World Junior Hockey Championships Analysis: TEAM CANADA

The annual IIHF World Junior’s wrapped up just over a week ago in Calgary, Alberta, with Team Sweden claiming their first under-21 gold medal in 31 years with a thrilling 1-0 overtime victory over Team Russia. I watched as much of the tournament as I could, even some of the blowouts, so that I could scout as many players as possible.

Unfortunately, the tournament was too short to familiarize myself with most of the players, but a select few did catch my eye. Here are my 2012 WJC impressions, starting with Team Canada today.

TEAM CANADA BEST DEFENCEMEN

• Phoenix Coyotes prospect Brandon Gormley. After watching about two minutes of Canada’s first game of the tournament, I tweeted about how much Brandon Gormley impressed me. The tweets can be seen below.

Those were written on December 26th, 2011, the first day of the tournament. A week or so later, Brandon Gormley was named defenseman of the Tournament. Obviously, I agree with that choice.

Truth be told, this year’s WJHC was a tournament lacking in stand-out stars compared to years past, but Gormley did stand out, if not necessarily as a future superstar, certainly someone I view as having top-pairing potential. Gormley has gone from a defenseman scouts dubbed as “good at everything, great at nothing” to “VERY good at everything, great at nothing,” and that actually makes him pretty great. His skating, including balance and agility, is excellent; his reach is good and works very well with his frame; he has good hands for a defenseman. He looked strong, he has great poise and hockey sense. To my eye, he looks more than NHL ready. I would be shocked if he was not on the Coyotes roster opening night next year.

• Boston Bruins prospect Dougie Hamilton also looked good to me. He’s definitely not as refined in his game as Gormley, or as NHL ready, but he has all the physical tools, so the only question was the mental side, the hockey sense, and I saw nothing to worry about in that regard. His calling card certainly was never his cerebral play so much as his physical talent, but he made good, simple plays, even displaying some creativity in the offensive zone and the knowledge of when to jump in and attempt to make a play. Overall, a good showing for Dougie Hamilton. I had some concerns about how he would adjust his game when he had a massive post-draft growth spurt, because he looked like the extra height and weight was messing with his equilibrium, so to speak, just how everything was working together, but he looks to have adjusted to the extra size since, and could end up the better for it.

• Dallas Stars prospect Jamie Oleksiak. For some reason I don’t remember seeing much of him during the WJC, but I’ve watched him play in the past, and I’m a big fan. He’s huge, a good skater, and poised. Seems to have all the tools to be a quality NHL defenseman from what little I’ve seen of him.

TEAM CANADA BEST FORWARDS

• Ottawa Senators prospect Mark Stone looked a bit like Mike Bossy out there. I didn’t get to see enough of him to really analyze his skillset to see if it will translate to the NHL level, but in terms of just the bare bread of what I did see, getting open, finding spaces, and firing a deadly wristshot, Mark Stone was better than anyone in the tournament. He showed good goal scoring instincts in getting open, a heavy and accurate wrist shot with a quick release, and strength protecting the puck. There is definitely potential here, and my initial assessment, without seeing more of him, is that he does have what it takes to score goals at the NHL level. Not at anywhere the same clip as he does in Juniors, of course, but if he continues to develop his skating and strength, he should have what it takes to score goals in the NHL provided he plays with someone who can get him the puck.

• Anaheim Ducks prospect Devante Smith-Pelly, before getting injured, once again showed the jump in his game that he displayed in Canada’s red and white game over the summer. I haven’t seen as much of that as I would like from him with Anaheim in the NHL, but he definitely brings it when he’s playing against kids his own age.

• Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Brett Connolly. Connolly is an NHL player who, physically, is further developed than most his opponents were in the competition. As a result he did perform pretty well, and looked like what he is: an NHL player playing against lower competition. I still have concerns about how he sees the ice, and if he can play with a little more imagination and poise than he’s displayed so far at the NHL level, but he did have a fairly good showing at the WJHC’s.

• I’m sure other players had a good showing, but I didn’t watch enough of Canada to notice. Most of their group games were against inferior competition, and thus boring blowouts, and then they were quickly eliminated in the “playoffs” of the tournament, so I didn’t get to see them much against top competition.

TEAM CANADA BEST GOALTENDERS

• Both goaltenders appeared adequate, but neither stuck out to me one way or another like the Czech Republic and Russian goaltenders did.

That’s all on Canada. Check back this week for my World Junior thoughts and impressions on Team U.S.A, Team Sweden, and Team Finland.

Written by Shark Circle

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