Youngsters To Look For In Salt Lake City

By Stephen Payne

-The following list is of players 23 and under who have a chance at
representing their countries in the 2002 Winter Games.

-The players must be 23 and under by January 1, 2002.

-The players are either from Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden,
or the United States.

-The players from Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, and the United States must
have been on the camp rosters.

-The players chances of making the team are next to their names. The ratings
are as follows:

1- Very slim chance of making the team.
2- Slim chance of making the team.
3- Small chance of making the team.
4- Chance at cracking the roster.
5- Fifty/fifty chance at cracking the roster.
6- Probable fourth liner/sixth or seventh defenseman/third goalie on the team.
7- Probable third liner/fourth or fifth defenseman/second tier back-up goalie
on the team.
8- Probable second liner/second or third defenseman/good back-up goalie on
the team.
9- Probable first liner/first defenseman/starting goalie on the team.
10- Star player on the team.

Canada


Goalies

None.


Defensemen

Eric Brewer, Edmonton, 22 years old, 1.5
I was very shocked to see his name on the training camp list. I just do not
see him competing for a spot with the likes of Ed Jovanovski, Al MacInnis,
Wade Redden, and Scott Stevens. His skating is, at best, average for an
NHLer. I doubt that he will be able to skate with some of those Europeans on
a larger ice surface. What good is his size if he can not catch up to his
opponents? In addition, he has limited offensive ability (21 points last
season).


Derek Morris
, Calgary, 23 years old, 4
His ticket to the Olympics is his skating. Morris can catch up to his
opponents and knock them around, despite only being 6’0 tall. He is fearless
and is one of Calgary’s top hitters. He plays a complete game in both ends
of the ice and is depended upon by his coach in numerous situations.
Although, he does face some very tough competition.


Forwards

Simon Gagne, Philadelphia, 21 years old, 6
Gagne’s great skating ability goes along with his veteran-like vision
perfectly. His skating will help him keep up with the fast pace of the
Europeans, while his hockey sense will help him on the score sheet. He is
also responsible when it comes to defense (he led the Flyers in ± last
season with +24). He could be a surprise for the Canadians, but I doubt that
he will see that much ice time with the likes of Fleury, Kariya, Lemieux,
Nolan, Sakic, and Yzerman in front of him. He will probably be used as a
role player.


Brenden Morrow
, Dallas, 22 years old, 3
Morrow’s name, along with Brewer’s name on the camp roster, came as a
surprise to me. Morrow, who only totaled for 44 points last season, does not
have much of a scoring touch when compared to some of the other forwards on
the camp list. Although, as I think about it, maybe I have it all wrong.
Maybe, Gretzky does not want someone who can score on his fourth line.
Maybe, he wants someone who can mix it up and distract his opponents, which
is something that Morrow does very well. He can annoy the hell out of his
opponents in NHL games, why not in the Olympics? So, once Canada’s roster
comes out in December, be surprised, but not too surprised, to see Morrow’s
name on it.


Alex Tanguay
, Colorado, 22 years old, 5
I am very mixed on Tanguay. If Gretzky’s philosophy is that of the one I
mentioned in Morrow’s comments, then he probably will not make the team. If
it isn’t than he is close to a lock for the team. While he does not have the
offensive ability of Fleury, Kariya, Lemieux, Nolan, Sakic, and Yzerman yet,
his offensive ability is very good (77 points last season). He is also very
responsible when it comes to defense, ranking 6th in the NHL; although, many
attribute it to being on such a good team. In conclusion, the verdict on
Tanguay is not out yet.

Czech Republic


Goalies

None.


Defensemen

Tomas Kaberle, Toronto, 23 years old, 8
Kaberle is on the brink of becoming a lock for the Czech team. At 23, he has
already become known as one of the best two-way defensemen in the NHL. He
has good skating ability, which will help him on the large, European surface.
He has good on-ice vision that allows him to find the open man in almost any
situation. He is not the roughest defenseman, but he is good at driving
forwards to the outside in his own zone. With the questionable Czech
defense, he should get plenty of ice time this coming Olympics.


