Prospect Ramblings: First Wave of WJC Cuts and Breaking Down Pool B

by Cam Robinson on December 15, 2017

                        Andrei Svechnikov, Elias Pettersson and Filip Chytil Highlight Pool B

 

The Canadian Junior team has had a challenging start to their camp. Wednesday night saw them lose their first match 3-0 to the U Sports All-Stars (plus Carter Hart and Colton Point in net for the opponents). That team is comprised of former major junior players who have continued in the Canadian university circuit and are a mature and well-coached team.

 

The two teams met again Thursday and it was a similar result, with the teenagers losing 4-3.

 

Historically, this is the day for the first round of cuts, and the coaching staff didn’t deviate. Cody Glass, Kole Lind, Dennis Cholowski, Samuel Harvey, Logan Stanley and Jonthan Ang were sent home, and the team is down to 26 players on their way to cutting down to 22 in time for puck drop.

 

The remaining players will play Denmark tomorrow at 2:00pm.

 

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The notable cuts were two high-flying WHL stars and 2017 draft picks, Cody Glass and Kole Lind. Of the seven WHL players in camp, those two sat second and third for points.

 

While Lind was in a dog fight on the right-side, it appeared as though Glass would be a strong bet to crack the lineup in either his natural centre position or on the wing. Here’s hoping Canada doesn’t send more offensive talent home in exchange for intangibles.

 

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On that note, we’ll jump back into the World Junior Preview Special with Pool B that hosts the always-deep Swedish squad, those pesky Russians, an upstart Czech team as well as Belarus and Switzerland.

 

I’ll be walking you through the big names expected to produce, some draft-eligible players to watch, as well as a few guys who are likely to see their roles and stocks rise as the tournament rolls on.

 

I jumped on Sportsnet650 with Satiar Shah and Jawn Jang earlier this week to talk about the upcoming World Junior tournament as well as the 2018 draft class. To listen to that segment, click here. (I come in around the 30 minute mark. 

 

For more information about Pool A (Canada, USA, Finland, Denmark and Slovakia) check out Part One here.

 

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The Czech Republic

 

The Czechs had a path open up for them at the 2017 tournament. With Finland falling way down the standings early and in a group that featured Sweden as the only powerhouse, the Czechs could have found a way to land in the two-hole during preliminary play and face the third-place team over in Group B. Instead the upstart Danes took that opportunity and the Czech’s were left to face Canada in the Quarter Finals.

 

The result was a sixth-place finish overall.

 

This version of the team will be highlighted by 2017 first round picks, Martin Necas (12th overall – Carolina) and Filip Chytil (21st overall – NYR). Both players began their draft-plus one season as surprise players to crack their NHL lineups only to be demoted shortly thereafter.

 

Chytil has been tremendous in the American league thus far and his loan to the Junior National team was confirmed early Wednesday morning.

 

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The lanky forward was one of the youngest players from the 2017 crop but has done nothing but exude skill and confidence in the professional game. He’s leading all U20 players in the AHL with five goals and 12 points through 15 contests.

 

 

 

After suiting up in a single NHL contest, Necas was returned to his Czech league team and has looked strong against men once again. The 6’1 170lbs centre had a goal and three points in five WJC games in 2017 and will no doubt be the engine on line one at this year’s tournament.

 

Edmonton Oilers prospect, Ostap Sapin will provide size and skill to the top six and has been playing well in his first QMJHL season, clicking at a near-point-per-game pace.

 

Top 2018 draft eligible, Filip Zadina will have all the scouts firmly trained on him in Buffalo. The dynamic, power winger has been nothing short of spectacular as a rookie in the Q, recording 24 goals and 46 points in 32 games – good for second most in the league and far and away the leader for first year players.

 

He sits firmly within the top five prospects in this upcoming crop and may even find himself off the board by the time pick number four rolls around.

 

Zadina currently sits fourth on my most recent Rankings.

