Phuture Phantoms: World Juniors Report

der Eishockeyzuschauer



Embed from Getty Images

Travis Konecny


The annual IIHF World Junior Championships has long been a place where high end prospects of the Philadelphia Flyers can be found. As a matter of fact, no fewer than a dozen Lehigh Valley Phantoms who have appeared in at least one American Hockey League game this season have already represented their respective countries in the planet’s premier ice hockey competition for players under 20 years of age previously, with Petr Straka of the Czech Republic, Robert Hagg of Sweden and Christian Marti of Switzerland all having skated at more than one WJC tournament. What’s more, Phantoms players have also reached the pinnacle at the annual WJC in recent seasons, as well, with Cole Bardreau and Shayne Gostisbehere earning gold medals on behalf of the United States in 2013 and Canada’s Samuel Morin celebrating the 2015 WJC title just last winter.

This time around, it appears that no fewer than five NHL Draft picks of the Philadelphia Flyers (read, quite possibly Lehigh Valley Phantoms players in the very near future) will be skating for their respective countries at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships being hosted by the Finnish capital city of Helsinki.
Although still only just 18 years of age, highly skilled offensive defenseman Ivan Provorov, the 1st round pick (# 7 overall) of the Flyers at the annual NHL Draft just this past summer, is an absolute lock to make Russia’s final 23-man roster for the 2016 WJC. The 200-pounder who plays for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the western Canadian junior system skated in all seven games for the Russians at last season’s WJC tournament and picked up a silver medal in the process. Having already gotten his feet wet at this international level last winter, the extremely creative Provorov is definitely expected to be Russia’s proverbial quarterback on the blue line in Finland.
Chances are also quite good that Radel Fazleev, the 6th round pick of the Flyers at the 2014 NHL Draft who plays for the Calgary Hitmen in the western Canadian junior system, will also be representing Russia at the 2016 WJC, as well. The 19-year-old left winger is one of eight forwards named to head coach Valery Bragin’s preliminary WJC roster who have already been drafted by National Hockey League clubs and one aspect that makes the Ak Bars Kazan youth team product a bit different than the average Russian forward is an added enthusiasm in terms of battling along the boards. As one might expect from a skater who is in his last season an underage player in the Canadian junior system, Fazleev has been enjoying a career year with Calgary thus far in terms of goals and points.
Felix Sandstrom, the 3rd round pick (# 70 overall) of the Flyers at the 2015 NHL Draft this past summer, is guaranteed to be one of three goaltenders on Sweden’s roster at the 2016 WJC. The big question, though, is exactly how much will the 18-year-old IF Brynas Gavle netminder, who has appeared in 11 of his team’s 27 Swedish elite league games so far this season, actually play in Finland. Head coach Rickard Gronborg has an extremely high number of returning players from Sweden’s fourth place team at the 2015 WJC, a dozen in all, including goaltender Linus Soderstrom, the 4th round pick (# 95 overall) of the New York Islanders at the 2014 NHL Draft who is a year old and three inches taller than the Philadelphia Flyers prospect Sandstrom.
Soderstrom, who has been on loan from Swedish elite league club IF Djurgarden Stockholm to second division side HC Vita Hasten all season long, started all seven games for Gronborg at the 2015 WJC tournament (2.31 avg, .917 svpct) held in Canada and was, in fact, the only goaltender to appear for Sweden over the course of the entire competition last winter.
It is interesting to note that Sweden’s U-20 junior national team has already played a total of ten exhibition games so far this season in preparation for the upcoming 2016 WJC with Soderstrom having posted better numbers in his four starts (2.21 avg, .892 svpct) than Sandstrom has managed in his three starts (4.67 avg, .843 svpct).
As far as defending gold medalist Canada go, it is entirely possible that the two first round selections of the Philadelphia Flyers who both share the same first name will be traveling to Finland together this holiday season. Travis Konecny (above), the 18-year-old center from the Ottawa 67s of the Ontario Hockey League who was the 24th overall player chosen at the annual NHL Draft last summer, could very well earn a place on Canada’s final squad. Travis Sanheim, the 19-year-old from the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League who was the 17th overall player taken at the 2014 NHL Draft two summers ago, is a virtually certainty for the Canuck squad in Scandinavia.
Lehigh Valley Phantoms fans are already familiar with the youthful Konecny, who, of course, notched a goal during the Philadelphia Flyers’ historic 5-3 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, um, er, ah, New York Islanders in the very first NHL exhibition game ever played at the PPL Center in Allentown back on September 21st.
Although it has no impact on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms or any of their opponents the next four weeks or so, at least five and perhaps as many as six American Hockey League regulars will be leaving their professional clubs to join their respective junior national teams for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships in Helsinki, Finland :
18 ga … 8 go – 22 pts … Mikko Rantanen, San Antonio
17 ga … 5 go – 10 pts … Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto
21 ga … 7 go – 16 pts … Adrian Kempe, Ontario
23 ga … 6 go – 13 pts … Vladislav Kamenev, Milwaukee
22 ga … 4 go – 11 pts … Sonny Milano, Lake Erie
The jury is still very much out on whether or not Sweden will be able to ice William Nylander, the Toronto Marlies’ teenage center who is currently leading the entire American Hockey League in scoring by a decent margin with 33 points (14 go) in 25 games. On Sunday, the same day that Kasperi Kapanen was granted permission to join host Finland, it was reported that the Toronto Maple Leafs will make their final decision on the 8th overall player taken at the 2014 NHL Draft being allowed to participate at the 2016 WJC “later this week”. As an 18-year-old at the 2015 WJC in Canada last winter, the electrifying Nylander power fourth place Sweden with 10 points (three goals) in seven games.
Had talented Hershey Bears left wing Jakub Vrana not underwent wrist surgery roughly a month and a half ago, there is absolutely no doubt that the 1st round pick (# 13 overall) of the Washington Capitals at the 2014 NHL Draft would have been called up by the Czech Republic junior national team as well as an excellent chance that the Capitals would have allowed Vrana to skate in Finland … Washington have a track record of permitting players to participate at the annual IIHF World Junior Championships with Connor Carrick for the United States at the 2014 WJC being the most recent example.


Categories: Phantoms Hockey

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