Martin Skoula
, Colorado, 22 years old, 4
Skoula is an average-sized defenseman with good skating ability. He is not
the strongest defenseman for his size, but every once in a while, he can
knock someone off of their skates. His nice skating ability allows him to
make some good plays in the offensive zone. Although he has
a-notch-above-average talent, I do not think that he has the will to impress
as much as some of his competitors. I think that the Kaberles, Kuba, Kubina,
and Spacek just fit a bit better within the Czechs’ system.


Forwards

Martin Havlat, Ottawa, 20 years old, 6
There is no doubt in my mind that Havlat will make the team. The only
concern that I have is the amount of ice time he will get. I know that he
has amazing skating ability and dazzling moves, but I am not sure that his
talent can match up to that of Elias, Hejduk, Jagr, Straka, and Sykora right
now. He is a great player with unlimited ability, but at this moment, he
just needs time. The only problem is that the Olympics will start within a
year, and there is no time, not to say that I do not think Havlat has a
chance at getting quality ice time. I just think that it will be an uphill
battle for him.

Finland


Goalies

None.


Defensemen

Ossi Vaananen, Phoenix, 21 years old, 6
Vaananen is a big, rugged, hard-hitting defenseman that is needed on the
Finnish roster. With a defense that includes Laukkanen, Lumme, Nummelin,
Teppo Numminen, Salo, and Timonen, the Finns need some big, nasty defensemen.
The only defensemen invited to camp that can fill that role are Niinimaa and
Vaananen. Although, he is not a big point producer, Vaananen will play a
much-needed role on a team that lacks toughness.


Forwards

Olli Jokinen, Florida, 23 years old, 4.5
Jokinen had a horrible season. After being expected score in the 35 to 45
point range last season, he only managed to score 16 points. Ever since his
draft year, big things have been expected from him and his huge frame (6’3,
208 lbs.), but all he has done so far is disappoint. Although he skates
pretty well and is not afraid to mix it up, it seems that he just can not put
it all together. The skill is there, but the heart is not. He will be lucky
if he gets a chance on the Olympic team. If he does get a chance, who knows?
It is up to him. He could be an effective, banging 4th liner, but it all
depends on his attitude.


Niko Kapanen
, Dallas, 23 years old, 4
Kapanen is a great skater and plays well at both ends of the ice. The only
problem is his smallish frame. At only 5’9, 180 lbs., he will not be
knocking anyone around; although, I think that his determination makes up for
it a bit. Regardless, I do not think that he has a good chance at making the
team because of his competition. If he would make the team, he would be a
4th liner, and the players that he is battling with for a spot can fill that
role better than him.

Russia


Goalies

Ilja Bryzgalov, Lada Togliatti (Rus.), Property of Anaheim, 21 years old, 4
Bryzgalov has the potential to become a top goaltender one day. He plays
much like Khabibulin with a stand-up style that challenges the shooter. If
he can make the team, it would be a wonderful opportunity for him, but he has
some goaltenders in front of him. Nikolai Khabibulin is going to be the
starter; that is a given. Vadim Tarasov, Maxim Sokolov, and Mikhail
Shtalenkov are all stars in Russia and are going to compete for the back-up
and third goaltender spots. This is another case of a talented, young
prospect that will probably lose his spot to an experienced veteran.


Evgeny Konstantinov
, Detroit (IHL), Property of Tampa Bay, 21 years old, 3.5
Konstantinov stands in a position one behind Bryzgalov. Although
Konstantinov is considered closer to making the NHL because he has already
made the trip to North America, he is not as talented as Bryzgalov. He plays
the same stand-up style that Bryzgalov plays but lets in more soft goals at
critical times. Right now, his odds of making the team are not good, but as
we all know, odds change.


