The World Junior concluded this weekend and what a show it was. As always the tournament never disappoints from an entertainment standpoint and there were breakout performances from all sorts of players. In case you missed it, our NHL Draft feature writer Steve Kournianos from the Draft Analyst yesterday submitted his piece and it looks at his standout overage draft prospects from the WJC., It’s a must read and you can find it here.
In a similar vein I wanted to look at the prospects (one from each country) who I felt came in and had a breakout performance. These players may be ones you had never heard of before (I only was aware of about half) but they stood out to me in games and on the score sheet. I’m not going to bother with high draft picks or high profile player as that is not the kind of news and insight I think you are looking for here.
Belarus – Maxim Sushko, RW – Philadelphia Flyers
Sushko plays in the OHL for the Owen Sound Attack and was selected 107th overall in the 2017 draft by Philadelphia. The Flyers have an embarrassment of riches in terms of their prospect depth and Sushko is a little ways down their depth chart, but his two goal and eight points in six games at the WJC for Belarus got my attention. His regular season point production on the Attack is also solid with 19 goals and 30 points in 30 games
Canada – Drake Batherson, C – Ottawa Senators
The TSN crew did a great job of mentioning his story, undrafted in his first year of NHL Draft eligibility, a late addition to the QMJHL and having played only one year was drafted last summer by Ottawa in the fourth round. Batherson has been having a breakout season in the QMJHL scoring 39 points in 24 games with Cape Breton. Batherson turned some heads by making the WJC roster out of nowhere after not being on the radar, or even being invited to the summer selection camp. His seven goals in seven games including a hat-trick against the Czech in the Semi-Final made him a household name in Canada.
Czech Republic – Marek Zachar – Undrafted
The Czech team was fun to watch with their top end prospects but one who continually stood out to me was Captain Marek Zachar. The undersized (5-9) speedy center was hard to miss with his blazing speed. Zachar is another QMJHL player on the Sherbrooke Phoenix and in his D+1 season is posting very respectable 15 goals and 15 points in 31 games. While he only posted three points in the WJC his tenacity, speed, and forechecking skill were evident and NHL scouts may be looking at him for the 2018 Draft.
Denmark – Joachim Blichfield, LW/RW – San Jose Sharks
Overshadowed last WJC by Nico Hischier, our Sharks writer Zach DeVine got my attention to Blichfield earlier with his comments and after reviewing his performance in the WHL you can see why Zach is so high on the kid. Blichfield posted 58 points in 63 games as a WHL rookie last year and in his D+1 year has 13 goals and 30 points in 26 games. In the WJC he did not disappoint either with another three goals and six points in six games.
Denmark – Jonas Rondbjerg, LW/RW – Vegas Golden Knights
So I am cheating and picking two players from Denmark. It was hard not to cheer a little for the biggest underdogs in the tournament and when a player posts two goals and seven points in six games what’s not to like? The Knights third round pick is currently cutting his pro teeth in the SHL and is developing nicely.
Finland – Aapeli Rasanen, C – Edmonton Oilers
While Finland overall disappointed again this WJC one player that impressed me was Rasanen. A name I am familiar with as Eemeli Rasanen plays for my hometown Kingston Frontenacs, Aapeli Rasanen plays for Boston College in the NCAA where he has ten points in 18 games as a freshman coming from the USHL. Rasanen was picked in the sixth round by the Oilers and his vision, playmaking and compete level really impressed me. He may be a long shot for the NHL, but im my opinion he is trending in the right direction and worth putting on your fantasy watch list.
Russia – Artur Kayumov, RW/LW – Chicago Blackhawks
Kayumov is a player I literally knew nothing about as the tournament began, but after he posted three goals and five points in five games for Russia I began to take notice. He is not a big player at 5-11 and 176 pounds and will need to rely on his skill and speed to overcome that hurdle. Currently his regular season is underwhelming playing pro in the KHL and Russian junior in the MHL this season limited to a total of 20 games. It’s too soon to jump on the Hawks second round pick from 2016 but keep your eye on this one.
