Prospect Ramblings: WJC Updates – Team Canada, USA, Sweden and Slovakia

Dave Hall

2020-12-07

Welcome back for another edition of the Tuesday ramblings.

If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out our 31-in-31 series, here at DobberProspects. We have officially wrapped up our initial month (November) and have now jumped into our December editions. Each day is filled with draft recaps, off-season transactions, and more.

Also, make sure you keep glued to the DobberProspects Twitter page, as WJC player updates will be coming in hot as news continues to be announced.

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Speaking of WJC, we are just over two weeks out from the most anticipated tournament of the year.

As of today, all teams have been tested and are currently in their own “bubbles”, and unfortunately, anyone who had tested positive before the cut-off date will no longer be eligible to participate (which I will touch on below).

This will bring us to Sunday, where all 10 teams are expected to “check-in” to the bubble in Edmonton – and then the fun begins.

Here is the great Bob Mackenzie to summarize how the entry will work:

Now, here are some of the big-ticket news items from this past weekend. Unfortunately, none of them are positive but certainly change the makeup of all the teams involved.

Team Canada

Of course, the major news came weeks ago, when the team was forced to halt their training camp and quarantine for the allotted 14 days. That timeframe is now up, and the team is awaiting the official word from Hockey Canada and Alberta Health to resume camp, which could be as early as Tuesday, December 8th.

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Alexis Lafreniere – While the news shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, the New York Rangers provided an update on the status of Lafreniere, confirming that they will not be lending out their most recent number-one draftee. 

No, the news does not come as a shock, but it does serve as a huge blow for the team in general, as he brings an irreplaceable presence to the line-up. However, for him, there are far bigger and far more important fish to fry. With the league inching closer to a potential start date (sort of?), this allows the budding star to prepare, both mentally and physically, before his inaugural and much anticipated NHL debut season. It can assumed that if and when camp is announced, it will likely be a shortened timeframe, allowing little-to-no exhibition action to get ready for regular-season action.

Also, after 297 points and a whole wack of impressive accolades through three years at the junior level, two tournaments as a member of Team Canada, and a Gold Medal to boot, it is safe to say that the kid has gotten everything he could at the Junior level, anyway.

Good luck to him, and I hope you were lucky enough to snag him on your fantasy rosters.

Team USA

The States were also delivered a massive blow over the weekend, confirming that three of their players will not be allowed to participate, due to recent COVID-19 exposures. Robert Mastrosimone (Detroit), Alex Vlasic (Blackhawks), and goaltender Drew Commesso (Blackhawks), who all plays for Boston University, have been denied the ability to compete in this year’s tournament due to COVID protocols. To add insult to injury, the club (BU) has yet to play a game, and will now have to push their start date back to January 8th, at the earliest.

Who will they miss?

Robert Mastrosimone, a sophomore at BU,  would have brought a high-energy game, along with the ability to produce in both fashions.  

Vlasic, also a sophomore, is a towering defender (6-6) who brings a strong two-way game. His extraordinary reach is a headache for his opposition, while he can contribute from the backend with a great shot from the point. 

Finally, Commeso, who is still waiting for his first start as a freshman, would have likely sat second, perhaps even third on the team’s totem pole thanks to Spencer Knight and Dustin Wolf. However, the tournament would have served as a great benchmark for his resume and invaluable experience for his young career. American fans should get to see much more of him come the 2022 tournament.

Despite the disappointment, this obviously brought an opportunity for a trio of newcomers added to the list just hours later. Hunter Skinner (Rangers), Tyler Kleven (Senators), and goaltender, Logan Stein will join the camp, which is set to kickstart this Sunday in Plymouth, Michigan.

Who they will get:

Hunter Skinner, a defender playing in London, had a strong rookie campaign last year, statistically speaking. He posted 32 points for the Knights, which is encouraging as he failed to produce anything close to that in previous seasons in the USHL. He is not overly strong in any particular area, but plays a sound overall game and can chip on on the scoresheet from time-to-time (clearly).

Tyler Kleven, a recent second-round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, has kicked off his freshman year with North Dakota as a third-pairing defender. He replaces Vlasic well, as a large defender, who can shut down opponents and shoot the puck. The news came on Sunday, which happened to be the day he scored the first NCAA goal of his career, and what a goal it was:

Logan Stein, an undrafted 19-year-old, will join the camp but will have to put up a strong showing if he is to have any fighters chance. While his team has yet to play a match, he is ready to kick off his freshman year with Ferris State University. 

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Team USA lined up their news with Canada, confirming that the New Jersey Devils will not be lending Jack Hughes to the tournament. Like Lafreniere, the news isn’t overly shocking, but certainly is a downer for the team, and fans alike.

Hughes is coming off what some considered a disappointing rookie season, at least based on the hype going in. He was held to just 21 points and just five over his last 25 games to end the year. I, for one, am fully expecting a bounce-back year. He is just too strong of a skater, his IQ is far too high and once he gains a little bit of confidence, should do just fine as the team itself progresses. If I am a fantasy owner (which I am not), I would be holding on tight and waiting out the storm until the clouds clear overhead.

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Here are the teams camp invitees (swap the above-mentioned names):

Team Sweden

You hate to hear it, but one of Sweden’s top forwards, William Eklund, has contracted the virus (Covid-19) and will no longer be fit to enter the tournament’s bubble. The Swedish forward serves as the third Swede to be denied access, after Karl Henriksson (Rangers) and, most recently, William Wallinder (Detroit).

Just to add to the sting, he fell ill just one day after the necessary time frame. Meaning, if he tested just 24 hours sooner, there was still time for him to recover and remain eligible to enter the bubble. For safety, it is certainly the right choice – it’s not worth the risk to enter the bubble. Yet, for his development, fans’ entertainment, and ultimately team Sweden’s success, it is a giant blow. 

The 2021 draft-eligible can play up the middle, which is an area – and one of the only areas – that the team is in desperate need of. This team has pieces that make them quite special, with the potential to cause some serious damage. However, their lack of depth up the middle is certainly concerning heading in.

Eklund, 18, has been lights out in the first half of SHL play. Playing alongside New Jersey Devils’ recent draftee, and explosive sharp-shooter, Alexander Holtz, he has amassed 12 points in just 16 games and sits just one behind Holtz in the leagues U19 scoring. The two were likely to play together in the tournament and it is a crying shame that we will not get to witness this at the National level. They are FUN to watch.

Here is an example of that fun:

 

 

Team Slovakia

Here’s a weird one.

Maxim Cajkovic, a Lightning third-round pick, has been suspended from WJC action by the team following a string of dirty hits during intrasquad game action. In fact, he left fellow Slovak and likely bottom-six forward, Samuel Krajc, concussed. The hit forced Krajc to leave the team’s bubble and he will no longer take part in the tournament.

It’s an unfortunate scenario for all parties involved.  Cajkovic holds a great shot and was slated to be one of Slovakia’s top players in the tournament as a returning 19-year-old. While he also ruined the chance of a young rookie trying to earn his first reps on the U20 squad. Slovakia, who will play in Group A, against Canada and Finland, already had their hands full. Now, without one of their top players, that task certainly does not get easier.

Rightfully so, the team has elected not to leak any video of the incident(s), but by the sounds of it, the plays were quite dirty. As tempers tend to flair, it is not uncommon to hear/see teammates fighting during practice, but to have a player run around letting off headshots seems like an odd scenario.

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Thanks for tuning in for another week of Tuesday’s Ramblings. Here’s to hoping that all players from here on out are able to attend the tournament, and it goes off without a hitch. As always, follow me on Twitter @hall1289.

 

 

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