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Top Shelf Prospects: The 2013 Draft Eligibles at the WJC

With the World Juniors now in the books, and congratulations the United States on winning gold, its a good time to look back at the last 10 days and assess what 2013 Draft eligibles did the most to improve their stock in this tournament.

As I said in my Draft Eligible tournament preview (click here) this is traditionally not a tournament where these players tend to shine. The limited number of draft eligible players in the tourney, and the fact that this is very much an 18 and 19 year old dominated event makes things difficult for a young prospect.  Traditionally, the Ivan Hlinka and Under 18s are two bigger tournaments for the draft eligibles, so this isn’t the be all and end all for these kids by any means.  As a result, a good performance can raise a player’s stock, but I don’t really penalize a 17 year old for a poor performance.  With that said, lets look at what some of the big names did, and who helped themselves the most.

2013s (First Time Draft Eligibles)

Seth Jones, Defence, USA – As predicted in the tournament preview, Seth Jones was the best draft eligible player in the tourney.  His older age (already 18) and previous World Junior experience really helped him.  He wasn’t perfect as he did have a rough game in the preliminary round loss to Canada, but overall played well in 6 of his 7 games, and was one of the best defencemen for the US squad.  He showed off his smooth skating, and extremely good mobility in this tournament, along with his good slapshot and offensive instincts.  Defensively, Jones was good overall as he plays a strong positional game.  I’d still like to see him be more physical as he has the size to be dominant in that aspect of the game, but Jones just doesn’t seem to possess a mean streak.  Overall though, a good tournament for Jones who solidified his top 3 ranking; and maybe put himself in position to push Nathan MacKinnon for the number 1 spot in the draft down the stretch.

Valeri Nichuskin, Centre/Right Wing, Russia – An interesting tournament for the young Russian capped by a spectacular overtime winner to beat Canada for the Bronze medal.  Showed excellent skating, great balance, good stickhandling and soft hands on both that goal and on a similar rush where he set up the game-winning goal in a preliminary round win over the United States squad.  A very impressive performance for Nichuskin who also showed a mean streak (or is it lack of discipline) in picking up a major penalty, game misconduct and one-game suspension for a checking from behind penalty in the prelims vs Canada.   I’d say that he really helped his draft stock, however, one big question remains and that is the fact that he has a KHL contract that takes him through the 2014-15 season.  Questions about his commitment to play in North America are the only thing that could hold this kid back from being a top 10 pick.

Robert Hagg, Defence, Sweden – Due to all the injuries on the Swedish blueline, Hagg was thrust into a much bigger role than we expected coming into the tournament.  Hagg performed well and certainly didn’t look out of place.  A very good skater with a hard, accurate shot; Hagg showed that he has offensive potential at the next level.  He also showed that he knows how to use his good size in the defensive zone, playing a solid physical game for the Swedes.  Definitely showed why he is on the first-round radar for so many.

Elias Lindholm, Centre, Sweden – Like many 17-year-olds, Lindholm has been stuck in a bottom-line role for Sweden, and has had limited icetime and opportunities.  Despite that he has shown a number of flashes of his offensive ability with 2 goals and 2 assists in the tourney.  Has shown his playmaking ability, with great puck control and his soft hands helping him to extend plays.  Has also shown that he has great vision and passing ability.  I expect that he’ll only continue to get better and should be a force at next year’s tourney for the Swedes, and a very high NHL draft pick.

Jacob de la Rose, Right Wing, Sweden –  Stuck in a bottom-line role for the Swedes, de la Rose hasn’t had much opportunity to show his abilities or get on the score sheet.  He’s played very limited minutes and when he has gotten on the ice has shown a lack of discipline and taken way too many penalties.  A forgettable tourney for de la Rose, who will now look forward to the Under 18s for his opportunity to impress the scouts.

Jonathan Drouin, Left Wing, Canada – A definite bright spot for the Canadian Team, Drouin has solidified his status as one of the fastest rising draft prospects and a sure fire top 6 pick (possibly as high as top 3).  He might be undersized, but he has great speed, and outstanding hands.  Has shown the ability to be a playmaker off the wing, and even shown that his goal scoring ability has been a bit underrated by many going into the tourney.  His dangerous play constantly forced the Team Canada coaching staff to move him up the lineup and he eventually found himself on the first line.  A coming out party for Drouin.

