Tuesday, November 6th
Hopefully all of you hockey-starved fans out there tuned into Sportsnet (or NHL Network in the USA) to catch some of the world’s top prospects in action. Here are my quick thoughts on who stood out and those that didn't impress as much as I would have liked.
Earlier in the night, I had predicted on twitter that the Russians would walk over the QMJHL squad (the common theme over the past few years of this series) and the talented Russian team did not let me down. With the 2013 World Junior Championships being held in Ufa, Russia, the national team picked for this event was loaded with top talent ready to represent.
The Nail Yakupov (Oilers) vs. Nathan MacKinnon (2013) was the storyline coming into this first game of the six game series and both players showed why scouts love these two. Nail Yakupov scored Team Russia’s second goal of the opening contest when he fanned on a slapshot. It wasn’t his prettiest goal but Yakupov was playing his normal style of game where he was buzzing all over the ice bouncing from side to side sending crafty unforeseen passes to open teammates. Yakupov finished the contest with one goal and one assist.
Nathan MacKinnon was a treat to watch although he did make one costly turnover on a poor drop pass that lead to Mikhail Grigorenko’s opening goal. MacKinnon’s speed and power game is very impressive, especially when he quickly gets up to top speed he is extremely difficult to contain. MacKinnon finished the game pointless and a disappointing minus-4 on the night. I am truly interested to see how the Nathan MacKinnon vs. Seth Jones battle for first overall plays out over the course of the season. My guess is that both of these players use the 2013 WJC to catapult their draft value. I should mention Aleksander Barkov as a potential first overall pick but, at the moment, he’s in MacKinnon’s and Jones’ shadows.
The Subway Super Series released a few disappointing pieces of news before puck drop:
- Russia scratched potential first round picks Bogdan Yakimov and Valeri Nichuskin prior to the game leaving many scouts very disappointed they made the trip as these two players were prime scouting targets.
- Furthermore, Jonathan Drouin (hurt in weekend action) was held out of the lineup for Team QMJHL. Drouin has absolutely flown up the draft rankings having some people believing that he could challenge for a top 3 selection. It was a big loss for Team QMJHL.
- Zach Fucale, the top ranked goaltending prospect for the 2013 NHL Draft, was also not dressed for game one but he should get the start for Team QMJHL in game two.
Mikhail Grigorenko (Sabres) was the best player on the either team. He was brilliant with his execution of soft creative passing leaving many scratching their heads of how he possibly fell to the Buffalo Sabres at 12th overall. If you followed me prior to the draft, I was leery of Grigorenko’s work ethic but not to the extent of the rest of the scouting world. In my opinion, there was no way he should have dropped past 5th or 6th overall. Time will tell who will be right but I’ll be on the Grigorenko train as I feel he has a good chance of cracking the 2012-13 Buffalo Sabres roster (if the NHL returns soon). Grigorenko finished the fame with one goal, one assist and a plus-two rating.
Maxim Shalunov (Blackhawks) – I remain a big supporter of Shalunov’s skilled game as he’s extremely exciting to watch on the offensive side of the puck. He is a great skater that possesses good feet, elusive agility and a good offensive instincts. Over the past year, Shalunov has improved on the defensive side of the puck making him a legit prospect to keep an eye on. Shalunov tallied one goal and one assist in game one.
Alexander Khokhlachev (Bruins) – At the junior level, Khokhlachev is a treat to watch with his crafty Russian style of offensive hockey. He is very small and lacks the strength to compete against larger opponents but if he can find a way to bulk up improving his strength then his offensive creativity will carry him a long ways as a professional. “Koko” had one goal in the Russian’s win.
Yaroslav Kosov (Panthers) – There is a lot to like about this big (6’3”) Russian as his game oozes hockey sense. Kosov owns good speed and a well-rounded skill set that bodes very well for his future as a pro hockey player.
Nikita Zadorov (Lightning) – Nesterov was one of five Tampa Bay Lightning prospects in the game last night and he continued to impress me. He game revolves around great poise and confidence and that directly influences his teammates as his maturity and responsibility on the blue line allows them to play a run-and-gun style. Nesterov was held pointless but finished with a nice plus-2 rating.
Andrei Vasilevski (Lightning) – Easily the game’s most impressive player last night, Vasilevski showcased his elite goaltending skill making dozens of game-breaking saves. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has to be grinning from ear-to-ear after drafting this big athletic netminder last season as he is quickly becoming one of the world’s top goaltending prospects. Vasilevski is not always the most technical but his quick feet and outstanding reflexes gives him the ability to make timely saves. He was outstanding last night stopping 31 of Team QMJHL’s 33 shots.
Charles Hudon (Canadiens) – Montreal’s fifth round selection in 2012, Charles Hudon remains one of my favourite QMJHL players to watch. His work ethic, puck pursuit and craftiness just aren’t teachable and it seems that he is making something happen on every single shift. His smaller size will always challenge him but with his hustle and smarts I have no doubts he will become a serviceable NHLer.
Jonathan Huberdeau (Panthers) – Huberdeau was one of the most dangerous offensive players on Team QMJHL through the entire game. He had several prime scoring chances but was robbed continuously by Player of the Game Andrei Vasilevski. Huberdeau’s vision and playmaking skills remain one of his best assets and it will be interesting to see his impact in Florida once the lockout ends (assuming he makes the team). If the lockout lasts into January then Team Canada is getting a massive boost with Huberdeau eligible to return for the 2013 World Junior Championships. Huberdeau factored in on both of Team QMJHL’s two goals last night earning the primary assists in both cases.
Xavier Ouellet (Red Wings) – The best defenseman from an offensive standpoint on the ice last night in game one. Ouellet sniped a goal top shelf for the QMJHL’s opening goal and had several other great scoring chances as well. Ouellet thinks the game very well and it is this above-average hockey sense that will help propel him into a very good pro career. Ouellet picked up points on both of his team’s goals with one goal and one assist.
Ryan Culkin (Flames) – Culkin earned significant minutes on the powerplay last night after the Flames’ 5th round selection (2012) got off to a strong start this season (16 points in 16 games). Culkin showed a good ability to walk the line and get off a hard accurate point shot. He certainly projects as a potential solid two-way defenseman and all early indications show that Calgary received good value in selecting him.
Anthony Mantha (2013 NHL Draft Eligible) – Mantha is a tall lanky winger that showed great vision last night. Beyond Nathan MacKinnon, Mantha was the most noticeable draft-eligible player last night. He displayed good offensive instincts and soft hands in and around the net. Mantha is among the QMJHL’s leading scorers this season and it’s not surprising given his offensive package. He will need to improve his skating (mainly his speed) but his game projects very well to the pro-game. Mantha reminded me a bit of a younger Ryan Getzlaf. The Val d’Or Foreurs’ forward had one assist in game one.
William Carrier (2013 NHL Draft Eligible) – To be quite honest, I did not notice Carrier too much and when I did he looked lost and behind the play. Entering game one, Carrier was one draft eligible prospect that I was extremely interested to see play against top competition. Unfortunately, I came away very underwhelmed.
Game 2 of the Subway Super Series is set for Wednesday night (Sportsnet/NHL Network). Tune in.
Thanks for reading,
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