Pronman: 2018 World Junior Championship Daily Scouting Journal By:... - 4 weeks ago
Pronman: 2018 World Junior Championship daily scouting journal
By: Corey Pronman
Day 3: Dec. 28
FINLAND 4, DENMARK 1
Kristian Vesalainen, LW, Winnipeg – Janne Kuokkanen, C, Carolina – Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Nashville: This was a very good line for the top trio. They drove play and generated a lot of opportunities even if they didn't get a ton in the crease area. Tolvanen had 20 shot attempts by himself, and I thought showed decent speed gaining the zone — better than what I saw from him last year. Kuokkanen was better than the first game and moved the puck around reasonably well.
Miro Heiskanen, D, Dallas: Heiskanen was a lot better than the first game where he seemed off his usual game. He activated well using his speed and made a lot of good decisions with the puck. When he was on the ice, Finland seemed to make a lot of good things happen. He doesn't stand out to you in a flashy way, so he requires close monitoring of his decisions.
Olli Juolevi, D, Vancouver – Henri Jokiharju, D, Chicago: This defensive pair was a lot better today than it was against Canada and made a lot of good things happen. I don't think Juolevi is going to be the high-end guy I thought he could be when he was 17, but he showed good vision and made a lot of good decisions. Jokiharju slotted into the point on the first PP unit, replacing Heiskanen, and seemed to thrive. Jokiharju skates and thinks the game well, and seemed to be a calming force on the blueline.
RUSSIA 5, SWITZERLAND 2
Vitali Abramov, LW, Columbus: Abramov hasn't gotten a ton of points, but I've seen some things in his past two games that I like. His skating worries me, but I love his playmaking. He's so aware when he has the puck of his options and how to maneuver with the puck. It would be nice, especially for his size, if he could push defenders a little farther back, but he still makes things happen.
Klim Kostin, LW, St. Louis: Kostin was the best player in this game — his second straight impressive outing in a row — and has become a go-to option for coach Valeri Bragin. Kostin is so skilled for a large forward and immediately sticks out to any observer watching the game. He created offense in various ways: By being a force in front of the net, by making plays to his teammates and by creating space with his skill. Get him to be a little quicker and you'll have a premier player.
Mikhail Maltsev, C, New Jersey: One thing I was thinking about was who is a better Devils center prospect: Maltsev, picked in the fourth round in 2016, or Michael McLeod, their first-round pick that year? That's mostly a credit to Maltsev's development. He's a big center with skill and vision who can make plays at both ends of the rink. He hasn't been dynamic for Russia, but he's trustworthy with the puck and its most played forward.
SWEDEN 3, CZECH REPUBLIC 1
Filip Gustavsson, G, Pittsburgh: When the Czech Republic put a lot of pressure on Sweden in the second half of the game, Gustavsson kept them from ever getting the game within reach. While he moves well, he's not a dynamic goalie, but he's big, smart and swallows pucks up. He's been one of the best goalies here so far.
Martin Necas, C, Carolina: Necas' numbers have been just fine during the first two games, but he's been arguably the best player so far. He's a dynamic forward with his speed and skill, and when he's near the puck, he controls the play. His ability to not only exhibit skill and distribute but put defenders on their heels to consistently get controlled zone entries has created a ton of offense at even strength.
Alexander Nylander, LW, Buffalo: Nylander was chosen by Sweden as their player of the game. He's a catalyst on their power play, showing such a high level of confidence, skill and vision with the puck. I wish he'd push the pace a little more. I know he has some speed in his game, but he seems to play the game really slow. While I love what he does when he gets space, I would like to see him (along with the other top guys like Lias Andersson and Elias Pettersson) get more done at even strength.
Elias Pettersson, RW, Vancouver: I've admired the skill and vision in Pettersson's game for a while, but this season I've really been impressed by his ability as a shooter; it's an aspect of his game I haven't given proper credit. His snipe on Sweden's second goal on the power play was a great example of how dangerous he is from a distance if he gets space to wire one.
