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On Tuesday August 1st, the USA White squad came out with a bang, scoring five goals in the first period en route to an impressive 8-2 victory over Canada Red. Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo, 1st, 2017) led the American team with a two goal, two assist performance. Logan Brown (Ottawa, 1st, 2016) enjoyed a three point game and was a +4. Patrick Harper (Nashville, 5th, 2016) also chipped in three points for the Americans.

In the second game, Canada White pulled out a 2-1 victory over USA Blue. Canada led after two periods but the USA got an early goal in the third. Halfway through the third, Canada reclaimed the lead and held on for the victory. Michael DiPietro (Vancouver, 3rd, 2016) and Carter Hart (Philadelphia, 2nd, 2016) split the duties in net for Canada while Joseph Woll (Toronto, 3rd, 2016) played the entire game for USA.

Action resumes today at 1 PM with Canada (unified) playing Finland. The 4 PM game will feature Sweden versus the USA (unified).

 

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1st Game:     USA White 4  –  Finland 2

In the opening game of the Showcase, in a tightly contested match Team USA White scored two goals in the third period to pull away from Team Finland by a final score of 4-2. The game was very evenly played through the first two periods.

Jake Oettinger (Dallas, 1st round pick, 2017) started the game for USA White and stopped 10 of 11 shots through the first 31 minutes. He was replaced by Denis St. Cyr (2018 draft elible) who stopped 8 of 9 in a relief role. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo, 2nd round, 2017) played the entire game for Finland, stopping 18 of 22 shots that he faced. Each team had five power plays with neither team scoring.

Three USA players scored a goal and an assist; Max Gerlach (2018 eligible),  Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo, 1st, 2017) and Evan Barratt (Chicago, 3rd, 2017). Jack Badini (Anaheim, 3rd, 2017) also put one in the back of the net and Ivan Lodnia (Minnesota, 3rd, 2017) contributed an assist.

Finland had five players with one point each with Kasper Kotkansalo (Detroit, 3rd, 2017) and Joona Koppanen (Boston, 5th, 2016) getting the goals. Jusso Valimaki led Finland in shots with 7 but was a -3 for the game.

2nd Game:   Sweden 4  –  USA Blue 3

In a fast-paced second game, Team USA Blue jumped out to 2-0 and 3-1 leads but were unable to hold on. Team Sweden roared back with a late goal in the second period and two more in the third to pull out the victory. The game-winner came with just nine seconds remaining, an unassisted goal scored by Fredrick Karlstrom (Dallas, 3rd, 2016).

Sweden got two points apiece from defenseman Timothy Liljegren (Toronto, 1st, 2017), Jesper Bratt (New Jersey, 6th, 2016) and Fredrick Karlstrom. Three other players managed to get on the score board with assist each. Defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, who is currently ranked as one of the top players for the 2018 draft, played a solid game on the back end. Filip Gustavsson (Pittsburgh, 2nd, 2016) handled the goaltending duties, stopping 20 of the 23 shots that he faced.

USA was led in scoring by rangy 6’5″ Riley Tufte (Dallas, 1st, 2016) who had two assists. The goal scorers for USA were Brady Tkachuk (draft eligible), Logan Cockerill (NY Islanders, 7th, 2017)and Sean Dhooghe (draft eligible) with three other players chipping in one assist each. As in the first game, USA goaltenders shared the load equally with Joseph Woll (Toronto, 3rd, 2016) getting the start and Keith Petruzzelli (Detroit, 3rd, 2017) coming in to relieve him. Woll gave up one goal in facing 13 shots while Petruzzelli stopped of 18 of 21.

In the house this afternoon were coaches Mike Babcock and Jeff Blashill, scout and former NHL star Keith Tkachuk and Manon Rheaume, the first woman to have ever played in an NHL exhibition game. There were plenty of scouts on-hand as well, including representatives from Anaheim, Dallas, Minnesota, Vancouver, Chicago,Carolina, Detroit, Columbus, Montreal, and Tampa Bay.

Action resumes on Sunday as USA Blue goes up against Finland and USA White plays Sweden. The two teams for Canada won’t play until Tuesday when Canada Red battles USA White and Canada White faces off against USA Blue. USA will use a unified squad for games on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday while Canada will only have one chance to play with a united team when they battle USA next Saturday.

Over the next nine days, the six-team, four country World Junior Summer Showcase will take place at USA Arena in Plymouth, Michigan. Teams from Sweden, Finland, and two squads each representing Canada and the United States will be on display between July 28th and August 5th.

