Every year it seems like the a few of the top prospects for the next NHL Entry Draft get to show off their wears at the premier junior tournament in the world, the IIHF World Junior Championship. The 2011 event looked to be exceptional when the preliminary rosters were announced as more than the normal quantity of draft eligibles looked to suit up in their repective countries colours and battle for Gold.
After more than a few high profile draft eligibles were cut from their squads during their respective pre-tournament camps we can be thankful that there are still a stellar group to watch although not anywere near what it could have been.
Three potential top selections in Gabriel Landeskog, a Swedish forward with grit and offensive skill; Adam Larsson, the big Swedish two-way defenseman and Canadian two-way forward Sean Couturier will headline the 2011 NHL draft eligible participants.
Couturier, who many pundits predict will become the top player chosen in June, should play a big role for a Canadian squad that will look to the big winger as a solid two-way threat in hopes of getting back on top after loosing a heartbreaker last year to a big, fast and skilled American squad.
Meanwhile Larsson, who has been a household name around the scouting globe for almost four years now and Landeskog who has really been on fire this season in leading Kitchener on and off the ice, will lead a Swedish entry in hopes of shattering Canada and USA’s stranglhold of Gold at the premier IIHF junior aged tournament.
The 10 day long tournemant will likely give NHL talent evaluators a chance to see how each prospect reacts playing in a playoff environment rather than the every day grind of a regular season game.
While it can be a slippery slope for scouts to put much stock into what draft eligible prospects contribute during these short tournaments, the general public typically has no other option as this will likely be the only time they get to see some of the elite prospects in game action from the other side of the Atlantic or continent.
Here is a preview of some of the top draft eligibles that will be competing for Gold at the 2011 World Junior U20 Championship in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York starting December 26, 2010:
Sean Couturier / Canada
Left Wing / Drummondville (QMJHL)
HT: 6’-3” / WT: 200 Lbs
Scouting Report: A big body that plays a well rounded, two-way game…skates well with decent straight line speed but needs to pick up a step and improve upon his acceleration and lateral quickness…uses his size to his advantage when protecting the puck, working the boards and powering his way to the net…has a long reach…possesses incredibly soft hands and can undress a defender with a move or two…sees the ice well and is offensively creative…has some high end hockey sense and reads the developing play extremely well both ways…has a good shot, strong accurate passing ability and is willing to play physical when need be…has loads of raw potentail that has many NHL teams drooling over what he could become.
Notes: After co-leading the QMJHL in scoring last season as a 17-year-old many expected Couturier to dominant this season. Half way through his draft season and he is producing numbers but more importantly improving on some of the weaker aspects of his game such as physical play and skating issues that had plagged him last season. Its hard not to fall in love with a big power foward who can score, play a solid defensive game and even drop the gloves on occasion. Sean will be counted on to play both strong defensively as well as chip in offense for a relatively young Canadian squad.
Adam Larsson / Sweden
Defense / Skelleftea (SEL)
HT: 6’-2” / WT: 215 Lbs
Scouting Report: A poised two-way defender…powerful skater with impressive overall mobility for a big guy…shows outstanding defensive recovery when it looks as though he is beat…always seems to make the right play in his own zone…has a very solid frame to build upon…strong along the wall and clearing the crease but is not naturally aggresive…makes his line mates better because he brings a calmness and defensive assurnce when he is on the ice…not flashy at all but ultra consistent and smart…makes strong accurate passes and will also carry the puck when the opportunity is there…has the ability to adapts his game to the situation.
Notes: Off to a slower start production wise than the big Swede would have wanted in this his draft year, especially after putting up seventeen points as a sixteen-year-old in the SEL. Larsson has not seen a regression in his overall play but rather added emphasis to be stronger defensively as his role on Skellefteas second pairing requires. Adam’s defensive and transitional play has remained his strength and there is not much worry about his offensive play going forward. He will be one of Sweden’s leaders at the WJC in Buffalo and should boost his status with North American hockey fans as it will be the only chance many of them have to see the drafts potential top defender.