SLOVAKIA 3, USA 2
Samuel Bucek, LW, 2018 draft eligible: A month or so ago, I saw Chicago play a USHL game. Bucek, a third-year draft eligible player who was unrated by Central, caught my eye. He's 6-foot-3, showed good hands and generated a fair amount of offense. I marked him down as a sleeper for the draft, given he didn't have great production for a third-year eligible player in the USHL; I figured I wouldn't hear his name again until maybe the draft. Well, the hockey world is now introduced to him as he schooled the entire USA squad on the way to Slovakia's game-winning goal. His major issue is foot speed, but I guess this mild and possibly trivial secret, given he may still go undrafted, is out now.
Adam Fox, D, Calgary: I really liked Fox on Thursday, outside of him being part of the team flopping around on the final goal. I thought he controlled the play when he had the puck and showed great vision. The USA only had three defensemen who can move the puck well at the World Junior level between him, Quinn Hughes and Scott Perunovich, so Fox will need to be even better with the top teams coming up.
Will Lockwood, RW, Vancouver: After Logan Brown was injured and the rest of USA's forward group forgot how to generate scoring chances, Lockwood's minutes took off because he was making plays. He's a great skater, has above-average hands and works his tail off. On a disappointing day for the USA, he at least was a mild positive sign given his injury issues entering the tournament.
Josh Norris, C, San Jose: I've seen a lot of Norris the past year and a half, and this was one of the better games I saw from him in terms of showing creativity and using his speed while carrying the puck. He's still a bottom six guy on this squad with his impact likely coming next year, but regardless, it is worth noting I saw some positive elements outside of his usual nice all-around center type of play.
Ryan Poehling, C, Montreal: Poehling was solid in this game and one of the few USA forwards who looked comfortable making plays. His speed and skill aren't high-end, but he gained the zone with control of the puck several times, exhibited his trademark good vision and helped generate a few chances. His ability to do that plus grind and win pucks defensively makes him a valuable pivot.
Brady Tkachuk, LW, 2018 draft eligible: Tkachuk will be remembered for lying on his back on the final goal, but overall he had a very solid game. He showed nice skill on his goal but also showed ability at other instances to create offense and put pressure on the opposition to go along with his trademark pain in the ass physical style.
Day 2: Dec. 27
SWITZERLAND 3, BELARUS 2
Nico Gross, D, 2018 draft eligible: I'm not a huge fan of Gross. He's big, skates well, has some vision but his lack of skill and production in the OHL worries me. But, I was intrigued by his play on Wednesday. He didn't show he was a top level offensive player, but he moved the puck well, and might at least make me reconsider my position. It's also worth noting that years ago he was really highly touted and has a ton of international experience.
Philipp Kurashev, C, 2018 draft eligible: Kurashev is an interesting player. He showed in this game that he's a skilled center with decent size who can create chances, and his finish on Switzerland's second goal was a high-caliber shot. However, his effort leaves me wanting at times. On the first Belarus goal, he lost a battle easily behind his net that led to the puck landing in the scrum in front of his goal. His compete and low production for his age in the QMJHL are flags when talking to scouts, but his talent is also hard to ignore.
Valentin Nussbaumer, C, 2019 draft eligible: Nussbaumer was the best player in the first game on day 2 and is one of my favorite players for the 2019 NHL draft. For one of the youngest players in this tournament, Nussbaumer showed the skating, skill and offensive intellect to make creative plays consistently for his team. He's a small and slight player, but I think with time and more strength he can become a real force.
Yegor Sharangovich, C, 2018 draft eligible: Sharangovich caught my eye in both of Belarus' games so far, and although this is his third draft eligible season, I think he's worth mentioning. He's a big, strong center with above-average hands and can win pucks. He's been OK this season in the KHL and already competed for Belarus at the World Championships last season. His feet are a minor concern to me and his skill isn't high-end, but he's shown that he's worth monitoring for the NHL.
Maksim Sushko, LW, Philadelphia: Sushko isn't a dynamic talent, but he was leaned on for a light Belarus club, and he delivered a great performance, helping Belarus nearly pull off the upset. He does a lot well and showed his wide arrange of abilities. He's a solid skater, he's strong on the puck, he competes well all over the ice and he has decent offensive instincts.
