With the Canadian National Junior Team Summer Showcase (NJTS) and American National Junior Evaluation Camp (NJEC) recently wrapping up, what better time for my first ever Ramblings? I’m incredibly excited to be a small part of the Prospect Ramblings rotation, and hope I can fill the big shoes of the other outstanding writers who make these posts must-reads every day for fantasy hockey enthusiasts such as myself.
This Ramblings will focus on notable players skating for their national U20 teams in the Canadian Showcase, which featured Canadian, Russian, and Czech squads. I was watching intently and comfortably from home, while DobberProspects’ own Pat Quinn was lucky enough to view several NJTS games in person; he was kind enough to share his scouting notes for me to include below. The American NJEC, featuring American, Finnish, and Swedish rosters also wrapped up last week, however I was unable to watch more than highlights from the camp.
Not surprisingly, Teams Canada did well in the tournament, beating Team Czech Republic twice (7-1, 6-2) and splitting games against Team Russia (win 4-1, shootout loss 3-2). While no players necessarily looked bad, many failed to stand out while some took full advantage of the tryout for the official World Juniors in January 2016.
Brayden Point (79th overall pick in 2014 for Tampa Bay) led the team with eight points in two games (three goals and five assists). The goals he scored were nice enough (one required some very soft hands in close to the goalie), but his passing was exceptional in both games. Many of his assists were highlight-reel passes through opponents and teammates alike, and his ability to make such plays while drawing defensemen to create space for his teammates was incredible.
Mitch Marner (4th overall 2015 for Toronto) showed game-controlling playmaking abilities, and seemed to have the puck on his stick most of the time he was one the ice. He tallied three assists in two games, and completely controlled the play on both the powerplay and the penalty kill where he played keep-away. His backcheck was as strong as his forecheck even at even-strength.
Jake Virtanen (9th overall 2014 for Vancouver) was a physical force in the tournament, but also finished with two goals and an assist. From Quinn’s notes: “He hit everything that moved. He also went out of his way to try to hit any CZE player which is not a good thing as it took him out of position in the neutral zone a lot. He had some strong rushes and you could really tell he was probably the strongest player on the ice.”
Joshua Ho-Sang (28th overall 2014 for NYI) was an obvious standout in his second game, where he started as the 13th forward but finished as the best skater on the ice. His stickhandling was very impressive, and as noted by Quinn: “He was a dog on the puck too and was in the right position most of the time. His issue was that there were times when he tried to do it all himself and would attack four Russians in the zone losing the puck, or instead of getting it in deep he would dangle by the blue line losing the puck.”
Other players occasionally standing out included Travis Konecny (PHI) who made some very nice moves with the puck to create chances, Spencer Watson (LAK) who showed off a hard and accurate shot, Matthew Barzal (NYI) strongly protected the puck both while moving through opponents and along the boards, and Haydn Fleury (CAR) was the most mobile defenseman, picking smart times to carry the puck up the ice and control the play. All three goaltenders played well for Canada, though none were required to carry the team at any point.
No players of Team Russia totaled more than one point in the showcase, and no one stood out very much offensively. The team did play a very physical and chippy game, particularly in the shootout win against Canada after which the handshake line got separated to prevent fights.
Sergei Boikov (161st overall 2015 for COL) was one of the fastest skaters on the ice and often carried the puck all the way from his own end to start the attack.
Team Czech Republic
As with Team Russia, the Czech squad was nowhere near as gifted offensively as Canada. In both contests against Canada the first period was very close-matched and well played, but the team seemed to give up after falling behind, leading to blowout losses.
Filip Chlapik (BOS) showed flashes of brilliance and was able to create chances for himself from anywhere on the ice. Multiple times he was able to bring the puck off the rush or from the sidewall to prime scoring areas, where he scored his lone goal of the tournament against Canada.
Other players of interest from Quinn: “Tomas Gres is a big kid and did a lot of board work but nothing special. Other dangerous forwards were: Lukas Jasek, Michael Spacek, and Filip Kutak”
As mentioned above, I didn’t get the chance to watch full games from the Camp, so I’ll stick to just mentioning the point leaders. Matthew Tkachuk (2016 Draft Eligible) of USA, Patrick Laine (2016) of Finland and Joel Eriksson Ek (MIN) of Sweden led the tournament with five points apiece (though Eriksson did it in two games rather than three). Brock Boesner (VAN), Scott Eansor (2016) Jesse Puljujarvi (2016), and Dmytro Timashov (TOR) scored four points each, Timashov in only one game(!).
Notable 2016 Draft Eligible player Auston Matthews finished the camp with three points in two games, including a brilliant end-to-end effort. In bad news for North American scouts, Matthews has committed to Zurich of the Swiss League for next season. Below is a TSN video discussing the decision before it was official.
It seems most appropriate to end the ramblings with some highlights from the games mentioned above, if only to indulge in some summer hockey montages. Thanks for reading!
Hayden Soboleski is a Senior Writer and Avalanche Scout for Dobber Prospects. You can follow him on twitter @soboleskih