Jonas Brodin / Sweden
Defense / Farjestad (SEL)
HT: 6’-1” / WT: 165 Lbs
Scouting Report: Smooth skating defensive defender…can manufacture a healthy amount of speed in a couple quick strides…quick feet and ability to keep up with fast attackers…greatest strength is his outstanding defensive instincts…reads the play well, smart, maintains strong defensive positioning and keeps his head on a swivel…makes a good outlet pass…shows some aggresive physical play despite being thin…has a wirey strength to him…transitions the puck well from defense to offense…has good hands and plays to his strengths…needs to add overall strength.
Notes: Has played a strong and steady game as a regular with Farjestad in the SEL this year after getting a cup of coffee with the big club last year. While not flashy in his play, he will be a complementary part of the Swedish squads attempt at protecting its own net in Buffalo at the World Juniors.
Gabriel Landeskog / Sweden
Right Wing / Kitchener (OHL)
HT: 6’-1” / WT: 205 Lbs
Scouting Report: A big strong power winger who contributes in all aspects…skates well with a powerful stride, good speed, nice balance and agility but lacks that high end seperation gear…willing to go into traffic and loves the physical play and battling for position…throws big hits, drops his gloves and plays every shift with an edge…opportunistic scorer as he is always going to the net…dangerous coming off the wall with the puck…smart in both ends of the rink and is solid defensivly…does not possess elite offensive skills but works harder than anyone and has great hockey sense to make up for it.
Notes: Given the captancy by Kitchener’s coaches this season, Landeskog has not disapointed in leading a young and skilled squad both on the ice and off it. While being overshadowed by fellow Ranger and draft eligible defensman Ryan Murphy at times in the media this season, the NHL talent evaluators know who the top guy is when they visit the Aud in Kitchener. Landeskog has continued on where he left in last season playoffs and is challenging the other top three of Larsson, Couturier and Nugent-Hopkins as the drafts best pro prospect. He should play a big role for Sweden and only boost his draft status as he is going to be counted on for most of the teams grit and physical play up front.
Rickard Rakell / Sweden
Right Wing / Plymouth (OHL)
HT: 6’-0.5” / WT: 190 Lbs
Scouting Report: A better than average sized two-way forward…skates well with good overall speed, nice acceleration but less than spectacular lateral quicness…has a good shot and likes to shoot the puck but lacks the instincts to be considered a finisher….has a nice set of hands and can carry the puck, protecting it with a quick move or using his body…is a hard worker, tireless…strong two-way abilities as he is involved with the play in all three zones…has decent vision although not anywhere near elite but can make some nice passing plays…willing to throw his body around and play with an edge…a complementary player…needs to add some strength which would help him in physical battles.
Notes: Another import in his rookie Ontario Hockey League season who is playing some impressive hockey. Rackell came to a team that was thought to be in a transition phase and has stepped in and been a go-to character player. He along with Landeskog will provide Sweden most of its grit and physical play in Buffalo.
Max Friberg / Sweden
Left Wing / Skovde IK (Swe Div.1)
HT: 5’-10” / WT: 180 Lbs
Scouting Report: An offensively skilled winger…skates well some decent speed and overall mobility…has a fiesty attitude and is willing to engage in puck battles despite his smallish size…has some nice vision and can make some impressive passes…more of a sniper than a playmaker but can do both…possesses a strong shot that can fool tenders with its velocity…creative offensively and manages to manufature scoring chances when he has the puck…has nice hockey sense and smarts…has some soft hands which allows him to handle the puck in traffic…not overly big but does have some good leg strength and uses his low centre of gravity effectivly…needs to add upper body strength before moving on to the SEL which he likely will next season after his contract with Skovde expires.
Notes: Many in Sweden were suprised that Friberg, currently playing Division 1 hockey, made the World Junior squad instead of other prospects who are currently playing in the Swedish Elite league. He is a highly talented prospect who will likely be counted on to come off the bench and supply secondary scoring in Buffalo.
Joel Armia / Finland
Right Wing / Assat (SM-Liiga)
HT: 6’-3” / WT: 190 Lbs
Scouting Report: Blessed with great size and frame to build strength upon…has some nice straight line speed but lacks jump in his first few steps, as well as overall agility and quickness…has great hands and can really handle the puck well…has a firecracker wrist shot that is off his stick in a blink of an eye…shots all have good velocity…has a nose for the net and always seems to be buzzing around the scoring areas…is competative and willing to improve…will get physical for a scoring chance…has great natural talent but needs to work on a few areas of his game such as his defensive commitment, foot speed and adding lower body strength.