CANADA 6, SLOVAKIA 0
Dillon Dube, LW, Calgary – Sam Steel, C, Anaheim – Jordan Kyrou, RW, St. Louis: Canada's top line was quiet against Finland, but they were rolling in their second game.
This was one of the better games I've seen from Steel in an international game. He was playing with pace, showing decent speed and moving the puck around really well. Kyrou was dynamic. He was quite arguably the best player in the game. He can be pushed off his game here and there, but when he gets going with speed and makes creative plays, few defenses can shut him down.
Jonah Gadjovich, LW, Vancouver: Gadjovich is never going to wow you with his hands or a brilliant rush, but I've seen a little more IQ and skill in his game than I might have previously given credit for. He made some smart, quick decisions with the puck. Also, he showed his trademark brute winning battles and getting to the net.
Cale Makar, D, Colorado: Makar rode the pine for most of Canada's previous game, with concerns about the risk in his game lingering in the Canadian coaches' minds. A few injuries later on their blue line, an opportunity opened up, and he was in my opinion their best defenseman in this game. His skating and skill are high-end, allowing him to create unique plays, but he didn't try to do too much by himself and moved the puck quite well. He also made his stops on the defensive side.
Michael McLeod, C, New Jersey: I am skeptical of McLeod's offensive potential in the NHL due to how infrequently over the years I've seen him pull up to make plays, but Wednesday I saw a lot more of that kind of playmaking. His major strengths are still his speed and competitiveness, and he'll likely never be a high-end passer, but just looking to move the puck a little more like he did today can go a long way for the Devils' first-rounder from 2016.
Milos Roman, LW, 2018 draft eligible: Roman was one of the few Slovaks with any confidence handling the puck. It was hard to evaluate any Slovak forward given how little the team had the puck, but I saw flashes of quality skill from Roman — even if he was playing a little slow with the puck. He's one of the top forwards from the WHL in this year's draft crop, although it's a poor year for the WHL.
Conor Timmins, D, Colorado: This was one of the best games I've seen from Timmins. His IQ always impressed me, but I had concerns about how dynamic he was as a player. In this game, he was showing real skill handling the puck and either getting it out of trouble or attacking in the offensive zone. He played with pace, skated fine and made a real difference almost every shift he was out there. He had a real standout two-way game.
Day 1: Dec. 26
CZECH REPUBLIC 5, RUSSIA 4
Klim Kostin, LW, St. Louis: There weren't many Russian forwards who I thought played well, but Kostin on their “fourth line” — they pretty much rolled four lines, even on power plays, so line numbers seem irrelevant — made a lot happen. He's so skilled and creative for a big man. He gained the zone quite a few times using his skill, but also set up a few chances, too.
Martin Necas, C, Carolina: Necas was clearly the best player in this game. He dazzled with his speed and skill, putting defenders on their heels and showing the offensive instincts to not just dash forward, but also pull up and make plays. He was able to create from the side or use his speed to generate chances out of nothing. He logged more than 22 minutes and drove his line with help from possible top five pick Filip Zadina.
Filip Zadina, RW, 2018 draft eligible: Necas played great, but the skill and talents of Zadina helped drive that top line for the Czechs. He's so creative with the puck, but also quick and strong. NHL scouts I talked to describe him as a player with no clear flaws. “He's a shark,” said Czech Republic coach Filip Pesan.
Yegor Zaitsev, D, New Jersey: Zaitsev has steadily grown on me while watching him all season. He doesn't wow you with speed or a dazzling deke, but he's a smart two-way defenseman. He calmly breaks up plays, moves the puck from his zone and on the power play, and seems to make a positive impact when he's out there. I don't see a top prospect, but the seventh-round pick by the Devils in 2017 had a good game and seems to be trending in the right direction.
SWEDEN 6, BELARUS 1
Erik Brannstrom, D, Vegas: Brannstrom wasn't on either Swedish power play unit, but he made a lot happen offensively due to his great skating and IQ. He can transition the puck with his vision, but has showed he can skate it out of trouble and up the ice. He made a beautiful assist to set up Jesper Boqvist on one Swedish goal and overall drove play in the right direction.