 

 

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Belarus

 

Belarus did well capturing the Division I title a year ago to level jump back into the main tournament for 2018. They are often a well-coached team that will play physical hockey even against teams far more skilled than they are.

 

This 2018 version should be no different.

 

Vladislav Yeryomenko will be their leader from the back-end. The Calgary Hitman product is off to a tremendous start in the WHL this season, piling up seven goals and 25 points in 30 contests thus far – good for a share of 13th most amongst WHL defenders.

 

The undrafted 18-year-old is garnering interest from NHL clubs.

 

Up front, the one and only pro player on the roster is 19-year-old, Yegor Sharangovich who is having a quality season with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL, posting four goals and 10 points in 41 contests in a limited role.

 

The third year WJC returnee will be the engine up front along with Vladislav Mikhalchuk of the Prince George Cougars and Maksim Sushko – a Flyers’ fourth round pick from last June who is ticking just below a point-per-game with Owen Sound this season.

 

This squad is likely destined for the relegation round, but may have the skill to keep their spot in the big tournament for 2019 in Vancouver/Victoria BC.

 

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Switzerland

 

 

The Swiss seem to consistently fly under the radar. They are often stuck in that sixth/seventh/eighth spot by the time the tournament concludes, but they are a team that usually displays more skill than their record indicates.

 

This year looks to be the same regarding some talented players, but we’ll have to wait and see whether the results will alter. Switzerland took home a Bronze medal back in 1998 as their only podium finish and will be in tough to make it a second time in 2018.

 

Up front, Philipp Kurashev will be tasked with a ton of heavy lifting for the club. The second year QMJHL forward has impressed for the Quebec Ramparts and boasts 29 goals and 85 points 98 career major junior contests.

 

Kurashev is a late 1999 birthday so he’s already 18 and currently sits on many scouting services first round. (Kurashev currently sits 36th on my draft board).

 

Kurashev will be joined by fellow 2018 draft eligible prospect, Nando Eggenberger. He of the all-name team status has struggled at international events in the past so this will be a major opportunity for the big winger to prove his value and force his way into the top 31 prospects in his age group.

 

Eggenbergen has teased with his package of size and skill and outperformed Nico Hischier’s totals from their respective draft-minus one campaigns in the NLA – Switzerland’s top professional circuit. However, he’s struggled to improve on those results this season.

 

Washington Capitals’ 2017 fourth round selection, Tobias Geisser will be asked to handle the load on the back end for the Swiss squad. The 18-year-old left shot defender has been lauded for his impressive two-way ability but leaves something to be desired in the physicality department.

 

Geisser is a quick skater with a big shot, nice vision and is the likely recipient of first power play unit duties.

 

 

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Team Russia

 

I can’t be alone in thinking that the Russian Hockey Federation places so much weight on success that the players they send to the World Junior Championships often have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

 

Sure, the same could be said by the pressure that Canadian fans place on their players where it’s gold or bust, but can’t you just envision a squad full of Russian players pushing their team bus up a hill because they didn’t earn the right to ride home after that embarrassing 4-3 OT loss to the Swedes in an early preliminary game?

 

But I digress.

 

This year’s Russian team will be no different than many of those in the past. The team will load up as many 19-year-old players as possible and likely favour one or two guys who stick around the motherland over those who have crossed to ply their trade in the CHL. If you’re as good as Andrei Svechnikov, you need not worry where you play during the season or what your birthdate says, you’ll be there.

 

Speaking of Svechnikov, he’s a lock to crack this team as a truly dynamic 17-year-old. The Barrie Colts’ star has been everything and more early on this year despite suffering a hand injury that cost him more than a month of action.

 

He will be placed in a position to produce heavily and despite being so young, has a good chance of leading this team in scoring. He’s the consensus number two ranked prospect for this upcoming draft and will all but assuredly step right into the NHL for 2018-19.

 

After his hat trick Thursday evening against Owen Sound, the right-winger has 14 goals in 14 games. He’s basically a bigger Vladimir Tarasenko. There, I said it.