The purpose of this tournament is to give management for our each national team the opportunity to see the players in action before selecting the players who will participate at the World Junior Championship later this year. Buffalo, New York will be the host for this year’s WJC which is to be held December 26th-January 5th.

Since 2013, USA Hockey has hosted the Summer Showcase as a way to evaluate potential players for its national team. Previously, the event was known as the National Junior Evaluation Camp. In mid-December of each year, Team USA conducts a training camp that leads to the final selection of its roster. There may be players who make the final cut who did not participate in this event but the majority of the team will come from the group that participates over the next eight days.

This Showcase is a great opportunity to see players who have been drafted by NHL teams over the past two years, as well as players that will be eligible for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in June 2018. There are 34 players who have been taken in the First Round of the most recent two drafts plus another 21 who have a chance to be selected next year. That is a lot of high-end talent that will be “showcased” in Plymouth.

Recaps of the games, roster breakdowns, analysis and stories about some of the players will be posted over the next week. Stay tuned for more from Plymouth, Michigan.

 

On Friday June 23rd, Nico Hischier became the seventh European to be drafted with the first overall pick. Leading up to the draft, it was a back and forth battle between Hischier and Nolan Patrick as to who would be taken first. For many draft experts, neither were seen as a generational talent like we have seen in the past two drafts. Last year, Auston Matthews (USA) went #1 overall with Patrick Laine (Finland) being taken at the #2 spot. In 2015, Connor McDavid (Canada) was the first player drafted followed by Jack Eichel (USA). In a few years, we will see how Hischier and Patrick compare with Matthew, Laine, McDavid and Eichel.

In the 2012 draft, Nail Yakupov was taken by the Edmonton Oilers with the #1 pick. He was top-rated North American skater because he played in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting though he was born and raised in Russia. The highest rated European skaters were Filip Forsberg (Sweden), Teuvo Teravainen (Finland), Sebastian Collberg (Sweden), Hampus Lindholm (Sweden) and Tomas Hertl (Czech Republic). Also of note, Mikhail Grigorenko (Russia) was listed as a North American skater because he played in the QMJHL for the Quebec Remparts.

In the 2004 draft, it was a battle between Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Malkin, both from Russia, at the top of the draft. They went number one and two respectively. In 2001, Ilya Kovalchuk (Russia) was selected first overall by the Atlanta Thrashers, just ahead of Jason Spezza.

Two years earlier in 1999, the Thrashers also had the first pick and opted to take Patrik Stefan from the Czech Republic. He was largely seen as a bust, scoring 188 points in 455 NHL games. In 1992, Roman Hamrlik was grabbed with the first selection by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The big Czech defenseman played in 1395 games, scored 638 points and enjoyed a very solid NHL career.

The very first non-North American to be taken at the top of the entry draft happened in 1989, one of the most unusual draft classes ever. Mats Sundin (Sweden) was selected with the #1 pick by the Quebec Nordiques. Selections from the first round overall proved to be somewhat disappointed aside from bright spots like Bill Guerin, Bobby Holik, and Mike Sillinger. Later rounds, however, produced such great talent as Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, and Vladimir Konstantinov.

So in total, three Russians, two Czechs, one Swede and now one Swiss have been honored with being taken at the top of their draft class. Among them, one is a Hall of Famer, another is certain to be elected once he retires, a third may have a shot at HOF selection. We wish Nico Hishier all the best in his career.

The 2017 edition of the NHL Entry Draft concluded Saturday afternoon. Here is the break down by country thanks to a post by Paul on Kukla’s Korner, an excellent website. You can find his article at:

http://kuklaskorner.com/hockey/comments/numbers-from-the-nhl-draft

 

Country Picks Percentage
Canada 77 35.5%
United States 50 23.0%
Sweden 27 12.4%
Finland 23 10.6%
Russia 18 8.3%
Czech Republic 9 4.1%
Switzerland 3 1.4%
Belarus 2 0.9%
Denmark 2 0.9%
Slovakia 2 0.9%
France 1 0.5%
Germany 1 0.5%
Norway 1 0.5%
Slovenia 1 0.5%
Total 217

When you consider the breakdown of the NHL in the 2016-17 season, this was not surprising. The top six countries that have provided players to the NHL over the past five seasons were the same ones that sit at the top this year’s draft in a slightly different order; Canada, USA, Sweden, Czech Republic, Russia and Finland.

