Junior Championships in Helsinki, Finland are over, and the United States has
been crowned champions for the first time ever. Every year there are heroes and
goats after the medal round games, and Senators defenseman Anton Volchenkov is
one example of a former hero. The defenseman Senators fans now call the A-Train
scored the game-winning goal for Russia in the 2002 final, as he captained his
team to gold over Canada. While the Senators didn’t have any players who scored
tournament-winning goals, they had four players who participated, and one of
them left Helsinki with a Gold Medal.
Patrick Eaves: United States – 1st
round, 29th overall, 2003, RW
father Mike Eaves was named coach of the American entry in the tournament, Patrick Eaves was not only guaranteed a
roster spot but significant playing time. In the end though, coach Eaves
couldn’t get his son on the ice enough. As expected, Eaves lined up regularly
on a line with Ryan Kesler and Patrick O’Sullivan. The trio acted as a
secondary scoring line to the one featuring Zach Parise, who tied for the tournament scoring crown. The end
result was the Senators first round pick finished second on the team in scoring
with one goal and six points in six games. Only Parise, the tournament’s Most
Valuable Player, had more points for the championship team.
perhaps most valuable in his own zone. Despite not having a big frame, the
6’0”, 184-pound Boston College forward was able to control the play along the
boards, and consistently came back. As the tournament wore on, Eaves displayed
the many facets of his game, a clear product of having a coach for a father. In
a semi-final game with Finland, Eaves blocked approximately eight shots, with
many of them coming in the last two minutes of play, where he rarely left the
ice. While Eaves was not dominant on offense, he showed plenty of skill,
including a beautiful release and good vision. It is yet to be determined
whether Eaves will develop into a solid second line player or a well-rounded third
liner with some offensive upside. For now, Eaves will return to Boston College
with a gold medal around his neck, and shouldn’t be expected to turn pro until
at least the 2005-06 season.
Philippe Seydoux: Switzerland- 3rd
round, 100th overall, 2003, Defense
youngest blueliner on a weak Swiss squad, Philippe
Seydoux played decent minutes on a team that finished eighth in the
tournament. Fortunately for Seydoux, the Swiss team will be back next year, and
the Senators prospect is the only defenseman eligible to return next year.
Therefore, the 2005 tournament may be a better stage for the Kloten Flyers
defenseman to show scouts and fans the full range of his skills. Nonetheless,
Seydoux had a goal and an assist in the six games he played. Not known for his
offensive game, but rather his nasty, defensive style of play, Seydoux was
solid in his own zone while receiving reasonable ice time. Next year, he will
be asked to play in all game situations, which will test his all-round ability
and show scouts and fans if he has a legitimate NHL future. Seydoux now returns
to Kloten to continue what has already been a good developmental season.
Gimayev: Russia- 5th round, 166th overall, 2003, Defens
Seydoux, Sergei Gimayev’s game is to
play safe defensive hockey. Despite being only 6’0” and 184 pounds, Gimayev
likes to play the body and received slightly more ice time than expected on the
Russian squad. He was impressive despite being on the unofficial fourth
defensive pairing with Andrei Spiridonov.
Ineligible to return next year, Gimayev even contributed on offense, chipping
in with two assists for his team that finished a disappointing fifth in the
tournament. Only Denis Grot (+4) had
a better plus/minus rating on the team than Gimayev’s +3. For a player who was
passed over in his first year of eligibility, Gimayev is looking like a very
good mid-round pick for the Senators. He will continue to play for Severstal
Cherepovets in the Russian Super League, increasing his strength to allow him
to play his defensive style with more effectiveness.
Johan Bjork: Sweden- 4th round, 125th
overall, 2002, Defense
The only player picked in 2002 the Senators had in this year’s tournament, Johan Bjork went to the World Juniors
not expecting to receive significant playing time because he was coming off a
minor injury. Fortunately for Bjork, the lack of size on the Swedish blueline
led to more responsibility. A two-way defenseman who is struggling to stay in
the Swedish Elite League this year, Bjork put up two points and was an
impressive and team leading +5. Even though his team finished seventh, Bjork
had a good World Junior tournament, and with a couple more seasons in the
Swedish Elite League, he could come over and play in North America and
eventually settle in as a depth defenseman in the league. For now, he will
likely play the rest of the season with the Malmo Redhawks in the SEL.
Overall, Senators management should feel pleased with the performance of
their prospects in the 2004 World Junior Championships. Seydoux, Gimayev and
Bjork had decent tournaments patrolling the blueline for their respective
squads. Seydoux will be returning next year as well, likely as the top
defenseman of the Swiss team. By far the best and most impressive prospect was
Eaves, who was a vital member of the gold medal winning United States team.
Eaves’ stock is certainly on the rise, especially if he can stay healthy
throughout the rest of the season with Boston College.