World Juniors : Flyers Prospects Largely Pedestrian Thus Far?

United States center Tanner Laczynski (# 10) raises his stick to celebrate a crucial third period tally which ultimately turned out to be winning goal while Russia winger Denis Guryanov (# 27), the former first round NHL Draft pick who has spent this entire season skating for the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League, can only watch during the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship preliminary round robin contest at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto ..... (photo courtesy Chris Young / The Canadian Press)

United States center Tanner Laczynski (# 10) raises his stick to celebrate a crucial third period tally which ultimately turned out to be winning goal while Russia winger Denis Guryanov (# 27), the former first round NHL Draft pick who has spent this entire season skating for the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League, can only watch during the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship preliminary round robin contest at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto ….. (photo courtesy Chris Young / The Canadian Press)

der Eishockeyzuschauer

ALLENTOWN, PA

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The preliminary round robin phase of this 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship has been completed with Sweden winning what was decidedly the weaker of two groups and, in the other, the ever improving United States emerging triumphant after defeating both Russia and Canada–the two countries that have already won a combined 29 of the 40 WJC tournaments played to date.  Although there is still plenty of exciting international ice hockey yet to arrive in the knockout rounds, a much clearer picture of the standout players at this year’s installment of the planet’s premier competition for those under 20 years of age is coming into better focus.  And, naturally, an idea of exactly which of the nine Philadelphia Flyers’ NHL Draft picks on display might actually be able to help the Lehigh Valley Phantoms attain real Calder Cup glory in the AHL playoffs later this spring is beginning to form.

It should be remembered that Oskar Lindblom, the winger from IF Brynas Gavle who totaled seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 14 career games for Sweden at the annual WJC tournament, was able to contribute to the Phantoms immediately as evidenced by two goals and seven points in eight American Hockey League games after joining Lehigh Valley last spring.  Of course, that edition of Hamilton Street Heroes had absolutely no chance whatsoever to end the embarrassing seven-year (now going on eight) playoff drought that the Philadelphia Flyers’ top AHL farm club has been suffering through by the time Lindblom got to Allentown.  However, as has already been very well documented here at this blog, this particular Lehigh Valley Phantoms team is a much different animal this term and the simple fact is that a quality late-season arrival such as Lindblom could very well mean the difference between being swept out of the playoffs in the first round or a long and serious Calder Cup chase.
With all these thing in mind, a quick rundown of all the potential future Phantoms at the World Juniors and how they have been performing thus far is probably in order.
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FORWARDS

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Mikhail Vorobyov (6’2″ 207 lbs) … Russia … has been centering the number one line for the defending silver medalists, a traditional powerhouse who are clearly just not as talented from top to bottom this time around has they have been in years past … the 19-year-old from fairly high end Kontinental Hockey League side Salavat Yulayev Ufa is one of the top scorers at this 2017 WJC tournament with six points, all helpers, in four games played although it must be pointed out that four assists came at the expense of lightweight Latvia; Vorobyov does have points in three of Russia’s four games … the fourth round pick (# 104 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2015 NHL Draft, who is averaging 16:01 of ice time per game thus far, has definitely shown an ability to use his larger frame to great effect in order to shield his opponent from the puck; landed a devasting body check on forward Nicolas Roy behind the net in the opening minutes of the Canada versus Russia game … is decidedly far more of a creator as compared to a pure goal-scorer, as evidenced by just four shots on goal in as many games; plays his position in the classic Soviet style with primary responsibilities being defense and providing dangerous passes to his wingers … has won 36 of 58 faceoffs (62.07%) taken at WJC as seen by the official eyes of the IIHF
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German Rubtsov (6’0″ 190 lbs) … Russia … has been elevated to the third forward unit for the last three WJC games after starting tournament as a winger on the fourth line but lost his place as center on the third line to Yakov Trenin, the 19-year-old from Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League whom the Nashville Predators chose in the second round (# 55 overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft, midway through the Untied States contest after losing all five of his faceoffs to American opposition … the 18-year-old who has split this season between KHL side Vityaz Podolsk and third division club Russkie Vityazi Chekhov has no goals and no assists in four games at this WJC tournament; even more noticeable is the fact that the 1st round selection (# 22 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2016 NHL Draft this past summer has registered zero shots on goal thus far … is averaging only 11:31 minutes of ice time per game and received less than ten minutes during Russia’s critical final preliminary round robin match versus Slovakia … has won six of 17 faceoffs (35.29%) taken as seen through the official eyes of the IIHF
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Tanner Laczynski (6’0″ 190 lbs) … United States … has been performing rather well in a blue collar role centering the fourth line for the American team which won all four of its preliminary round robin games in regulation time … the 19-year-old freshman for the Ohio State Buckeyes scored a goal against the Slovaks and also assisted on what proved to be the game-winner against Russia; was out on the ice when the United States netted a vital third goal against the Canadians … registered six shots on goal and posted a healthy + 2 defensive rating after averaging 11:55 minutes of ice time per game in four WJC contests … the Philadelphia Flyers’ sixth round choice (# 169 overall) at the 2016 NHL Draft was dominant against European opposition in the faceoff department for the first three games but was then slightly under fifty percent versus the Canadians; has won 24 of 38 faceoffs (63.15%) taken as seen by the official eyes of the IIHF.
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David Kase (5’11” 170 lbs) … Czech Republic … has been skating at left wing on the top line with fellow two-time WJC veteran Michael Spacek, the fourth round pick (# 108 overall) of the Winnipeg Jets at the 2015 NHL Draft, and Daniel Kurovsky the 18-year-old from domestic elite league club HC Vitkovice, for the Czechs’ last three game … fitness was in doubt prior to the tournament and was a very late addition to the Czech roster; had barely more than thirteen minutes of ice time in the WJC opener versus defending gold medalist Finland but has been averaging more than twenty minutes in the three games since and logged 22:02 minutes in the final preliminary round robin contest against Sweden … had a goal — his first ever strike in 13 career WJC games to date — as well as an assist during the Czech Republic’s 5-2 loss to the Swedes for his first points of this 2017 WJC tournament but was also freight trained at center ice on a very clean and legal hit by a Swedish player during the match, too … totaled eleven shots on goal to finish among the top offensive threats for a mostly pedestrian team that must now skate in the quarterfinals opposite a rebounding Canada; finished with a respectable even defensive rating for a Czech squad which was outscored 13-9 in its four preliminary round robin games.
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DEFENSEMEN