One can only wonder if, or when, the second tier of the hockey world will begin producing more talent for the NHL. Is there a bias against players from those countries? Is it a systemic developmental problem? Is it just a matter  of familiarity with the draft-eligible players? These and other questions deserve honest consideration.

For more insight into statistics and the NHL, check out:

http://www.thestatszone.com/articles/nationalities-in-the-nhl

 

The current Detroit Red Wings roster is certain to undergo some changes between now and the opening of the 2017-18 season. Management has attempted to “retool on the fly” rather than subjecting the team to a more traditional “crash and burn” rebuilding process.

When you consider that three teams won eight of the nine Stanley Cups between 1995 and 2003 (Detroit -3, New Jersey – 3, Colorado -2) and then frame that against their current state, Detroit has survived better than the other two since their glory days. But all good things come to and end and the Red Wings’ playoff streak of 25 consecutive seasons came to an end last year. “Experts” had been predicting this for several seasons but to the Wings credit, they were able to hang on and be competitive far longer than many thought.

In recent years, the Wings off-ice talent has been spread throughout the hockey world. Consider:

  • Jim Nill – General Manager, Dallas Stars
  • Joe McDonnell – Director of Amateur Scouting, Dallas Stars
  • Mike Babcock – Head Coach, Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Todd McLellan – Head Coach, Edmonton Oilers
  • Bill Peters – Head Coach, Carolina Hurricanes
  • Tom Renney – President of Hockey Canada
  • Jim Bedard – Goalie Coach, Dallas Stars

That is quite a bit of talent to have left the Red Wing organization. Yet they remained competitive until last season. So let’s take a look at where the team is at in this retooling, rebuilding process.

PROSPECTS

With the graduations last year of Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul, one would expect that the pipeline was a little dry. To the contrary, the farm system appears to be in excellent shape as the Grand Rapids Griffins won the AHL Calder Cup and the Toledo Walleye went to the ECHL Conference Finals before bowing out. Here are some of the top prospects in the organization:

GOALTENDERS

Jared Coreau – Coming off a playoff season in which he led the Griffins to the AHL championship, one might have thought that he could be an attractive option for the new Vegas franchise. Fortunately for the Wings, he was not taken. In a 14 game stint with the big club last season, he showed instances where he looked like a big league goaltender. Unfortunately, the team in front of him, and the defense in particular,  was inconsistent all year which may have been a factor. Signed as an undrafted free agent by Detroit in April 2013, he has proven himself as an excellent AHL goalie. Will this 6’6″ goaltender make it to the NHL? That remains to be seen but in the right situation, he could be a solid backup. NHL CHANCES: 3/5

DEFENSE

Vili Saarijarvi – Taken in the 3rd round (73rd overall) in 2015, the right-handed defenseman from Finland has shown that he can be a dynamic offensive blue-liner, at times. In 2016-17, he had 31 points in 34 games for Mississauga of the OHL. In the previous campaign, he scored 43 points in 59 games for Flint (OHL) amidst all kinds of confusion with their ownership and management. On the international level, he has consistently been just under a point-per-game kind of player. The biggest concern with him is his smallish frame at 5’10” and 165 pounds. He is expected to play defense this coming year for the Grand Rapids Griffins. This should be quite a test to determine his durability. Unless he adds 25 pounds of muscle, it is hard to see him becoming a regular in the NHL. NHL CHANCES 3/5

Dennis Cholowski – The Wings surprised the hockey world last year when they swapped 1st round picks (16th for 20th) with Arizona in order to get rid of the cap space left by the Pavel Datsyuk contract. In doing so, the Wings passed on Jacob Chychrun who made the Coyotes out of training camp and made a strong first impression. With the 20th selection, the Wings then surprised everyone further by taking Cholowski. He played the 2016-17 season at St. Cloud State and numbers that could be described as underwhelming. It remains to be seen how this player will develop but at this point, it seems the NHL is in his distant future, if ever. With developing players, we just never know for sure. NHL CHANCES 2/5

Jordan Sambrook – This smooth-skating 6’2″ defenseman may be Detroit’s best prospect on the back end at the moment. Over the past two seasons playing for Erie in the OHL, Sambrook put up 67 points in 128 games. Scouting reports describe him as mobile and strong on the puck. Drafted in the 5th round (137th overall) in 2016, this could be a very big year in his development if he able to take it up a notch in his final year in juniors. He is definitely a player worth watching. NHL CHANCES 4/5

