Prospect Ramblings: Hidden Gems from World Championship

Peter Harling

2016-05-24

2016 CAN WC

Team Canada won the Gold Medal at this year’s World Championship but the predominant story line this year was the head-to-head matchup of Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine for the top ranking heading into the 2016 NHL Entry draft in Buffalo on June 24th.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Finland's <a href="https://twitter.com/PatrikLaine29">@PatrikLaine29</a>, 18, missed out on gold but had a memorable <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IIHFWorlds?src=hash">#IIHFWorlds</a>, earning MVP honours. <a href="https://twitter.com/leijonat">@leijonat</a><a href="https://t.co/00skfU8B5E">https://t.co/00skfU8B5E</a></p>&mdash; IIHF (@IIHFHockey) <a href="https://twitter.com/IIHFHockey/status/735022740550221824">May 24, 2016</a></blockquote>

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In my opinion, as impressive as Laine was in this tournament being named the MVP and tying for the goal scoring lead with Gustav Nyquist with seven goals each  he has not unseeded Matthews as the first overall player to be drafted in Buffalo by Toronto. In Mondays Ramblings on Dobber Hockey, Dobber shared his views on the subject, read it here if you missed it.

While those two prospects were every bit worth all the fanfare they received, there were several other fantasy options to keep an eye on. Scouting the World Championship can be a useful tool in digging up hidden gems coming from Europe. Last season Artemi Panarin was a little known player who used the Worlds to demonstrate his skills and was noticed by several NHL teams, and fantasy scouts as well. This year the leading scorer in Vadim Shipachyov is a name swirling in the rumor mill with the Montreal Canadiens as the front runner for his services. He would be a tremendous free agent signing and potential sleeper pick in fantasy drafts but as Elliott Friedman reports, he may not have secured his release from his KHL contract and could be forced to wait another year before the 29 year old makes his NHL debut

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">There is word of a snag in Vadim Shipachyov's status. He may have to fulfill another year in Russia before coming to the NHL.</p>&mdash; Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) <a href="https://twitter.com/FriedgeHNIC/status/735158255438172160">May 24, 2016</a></blockquote>

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One Russian player coming for sure is defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Zaitsev had a tremendous season in the KHL with 13 points in 20 playoffs and while his offensive stats at the World Championship of four points in ten games is decent, his plus -12 rating helped earn him and fellow countryman Shipachyov IIHF All-Star acknowledgements. The Leafs have already been candid in anointing Zaitsev a top four roster position to start next year. The right shooting point man is a much safer bet of the two in coming fantasy drafts but is far less of a sleeper.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Both defenseman Nikita Zaitsev and forward Vadim Shipachyov have been included in the IIHF's All-Star Team! <a href="https://t.co/qzXkterd7S">pic.twitter.com/qzXkterd7S</a></p>&mdash; Russia Hockey (@russiahockey_en) <a href="https://twitter.com/russiahockey_en/status/734520343205978112">May 22, 2016</a></blockquote>

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In watching the Czechs play in this tournament some players worth noting include goaltender Dominik Furch. The 6-2 netminder was a wall for the Czechs and posted some impressive numbers with a 0.94 GAA and .960 save percentage in four games.  The undrafted 26 year old netminder played last season in the KHL with Avangard Omsk where he played in 49 games. His stats there were equally impressive with a 1.78 GAA and a .933 save percentage. Furch is confirmed to be returning to the KHL next year so not an option for this summers drafts, but a name worth keeping an eye on.  Michal Kempny on the other hand has signed an ELC with the Chicago Blackhawks for one year worth $700,000. The two were teammates in the KHL with Avangard where Kempny played in 59 games scoring five goals and 21 points with a plus-18 and 46 minutes in penalties as well. At the Worlds, he played eight games and had two assists. As Neil Parker said on Dobber Ramblings yesterday, Kempny should push for top Trevor van Riemsdyk for top four minutes giving the Hawks a variety of cheap, minor eligible depth. Hawks GM Stan Bowman called him a mobile, all-around defenceman and his possession and transition game was evident at the World Championship, temper offensive upside in the NHL and count on majority of his value to come in defensive peripheral stats such as shots, plus/minus and hits.

The Hawks also inked a pair of Swedes in center Martin Lundberg and goalie Lars Johansson. Both are projected as organizational depth players who should make their North American debut in the AHL. Lundberg is a 6-0 25 year old who played for Sweden at the World Championship and posted two goals in eight games. While not an overwhelming offensive player, he is versatile and could provide good depth value as his high energy and physical style should lend to some hits. The 28 year old Johansson was not part of Team Sweden but had impressive season stats in the SHL for Frolunda posting a 1.74 GAA and .927 save percentage.

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