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Philippe Myers (6’5″ 205 lbs) … Canada … had been paired at the back on the top defensive unit with none other than captain Thomas Chabot, the first round choice (# 18 overall) of the Ottawa Senators at the 2015 NHL Draft, and receiving lots of ice time until a crunching hit in the final preliminary round robin game versus the United States put the rest of this 2017 WJC in serious doubt for him … the undrafted 19-year-old from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League who has already inked a professional contract with the Philadelphia Flyers organization had been getting plenty of ice time up to that point including 20:06 minutes in the convincing opening day win over Russia … made a very nice pass to directly set up University of North Dakota star Trevor Jost for Canada’s very first goal scored at this WJC tournament in the opener against the Russians and also logged two assists in the lopsided 10-2 victory over the hapless Latvians, as well … only shows a + 1 defensive rating for a Canadian team which outscored its opponents by the dramatic 21-8 margin in the preliminary round robin but some of that can be explained by the nine power play goals that the Canucks racked up along the way … took a harmful kneeing penalty in the fifth minute of the 3-1 loss to the good ole’ USA and the Americans quickly grabbed their second goal of the game sixty seconds later on the resulting power play
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David Bernhardt (6’3″ 203 lbs) … Sweden … has been along with his partner Lucas Carlsson, the 19-year-old blueliner who was the fourth round choice (# 110 overall) of the Chicago Black Hawks at the 2016 NHL Draft this past summer, a pleasant surprise at this 2017 WJC while operating as the third defensive unit for Tre Kronor … the 19-year-old from IF Djurgarden Stockholm who was the seventh round selection (# 199 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at that same 2016 NHL Draft actually leads all Swedish defensemen — a cast which includes two first round NHL Draft picks and another who was tabbed in the second round — with three assists having collected helpers against Denmark, Switzerland and the Czech Republic; is currently in a six-way tie for third place among all defensemen at this WJC tournament with those three assists, as well … also boasts an impressive + 8 defensive rating at the moment, a figure which places Bernhardt behind only his Swedish partner Carlsson out of all the other rearguards competing at this particular WJC affair; the gaudy plus/minus is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Sweden’s top two defensive pairs are usually matched against the other team’s best offensive players most of the time but it is still indicative of the third unit’s effectiveness … averaging nineteen minutes of ice time in four games after logging twenty and a half minutes against Denmark in addition to 21:16 versus the Czechs.
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GOALTENDERS