Filip Hronek – This native of the Czech Republic had a wonderful introduction to North American hockey with Saginaw in the OHL. Hronek put up 61 points in 59 games and seemed top adapt to the more physical game in juniors. At 6’0″ and 170 pounds, it would be great if he could fill out a bit. He is another right-shooting defenseman who could crack the Grand Rapids lineup in 2017-18. Taken last year in the 2nd round (53rd overall), Hronek is another player to key your eye on. NHL CHANCES 3/5

FORWARDS

Tyler Bertuzzi – Taken in the 2nd round (#58) in the 2013 draft, this 22 year old winger seems poised to challenge for a job in Detroit this year. At the AHL level, he has had two decent seasons but three very strong playoff runs. He seems to take it to another level at playoff time as evidenced by his 23 goals, 16 assists for 39 points in 42 games since leaving Guelph of the OHL. At 6’1″ and 194 pounds, he has the size and character that you want in a player. His energy and compete level are very apparent which would be a welcome addition to the Red Wings lineup. Though he can be sent back down without clearing waivers, I see Bertuzzi make the Wings out of training camp. NHL CHANCES 5/5

Evgeny Svechnikov – The native Russian winger made a successful debut with the Griffins last season by contributing 20 goals, 31 assists for 51 points in 62 games, and followed that up with a solid 12 points in 19 playoff games. He handled the adjustment to the pro level and the more physical game. He played very engaged and backed down from no one. He plays with excellent awareness and has a deadly shot as evidenced by his back-to-back 32 goal season with Cape Breton in the QMJHL prior to arriving in G.R. Taken 19th overall in the 1st round of the 2015 draft, he has NHL size (6’3″ – 205 pounds), a strong shot, an excellent work ethic, and a great attitude. It is just a matter of time before he is playing regularly in Detroit. Is he ready to take someone’s job among the top nine at training camp? NHL CHANCES 4/5

Givani Smith – This left-hand shooting winger already has NHL size at 6’2″ and 205 pounds. Taken in the 2nd round (46th overall) last year, he has shown steady progress in his development. While having a goal scorers touch around the net, he is not afraid to mix it up, earning 285 minutes in penalties over the past two seasons. He reminds me of a young Wayne Simmonds. If he can have a successful season in Grand Rapids this year, he could push for a spot in the Wings lineup by next season. He has that rare combination of skill and toughness that Detroit desperately needs. NHL CHANCES 3/5

Zach Nastasiuk – This 6’1″ 190 pound winger may have turned the corner in his development last season with Toledo in the ECHL. Drafted in the 2nd round (#48 overall) in 2013, he has paid his dues and learned to be a professional. His strong work ethic have earned him time on the penalty kill and he is a strong forechecker. Though he did rack up 168 points in 188 games during his last three years in junior (Owen Sound – OHL), it seems that if he is going to make it as a regular in the NHL, it is more likely to be on the 4th line and as a penalty killer. Nothing wrong with that as history is full of decent scoring junior players have evolved into more of a shutdown defender. In his two season with Toledo, he has earned +10 and +9  ratings so perhaps he is growing into this new role. NHL CHANCES 3/5

ASSESSMENT

With the 2017 Entry Draft just hours away, there are all kinds of possibilities for the Wings. They could use their selection at the 9th spot, they could trade up or down, and they could even trade it away. My prediction is they will gladly take the best available player with the 9th pick overall. While they have two very nice prospects on defense in Sambrook and Hronek, and a few that appear to be longer shots to make it, It would make sense that they take Miero Heiskanen, Jusso Valimaki, or Timothy Liljegren. There are other nice talents available in the first round on the blueline but these are the three that I see Detroit targeting.

If Detroit goes towards drafting a forward, the greatest need is at center. In fact, I would argue that this is a greater need than on defense. With the 9th pick overall, Detroit may have a shot at selecting one of the following: Gabriel Vilardi, Cody Glass, Klim Kostin, or Casey Mittelstadt.

PREDICTION

Cody Glass – 6’2″ 179 pounds; center from the Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

 

 

 

2017_NHL_Entry_Draft_logo

The 2017 NHL Entry Draft will commence on Friday June 23rd and resume the following day, June 24th. It will be held at the United Center in Chicago.

