The Detroit Red Wings had 5 prospects at this years World Junior Championships, Swedes, Pär Bäcker and Andreas Jämtin, WHL star Tomas Kopecky was playing for Slovakia, last years first pick 62nd overall, Igor Grigorenko played for Russia and the 19 year old defeseman Miroslav Blatak who was playing for the home team of Czech Republic.
Position: C Team: Lethbridge, WHL Born: 1982 Height: 6-03 Weight: 195 Draft: 2000 draft, 2nd round, 38th overall Ga - Go - Ass - Po - Pim WJC: 7 - 3 - 5 - 8 - 22
Tomas made his third and final apperience at the WJC for Slovakia. After last years dissapointing tournament Kopecky returned to the team after a great start in the WHL with Lethbridge where he left of as the second leading scorer in the entire league with 49 points in 32 games.
Tomas was expected to lead the team at this years tournament, and so he did. He was the best and most consistant player on the team. He recorded points in all but one game. Tomas finished tied for 5th place overall in the scoring with 3 goals and 5 assists in 7 games, he also had 22 penalty minutes and was +6.
Kopecky was not only an offensive force, he was also great defensively. He played a great two-way game and used his size and strenght to his advantage. He stood up and helped his teammates in rough situations and gave backup to his defensemen.
Kopecky had a great showcase at this years “juniors” and proved that he is a very good and important prospect for Detroit. He has shown that he can produce good numbers in the juniors, but the big task will be to adjust to the professional hockey next year in AHL and produce solid numbers. He will need at least a year or two in the minors before playing with the “Big Club”.
Position: D Team: HC Zlin, CZE Born: 1982 Height: 6-00 Weight: 180 Draft: 2001 draft, 4th round, 129th overall Ga - Go - Ass - Po - Pim WJC: 7 - 3 - 4 - 7 - 0
Miroslav Blatak had a great tournament in his home country of Czech Republic. Before the tournament Blatak was known as a solid stay-at-home defenseman, but after this years WJC I think that people will see him more as two-way d-man. He led all defensemen in scoring with 3 goals and 4 assists in 7 games while all his goals came on the powerplay. Blatak showed up his great hockey sense and patience while playing, he started in the third defensive paring but towards the end of the tournament he was moved up to the first.
Blatak has not only been successful with the Czech national junior team this year, he has also produced good numbers in his club, HC Zlin, which is one of the best teams in the entire league and Blatak has been a top six defenseman almost the whole season, he has spent some games with the junior team to get some more ice-time, but the last 15 games of the season Miroslav has recived increased ice-time, and that has led to increased offensive numbers. Blatak has 3 goals and 4 assists in 24 games in his rookie season in the Czech Extra League.
He was a suprising pick to me in last years draft but now I can see why the Red Wings used their 4th round pick 129th overall to pick this small but smart and effective defenseman. He still needs to bulk up a bit (10-15 pounds) and be a “little” more physical to translate to the North American style. Blatak could devalop as a solid top 6, two-way defenseman.
Position: RW Team: Lada Togliatti, RUS Born: 1983 Height: 5-11 Weight: 185 Draft: 2001 draft, 2nd round, 62nd overall Ga - Go - Ass - Po - Pim WJC: 7 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
Red Wings top pick in last years draft, Igor Grigorenko made his first WJC after winning the WJC-18 tournament last year. He came to the tournament from his club Lada Togliatti where he has had limited ice-time and been used as a depth forward for most of the time, but with the junior national team he saw more ice-time and was used in all situations. He had a solid tournament and showed up some good instincts and played a solid two-way game while chipping in a goal and 2 assists in 7 games as the Russians won the Gold.
Igor had a good start in Lada but as the season has rolled on he has seen les and les ice-time in every game. That led to Lada sending him to their farm team where Grigorenko has scored on consistant basis, in one game he scored 4 goals and was the best player on the ice.
Grigorenko might come over to North America next season to play in the juniors, and I think that would be the best thing for the young Russian. He would recieve tons of ice time and adjust to the North American style. Grigorenko is a good offensive player with grit and finesse, he will need three to four more years before trying to crack the Red Wings lineup.
Position: C Team: Färjestad, SWE Born: 1982 Height: 6-02 Weight: 181 Draft: 2000 draft, 6nd round, 187th overall Ga - Go - Ass - Po - Pim WJC: 7 - 1 - 0 - 1 - 4
Pär made his second and final apperience at the WJC with team Sweden. He had a great tournament last year and was expected to be one of the players that would lead the team at this years championship. But Bäcker cought the “Zetterberg flu” and scored only one goal in 7 games while beeing one of the best players on the team throughout the whole tournament. He created many scoring chances for him self and his line mates but nobody was able to put the puck in the net.
Bäcker is haveing a good rookie season in the Swedish Elite League and he has recived many positive comments in the Swedish media. He has been centering the 4th line for most of the time and he has been received limited time on the PP and PK.
Bäcker is a good two-way center with good offensive arsenal, allthough he needs to work on his shot. He could be a solid 2nd or 3rd liner in three years, and he will most likely spend those years in Sweden where he will be able to devalop in his own tempo.
Position: RW Team: AIK, SWE Born: 1983 Height: 5-11 Weight: 188 Draft: 2001 draft, 5nd round, 157th overall Ga - Go - Ass - Po - Pim WJC: 7 - 2 - 1 - 3 - 8
Young feisty Jämtin made his first apperience at the WJC for team Sweden. He had a good tournament and showed up his great attitude and work ethic. He was one of the best forwards on the team and a rock on the penalty kill. He also showed up his offensive weapons, good hockey sense and soft hands.
Jämtin has progressed a lot since the draft, he spent the pre season with AIK`s senior team and that has been the big difference. He has matured and devaloped his two-way game. He has been playing most of time with the senior team allthough he has seedn limited ice-time and that has led to demotion to the junior team where he has been a star and one of the best in the whole league. Jämtin has 8 goals and 9 assists in 8 games with the junior team.
Jämtin will need more ice-time in the Elite League before thinking of NHL, but he is only 18 years old and is showing promise.