Slovakia – Samuel Bucek, LW – Undrafted
The big Slovak was hard to miss either on the ice or on the score sheet. He provided a strong net front presence and used his size to his advantage all over the ice. He was right at the top of the scoring leaders in the tournament with three goals and seven points in five games. The 19-year-old played his draft year in the QMJHL and has since returned to the USHL where he played the year before that with the Chicago Steel. Given his career path I would say he was trending away from consideration for the draft again, but his WJC performance may cause NHL teams to look twice.
Sweden – Tim Soderlund, LW – Chicago Blackhawks
The big guns for Sweden really were impressive and commanded much of the spotlight I their games. Tim Soderlund was one player to stand out to me with his speed and skill. Soderlund plays in the SHL and is not putting up particularly impressive numbers playing as a 19-year-old against men, but in his peer group he scored two goals and five points in seven games while capturing the Silver. Another undersized, skilled, speedy winger.
Switzerland – Marco Miranda, LW – Undrafted
I am not going to lie, it was hard to find a Swiss player to be excited about. I watched draft eligible Nando Eggenberger and was left wanting. Marco Miranda was one of their better players scoring two goals and four points for the Swiss but there wasn’t really anything there.
USA – Scott Perunovich, D – Undrafted
“Scott Who???” That’s what I was saying watching my first USA game. I had never heard of him before, there was no mention of him on the HockeyProspect Radio WJC preview show as they were discussing the players that were in the running for the team and as an undrafted NCAA player he was simply not on my radar. He is now. While he may be undersized he showed the skills and ability to play defence at higher levels because he can carry the puck and create transition offence or run a power play. Put him on your fantasy watch list!
Just a reminder that the Dobber Midseason Guide is coming out on January 12 2018, and once again I will be contributing. See who the risers and faller from the 2017 NHL Draft are and who the top players from a fantasy perspective for the 2018 Draft will be. Reserve or buy your copy here.
The trade deadlines in the CHL are coming up fast and already there has been some major prospects on the move. Let’s give a quick review of some of the top names as they move to contending teams looking for a long playoff run and the hopes of some big time games in a League Championship and a ticket to the Memorial Cup.
Kingston Frontenacs: The Fronts are arguably the biggest players as they have gone all in and acquired from the Windsor Spitfires Gabriel Vilardi (LA Kings), Sean Day (NY Rangers). Then the Fronts pulled off two more deals with the London Knights to add Cliff Pu (Buffalo Sabres) and Max Jones (Anaheim Ducks).
The Sarnia Sting added some speed, skill and scoring punch with the additions of Jonathan Ang (Florida Panthers) from the Petes and offensive defenseman Cam Dineen (Arizona Coyotes) from the North Bay Battalion.
The Kitchener Rangers add two big players (literally and figuratively) in Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators) from the Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires, and Givani Smith (Detroit Red Wings) from the Guelph Storm.
Arguably the top team in the OHL, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds got even better adding Taylor Raddysh (Tampa Bay Lightning).
The Hamilton Bulldogs see a window in the East and to keep up in the arms race they added Robert Thomas (St. Louis Blues) from the London Knights
After standing out at the WJC for the Czech Republic, defenseman Libor Hajek (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Cale Fleury (Also Tampa) will join Josh Mahura on the Regina Pats blueline giving them arguably the best defense in the entire CHL. Regina previously acquired Jesse Gabriel, who had turned pro with the Providence Bruins and will return to the WHL to finish the season as an overage player.
Jake Bean (Carolina Hurricanes) returns from the WJC and Canada with his Gold Medal but will go from Calgary to the Tri-City Americans to close out his junior career.
Drake Batherson (Ottawa Senators) had a breakout WJC as mentioned above. His rights were recently traded from Cape Breton to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
Evan Fitzpatrick (St. Louis Blues) is also on the move heading to the Acadie Bathurst Titan from the Sherbrooke Phoenix.
