Each year at the IIHF U20 World Junior Championship, there are a few draft eligible performers who seem to raise their draft stock with gutsy, skilled or clutch performances.
The 2012 World Juniors were no different as a handful of these future draftees stepped up and gave inspired performances in front of the thousands watching world wide.
Below is a review of the top ten draft eligible performers at the 2012 WJC event in Alberta Canada.
1). G Andrei Vasilevski, Ufa, MHL, 6’-3”, 195
Big, athletic and extremely flexible are all traits that stood out in Vasilevski’s game at the World Juniors. His ability to block shots with flawless technique was very similar to Jean-Sebastien Giguere in his hay day with the Anaheim Ducks.
Cool, calm and controlled lateral quickness also were attributes that shone through and his performance really lifted up a Russian squad. He stopped a total of 203 shots, letting just 10 goals in five games through. Vasilevski’s draft stock was given a substantial boost with his outstanding performance shutting down some of the worlds top talent.
2). RW Nail Yakupov, Sarnia, OHL, 5-10, 170
Not the top line player FC had predicted he would be his first few games in Alberta but as the games started getting more meaningful his role was expanded and he did not disappoint. Yakupov produced nine assists in seven games contributing with deft passes, darting quickness and even physical play before being knocked out of the gold medal game with a knee injury.
He was not blessed with great chemistry with his linemates, unlike Mikhail Grigorenko was with his former CSKA teammates flanking the big centre, but still managed to produce. His draft stock will likely not change on many draft boards as he remains the consensus No.1.
3). C Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec, QMJHL, 6-2, 190
The big second line centre was impressive in flashes leading up to an almost devastating ankle injury in the quarterfinal. His vision and playmaking ability were impressive as was his willingness to play in traffic.
His efforts wavered from shift to shift but if there was a chance to create offensive for his line you could be sure he was in the play. His five points in six games were impressive as was his chemistry with his linemates. His game was only slowed by a severely sprained ankle. His draft stock is holding firm in the top-3.
4). D Ryan Murray, Everett, WHL, 6-1, 195
One of Canada’s top defenders all tournament, Murray was ultra-cool and calm under pressure and made the game look easy most games. His plus-6 was better than the tournament’s top defenseman Brandon Gormley’s and he was able to add three assists to the cause on top of being a strong defends first rearguard.
His defensive breakdowns in the game against the Russians were more of an exception to the rule than the norm with Murray. His performance at the World Juniors will not drop his ranking as it was more positive than negative.
5). RW Sebastian Collberg, Frolunda Jr., Swe Jr., 5-11, 175
Coming in it was thought that Collberg would have been the 13th forward for Sweden and fellow draft prospects Pontus Aberg and Filip Forsberg would have made the big impacts. Though Aberg suffered injury before the tournament, Collberg played himself into a top-9 forward spot very early, never looking back.
His speed, quick shot release, pin-point accuracy and willingness to go into heavy traffic impressed not only his coach but also many scouts. Collberg produced seven points with four goals in just six contests and as well as a very impressive pair of shootout goals in the tournament.
6). LW Nikita Gusev, CSKA, MHL, 5-9, 165
Gusev had an impressive performance, displaying high energy and skill on most shifts as an offensive catalyst for the Russians. His feistiness, work rate and puck skills complimented the offensive skill of his linemates.
A previously passed over draft prospect, Gusev might have shown NHL executives enough to hear his name called in Pittsburgh this summer and makes his debut on FC’s draft board because of this performance.
7). C Tomas Hertl, Slavia Praha, Czech Rep, 6-2, 195
Hertl’s power/finesse game was impressive for an over matched Czech Republic squad as he tied for the team lead in scoring with five points. The strong Hertl protected the puck like few of his teammates could in the offensive zone and made some strong moves to the net powering through the opposition creating numerous scoring chances for his team.
He also showed quick hands and an extremely quick shot that was hard and precise. His draft stock is on the rise after this tournament.
8). D Jacob Trouba, USNTDP U18, USHL, 6-2, 185
Trouba was one of a very few highlights on a disappointing and under performing American squad that had to play in the relegation round after a disappointing performance in Alberta. Trouba played well in limited minutes and showed his strong all-round game.
While not as physical or aggressive in his play as he is in USHL play, Trouba was a little more conservative and safe on this grand stage. He finished tied for third in scoring from the back end with two assists in six contests. His draft stock will be affected neither positively nor negatively based on his performance in Alberta.
9). LW Tanner Pearson, Barrie, OHL, 6-0, 195
Coming in to the tournament, Pearson was looked at as one who could offer secondary scoring to Canada’s top point producers. His six points in six games makes him look like he was more consistent than he actually was. He had his best game in the bronze medal game where he looked like the player scouts have seen all year in Barrie.
He was at his best when he drives to the net and works his bag off in the corners and along the wall. His draft stock likely was not affected either way by this performance and he still looks like a solid early-round pick.
10). G Andrey Makarov, Saskatoon, WHL, 6-0, 175
Makarov was not the starter for the Russians, but he was strong in net when asked to be. His play in the last five minutes of the semi-final against Canada in relief of Vasilevski was impressive. However, he saved his best the gold medal game against the high octane Swedes.
That game should have been over after the first two periods with the shot total being 39-4 for the Swedes, but due to Marakov’s athletic heroics the score was still 0-0. His play in that game which Sweden ultimately won in overtime, where he made some unbelievably athletic plays, likely earned him a bump in most draft rankings.
Finland’s Ville Pokka had a hot and cold tournament as his performance varied from game to game. He finished with four points in seven games for a plucky Finnish group.
Latvian forwards Zemgus Girgensons and Teodors Blugers each showed some exciting skills but neither was dominant enough to lead the attack. Girgensons came in with potential first round potential and produced some heavy hits and a couple goals. Blugers also produced offensive with three points in seven contests. Their draft stocks remain unchanged with FC.
Pint sized American draft prospect Austin Czarnik displayed some strong offensive skill, puck handling and playmaking ability but might be just too small at five-foot-eight and one-hundred and fifty pounds for NHL scouts.
Filip Forsberg on Sweden had a somewhat disappointing tournament on the stats sheet but was still able to once again show scouts his pro-potential as his game of size and skill seems built for the NHL. His one point in six contests does not show how he was a force in driving the puck to the net and fighting for possession down low along the wall. His draft stock will likely remain unchanged on most lists.