Defensemen

Dmitri Kalinin, Buffalo, 21 years old, 4
Kalinin was probably the rookie of the year, when it comes to defense. He
hit when he had to and was always in perfect defenseman. He has the most
poise of any young defenseman that I have seen in recent memory. Although it
seems that he has no weaknesses, he is not particularly strong in any area,
and again, his competition is very high. There are many veteran blue liners
that come from Russia, and I think that his skills are just not at the same
level as some of them.


Andrei Markov
, Montreal, 23 years old, 3.5
Markov’s chances are just a bit slimmer than Kalinin’s. Although he is more
skilled and offensively gifted, he lacks the poise of Kalinin. He tries to
rush the puck up the ice an awful lot, resulting in bad turnovers. As of
right now, he is too much of a risky player to crack Russia’s roster.


Vitaly Vishnevski
, Anaheim, 21 years old, 3.5
Vishnevski’s game is all about power. Although he is only 6’1, 190 lbs., he
plays more like he is 6’6, 230 lbs. He led the NHL in hits this year by a
wide margin. He is strong on his skates and will have no trouble on an
Olympic rink. The problem? Sometimes he goes out of position to make a big
hit. He can be caught out of position quite a lot. In addition, even though
he has offensive potential, he only put up 11 points this season. He needs
some time to mature and learn from his mistakes. I think that he needs a few
more years before Russia can depend upon him in the Olympics. Maybe 2006
will be his year?


Andrei Zyuzin
, Tampa Bay, 23 years old, 4
Zyuzin is steady and consistent, kind of like Kalinin. He hits when he needs
to and is rarely caught out of position. He is ready to play for Russia
right now, but like Kalinin, the competition is too stiff. My prediction is
that Karpovtsev, Malakhov, Mironov, Zhitnik, and Zubov will battle it out for
the remaining three spots on Russia’s blue line and that Kalinin and Zyuzin
will just be afterthoughts.


Forwards

Maxim Afinogenov, Buffalo, 22 years old, 5.5
I think that Afinogenov has about a 75% chance of making the team. If his
development continues going well, he should not have a problem making it. I
consider him one of the best young skaters in the game. In addition, he has
one of the quickest shot releases in the game. He reminds me of Pavel Bure
because of the way he can skate down the boards and just rip a perfect shot
to the top corner. His hustle never ceases to amaze me and that will help
him because he will probably be used as a 4th liner for Russia if he makes it.


Sergei Samsonov
, Boston, 23 years old, 7
There is no doubt in my mind that Samsonov will play for Russia in the
Olympics. He is one of the fastest players in the game at the age of 23 and
also possesses a nice pair of hands. He makes things happen in the offensive
zone, while being defensively responsible. In my opinion, he still has some
fellow Russian forwards ahead of him in the pecking order, like the Bures,
Fedorov, Mogilny, Yashin, and Zhamnov.


Oleg Saprykin
, Calgary, 20 years old, 3
I know that Saprykin making the team sounds like a long shot. However, in my
opinion, his name on the Russian roster makes sense. He is a feisty pest
that is not afraid of anybody. Although at the moment his skills are no
where near some of the other Russians competing with him, they are not that
bad. I think that his versatility and fearlessness would add a nice twist to
the Russian team and maybe give them an edge, but as of right now, the
possibility seems unlikely.

Sweden


Goalies

Johan Holmqvist, Hartford (AHL), Property of NY Rangers, 23 years old, 4.5
My prediction is that Holmqvist will be the last goaltender cut from the
Swedish team. I think that Tommy Salo will be the starting goaltender for
Sweden, Hedberg the back-up, and Tellqvist the third goalie. Although he is
very talented, Salo and Hedberg are already locks, and Tellqvist has shown
that he can play in the NHL. I do not think that Holmqvist has proved that
yet. In his few appearances in the NHL, he showed that he could be rattled.
While he has plenty of potential, I do not think that he is ready for the NHL
or the Olympics next year.