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Felix Sandstrom (6’2″ 194 lbs) … Sweden … has posted very good numbers (1.33 average, .939 save percentage) in his three starts at this 2017 WJC tournament but major questions hover over the true quality of opposition faced in the weaker of the two preliminary round robin groups … had a nine-save shutout for Sweden against Denmark at the 2016 IIHF WJC as an 18-year-old last winter and also came as a very late substitute in the third period of the win over Canada before conceding eight goals to the United States in the Bronze Medal Match at Helsinki … surrendered a goal on a long, largely unscreened, straightaway slapshot from the blue line taken by Switzerland defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, the second round choice (# 57 overall) of the Washington Capitals at the 2016 NHL Draft who already skated in six AHL games for the Hershey Bears at the tail end of the 2015/16 season last spring, but otherwise had perhaps his best game of this WJC tournament by stopping 42 shots against the Swiss … the Philadelphia Flyers’ third round pick (# 70 overall) at the 2015 NHL Draft also turned aside all but one of 29 shots faced in the victory over ancient arch-rival Finland, the returning champion who were severely crippled by the absence of three eligible National Hockey League players … even with five career WJC starts now under his belt, the backup goaltender for Swedish elite league club IF Brynas Gavle will likely have to contend with his biggest challenges ever once the knockout stages of this tournament begin in earnest.
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Carter Hart (6’0″ 177 lbs) … Canada … has shared the goaltending duties equally with his colleague at this WJC tournament but, significantly, was benched in favor of Connor Ingram, the 19-year-old whom the Tampa Bay Lightning grabbed in the third round (# 88 overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft this past summer, for the Canadians’ final preliminary round robin clash against the neighboring United States … the 18-year-old from the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips whom the Philadelphia Flyers claimed in the second round pick (# 48 overall) of that same 2016 NHL Draft appeared to be overwhelmed by the occasion having to face Canada’s historical great rival Russia on home ice in the WJC opener and permitted three goals on just seventeen shots in that contest; granting the punchless Latvians a pair of goals (one on a sharp angle shot) can not be considered any sort of great athletic achievement either … at this point, it is hard to speculate which of his two goaltenders Canada junior national team head coach Dominique Ducharme will call upon for the upcoming quarterfinal tilt against the mercurial Czech Republic.
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Matej Tomka (6’3″ 183 lbs) … Slovakia … has split time evenly with fellow NCAA collegiate netminder Adam Huska, the 19-year-old from the University of Connecticut whom the New York Rangers nabbed in the seventh round (# 184 overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft, but has posted a noticeably better save percentage while also facing stiffer competition as compared to his counterpart, too … did allow five goals to the Americans but also made 45 saves for the Slovaks in that contest; gave a rather solid performance with 28 saves while only conceding twice in the final preliminary round robin contest against the Russians … even though the 19-year-old puck tamer whom the Philadelphia Flyers snatched in the third round (# 90 overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft is now in his second season at the University of North Dakota but has still not yet made his first career NCAA appearance, could very well be that Tomka has done enough at this 2017 WJC tournament to prove that he deserves to start Slovakia’s upcoming quarterfinal match versus Sweden.


Categories: Phantoms Hockey

4 replies

  1. The player above who sticks out to me is Rubstov–and not in a good way. I get that he’s young. I get that the KHL is a difficult league and that winning is important so his ice time might be limited. I get that he might need ice time in a lower league. No worries.

    But as a 19-yo at Juniors he should be doing “exciting” things. Even if that means making mistakes and such, but I would have expected a player talented enough to get drafted in the first round to be making noise in a tournament played with his peers.

    Color me worried about Rubstov right now, from a Phantoms/Flyers perspective.

    • Rubtsov is an 18-year-old … (re-read his paragraph) … still, it IS a little eye-opening that the Philadelphia Flyers’ 1st round pick (# 22 overall) has been so quiet at this tournament … it is clearly an off-year for the Russians this time around — in any other given year, Rubtsov might have just as easily not have even made the Russia junior national team for IIHF World Junior Championship … remember that winger Denis Guryanov now of AHL’s Texas Stars, also a 1st round NHL Draft pick, was cut from the Russian WJC squad as an 18-year-old player last season … THE ONE THING THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO BEAR IN MIND is that this WJC tournament being held in Montreal and Toronto is being played on NHL-sized rinks as compared to the international-sized rinks (which are wider) that Rubtsov is and has been used to playing on back home growing up in Russia.

      • It was from another site I thought perhaps he had just turned 19 but said 19 later this year. Your point about the rinks is well taken. I’ve no doubt that he’s very talented, just worried perhaps the Flyers reached too far for a player who won’t help the Phantoms…. I guess you know where my priorities are… 😉

        • Well, it’s probably a topic worthy of its own post but I think there is a difference between a Russian who plays Canadian junior hockey and a Russian who ‘grows up’ in the domestic system in terms of a willingness to start in the minors at an annual salary of roughly $ 70,000 … In other words, both Vorobyov and Rubtsov might be more content (and better compensated financially) to play for Kontinental Hockey League clubs — I have a list of this season’s thirty highest paid players in KHL but what I need to find out is what lower end / younger players on KHL really make — until such time as they are fairly confident they can actually make an NHL club and actually pocket the big salary (as compared to having to take a ‘minor league split’) … Roman Lyubimov, after signing a three-year, two-way entry level contract as a free agent this summer, said when he first came to training camp that he would be content to skate in the AHL for a season or so and ‘pay his dues’, if necessary — all Russian players say this at first when they come over but after they have actually ridden in the buses for a certain period of time, they start thinking about going back to the KHL; remember that, last year, fringe Russian national team player Kirill Petrov, who had been a third round pick of the New York Islanders, at first said he would be patient with his assignment to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the start of the season but then he ended up going back home just before Christmas.

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