Notes: Started the season well in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial U18 tournament and then carried that over to start in the SM-Liiga, Finlands top mens league, where he was putting up points at a record setting clip for a seventeen-year-old kid all while playing against men ten to fifteen years his senior. He has leveled off since his torrid start but is still using his impressive size, skill and compete level to excite scouts and NHL GM’s. He will be counted on in Buffalo to produce goals pure and simple.
Tobias Rieder / Germany
Right Wing / Kitchener (OHL)
HT: 5’-10” / WT: 170 Lbs
Scouting Report: A smallish skilled forward who is always looking to create offense…shows excellent quickness getting in and out of traffic areas without getting so much as a scratch…has a quick stick and makes quick desisions…skates well with very good acceleration and elusivness but lacks a high end gear…shot is strong for such a small frame…has good offensive creativity with the puck…willing to battle against bigger opponensts but uses his smarts and quickness to win those battles…has a drive and healthy intensity level to his game…displays above average vision on the ice.
Notes: Has really helped make up for any lose of offense the Kitchener Rangers would have experienced from loosing Jeremy Morin or Jeff Skinner to the pros this year. Should be one of Germany’s main go-to offensive threats at the World Juniors in Buffalo and get his name out there with a strong showing.
Sven Bartschi / Switzerland
Left Wing / Portland (WHL)
HT: 5’-10.5” / WT: 175 Lbs
Scouting Report: A smaller sized offensive whiz…skates very well and has good quickness in his feet…makes moves that are hard for bigger defenders to keep up with…sees the ice well but lacks elite vision you want in smaller playmakers…shoots the puck well and is an oportunistic scorer…has very good hands and can make defenders look foolish with a couple quick moves as he enters the zone…size is a bit of a pro concern as he dose not like to get hit.
Notes: Bartschi has had a very impressive transition to the North American game this season in Portland and is out producing many more highly regarded draft prospects through half of the Western Hockey League season. He should play a very important offensive role for the Swiss in Buffalo as one of only a couple players on their roster with his kind of scoring skills.
Gregory Hofmann / Switzerland
Centre / Ambri-Piotta (NLA)
HT: 6’-0” / WT: 170 Lbs
Scouting Report: A big game two-way forward…skates well with good bursts of speed and solid overall mobility…is an instinctive and smart player who disects ever aspect of the game…is an ace in the faceoff circle…does not have high end offensive skills but has the natuarl instinct to be to get prime scoring opportunities…plays bigger than his size would dictate but is not a physically dominating player…is cluch when his team needs him both offensively and defensively.
Notes: Has played a steady game with Ambri-Piotta in the National League A, the top Swiss mens league and will be asked to carry that sound two-way play over to the Swiss U20 roster in Buffalo as they will not have nearly the fire power other countries will bring and thus need to be a defensive first squad to have any hope at a medal finish. At time of print his status was still unclear as the Swiss roster had not been offically announced.
Samuel Guerra / Switzerland
Defense / Davos (NLA)
HT: 6’-0” / WT: 185 Lbs
Scouting Report: A strong two-way defender…skates well with good speed but lacks high end mobility…not a flashy puck moving defender but get the job done with strong breakout passes…has a hard point shot that consistently finds its target…defensively he closes off passing lanes with his stick or body well…reads the play and closes off angles forcing attackers to go a low percentage route…makes good decisions in his own zone.
Notes: Has seen the majority of his playing time this season with Davos in the NLA and has not looked out of place. He will be another integral part to the overall defensive machine that the Swiss need to be in Buffalo to have a chance at a medal finish. At time of print his status was still unclear as the Swiss roster had not been offically announced.
Tomas Jurco / Slovakia
Left Wing / Saint John (QMJHL)
HT: 6’-2” / WT: 190 Lbs
Scouting Report: A big body who can put the puck in the net…skates well with good straight line speed but lacks that seperation gear…has good lateral quickness, balance and handles the puck extremely well…has a nice shot with very good velocity…lacks a little in offensive creativity but is a strong finishing compliment to a playmaking centre…not overly physical by nature but does not back down from physical battles for the puck
Notes: Jurco exploded out of the gate with Saint John in the QMJHL with an impressive better than a goal-a-game production in his first handful of games before re-joining the rest of the mortals and returning to a point per game player by the seasons mid-way point. He should help the Slovaks offensive attack as they continuously year after year have trouble scoring at this tournament.
