January 5th, 2015 Austin Wallace

Austin Wallace

2015-01-06

Statistical leaders and reports from our team-scouts.

 

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In spite of life, today’s ramblings are jam-packed with useful information, not just from me but from some of the most knowledgeable team-specific prospect writers out there!

The aforementioned life got in the way in a big way today. I had everything done early and I was going to watch the game live (so no PVR), but then I had to go on a five and a half hour trip to bring a broken down truck and needless to say I missed the game(s). From twitter, it seemed to be an incredible game, and if someone knows how I can watch it now, please comment below!

 

Brendan will be on in the next day or two to recap all the awesome action, in the meantime our scouts have stepped up to provide an excellent collaborative ramblings. I will give some very quick thoughts, then our scouts take it away. If you would like more of them in this format when the excitement dies down, please let me know in the comments.

 

Dobber and I have fixed up the linking system common in the hockey ramblings. If you click a name here, it will bring you to their page or at least to their team’s page. We will be manually be adding more names and links as the weeks go one. Click on a team name to go to their page.

 

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Quick notes on some statistical leaders before our scouts (down below) and Brendan (next time) take over with real scouting reports:

Gustav Forsling had eight points to the next player’s four. Sell high on him now, right now. He looked great on the powerplay and in general with the puck on his stick, but he still needs to perfect the defensive side of the game. He will need at least three more years of seasoning before he cracks the Canucks, if he ever does. This tournament was certainly a coming out party for the fifth round pick, but he didn’t dominate at even strength and ended up with an even rating on a team that also had a zero goal differential at even strength.

 

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With two more points than Forsling, William Nylander led Sweden’s team in scoring but neither were named as Sweden’s top three players of the tournament; that is likely just paying respect to their captain/alternates.

 

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Sam Reinhart, Nicolas Petan and Connor McDavid led the way for Canada. These three incredible playmakers were driving the play for three different lines for most of the tournament. How’s that for scoring depth?

 

Petan obviously has a ton of talent, and showed his vision in creativity in spades. The only word of caution is that all four of his goals and seven of his 11 points came against Slovakia. He had a total of one assist and two shots against tougher competition in Russia and the United States. Yes, it is a small sample size, but just something to be aware of. He will probably spend most of next year in the AHL

 

Sam Reinhart has shown why he was the top forward drafted this past June. He has elite offensive instincts and awareness, with the sublime passing that goes along with it. On top of that, he is great in his own end and was a massive steadying influence for the entire Canadian team while he was on the ice. It isn’t often that the top forward from a draft class plays in the WJC in his draft+one year, but it was a treat to watch Reinhart. After being done with this tanking business, Buffalo will be more than happy to give Reinhart the opportunity to seize the number one center job from Tyler Ennis.  

Connor McDavid is everything he could possibly be expected to be, looking more and more like a (draft-eligible) man against boys with every game. In fantasy hockey, he is a genuinely interesting case. Never since Crosby has there been this much hype for a player, and even Crosby didn’t have the same storm of social media. While he is a generational talent, there is such a thing as over-hype. If someone is offering you a package that would net a current, in-his-prime, top-10 fantasy player, I would jump on it. I just don’t see him going full-Crosby in his first or even second NHL year. Crosby topped 100 points as a rookie! In a league of reasonable managers, keep him for sure, but I think that would be the exception rather than the rule

 

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Plus-minus is not a particularily useful statistic, but there isn’t much else available at this level.

 

As you would guess, the plus-minus leaderboarded is drenched in red and white as Canada led the tournament with a ridiculous plus-24 even strength goal differential. In fact, nine of the top 10 are Canadian. The lone outsider? Projected early to mid round 2015 pick Jonas Siegenthaler, playing on a Swiss team with a relatively paltry plus-three even strength goal differential. He played a few games last year for Zurich in the top Swiss league as a 16 year old last year and this year has made the team full time. Doesn’t seem to have a ton of offensive upside, but that is hard to pin down at this age and he certainly has the potential to be a minutes-muncher at the NHL level.

The only Russian in the top 20 for plus minus is Ziat Paigan (aka Ziyat Paygin) at plus-seven, who was on absolutely nobody’s radar before this tournament. He is 6’6 and plays nine minutes a night for AK Bars in the KHL, scoring two points in 28 games. In really really really really deep leagues, he might be worth a look, but it isn’t anywhere near a guarantee that any NHL team will even touch him. He scored three points and his only goal of the tournament was a prime-time blast against Sweden’s previously perfect penalty kill.

 

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The MVP of the tournament wasn’t Canadian, Russian, Swedish or American. The pre-tournament odds happening would have been staggering.