For more on the QMJHL trades, read the QMJHL report by Mike Barrett here
The AHL All-Star Game rosters were recently announced. The format is a interesting, four teams comprised of players 12 from each division. There is a round robin tournament of six games of ten minutes played 3-on-3. The two top teams play a championship game of six minutes, also 3-on-3. The game will be held on Jan 29th in Utica, for full details click here
Here are some of the players of note:
Austin Czarnik (Boston Bruins) has tried to translate his scoring prowess from the Providence Bruins to the NHL with limited success so far. He has 118 career AHL points in 122 games and only 14 in 55 NHL games. If he can ever come close to matching his AHL production he will become fantasy relevant, but the clock is ticking on the 25-year-old undersized winger.
Sebastian Aho (New York Islanders) in his rookie AHL season Aho has 20 points in 29 games. Remember this is the Swedish defenseman, not the Finnish forward of the Carolina Hurricanes. This Aho has already been recalled to the NHL once and had a goal and an assist in three games with the Islanders. He could be a regular in the NHL next year.
Casey DeSmith (Pittsburgh Penguins) is posting three consecutive years of impressive stats in the AHL and finally earned a call up to the NHL this year playing in two games. With Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry ahead of him he has his work cut out to make the Penguins roster, but he may be in the NHL somewhere soon.
Matthew Peca (Tampa Bay Lightning) became an Alternate Captain of the Crunch this year. The undersized Peca is a pro player, leader, competitor and probably a better real player than a fantasy one. That said, I am confident he will make the NHL full time in the near future.
Travis Dermott (Toronto Maple Leafs) was recently recalled to the Leafs to make his NHL debut and he has not looked out of place. Our Leafs writer is so impressed he thinks he may stick with the big club and miss the AHL All-Star game. Either way, it is safe to say he will be a good bet to be in the NHL on a regular basis next year, and he and Timothy Liljegren are the Leafs top defensive prospects.
Thatcher Demko (Vancouver Canucks) the Canucks blue-chip goalie prospect is having an All-Star season, and despite the temptation to bring him to the NHL sooner than later, don’t expect the Canucks to rush him to a losing team and environment. The right place for him for the rest of this season and possibly next is in the AHL building his confidence and refining his game. Also it helps the Canucks in the lottery standings (Cough*Dahlin*Cough)
Emil Pettersson (Nashville Predators) is a prospect first brought to my attention last year during a DobberProspects Radio interview with Jimmy Hamarin who mentioned the older brother of Elias Pettersson, and that he is a highly underrated prospect that has a similar skill set as Elias. Looks like Jimmy was right.
Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg Jets) is having a terrific sophomore pro season in Manitoba with 35 points in 31 games. He was recalled for one NHL game this year and is still looking for his first career NHL point. Don’t be surprised if it comes this year and is the first of many.
Andrew Mangiapane (Calgary Flames) posted an impressive 41 points as a rookie last year and is eclipsing that pace as a sophomore with 33 points in 29 games and played in his first career NHL game recently. Mangiapane was a prolific scorer in junior posting back-to-back 100 plus point seasons and it appears the undersized winger has carried that production to the pro level. It is time to see if he can take it to the next level with the Flames
Dylan Strome and Nick Merkley have been a dynamic offensive duo in the AHL for Tucson this year and are the top two rookie scorers in the AHL with 34 and 33 points.
Cal Petersen (LA Kings) made news this summer leaving the NCAA and Buffalo Sabres as a free agent to sign in LA. His rookie pro season in Ontario has been a major success with 16 games a 2.46 GAA and a .917 SAV%, he looks to be the goalie of the future for the Kings.
Hope you can catch the game and scout some future NHL stars as more than 93% of AHL All-Star players go on to compete in the NHL and can go from your future fantasy hockey keeper prospects to you star players.