This draft class has been criticized by many for its lack of talent but I am one who disagrees with this assessment. We have been spoiled over the past couple years with “generational players” available at the top of the draft board. While this year’s class doesn’t appear to have the “no-brainer” type of selections, it seems to have quite a bit of depth. As with any draft class, we won’t really know for sure until five or more years down the road.

According to draft expert Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News, here is his list of the top 60 available players this year. You can visit his article at: http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/2017-nhl-draft-ranking-the-top-120-prospects

  1. Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon (WHL): He’s got the size, the NHL pedigree and the two-way game that will make him a pro right away. When healthy, he’s the total package.
  2. Nico Hischier, C, Halifax (QMJHL): Tons of upside in this dynamic and smart producer. Wouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be the best in his class.
  3. Gabe Vilardi, C, Windsor (OHL): His puck protection is excellent and the hockey IQ is upper-echelon. Could get faster, but he’s on his way.
  4. Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Fin.): The archetypal smooth-skating modern defenseman that all teams crave. Plays well above his age.
  5. Cale Makar, D, Brooks (AJHL): Exciting and tenacious, Makar is an excellent skater and a dynamic presence on the back end. He’s bound for UMass next season.
  6. Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie (Minn. HS): The University of Minnesota commit is still maturing physically, but the playmaking vision and puckhandling is top-shelf.
  7. Cody Glass, C, Portland (WHL): Skilled, smart and creative, Glass is expected to dominate the WHL even more next season; he just needs to fill out his frame and up his compete level.
  8. Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga (OHL): One of the most lethal goal-scorers in the draft, Tippett has size, speed and a great shot. Once he hones his play away from the puck, he’ll be golden.
  9. Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (Swe.): A skinny kid with a ton of potential, Pettersson is very smart, with great vision and a competitive attitude. Headed to Vaxjo next season.
  10. Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City (WHL): A huge threat down the middle, Rasmussen has big-time reach and nice hands around the net.
  11. Martin Necas, RW, Kometo Brno (Cze.)
  12. Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound (OHL)
  13. Eeli Tolvanen, LW, Sioux City (USHL)
  14. Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SHL)
  15. Klim Kostin, RW, MVD (Rus.)
  16. Cal Foote, D, Kelowna (WHL)
  17. Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (SHL)
  18. Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City (WHL)
  19. Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph (OHL)
  20. Kristian Vesalainen, LW, Frolunda (SHL)
  21. Nic Hague, D, Mississauga (OHL)
  22. Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
  23. Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCHC)
  24. Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane (WHL)
  25. Robert Thomas, C, London (OHL)
  26. Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
  27. Kole Lind, RW, Kelowna (WHL)
  28. Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (SHL)
  29. Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo (USHL)
  30. Urho Vaakainen, D, JYP (Fin.)
  31. Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Spokane (WHL)
  32. Jake Oettinger, G, Boston U. (Hockey East)
  33. Jonah Gadjovich, LW, Owen Sound (OHL)
  34. Conor Timmins, D, Sault Ste, Marie (OHL)
  35. Ivan Lodnia, RW, Erie (OHL)
  36. Nikita Popugaev, LW, Prince George (WHL)
  37. Grant Mismash, RW, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
  38. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, HPK (Fin.)
  39. Alex Formenton, RW, London (OHL)
  40. Morgan Frost, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
  41. Mackenzie Entwistle, RW, Hamilton (OHL)
  42. Alexei Lipanov, C, MVD (Rus.)
  43. Antoine Morand, C, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
  44. Markus Phillips, D, Owen Sound (OHL)
  45. Josh Norris, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
  46. Stelio Mattheos, C, Brandon (WHL)
  47. Matthew Strome, LW, Hamilton (OHL)
  48. Dylan Samberg, D, Hermantown (Minn. HS)
  49. Keith Petruzzelli, G, Muskegon (USHL)
  50. Ostap Safin, RW, Sparta Prague (Cze.)
  51. Josh Brook, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
  52. Aleksi Heponiemi, C, Swift Current (WHL)
  53. Jason Robertson, RW, Kingston (OHL)
  54. Filip Chytil, LW, Zlin (Cze.)
  55. Jake Leschyshyn, C, Regina (WHL)
  56. Marcus Davidsson, RW, Djurgarden (Swe.)
  57. Jack Studnicka, C, Oshawa (OHL)
  58. Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland (WHL)
  59. Ian Mitchell, D, Spruce Grove (AJHL)
  60. Cameron Crotty, D, Brockville (CCHL)

 

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