 

No, Denis Godla single-handedly smited the competition on the way to Slovakia’s first medal since 1999. He must of sold his soul to the Devil for this performance, as EliteProspects doesn’t have a save percentage on record for him as high as his WJC performance. Given that he has limited exposure to elite competition, is only 5’11 and has a 3.16 GAA for the Slovakia U20 team in 16 games, he would usually have almost no shot at being drafted. One incredible tournament might not be enough to change that, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team take a late-round flyer on him. If he has any value, at all, in your league right now, I would flip him. He was unbelievable, but that doesn’t mean a ton long-term. I present to you the WCJ top goaltenders since 2009:

 

2009: Jacob Markstrom

2010: Benjamin Conz

2011: Jack Campbell

2012: Petr Mrazek

2013: John Gibson

2014: Oscar Dansk

2015: Denis Godla

 

Zero current starters, and none of them are likely to start next year either. It is a long, long wait for goalies of any shape or size or pedigree, and I wouldn’t put any more stock into Godla than I would any mid-round 2015 NHL goalie prospect.

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Now for some awesome analysis from our scouts! Given the experimental nature of these ramblings, some of the information may be up to 48 hours out of date, but it is still very much relevant.

 

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The Philadelphia Flyers may not have much to boast about at the NHL level, however, they are certainly pleased with what has transpired thus far at the 2015 World Junior Championship. Their 2014 fifth-round pick, Oskar Lindblom of Sweden, sits tied atop the leaderboard in points with Swedish teammate William Nylander and Canadian superstar Sam Reinhart. Lindblom has been Sweden’s best forward on more nights than not, a feat in and of itself as he shares the ice and locker room with the talented Nylander. In five games, Lindblom has scored four goals to go along with five assists and has recorded 15 shots on goal.

 

Lindblom isn’t the only Flyers prospect to play for Team Sweden. Defenseman Robert Hagg, the team’s second-round pick in 2013, has played solidly while tallying two assists, two PIM and 11 shots on goal to go with an even rating in five games.

Not to be forgotten, the final Flyers prospect playing in the tournament is Samuel Morin, the hulking blueliner taken in the first-round in 2013 out of Canada. While playing the role of seventh defenseman, Morin has managed four shots on goal along with two PIM and a plus-three rating through five games. The fact that Morin is seventh on the depth chart speaks to the plethora of talent of the Canadian squad on defense.

For example, fellow Flyers prospect Travis Sanheim didn’t even make the team and he may very well be the best defenseman in the WHL this year. As the 2015 World Junior Championship inches closer to the end, the odds are high that one (or two) of these Flyers prospects will be going home with gold. Zach Hopkins

 

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The only Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospect in the tournament fizzled along with the rest of his Finnish teammates. Winger Kasperi Kapanen scored only once among a mere six shots on goal and had no assists in four games as the defending champions failed to qualify for the playoff round. They missed Teuvo Teravainen (recently called up by the Chicago Blackhawks), who led all junior scorers a year ago in Malmo, Sweden, with 15 points in seven games. Mark Allan

 

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The Arizona Coyotes have two prospects in the World Juniors. Max Domi has been awesome for Canada, (can you believe he wasn’t even invited to the selection camp last year?) with seven points in four games so far, playing on a stud line with Anthony Duclair and Sam Reinhart. In the big New Years Eve showdown with Team USA, he was named player of the game after scoring two goals in Canada’s 5-3 win. The Coyotes other prospect Anton Karlsson has been a little disappointing offensively, two assists, but has played a strong agitating game for Team Sweden. Keith Duggan

 

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Eric Comrie has been steady all tournament long while Josh Morrissey has impressed with his two way play. They are performing as expected and your outlook for them should not change. Petan, although on the third line, has made his playmaking presence shown and continues to control the play around him. One Jets prospect that has not been getting as much attention is Jan Kostalek, who was recently eliminated by Slovakia. While only notching three points, that was good enough for factoring in 25% of the goals, while making some very key defensive plays in the Czechs’ run. Kevin Won

 

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The future looks bright in the Buffalo Sabres pipeline and one of their most prized prospects Sam Reinhart is shining through at the 2015 WJHC. Through five games he’s tied for the lead in tournament scoring with four goals and five assists while leading all skaters with an impressive plus-10 rating. He seemingly always finds himself with the puck on his stick and when Canada is in need his line comes up with the big play or the

big shift to create a spark. He’s Canada’s rock and has been a big part of their success to date.

 

Another Sabres prospect of note is the big hulking winger, Hudson Fasching who was named one of Team USA’s top three players of the tournament teaming up with two-way pivot Dylan Larkin who had a coming out party of sorts and the offensive dynamo Sonny Milano. Fasching was a big physical presence all week for the US and was stellar at both ends of the rink for the Americans. Fasching tied for the team lead with Larkin with a plus-7 rating to go along with a goal and two assists. The aforementioned trio combined for half of the Americans goals, but it wasn’t enough as they were sent home early for the second consecutive year by the always competitive Russian’s.

