December 31st Ramblings, Austin Wallace

Austin Wallace

2014-12-31

 

Great goaltending, great games, not so great teams.

 

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Welcome to my second ramblings in as many days. Instead of covering a lot of things broadly, I am going to take a deeper look at the two games today as well as the Leon Draisaitl escapade. I focus mainly on drafted NHL prospects; Brendan Ross will be posting his own ramblings in the days to come with much more of an emphasis on 2015 and 2016 eligibles.

 

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Denmark and Switzerland played a massively, unexpectedly entertaining game filled with highlights, great plays, sloppy plays and an improbable, unprecedented win.

 

 

 

The Switzerland powerplay goes through Kevin Fiala, as does most of their offense. He created opportunities for others and himself with abandon, flashing highlight-reel play after highlight-reel. Some of his style (skating to draw players in before dishing it cross-ice) will translate to NHL powerplay success, but some (like a toe drag in the slot that almost led to a goal) is not likely to work against better competition. Fiala scored his first period goal as a result of terrible defensive coverage; while you need skill to capitalize, the disparity in skill between teams is one reason why point totals at the WJC shouldn’t much affect your valuation of prospects.What does matter is seeing how they play, and Fiala was excellent almost every shift and now has 17 shots in three games.

 

Fiala, he of five languages and five shots a game, has immense offensive upside and it will be interesting to see how quickly he translates that to the NHL. He is 5’10, 180lb, but has played very well in a top league against men with 14 points in 20 games in the SHL. That total is good for top three on his team by points per game. Leading his team with 31 points in 30 games? Erik Christensen. When’s the last time you thought about him?

 

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Mirco Muller has looked fairly impressive, not in a flashy way but as someone playing sound, professional hockey. He is that one prospect that the Sharks always seem to have pan out perfectly. Don’t expect any offense from him for another three-plus years.

 

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Noah Rod, one of three NHL drafted players on the Swiss team, was net front on the powerplay. He also had a great transition rush that almost resulted in a highlight-reel goal before Sorenson made an even better save. Don’t expect any fantasy relevance from him, or much offensive potential unless he gets that net-front thing down to a Holmstrom level.

 

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Sorenson is the only player that was keeping Denmark in the game for the early going, the middle going, and the late going. Maybe he in a softie and his GAA isn’t great, but he made spectacular save after spectacular save for the punchless Danes. He is playing in the top Denmark league, and could get a few looks from NHL clubs, only because he single-handedly won Denmark their first ever WJC game and a chance to get to the medal round.

 

He finished last year with a 1.17 GAA (!) for Herning in Denmark, and I don’t think he will spend another year there after this one. The biggest things going against him are the fact that he doesn’t play in one of the elite leagues, and that he is only 5’10 in an age where many prospects are at least 6’3. He is only worth picking up in leagues where wavier wire goaltenders are scarcer than a Denmark win, but he bears watching if he successfully makes his way to North America.

 

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Denmark is about as thin a team as you can have at this tournament, relying on their top line anchored by Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Their line combined for an incredibly fluky goal in the first period, and looked dangerous on the powerplay all night. Denmark’s powerplay scored twice, which isn’t particularly surprising; what is surprising is that it was their second unit both times.

 

Ehlers looked great in flashes, but wasn’t a threat on every shift. Overall, he has at least met expectations this tournament, especially given that he is playing as much as 24 minutes a game. He also had a hardcore bumpback hit in the third period that zero people expected, including the poor guy trying to check him.

 

Bjorkstrand also looked very good, and was just as noticeable as Ehlers. If available, I would pick him up immediately; he could be a nice coup for both the Blue Jackets (third round pick), and fantasy owners. He has scored four goals and is tied for second in tournament scoring while leading the tournament in shots.

 

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I was planning on leaving the 2015 draft prospects to Brendan, but Timo Meire really stood out to me. He had great poise with the puck, and displayed a ton of confidence with the puck. With 10 shots and four points in three games, you could