Pokka (NYI). Their 5th-7th defenders were on the opposite end.
Thoughts from Canada-Slovakia (6-3 Canada):
Canada got some quality games from Ryan Strome (NYI), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM) and some good flashes from Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA). Strome showed some great creativity and was great whenever he had the puck. Mark Scheifele (WPG) got player of the game, but I probably wouldn’t have awarded it. I thought he was solid though as he was physical and was able to make some offense happen but I wouldn’t classify his game as dynamic.
The Canada defense continues to be a work in progress, but I did like Xaiver Ouellet (DET) and Morgan Rielly (TOR) the former who I thought was Canada’s best player. One scout described Ouellet to me as the kind of defenseman who can project to log a lot of minutes because he can do whatever kind of role is needed. Rielly’s offensive ability shone as when he’s on his unique ability to create with the puck can be a real asset. Ryan Murphy (CAR) has never been known as a defensive player, and he has been known as a risk with the puck, but he can be better than he is right now and likely will be. Steve Spott is his coach and I think he knows this, but with so many good weapons available it’s a risk continuing to play him at this low and counter-productive performance level.
Slovakia has two draft eligible prospects in Marko Dano and Martin Reway who have done well the last two days. Dano has been hyped for a few years, but Reway, who is scoring at about a point per game in the QMJHL as a 17 year old is the interesting one. He’s quick and highly skilled, but he is small so I’m not sure if he’s skilled enough yet at his size to be a top three round prospect.
Thoughts from Sweden-Switzerland (3-2 Sweden SO):
I’ve liked the top line for Sweden for the last few days, and they showed good flashes in the first, but afterwards the combo of Rickard Rakell (ANA), William Karlsson (ANA) and Filip Forsberg (WSH) all struggled and it didn’t look pretty. The wingers displayed skill, but had way too many giveaways or would enter the zone with no help. Karlsson was just invisible.
I did like Emil Molin (DAL) who has been one of the better surprises of the tournament. He’s skilled and fast, with above-average if not flashing high-end hockey sense. He set up the first goal to Sebastian Collberg (MTL) who was average for most of the game but showed an elite shot with his one time blast.
Sweden’s defenders struggled in their own end. Mikael Vikstrand (OTT) is good offensively, but he got beat a few times and his average speed was exposed. Emil Djuse (Undrafted) and Christian Djoos (WSH) also had defensive end issues.
Every year it seems Team Sweden brings an undrafted player who shines for them. This year it is Filip Sanberg. He’s small but has high-end offensive skill.
I didn’t get much from Switzerland’s top prospects. There was some occasional flash from undrafted players Alessio Bertaggia and Sven Andrighetto as well as Tanner Richard (TBL) but it seemed like more of a team effort than anyone really standing out. Marcel Muller (2013) did look good though on defense and may be making a case for a top two round prospect in 2013.
Thoughts from Russia-USA (2-1 Russia):
The two goalies in this game John Gibson (ANA) and Andrei Makarov (BUF) were both at the top of their games. Gibson is an elite goalie prospect and while I’d quality Makarov as just a solid prospect he’s certainly been lights out for Russia’s U20 team.
The top line for the USA of John Gaudreau (CGY), J.T. Miller (NYR) and Rocco Grimaldi (FLA) were very good in the first period, creating several chances and working hard but didn’t get much done after that. One has to wonder if that line gets a shake up at some point. Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) was great again, as it seems he hasn’t had a bad period yet, but for some odd reason his ice time was severely cut.
The top four defensemen for the US minus Seth Jones (2013) were pretty good today as Mike Reilly (CBJ), Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI) and especially Jacob Trouba (WPG) were quality. Reilly showed high-end offensive ability while the other two players were good in both ends.
For a player who may only still be with the team because of a Stefan Matteau (NJD) head hit in a exhibition game , Jimmy Vesey (NSH) has taken his role as a 13th forward and ran with it and towards the end of the game he clearly vaulted up the depth chart. He has quality puck skills and offensive hockey sense.
For Russia the “second” line of Nikita Kucherov (TBL), Mikhail Grigorenko (BUF) and Anton Slepyshev (Undrafted) were again clearly their best offensive unit. Grigorenko may have been the team’s best player today despite no production. It’s still weird to me Slepyshev was not drafted. One can argue about exactly how talented he is and the transfer risk, but it must be really hard to make a case he is not worth a top 3 round pick at the very least.
Nail Yakupov (EDM) and Alexander Khokhlachev (BOS) were ineffective again. These two players were very quality as linemates at the last World Juniors so these past two games may just be outliers and they’re both very good players, familiar with large ice surfaces and have had good chemistry.
Daniil Zharkov (EDM) started off on the fourth line but with a solid performance he ended up taking some shifts here and there on a scoring line. He showed a quality amount of skill making some flashy plays on top of some good defense too. He’s a weird prospect as every time I see him he always is really impressive but he just never produces.
There were two games today, with Switzerland beating Latvia 7-2 although I did not watch it. I did catch the USA beating Germany 8-0, and here are my thoughts from that game:
It was hard to not find a bad performance from Team USA today as just about every player was anywhere from decent to great which will make for a brief write up. On the flipside for Team Germany asides from flashes from Leon Draisatil and Dominik Kahun there wasn’t much to talk about. Tobias Rieder (EDM) has been underwhelming to start this tournament so far.
Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) was one of the game’s best players, showing high-end finishing skill on the goal he scored on top of good puck possession skill. On paper it was the second line, but the trio of Galchenyuk, Riley Barber (WSH) and Sean Kuraly (SJS) were really clicking. Kuraly has had extreme highs and lows this season and right now he’s riding a high. Kuraly is a plus skater who has shown the ability to exhibit offensive ability and has a good power game.
The first line of John Gaudreau (CGY), J.T. Miller (NYR) and Rocco Grimaldi (FLA) were better than they were during the exhibitions but they weren’t really impressive. They created a few chances, but you expect more especially out of high-end playmakers like Gaudreau.
USA’s defense had a nice turnaround after average performances in the exhibition games. Mike Reilly (CBJ) was good, displaying his great skating and offensive instincts. Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI) was good on the powerplay and transitioned the puck effectively. Seth Jones (2013) had a nice snipe of a goal and while he was solid, he made a few more mistakes than I’m used to seeing from him. Jake McCabe (BUF) and Connor Murphy (PHX) were steady as well.