Rasmus Dahlin, D, 2018 draft eligible: Dahlin is the go-to guy for Sweden on defense, as he clearly led all their defensemen in ice time, which is highly, highly unusual for a 17-year-old playing for a top country. He showed why. His skating, his skill and, particularly, his instincts all get the highest grades. Dahlin is able to enter the zone and weave through traffic effortlessly and this is all before he becomes more physically advanced with maturity. He's going to be scary good.
Timothy Liljegren, D, Toronto: Liljegren made one or two errors, but overall his game was quite solid and moving in the right direction. He showed good vision moving the puck, and as I mentioned in my post a few days ago, there are signs of an evolving, maturing Liljegren game.
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, LW, Washington: Jonsson-Fjallby is never going to win a skills competition, but this was one of the best games I've seen from him. His speed and tenacity stood out, putting constant pressure on Belarus, including generating shorthanded offense. When you're not mesmerized by his long golden locks flowing as he bursts up the ice, you notice he's a really good skater for a man his size.
Alexander Nylander, LW, Buffalo/Elias Pettersson, RW, Vancouver: I want to talk about these two collectively since they played together and drove most of Sweden's chances. This was the best game I've seen from Pettersson wearing the Swedish colors. He and Nylander showed so much skill and looked in control with the puck. Pettersson was a tad better, in part due to a Nylander giveaway that led to a breakaway goal for Belarus, but Pettersson did seem so calm and smart with the puck. I'd like to see both play with a little more pace in terms of hitting the offensive zone with speed, but they have the skill to enter without it.
CANADA 4, FINLAND 2
This was a really choppy game, so there weren't a ton of players that really stood out.
Boris Katchouk, LW, Tampa Bay: Katchouk has some ability with the puck, but he gets his value through his speed, IQ and, particularly, his work ethic. In this game, he showed that he can out will opponents to pucks to generate offense and has enough talent to make a few plays when he does win the puck.
Victor Mete, D, Montreal: Mete's game always starts with his feet. That's where his value is and why he can impact a game. However, over the years I've seen progression in his defensive game, including in this game, where he showed he knows where to be to make stops, despite his size, and can use his skating to get pucks out of trouble and up the ice.
Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Nashville: Tolvanen wasn't at his best, but he was still good. Some might look at his KHL point totals and think he's going to fly up and down the ice like Evgeny Kuznetsov did as a U20. That's not his game. His game is what he showed in this match. He has skill to gain the zone, he moves the puck around and, when he gets a lane, he gets dangerous shots on goal. Tolvanen did enough of that to generate a good chunk of Finland's offense.
Kristian Vesalainen, LW, Winnipeg: Vesalainen was one of the few forwards I thought was consistently dangerous for either team. Prospect fans might have last seen him at the IIHF U-18s last spring where he was excellent, and he showed flashes of that in this game. He's big, quick and skilled. He can be a powerful winger with the puck, showing in this game that he can win battles and get pucks to the net with skill and willpower.
USA 9, DENMARK 0
This was as much a practice as it was a competitive game for the USA, so I don't want to make too many conclusions; that being said, here are a few notes:
Patrick Harper, LW, Nashville: Harper was a catalyst with his skill. He was relegated to the bench at times during last year's tournament, but now will be asked to fill major roles carrying the puck and creating offense at even strength and on the power play. His speed won't be his calling card, but he's shown some progression over the season.
Max Jones, LW, Anaheim: Like in the pre-tournament game, Jones showed he could be a really effective power winger. He has that old-school feel of a guy who will throw you off him if you try and get near him, coupled with the great speed and above-average hands to make the most of his edge. I had concerns about him when he was 16 and 17, but he's making me a fan.
Casey Mittelstadt, C, Buffalo: Mittelstadt is a weird prospect. His points and shot generation numbers have never been elite at various levels relative to his age. You watch him though and it's clear he's a special player. His hands are arguably the best set of hockey gloves outside the NHL. He makes plays at a level above everyone else and makes it seem easy. Mittelstadt is a guy who convinces you the numbers lie and he's a future NHL star.