Prospects Rambling: Summer Showcase Wrap / Blue Lines – Finland or Sweden?

Kevin Wickersham

2017-08-10

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Have you seen Casey Mittelstadt lately? Buffalo must be overjoyed with his work at the Summer Showcase, especially following a superb performance at Sabres’ Development Camp a few weeks ago. He assertively registered nine points (six assists and three goals in just ten shots) over five games with Team USA and USA White, and enjoyed great simpatico lining up again with Logan Brown and Kailer Yamamoto at the WJSS. The trio notched 14 goals and 20 assists with 2016’s bronze-winning WJC-U18 squad, and ripped off four goals and five assists while drubbing Canada Red 8-2 in their mid-Showcase tilt. Mittelstadt’s theft vs. Finland and one-on-one successful challenge of new organization-mate Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in goal was a true signature moment.

USA defenseman Quinn Hughes turned heads, particularly with his wicked, masterfully-deceptive stick handling and heavy power play shot. He may have ascended the 2018-eligible prospect board with two goals and three assists in five contests while continuing to demonstrate impressive poise on the ice and smooth, shifty skating. As son of a coach, the offense-oriented Hughes’ hockey IQ and vision jump out along with his skillful playmaking.

Fellow blueliner and Calgary Flames’ draftee Adam Fox also tore up the score sheet as well as the ice with three goals and six assists, including four assists and a goal in the finale. With two goals in the penultimate game against Finland he tied Mittelstadt for tops in points during the Showcase. Devils’ prospect Joey Anderson also impressed while leading the squad with four goals, three against Canada in their final contest. And the trio of Oettinger, Petruzzelli and St. Cyr assumed the Showcase’s top three in net in terms of save percentage and goals-against average.

Rapidly-rising Duck prospect and WHL scoring champ Sam Steel, and Sarnia sniper Jordan Kyrou paced Team Canada with five points each. Steel, motivated by being cut from Canada’s World Juniors squad last year, saved his best for their culminating contest against the USA with a goal and two assists while Kyrou registered two goals and an assist versus Sweden.

Rasmus Dahlin continued his bruising game as all eyes were on this candidate for first overall selection next June. Just turned 17, his two-way combo of smooth skating, playmaking ability and blue line physicality will make some NHL team very happy. Better than Erik Karlsson as some have prognosticated? Not sure about that, but no doubt he’s a star in the making. His blocked shot in the waning moments of Sweden’s lone win thus far vs. USA Blue along with an overall tough, smart game make him a must-watch.

Sweden’s Oskar Steen, a 2016 sixth-round Bruins’ selection who regularly plays for the SHL’s Färjestad BK, put on one of the most impressive Showcase showings landing four goals against rival Finland in their 6-5 closing-contest triumph. While the 5-09, 187-pound forward took 15 shots-on-goal over five contests those were his only points. Still, his four total goals tied Anderson for most in the Showcase. Steen’s scoring was surpassed on Team Sweden only by Dallas prospect Fredrik Karlstrom two goals and four assists on 12 shots.  

Forwards Janne Kuokkanen, a promising Canes prospect who maintained a point-per-game pace last year with the OHL London Knights and newly-drafted Canadien Joni Ikonen, with his own hat trick against Sweden, led Finland registering five points each.

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Considering the WJSS results this isn’t the most opportune to time to raise this topic, but sizing up recent draftees and 2018 eligible prospects one can’t help but be impressed by the reputation and rankings of Scandinavian defensemen. Finland’s roster included four first round picks (Heiskanen, Vaakanainen, Valimaki and Jokiharju), two second rounders (Räsänen and Salo), two thirds (Kotkansalo and Niemelaine), two fourths (Laavainen and Reunanen), a fifth (Almar