Prospect Ramblings: Spotlight too hot for Canada in Showcase

by Mark Allan on August 7, 2016

Calgary prospect Tyler Parsons stymied Team Canada in a 5-1 U.S. victory to conclude the World Junior Summer Showcase.

 

Finland’s junior hockey players continued their hot streak by winning the World Junior Summer Showcase, while Team Canada is trying to deduce what went wrong.

Finland finished atop the exhibition tournament in spite of losing 3-2 to Sweden in a shootout in its final game Saturday, while Canada’s 5-1 loss to the U.S. later in the day left it with an 0-3 record. Earlier, the Canadians fell 2-1 to Finland in OT and were drubbed 5-1 by the Swedes, meaning they totaled just three goals in as many games.

The games at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., were part of an early evaluation event that will help lead to the selection of players to compete in the world junior hockey championship Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Toronto and Montreal.

USA 5 Canada 1

In making 35 saves, and blanking Canada in the first period in which the Americans were outshot 22-10, Tyler Parsons (Calgary’s 2016 second-round pick) was the best player on the ice. Connor Ingram and Evan Cormier split time in Canada’s net. When Cormier entered with 8:14 to play in the second period, the U.S. led 3-0 and the outcome was essentially decided.

Jack Roslovic, Jordan Greenway, Logan Brown and Clayton Keller (who added an assist) gave the U.S. a commanding 4-0 lead before Nicolas Roy broke Parsons’ shutout in the third before Vancouver Canucks’  prospect Brock Boeser converted a wicked wrister with seven seconds left.

Future Arizona star Dylan Strome expressed Canada’s frustration by bumping Minnesota Wild 2016 first-rounder Luke Kunin from behind after a whistle.

The Canadians also did not react well when defenseman Charlie McAvoy rocked Florida’s 2015 11th overall pick Lawson Crouse with a devastating but clean hit just after the 6-4, 209-pound Crouse crossed the U.S. blueline. McAvoy, drafted 14th overall by Boston this year, is not tall at six feet but weighs 207. He’s known as an offensive blueliner but, if the Crouse hit is any indication, the Bruins might have a real find on their hands.

Sweden 3 Finland 2 (SO)

On his second attempt, Joel Eriksson-Ek scored the only goal of the shootout to give Sweden the victory. The Finns still won the three-team event, which didn’t have a playoff round.

Goalie Filip Gustavsson, Pittsburgh’s 55th-overall draft pick this year, backstopped Sweden to victory.

Earlier, Maple Leaf head coach Mike Babcock watched Team Canada fall 5-1 to Sweden. It’s safe to assume he was monitoring center-right winger Mitch Marner, Toronto’s fourth-overall pick in last year’s entry draft.

 
The ultra-skilled Memorial Cup MVP will likely get a nine-game trial with the Leafs before Babcock and GM Lou Lamoriello decide whether to keep him up with the NHL club or return him to the Ontario Hockey League. Even if the dynamic Marner stays with the Leafs, they could still lend him for the world junior tournament.
 

* * *

A typically quiet August week for contract signings was highlighted by the Vancouver Canucks signing 2016 first-round pick Olli Juolevi to a three-year entry-level deal Friday that represents an annual cap hit of $1.975 million, including bonuses.

 

Defenseman Olli Juolevi signed a three-year contract Friday with the Vancouver Canucks:

 

Chosen fifth overall, the 18-year-old Finnish defenseman has a slim chance of making the Canucks this season, although he’s much more likely to again star for the OHL’s London Knights.

After compiling the third-highest point total (42 in 57 games) of all OHL blueliners in his first full North American season, the 6-2, 182-pounder racked up 14 points in playoff 18 games to help London win the league’s post-season title. Still on a roll, the Helsinki native added seven points in four games as the Knights triumphed in Memorial Cup play.

Juolevi, whose draft status rose steadily all season, made himself even more attractive to NHL teams by topping all defensemen with nine assists to help his country’s team win the world junior championship.

Juolevi’s agent, Markus Lehto, has mused publicly about his talented young client playing for a European pro team if he doesn’t earn a roster spot coming out of Vancouver’s training camp, but this is likely just posturing.

Juolevi has a good shot of becoming the first true homegrown No. 1 blueline stud in franchise history, assuming the Canucks don’t put too much pressure on him too soon and ruin him, as they have done to other promising young defensemen. 

  • RW Deven Sideroff signed a three-year, two-way contract Thursday with the Ducks. Anaheim will pay him $625,000 annually on top of a $278,000 signing bonus. A 2015 third-round pick for Anaheim, the 5-11, 172-pounder had 19 goals and 59 points in 63 games for Kamloops in his final WHL season. An intelligent, hard-working winger, he could make it in the NHL as a third-liner with an outside shot at a top-six scoring role.

 

  • Once regarded highly enough to be the Coyotes’ first-round draft pick in 2010, goalie Mark Visentin signed one-year deal this week with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. After playing in just one NHL game, the 6-2, 201-pounder has been hindered by injuries and has kicked around the AHL for the past three seasons. An ankle injury prevented him from playing during the entire 2014-15 season. Just 23, Visentin is nevertheless running out of chances to establish himself as a viable NHL goaltender, even as a backup.


Mark Allan