Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WJC Players to Watch: Recap

Rather than make a list of highly touted prospects and speculate about their tournament play (as seen numerous places around the Internet), my main objective with this segment was to bring light to the lesser-known players who could really step into the spotlight with a good tournament. Most of the players I profiled were under 18, making them eligible for drafts in 2011 and beyond, but I also included some NHL-drafted players I felt could be difference makers.

While I wouldn't necessarily say I made many bold statements regarding the players I profiled, I would say that, overall, I was pretty much on the ball.

Martin Frk
"Frk definitely has the most star potential of the Czech Republic's forwards, so I hope he manages to work his way up to logging a ton of important minutes while scoring some key goals."
Frk busted out, just like I'd hoped, finishing second in team scoring with 3 goals and 3 assists. Frk also showed his fiesty side, racking up 31 PIMs in the process.

Frk is the guy to watch for next year's Czech team, if not one of the guys to watch in the entire tournament. Any performance, both positive and negative, will affect his draft stock accordingly.

Martin Marincin
"Marincin should see a huge number of minutes in this tournament for Slovakia, but I can't say I like the team's chances so Marincin's production may suffer."
We only got to see Marincin play two games this tournament thanks to the suspension handed out to him in Slovakia's game versus the USA. While he didn't accumulate any points during those two games, he was a +2 player on a team full of minuses.

Marincin's still a favourite of mine, and he should undoubtedly be the #1 Slovakian defenceman in next year's tourney.

Joel Armia
"...Armia is the closest thing to the "total package" [Finland has]"
"In a tournament played on North American ice, size is going to be a huge factor and Armia should be relied upon heavily to, at the very least, drive to the net and cause as much havoc around the crease as possible."
As expected, Armia played a depth role for the Finns, who had a lot of '91-born players in their top 6 that were counted on to provide offense (their top 3 scorers were Pulkkinen, Haula and Donskoi). That said, Armia was definitely noticeable in the games I saw Finland play and did his best to "cause havoc around the crease". He showed great poising playing a north-south game and has some razzle-dazzle to burn when he needs to make a move.

Another player that will see an increased role next year, in my opinion Armia's play in this year's WJCs all but cemented him as a first round pick in this year's draft.

Sondre Olden
"Perhaps more important than winning games and scoring goals at this tournament is showing promise..."
"Getting the chance to play on North American ice in a more physical environment should give scouts a far-more realistic read on a player who climbed up draft rankings last year simply based on potential."
Well, I'm not sure it was the greatest stage for Olden to be scouted upon but, regardless of his scoreless performance, I think Olden had a solid tournament. I kept my eye on Olden, big-time, and in the games I saw Norway play he was definitely noticeable.

A better evaluation would have been seeing Olden play as a 19 year old in this tournament, but, as expected, Norway was unable to hang on to a seed in the main tournament. At the very least, Olden should absolutely torch the Div. 1 version of the WJCs next year.

Lars Volden
"Realistically, this is Volden's shot at getting drafted at the NHL-level. If he can perform well enough to attract the attention of some scouts, Volden has the size and potential to make a team willing to roll the dice on him."
Volden had his moments during the tournament, but he ultimately, to put things frankly, blew it. Sure, nobody expected Norway to shutout the tournament's powerhouse offenses; however, one thing I whole-heartedly expected was for Volden to be Norway's mainstay in net. Steffan Soberg stepped in for Norway and put up far better numbers while also providing his team with an apparent spark. To compare the two...
Volden: 6.17 GAA, 0.857 SV%, 0 W
Soberg: 3.57 GAA, 0.913 SV%, 1 W
I rest my case.

Nickolas Latta
"...I hope [Germany] can slot Latta in - even in a depth role - to give him some experience for future U20 teams."
Not exactly much to comment on: Latta played 4 of Germany's 6 games and didn't really do much. Again though, it's an experience for him to build upon and, if the Germans get re-promoted to the main WJCs for 2013 as I expect, Latta will use this experience as one of the team's leaders.

Drew Shore
"Being reunited with some of his buddies from the US-NTDP U17 and U18 squads, Shore should provide some excellent scoring depth for Team USA."
"...don't be surprised if this tournament really boosts his stock as a NHL prospect."
I think I was a little bit off on this one. Don't get me wrong: Shore did have a very solid tournament, scoring 2 goals in 6 games with a +2 rating; however, I expected more out of Shore - and the entire USA team, whose leading scorer had a measly 6 points in as many games.

Shore's stock-boosting will have to rekindle back in Colorado.

Cody Eakin
"...the shifty speedster will provide some excellent secondary scoring punch in the bottom-9 and is willing to throw his body around to make things happen on the forecheck."
Eakin was an absolute beast in this year's tournament. Playing on an awesome line with Casey Cizikas and Carter Ashton, Eakin provided a ton of speed on the forecheck and the entire line reaped the benefits from it (they were the only line Team Canada used that was kept together for most of the tournament).

As it turns out, I was partially wrong with my prediction statement: after his strong play, Eakin was moved up from a bottom-9 role onto a new first line with Brayden Schenn and Quinton Howden.

Eakin was a stud whenever he was on the ice and in any situation (ES, PP, PK). Even though he only scored 3 points in 7 tournament games, I am a huge advocate of Eakin's and highly suggest acquiring him in any keeper league as I truly believe that, regardless of his size, Eakin is the exact type of player Washington lacks in their top-9, regardless of Eakin's size.

Nikita Zaitsev
"Every year Russia has one of their veteran defencemen step up and take control of the offensive duties, and this year I believe Zaitsev is that player."
Part of what I said was correct: every year a veteran defenceman steps up for Russia and churns out a ton of offense. Clearly when I wrote this I was oblivious to the fact that Orlov was WJC-eligible, as Orlov became "that guy".

Zaitsev was a total bust, not only offensively but also in his own end: he caused turnovers which led to goals against and was one of three Russian players with a negative plus-minus rating (a team-leading -2).

I think it's safe to say that Zaitsev will never be a NHL prospect.

Olli Maatta
"...with a good tournament Maatta could make a name for himself as a potential top pick for next year's NHL Entry Draft."
Maatta didn't really do anything to prove himself, but I have to think there simply wasn't any icetime for him. He had no shots on goals and was an even plus-minus, so I'm guessing he barely played. Even though the stat sheet says he played 6 games, I'd be shocked if he played more than 5 minutes per game - too bad there's no breakdown for that on the IIHF site.

Maatta should be back next year, assuming everything goes well, so perhaps he'll actually be able to play a role then.

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