Peter Ceresnak / Slovakia
Defense / Dukla Trencin Jr. (Slo)
HT: 6’-3” / WT: 205 Lbs
Scouting Report: Big physical stay-at-home defender…has decent skating ability but has just average speed…is quicker than you would think in his transitional turns and pivots…not much offensive upside here although he makes a solid first pass…at his best when keeping his game simple but can get caught running around in his zone…needs further refinement in proper defensive positioing…extremely physical and likes to line up attacking forwards for the big hit…clears the front of the net effectivly and is hard to play against along the wall.
Notes: Has moved around a bit this season but has continued his strong defensive physical role with each squad he has suited up with. Has improved his skating from last year and looks stronger as well. Should be effective in a physical defensive shut-down role for the Slovak’s
David Musil / Czech Republic
Defense / Vancouver (WHL)
HT: 6’-4” / WT: 205 Lbs
Scouting Report: Size and athletic bloodlines are impressive…skates real well for his size with sound all-encompassing mobility but lacking in quickness…uses a long reach and strong positioning to limit offensive chances against…a nice shot, ability to make a strong first pass and hands to control the puck when on his stick…has good on-ice vision…seems to play with a low level of intensity from time to time…gives up on some battles along the wall that using his size should be no problem to win…has the tools but must work on the intangibles and work rate.
Notes: Used in a defensive shut-down role by his head coach in Vancouver Don Hay, Musil sees plenty of penalty kill minutes and regular power play duty as well as being in the top pairing for five-on-five. Lack of a consistent effort level is an area that has caused a divide between scouts on what his pro upside will amount to. Some see him earmarked as a shutdown defender at the pro level without much drive or physial willingness while others see him as a strong two-way defender with size that can do almost everything from the backend. His participation in the World Juniors would be crucial for the underdog Czech Republic entry, however, a brused foot suffered in early December might have de-railed his plans to wear his countries colors in Buffalo. At time of print his status was still unclear.
Andrey Pedan / Russia
Defense / Guelph (OHL)
HT: 6’-4” / WT: 195 Lbs
Scouting Report: A very big physical defense first defender…skates well and does not get burned too often by speedy wingers but does have some heavy feet…uses his size and defensive reads to his advantage…not afraid to get physical and actually looks like he enjoys the rough stuff it at times…shows little in the way of offensive upside but does have some ability to jump into the play at the junior level…willing to drop the gloves and fairs well when he does so…plays with solid aggression and defensive position…a solid physical stay home defender.
Notes: Came over from Russia with little fan fare but has aclimaited to the OHL well in his first season and has made NHL talent evaluators take notice. Should play a similar physical shut down role for the Russian squad in Buffalo. At time of print his status was still unclear as the Russian roster had not been offically announced.
Vladislav Namestnikov / Russia
Centre / RW / London (OHL)
HT: 6’-0” / WT: 165 Lbs
Scouting Report: A slick, skilled russian forward…blessed with very good bloodlines as his father, Evgeny, and uncle, Slava Kozlov, are former NHL’ers…skates well with explosive busts and quick darts but lacks high end speed…can make a play using impressive vision and patience with the puck as well as finish off the opkay himself…has a pro caliber wrist shot…will drive the net and go into traffic at times but also goes through stretches of perimeter play…needs to add shift to shift consistency and pack on about twenty pounds of muscle.
Notes: Started the year off quickly with over a point-per-game pace through late-September until mid-November at which time the London Knights as a whole seemed to fall off as a team. His role with the Russian squad will be to provide secondary scoring from the second or third line. At time of print his status was still unclear as the Russian roster had not been offically announced.
Enjoy the games and cheering for your country as the worlds best U20 hockey players battle for on ice supremacy.
Check www.futureconsiderations.ca for more 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship content including a review of the top preforming draft eligibles, a review of the U17 Chellenge and of the CHL top Prospects Game in January. For all your draft news and notes on the NHL’s future stars be sure to subscribe and order the 2011 Future Considerations NHL Draft Guide coming in May/June 2011.
Dan Stewart is the chief scout of Future Considerations. Follow the latest 2011 NHL Entry Draft and World Junior Championship news from Future Considerations via FC’s Official Twitter Feed at www.twitter.com/FCHockey.