One player Team USA surely could’ve used more offence from was Buffalo’s second round selection from 2013, J.T. Compher, who finished the tournament with goose eggs across the board and may be one player they wish they would’ve left at home in place of someone with more scoring ability a la Jeremy Bracco or Christian Dvorak. Compher had a dazzling debut campaign for Michigan last season but after this performance his timeline to the NHL may be longer than originally thought six months ago. Victor Olofsson hasn’t done enough in the 2015 WJHC for Team Sweden to think that he is anything more than a depth prospect for Buffalo as he’s been deployed in more of a shutdown role in their bottom six with the odd opportunity playing the point throughout the tournament. Travis Watson

 

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The Detroit Red Wings continue to prove that their scouting department is on another planet. They certainly hit on their prospects much more often than they miss with four of their 2014 draft picks (Larkin 1st, Ehn 4th, Vahatalo 6th and Holmstrom 7th) and an undrafted signing (Hicketts) all participating in the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championships co-hosted by Toronto and Montreal.

 

Dylan Larkin was the Wings first round pick this past June and he has shown time-and-time again throughout the 2015 WJHC exactly why that is with his exhausting two-way play. He was the player that carried the team on his back all 200 feet on the ice and was looked to score that important goal when needed which is nice to see from a player that has been held to high acclaim for his work away from the puck. Rightfully so he was named one of Team USA’s top three players of the tournament and if his team would’ve advanced further he may have certainly been in the running for player of the tournament. His development is definitely worth keeping a close monitor on as he is exactly the type of player that Ken Holland and co demand in Detroit and could be as little as two years away from ice time in Motown. Lucky for us we will get to see him again in the 2016 WJHC in Finland and we will see what he can do for an encore performance.

 

Outside of Larkin, the next prospect of Red Wings property that has impressed throughout the tournament is of familiar namesake, Axel Holmstrom. Holmstrom has produced to the tune of one goal and five assists, but unfortunately the well ran dry when the Swedes needed it most bowing out in the semi-finals to European rival Russia. However, during pool play Holmstrom showed good hands evidence from his four assists and five overall while also showing he wasn’t afraid to get a little dirty going hard to the net and into all of his battles. Sweden boasted one of the youngest rosters in this years tournament and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them come back even stronger next year when the tournament returns to European soil. Look for Holmstrom to be an integral part of their 2016 title hopes.

 

If making Team Canada as an undrafted free agent at 18 years young isn’t hard enough already but also having to try and carve out a role in the regular top six littered with 19 year old first round NHL picks. Hicketts has proven once again he is up for the challenge playing in all types of situations for Team Canada including the penalty kill unit which is impressive when he stands at only 5’8” but it’s his hockey sense and skating ability that has the coaches calling his name when needed. He certainly hasn’t looked out of place one bit on Benoit Groulx’s blueline notching three assists to date heading into a must win semi-final game with the underdog Slovakian side. Team Canada will need another steady game from Hicketts and his fellow defensemen who must not let their foot off the pedal as Slovakia will be out for revenge after their 8-0 defeat from the home team back on boxing day. Hicketts looks like a real diamond in the rough finding for the Wings and he will be eligible to return to the team again next season but first is looking to bring home Canada’s first medal in three years.

 

Christoffer Ehn is an 18 year old Swede, yes Sweden not Germany is the country who he plays for which could’ve fooled me if I hadn’t known better already. He’s got decent ice-time for a contending team which speaks for itself and has shown a capable two-way game. Ehn actually went ahead of Holmstrom in the 2014 draft because Red Wings European scout Hakan Andersson likes his potential once he grows into his 6’3” 185 lbs frame who is already deemed to be the better skater which would be needed to advance to the NHL level. Time will tell if he’s indeed right with his projection and 2016 will give everyone another opportunity to see both draft picks on the International stage.

Julius Vahatalo is a behemoth on skates standing at 6’6” and is definitely a project pick for Detroit hoping that he can turn into a play for the Wings down the road. They have a couple years to see how his game develops oversees as he didn’t really get much opportunity in Toronto to showcase his game getting very limited minutes. Being 19 we won’t get to see him in next years showcase but again at 19 he is very young with lots of room for growth still. Travis Watson

 

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We are pushing over 3000 words, so its time to end it for now until Brendan can fill you in on today’s epic game. Thanks for reading and thanks to Travis, Kevin, Keith, Mark and Zach for putting down your thoughts.

I will leave you with an ovation for Godla from Canadian fans after he was snubbed for the player of the game award; the award is handed out by the team, and Slovakia has a policy to not give it to a player more than once a tournament. B.S.

Godla:  “An overwhelming feeling. I will remember it for the rest of my life.”

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