After a fun and controversial couple weeks of talking and watching the World Junior Championships from Ottawa its time to let the dust settle and think back with a more rational, and maybe less biased, view.
I’d first like to tab a player I like a lot but who I haven’t heard much about – Radko Gudaj. My ‘looks’ at him were few, but when I was able to see this kid compete I was highly impressed. He was blocking shots, playing tough, and making the smart play most of the time. I don’t know where he’s currently ranked for the upcoming draft, but I think he seems like a good utilitarian defenseman who could be a “franchise asset” to a club for a long time. I would imagine that a comparison to Karlis Skrastins, currently with Florida, would be a fair one. Who knows, maybe he’s not on anyone’s radar, but I’ll be watching to see where he goes in June.
My thoughts on John Tavares are still pretty positive now that I’ve had a chance to see him play for myself. While I was highly anti-canada in my rooting, I can see that this kid is an elite talent in terms of skill; and, that he’s a competitor. I don’t know what type of player he will become with physical maturity, but I believe he’ll be what most think: a player to build around for years. There’s no way to tell what his body size and strength will be in 6 or 7 years, but his skill and hockey-sense is really off the charts. It’s easy to forget that one year of seasoning will see an even stronger John Tavares, and that he was playing against older players who’s physical development is one year farther along. I see him as the No. 1 guy overall. Probably not too many people changed their minds on this one. I have to wonder, at the same time, if Jordan Schroeder may not eventually be the equal of John Tavares in the NHL. There’s no doubt that J.S. has similar skills to J.T., but I think it could be argued that Schroeder, when on his game, is more involved in the play. Despite my opinion that the USA was a better hockey team than Canada in this tournament, the fact remains that Canada’s depth of talent is greater than that of any other nation. Schroeder, therefore, had no room to hide during the tournament because the American top line would always end up the goat or the hero. True to form, many are questioning Schroeder and his line-mates even though the controversy of the USA/Canada game involved other players not on that line. There is no doubt, however, that the American top line failed to hold on to that game, or rescue it – despite the golden opportunities to tie the game that Colin Wilson twice spurned – or, that Schroeder, in a sense, went missing in the late stages of that game. I feel it must be remembered, however, that like John Tavares, Schroeder was an underclassman playing in some back to back situations. The fatigue and physical demands were likely new to him and there’s nothing to show that he can’t improve and become a big game player.
(just a small late additional thought here. Schroeder got robbed by Janus in the Slovakia game of a number of points, and the game that was the US’ shame was on a pretty poor performance by Redwings prospect in net – McCollom.)
After the Gold Medal game I’m left wondering what will happen with the IIHF. I don’t think they proved to be competent managers of their own tournament. There were far too many negatives surrounding this great tournament: why has it been previously so inaccessible, why was the officiating so poor, do they (IIHF) have a grasp of their own rules?
Personally, I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to view a good number of the games as the NHL Network carried most of the Team USA and Team Canada games. Oddly enough, I may not have known the tournament was even occuring had I not read it on ‘Inside the Kings’ blog where other hockey fans informed the readers. Many Kings fans, of course, were highly interested because we not only had four prospects on some of the top teams (Moller, Hickey, Teubert, Voinov*), two of them were Captains of their teams (Moller and Hickey). I have to wonder, does ESPN have no interest AT ALL when it comes to hockey? I know they love College Football, but is there no money to be made on hockey in this country? I believe there is a Euro-ESPN. I would think that they could possibly find a strong market for an excellent tournament like this. Does the IIHF even offer broadcasting rights to an outlet like ESPN? I would just hope that going forward the IIHF and the groups that are promoting this tournament will attempt to make it available to a wider audience.
The officiating was the greatest problem of this tournament, for me. I felt the dangerous play got out of hand and that the officials weren’t calling the game in the manner in which most international games/tournaments are called. I know many will say this is sour grapes over my country’s team’s failure to earn a medal, but I’m no longer trying to be biased – the tourney is over. I’d like to see the IIHF show a stronger hand when the officiating decisions are so blatantly poor. There were numerous players that were involved in incidents that should have led to suspensions, let alone harsher in-game penalties. I’ve grown too used to top-notch officiating in the World Cup and high pressure international Football tournaments/matches to think its not possible to be much, much better. There is also the embarrassing to hockey idea that certain players and teams were “let off” because of the stature in the media of the players or the teams – I am referring to my own supported team USA and Eric Tangredi as well. It would be a horrible black mark on this tournament to believe that marketing and media-envy were behind any of the “looking the other way.”
Before I post this (which may be a part 1) I’d like to say that the two goalies that impressed most in this tournament (that are not drafted as far as I know) were the Russian keeper who’s name I will have to look up again, and of course Janus, of the Slovakian team. I’d like to know what knowledgeable goalie people think of these two players’ prospects for the NHL.
*Voinov may also have been a captain, but I cannot recall.