December 30th, 2014 Austin Wallace

by Austin Wallace on December 30, 2014

Updates on some World Junior Standouts and some Angusing candidates.

 

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I am happy to be back from a vacation that had a surprising and complete lack of access  to cable or internet. While it was nice to unplug, it couldn’t have come at a worse time! I missed the start of one of the best tournaments in all of sports. The World Juniors is arguably a better display of pure skill than any other NHL tournament; highly skilled players bearing the weight of a country, and playing before NHL coaches can extract every last ounce of wild abandon and emotion in favour of silly things like “defensively sound hockey” and “clichés that not even Toronto media can twist into controversy”.

 

 

 

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Canada has looked increasingly on-point as the games have gone by. I think there is still another gear from many of their players (Lazar, McDavid, etc.)… Only Canadians could worry when their team has a plus-15 goal differential. As is usual, the winner of Canada/US will be the favoured team heading into single-elimination. If the usual repeats itself, another team will come out on top. This year, I think it will be different as the North American teams boast tremendous depth and excellent goaltending, the latter of which has often been their downfall in recent years.

 

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Josh Weissbock has a new site which attempts to quantify just how good each WJC team has been. While the sample-sizes are laughable, it is a significant improvement from what is available elsewhere. It tells us that Canada-US could be a relatively even, entertaining match! Who’d have thunk it?

 

In all seriousness, his site’s main purpose is a better look at CHL stats, and it is definitely worth a browse as it is lightyears ahead of any official source.

 

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As of this writing, Nic Petan is leading the tournament in scoring, despite posting a goosegg against Finland. Also representing the Jets: Eric Comrie (shutout), Josh Morrissey (prominent role in Canada’s middle-pairing), Nikolaj Ehlers (tied for country’s points lead), Chase De Leo (scored shootout winner) and Jan Kostalek (figured into Czech overtime game winner). None of these players’ futures are anywhere near certain, but the potential there is top-end. To see the WJC players broken down by NHL team, look here.

 

While Petan has six points in three games, his WHL scoring is way, way down. His assists are at relatively normal levels, but he has only scored six goals in 26 games; I expected him to be closer to 20 goals than 10 at this point in the season. A contributing factor is that Portland has been substantially worse this season, going from controlling roughly 57% of the play, to just under half. I would suspect that he is experiencing some pretty rotten luck, given that most players don’t regress that hard as they grow older in the CHL, but not even Josh’s site can provide us with any luck-measurement statistics.

 

 

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Second in the tournament for shots is Capitals top prospect Jakub Vrana. That is expected, as he is a goalscorer and top dog on a Czech team with a little less depth. Ahead of him: Jesse Puljujarvi. If you are saying “who?”, you are definitely in the majority, but not for long. Everyone will be hearing a lot about the immensely talented 16 year old over the next couple of years as he challenges for #1 overall in the 2016 draft. I can’t wait to see someone make a tanking rhyme with his last name. As a 6’2, 196lb triple-underager, he is already playing like one of the best players on Finlands roster (despite zero points) and has already played some in the top men’s Finnish league. It is much much too early to put any sort of cap on his eventual fantasy value, but this tournament will put him on the map.

 

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If you still can, make sure you Angus a few prospects. Every year a few players vault themselves into fantasy relevance, and Angusing is picking up the prospects with that potential for free and then trading them at the peak of their hype. It has been practiced around these parts for years, and is worthwhile in all leagues.

 

Jeff Angus is a former writer here who is now pursuing an MBA. He helped me get into writing and he is the one who popularized the aforementioned technique.

 

If you could pick up Jusse Saros (last year’s top goaltender) or Saku Maenalanen (last year’s third top scorer behind Forsberg and Teravainen) and trade them after the tournament for something with a nearer return on investment, that would be a significant value add.

 

It is difficult to recommend which prospects are best candidates for Angusing, as in some leagues Husso/Sarros may be available (pick them up immediately if so!), while in deeper leagues everyone short of Godla and Blidh are already owned. As a general guideline, I would recommend picking up the best goaltender and skater not owned in your league that has been doing well so far in the WJC. Worst case scenario, they do nothing special and you re-add the wavier fodder you dropped for him. Best case, you trade him for a real upgrade.

 

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Here are three players exceeding expectations:

 

Gustav Forsling: The Canucks 5th round pick this year, has four points in three games to lead all defenders (tied with Madison Bowey) and was named the player of the game against Russia. He is on the top powerplay unit, where he scored both of his goals from the same place on the point (also on that unit is Oskar Lindblom, who has four assists). While he isn’t a world beater, he is solid offensively and defensively. If he has another big game or two, he could suddenly find himself with some value. In the SHL, he has five points in 29 games while shooting the puck 1.77 times per game and playing 18:30 a night; those totals are more than respectable for an 18 year old in Sweden’s top league. Here is a 10 minute video of his performance yesterday:

 

Max Domi: Domi was expected to produce for team Canada. Domi was not expected to be the best player on a team that includes this year’s first overall pick, last year’s second overall pick and a current NHLer. He has been, at the very least, one of Canada’s best players. He is bringing an intensity to his game in all three zones that runs contrary to some of the narratives on him. Domi now has both elite offensive upside and diminishing character concerns. Again, if you can sell-high on him, do it. While he may produce next year, real fantasy production is probably a couple of years away and someone in your league will probably pay top dollar for him if he finishes strong.

 

Dylan Larkin: The Michigan freshman and Detroit’s 15th overall pick has been excellent for team USA. He passes the eye test in addition to putting up five points in three games. He is playing at a point per game pace in college as well, so this tournament isn’t an abberation as much as it is a spotlight on just how good Larkin can be. I would expect him to stay in college for two more years, maybe only one more if he completely dominates next year. His line with Sonny Milano and Hudson Fasching have lit it up and taken the spotlight from all-world prospect Jack Eichel. Milano especially is a good candidate for selling high as his insane hands make him an attractive piece to skill-loving fantasy players (pretty much all of us).

 

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Speaking of McDavid and Eichel, there are already people wondering if something is off with them. Nope, they haven’t taken the tournament over. That have been expected of them? Nope. This is where the eye test rules over the rudimentary stats tracked at the WJC. I would bet that NHL-level advanced stats would paint a very good picture of both of them. Both of them still have superstar potential, and McDavid still has a slim chance at being a Crosby-level superduperstar. If you can swing a trade for a bottom dweller’s pick, this might be the height of the anti-hype push back and their low-point in value for some owners. Not all superstars lead the WJC in scoring, and not all players who lead the WJC are stars.

 

 

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With Sarros losing to Canada, it will be interesting to see if Finland goes back to Ville Husso for what could be their final game. Husso went undrafted in his first year of eligibility before being picked up from Nashville, he looks like he will be a gem. Nashville doesn’t seem to like sharing top-end Finnish goaltenders with the rest of the league. Both should be taken in leagues with a decently-sized farm, but neither is likely to be a starter before ~age 24, if at all.

 

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David Pastrnak, 18 year old NHLer and AHLer, had a relatively quiet first two games. His third? Not so much.