Nathan MacKinnon – Centre/Right wing, Canada – Unlike his Mooseheads’ teammate, Drouin, MacKinnon was not given much icetime or responsibility by the Canadian coaches.  Stuck as the 13th forward for most of the tourney, MacKinnon’s opportunities were limited.  While most of the shifts he did get were forgettable, he did also show some flashes of what makes him the number 1 ranked prospect coming into the tourney.  He has great agility and loves to work down low and drive the net.  Overall I’m not going to downgrade him for the tourney, and I’m not disappointed by the performance (as some are) as it is close to what I expected as seen in the preview.

Alexsander “Sasha” Barkov, Centre, Finland – Barkov and his Finnish squad are a good example of this being a 19-year-olds tournament.  With a September 1995 birthday, he is one of the youngest draft-eligible players in this tournament.  The Finnish squad overall was talented but very young.  Barkov and his teammates were exceptional in the two pre-tournament wins over Canada and the US in Helsinki but just couldn’t bring the same performance in Ufa.  Overall he finishes the tournament with 7 points in 6 games, but 4 of those came in the Finns two relegation round games against weak opponents Germany and Slovakia.  He did show his strength, good hands, and strong shot though, and is still a top 4 prospect (and maybe a contender for number 1) following the tourney.

Rasmus Ristolainen, Defence, Finland: A bright spot on a disappointing Finnish squad, Ristolainen showed that he is a very good skater, and has a strong two-way game.  Offensively he moves the puck well both through skating and passing.  Defensively, he uses his size effectively and has a definite mean streak in his own end of the ice.  Ristolainen benefitted from the same things that helped Seth Jones, a late birthday in 1994 making him already 18 years old before the tourney, and experience from last year’s tourney.  He could be pushing for a top 10 draft spot.

Marko Dano, Right Wing, Slovakia – Another late 94 with previous tournament experience (was Slovakia’s best player last year as well).  Had an outstanding tournament on one of the tournament’s weaker squads.  Dano loves to hit and plays an agitator’s game despite being listed at only 5’11”.  He’s a good skater who gets in on the forecheck.  Showed some offensive ability in this tournament including good instincts and hockey sense, a nose for the net, a good shot, and decent playmaking ability.  This coming-out party for Dano certainly should have him on scout’s radar and he looks like a good bet to be a 2nd rounder right now.

Mirco Muller, Defence, Switzerland – The big defenceman who plays for Everett in the WHL showed his skills playing for one of the tourney’s surprise teams.  However, with other recent Swiss international results, we really shouldn’t be surprised, as the country is making a real push to be the 7th best hockey nation in the world.  He has good size (6’3″) and good mobility which really help him in the defensive zone.  He fit seamlessly into the Swiss squad and played their checking system to perfection.  Muller has shown offensive ability in Everett with good passing skills and vision, but his offensive game in this tournament was limited.

Draft Re-entries:  These players have been through the NHL draft at least once, and were not selected.  However much like Tanner Pearson last year, they may have put themselves on the radar with a good tournament in Ufa.

J.C. Lipon, Right Wing, Canada – After lighting up the WHL with Kamloops, and making the Canadian Team as a bit of a surprise, many were wondering if Lipon is this year’s Tanner Pearson and would have a coming-out party at this tournament. It didn’t work out that way as Lipon was utterly forgettable in a bottom-line role for Canada. He did show grit and a good defensive game (to go along with all those points) in making the team though, so he probably will be drafted in June, just don’t expect him to be a first-round talent like Pearson.

Anton Slepyshev, Right Wing, Russia – Was part of Russia’s best line with Mikhail Grigorenko.  This big body with a great shot and excellent skating ability was dangerous all tournament long.  He probably should have been drafted last year, but there were big questions about his commitment to play in North America when he skipped the NHL Draft Combine.  If he shows any willingness to consider playing in the NHL he will surely be drafted, as this kid can play.

Cole Bardreau, Left Wing, USA – A member of the American grind line, Bardreau has been passed over twice in NHL drafts.  The Cornell player was a big part of the US penalty kill and the gold medal victory.  He showed good skating, grit, and defensive play along with an ability to drive the net.  Bardreau may have put himself on the radar for a late round pick.  Even if not selected he will almost assuredly be given an NHL contract and tryout at some point when he decides to leave school.



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