Friday, January 02, 2009

CHL Players in the 2009 WJCs

Ten teams are playing in the 2009 WJCs in Ottawa and over the past week, I have seen all of them play. Not surprisingly, Canada has the most CHL players on its roster; Sweden, which has an extremely strong league back home for juniors to play in, and Kazakhstan, which has weak players, have zero.

Latvia--former St. Mike's Majors defenceman Kriss Grundmanis is playing in the tournament, but has not been very visible. Neither has former Calgary Hitmen winger Edgars Ulescenko.

Slovakia--Erie Otters netminder Jaroslav Janus has been one of the stars of this tournament. Although the Slovak team was one of the last into the playoff round, it is the first time in five years that the team does not risk relegation. Janus is the big reason for that. He was playing very well for the Otters before he left, expect even better play when he returns. Also expect him to be drafted by an NHL team in June. Scouts have been drooling over him for the last few days here in Ottawa.

Finland--As much as Slovakia has been the surprise of the tournament, Finland has been the disappointment. On a team where scoring was never going to be a strong point, it was hoped that the defence would hold, but not so. Red Deer Rebels blueliner Tommi Kivisto has been pretty much invisible and overmatched by stronger European opponents.

Russia--Russia is a strong offensive team, that is hampered by defensive deficiencies. Four CHL import players are on this team, and although none have played exceptionally well for the team, both Evgeni Grachev and Dmitri Kulikov have looked very good at times.

Sweden--No CHL players.

Germany--With six CHL players on its roster, Germany has the most CHLers among non-North American teams. Without a really strong national program, the German players come to North America to develop. Although both German netminders (Timo Pielmeier and Phillip Grubauer) regualrly play in North America, and therefore any adjustment to a smaller surface would be non-existent, neither has been really impressive in the WJCs. The most impressive player among the six CHLers has been Gatineau Olympiques winger Gerrit Fauser. Named player of the game for Germany last Saturday, Fauser has been a very good player almost every night.

Kazakhstan--No CHL players (although Yakov Vorobyov played in Ottawa for five games this season).

Czech Republic--The Czech Republic has twelve of its player currently competing in the CHL, and three more had CHL experience last season. Forwards Jan Kana and Ondrej Roman have been on a tear, both of whom played excellently in the game against the US earlier this week, where the Czech Republic lost an incredibly close game in the final moments. Also worthy of mention is Medicine Hat Tiger defenceman Tomas Kundratek, who is playing well on both sides of the puck.

United States--Most of the US players that have been outstanding thus far in the tournament have been from the collegiate ranks, but worthy of mention is the Spokane Chiefs winger Drayson Bowman. A clutch player, Bowman has a real scoring touch and is a very smart player. This is his last tournament and, as a clutch player, I would not be surprised to see him score some key goals in the coming days. Tom McCollum, the OHL Guelph netminder, has been playing well. However, he has given some goals against in key situations. McCollum should have been better against the Czech Republic early in the week, and he sure let the Canadians come back the other night. If McCollum wants to be a number one goaltender at the next level, he will have to come through on games like he will face today.

Canada--All Canada's best players are from the CHL, including the tournament star, John Tavares, and netminders Chet Pickard and Dustin Tokarski. Each goaltender has player two games, and each brings different qualities to the ice, but both have been pretty much spectacular in net for this WJCs. Cody Hodgson has also been excellent offensively. But no evaluation of the CHL players in the WJCs would be complete without some mention of blueliner PK Subban, who has played much better in his own zone than he was expected to. Always thought of as weak on defence, Subban has played admirably in his own zone and has really been an asset on the PP

Watch for more over the coming days, as I do a final wrap up on Tuesday and then get back to the CHL.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

At WJCs For Past Week

I have been at the WJCs for the last week and unable to keep up with my blog on the CHL teams. I will have an update tomorrow, a tournament day off, on how the CHL players are doing here in Ottawa.

Until then!