Blues 2008 WJC prospects review

By Kyle McMahon

The Blues had four prospects suit up for their national teams at the recent World Junior Championships. All four are considered solid prospects, so their selections came as no surprise.

Patrik Berglund, F, Team Sweden

After a disappointing 2007 tournament, Team Sweden and their star center, Patrik Berglund, rebounded in 2008, taking home a silver medal for their efforts.

In six games, Berglund scored three goals and added four assists. His seven points tied him for the team scoring lead. One of Sweden’s most active forwards, he also had 26 shots on goal, 14 penalty minutes, and a plus-3 rating. Two of his tallies were on the power play. In a rout of Denmark early in the tournament, Berglund received a misconduct for an over-aggressive cross-check. He made the tournament all-star team, and his coach, Par Marts, chose him as Sweden’s best forward in the competition.

Berglund was consistent throughout the tournament, spreading his points around several games, including a two-pointer against the host lic” id=”HFlink” class=”HFlinkstyle”>Czech Republic team in the round robin. In the gold-medal game against Canada, Berglund set up the goal that got Sweden on the board. He was also on the ice when the Swedes scored a late goal to tie the game and send it in to overtime.

Berglund was recalled from Vasteras, his Allsvenskan club, for the tournament. He is enjoying a solid season thus far, and his strong play in the tournament could further boost his confidence. He finishes his WJC career with four goals and six assists in 13 games over two tournaments. 

Ian Cole, D, Team USA

A first rounder in 2007, Ian Cole was called on to provide a defensive presence on the American blue line.

Cole got off to a slow start at Notre Dame this season, but his play rounded into form in time for him to crack the Team USA roster. He was mostly a stay at home defender, going through the tournament without any points, and recording six penalty minutes with an even plus/minus rating. Cole saw some time on the penalty kill, and generally stuck to basics defensively, as he was rarely caught out for a goal against.

Still only 18 years old, it isn’t surprising that Cole wasn’t a big factor in what is generally considered a 19-year-olds’ tournament. Assuming he is still playing in the NCAA next year, Cole should be one of the leaders on the American squad at the 2009 tournament.

Cade Fairchild, D, Team USA

The second of St. Louis’ American defensemen at the tournament, Cade Fairchild, enjoyed a strong World Juniors.

Fairchild didn’t produce as many points as some may have expected, registering just one assist, but he was still a factor offensively. He was a mainstay on Team USA’s potent power play, setting up a goal in the opening game of their schedule with the man advantage. The University of Minnesota freshman was among team leaders with a plus-3 rating, and had 12 shots on goal, the team’s second highest total from the blue line.

Like his teammate Cole, Fairchild is still just 18 years old. He too can expect to play a more prominent role on the team next go around.  

Lars Eller, F, Team Denmark

Though the Danish team wasn’t able to avoid relegation, the performance of one of St. Louis’ top prospects, Lars Eller, was far from disappointing.

It was clear from the get-go that Denmark’s hopes would rest on the shoulders of Eller and Mikkel Boedker of the Kitchener Rangers. Both performed well, with Eller scoring three goals to lead his team, and tying Boedker for the Danish scoring lead with six points. He also has the distinction of leading the tournament in penalty minutes with 37. Eller perhaps needs to become a little more disciplined, as he was called for several restraining fouls, but his intensity is a good sign. He finished the tournament a minus-5, but many of his teammates struggled as well.

Eller’s best game arguably came against Slovakia in the third game of the round robin. Denmark needed a win to remain in contention, but found themselves down 3-0 going into the third period. The young prospect set up a pair of goals early in the period to give the Danes life, though their comeback bid ultimately fell short. He also had a pair of goals in a loss to Kazakhstan in the relegation round, doing his part to try and keep Denmark in the top division for next year’s tournament.

Eller was solid if not spectacular throughout the tournament, showing both flashes of his immaturity and of the great player he could one day become. Though Denmark was winless, making it to the top tier of the tournament for the first time is an accomplishment in itself and a milestone for hockey in that country.