 

Get a good look at him at this tournament while you can; It’s likely a one and done situation.

 

 

Andrei Svechnikov: The Rising Star of Russia

 

 

 

German Rubtsov, Artur Kayumov and Andrei Altybarmakyan – the latter two being Chicago Blackhawks’ prospects, will help out in a middle/bottom six role, while Alexei Lipanov, Vitali Abramov and Klim Kostin will be leaned on heavily in the top six.  

 

One player who I’m very interested to see (and hope he makes the squad) is undrafted, yet wildly talented Artyom Manukyan. The 5’7 winger torched the MHL – Russia’s top junior circuit, in 2016-17 to the tune of 39 goals and 105 points in just 60 contests.

 

There is no denying his skill, but the diminutive stature coupled with a fear of Russian players led to his being passed over last June.

 

In limited KHL action thus far, he’s potted a goal and an assist in 24 games. Watch for him to be utilized as he should: in premier offensive situations. If the team isn’t willing to do that, they’ll leave him at home.

 

I’ll also be curious to see if the team finds a spot for enigmatic sniper, Dmitri Sokolov. There are few in the game who question his skill, but his work ethic and conditioning are well below par. He wouldn’t crack my lineup, but if he makes this team it’ll be in a scoring role and thus he’ll be leaned on to contribute.

 

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Team Sweden

 

Since taking home silver in 2014, the Swedes have found themselves in the unenviable position of losing three straight bronze medal games and landing outside of the bubble in fourth. They consistently send teams jam packed with skill and this year’s edition will be no different.

 

Elias Pettersson returns after seeing limited action in last year’s event and will be the focal point of the Tre Kroner’s offense and likely the entire big stage. The season that the Canucks’ 2017 fifth overall pick has been having is one for the record books.

 

If you’re a follower of my work, you’ll have heard this all before. He steps into the tournament as the SHL’s leading scorer with 35 points in 26 games; clicking at a pace that is the second most by any U20 player in the league’s history and pacing to have the second-best season of any aged player in the last 27 years.

 

What I’m most curious to see is whether they play him at centre or on the right-wing next to New York Rangers’ 2017 first round pick, Lias Andersson. The two have played together in the past and while Pettersson was drafted as a centre, he’s played a great deal of right-wing the last two seasons, including virtually all his time with Växjö in the SHL this season.

 

Andersson will be leaned on for his play at both ends of the rink and is already a well-polished two-way player. He’s accrued 86 career SHL games and just turned 19 years old a month ago. The seventh overall pick from last June scored three goals in six games at last year’s event.

 

Marcus Davidsson, Lucas Elvenes, Tim Soderlund, Fabrian Zetterlund, Axel Jonsson Fjallby and Jesper Boqvist are all NHL prospects and will all slide into the team’s forward core. It’s as deep as they come this year.

 

That’s all without knowing if last year’s leading scorer, Alex Nylander will be loaned to the squad from the Sabres’ organization. If he is, and he probably should be in order to find some confidence and production, Sweden could slide him over to his off-wing and load up a top line of:

 

Nylander – Andersson – Pettersson

 

That unit would wreak havoc on any and all who come in their way.

 

On the back-end, things don’t get any less impressive. Rasmus Dahlin is considered by many to be a generational talent and is the consensus number one selection this June. His size, speed, skill and smarts are that of a seasoned pro and not a 17-year-old. 

 

He will surely light up a few highlight packs this holiday season. 

 

Dahlin will be joined in the top four by Vegas’ first rounder and ultra-talented offensive defender, Erik Brannstrom, Maple Leafs’ first rounder, Timothy Liljegren, and Flyers’ prospect, Linus Hogberg.

 

This group will be mobile, opportunistic and pack plenty of offensive punch.

 

Sweden is my pick to come home with the gold this time around.

 

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Thanks a lot for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where it’s all hockey, all the time.