Mikael Tellqvist
, Djurgarden (Swe.), Property of Toronto, 22 years old, 6
Like I said in Homqvist’s report, Tellqvist has proved that he can play in
the NHL. Last season, he won the starting job for Djurgarden over former
Swedish League MVP Tommy Soderstrom. He has represented Sweden numerous
times. Last season he was back-up for Tommy Salo in the World Championships.
He has quick reflexes and is not afraid to mix many styles into his game.
Even though he is a great goaltender, I doubt that he will be able to impress
Swedish management more than all-star Tommy Salo and Pittsburgh’s rookie
sensation, Johan Hedberg.


Defensemen

None.


Forwards

Kristian Huselius, Vastra Frolunda (Swe.), Property of Florida, 23 years
old, 5
Huselius dominated the Swedish League last season, winning the scoring title
by a wide margin. He has superior vision on the ice and very quick feet,
which may make him a top scorer in the NHL one day. However, as of right
now, his defense needs a lot of work, and he seems to be intimated by
physical play. For these two reasons, I am not sure if Swedish management
would consider him ready to play against the tough, international competition
that he will face in the Olympics. Although, I think they may just want to
put him on the roster based on his superb skills and skating ability alone.


Daniel Sedin
, Vancouver, 21 years old, 4.5
Daniel Sedin has great vision and puck-handling skills. He is responsible
defensively, and at times, engages physical activity. However, I do not
think that these qualities have transferred to the NHL yet. To make the
team, he has to prove that he can play with the best. So far, he has not
done that yet. I would rather have an experienced second liner or upper tier
third liner on my team.


Henrik Sedin
, Vancouver, 21 years old, 4.5
Henrik Sedin is identical twins with his brother, Daniel, in more ways than
one. Their play was almost exactly the same last season. They do the same
things in the same situations and have similar skills. He has also yet to
show Vancouver fans that he can transfer his superstar skills to the NHL.
Just like his brother, I would rather have an experienced second or upper
tier third liner on my team.


Henrik Zetterberg
, Timra (Swe.), Property of Detroit, 21 years old, 3.5
Zetterberg is the best Detroit prospect by a wide margin. He possesses
amazing skills and skating ability and plays well at both ends of the ice.
He takes advantage of the larger, European rink. The knock? He is only
5’11, 176 lbs. He is one of the weakest players in the Swedish League and is
not very hard to dominate physically. If he was a bit bigger, he could be a
lock for the Swedish team. He is a very talented player, but he is just not
strong enough to be playing in the Olympics right now. However, I almost
guarantee that he will be there at the Olympics in 2006.

United States


Goalies

Robert Esche, Phoenix, 23 years old, 2
I was very surprised when I saw his name on the training camp list. He is a
quick goaltender that is not afraid to play an aggressive style, but let’s
get serious. If he is lucky, he will become a starter, but as of now, he is
nowhere near being a starter. His competition is Dunham, Johnson, Rhodes,
and Richter. They are all good enough to be considered starters in my
opinion. Esche’s name just looks out of place on the list. In a few years,
he many be ready to be a back-up or third goalie for USA, but for right now,
he just does not have the talent to make the team, even as a third goaltender.


Defensemen

David Tanabe, 21 years old, 3
A smooth-skating, offensive-minded defenseman, Tanabe uses his speed to blow
by his opponents, which is useful on the bigger rink. Even though he is well
suited for the European game, in my opinion, his competition is just too
great. With veterans like Hatcher, Housley, Poti, Schneider, and Suter
battling it out for the remaining five defensive spots on the US roster,
Tanabe’s chances at making the team look thin.


Forwards

Scott Gomez, 22 years old, 5
Gomez has soft hands, great hockey sense, and is not afraid to play rough.
His skating is below average, but his stick work will make up for it, even on
a large surface. Although his skills are very good, his chances of making
the team are still 50/50. Competing with him for three 4th liner spots on
the team will be Deadmarsh, Konowalchuk, McEachern, and Smolinski. These
players are already accomplished NHLers. I think Gomez is something special,
but I also think that it could be hard to beat the intensity of Deadmarsh,
the tenacity of Konowalchuk, the speed of McEachern, and the hands of
Smolinski.