International Scouting Services presents their view of the players to watch at the 2007 World Junior Championships.
Erik Johnson, D — USA
Franchise player, Johnson is a world-class player, the kind of character guy that wins championships. He shoots the puck like a pro via a bullet wrist shot and gets his shot through. He is noted for being a gifted passer, in addition he has an above average shot from the point. In an effort to put last year’s 4th place finish behind them, look for Johnson to play upward of 30 minutes a night in all facets of the game. St. Louis’ 1st round pick, 1st overall in 2006
Jonathan Toews, C — Canada
An incredible talent, Toews will be relied on heavily for his ability to contribute offensively and play in key situations. He is a strong skater blessed with incredible skill and gifted with brilliant on-ice vision. He has one of the highest hockey IQs in his age group. He has the ability to make the players around him better. It should be a given that he sees significant power play time as well as kill penalties. He leads by example and could wear a letter in order to utilize his leadership skills. Chicago’s 1st round pick, 3rd overall in 2006.
Nicklas Backstrom, C — Sweden
Potential to be a star. If Sweden is to enjoy success, watch for Nicklas Backstrom to be their offensive catalyst. What sets Backstrom apart from most other prospects is his patience with the puck and calm approach to the game. Is a sound two-way player with excellent playmaking instincts. His skill level and maturity are exceptional. Washington’s 1st round pick, 4th overall in 2006.
Peter Mueller, C — USA
This talented playmaking center will be the leader of a talented core of forwards bent on avenging last year’s disappointing 4th place finish. Mueller has great offensive instincts. Has tremendous vision and hockey sense. Plays well in traffic, an intelligent player who is able to create plays like weaving a tapestry. Phoenix’s 1st round pick, 8th overall in 2006.
Martin Hanzal, C — Czech Republic
In order to improve on last year’s 6th place finish, Czech Republic will be counting on Hanzel to be their offensive catalyst. A towering presence, Hanzal possesses outstanding hand/eye coordination and great skating ability. Currently leading the WHL in scoring with 54 points in 34 games. Phoenix’s 1st round pick, 17th overall in 2005.
Jack Johnson, D — USA
Skilled physical d-man, will provide leadership. His most notable asset is his unique combination of skill and toughness. He has a gritty, take-no-prisoners style and demonstrates these qualities on a consistent basis. Carolina’s 1st round pick, 3rd overall in 2005, traded to LA Kings.
Tuukka Rask, G — Finland
In order to come anywhere close to last year’s 3rd place finish, Finland will need its best player, Tuukka Rask, to duplicate last year’s fantastic WJC performance. Rask finished with a 93.98 Sv% and 2.11 GAA last year. His reflexes and balance are outstanding. Has a great deal of poise. Moves effortlessly to reposition, and receives pucks well. Toronto’s 1st round pick, 21st overall in 2005, traded to Boston.
Marc Staal, D — Canada
His steadiness and ability to shut down the opponent’s top players will allow Coach Craig Hartsburg to play him in all situations. Rarely makes mistakes. NY Rangers’ 1st round pick, 12th overall in 2005.
Ondrej Pavelec, G — Czech Republic
A classic stand-up goalkeeper with a huge frame; possesses an outstanding glove and is rarely caught out of position. Over the past year and a half Pavelec has proven himself as one of the top netminders in the CHL. Despite all the firepower this team has up front, Pavelec will be the key to any medal hopes. Atlanta’s 2nd round pick, 41st overall in 2005.
Kyle Okposo, RW — USA
Team USA brass will rely heavily on Okposo to provide scoring/leadership throughout the tournament. He is a tireless worker when he is on the ice, and never takes a shift off. He can play the game in whatever direction it takes him, hard-hitting or finesse. New York Islanders’ 1st round pick, 7th overall in 2006.
Brad Marchand, C — Canada
Sparkplug! A catalyst for chaos, skills and speed make him a scoring threat at all times. Never stops hustling and possesses the heart of a warrior. With his speed and competitiveness he is able to create offensive chances and effectively shut down the other team’s top unit. Boston’s 3rd round pick, 71st overall in 2006.
Tomas Marcinko, C — Slovakia
Enjoying a fine rookie OHL season with Barrie Colts. Although he is capable of providing some offensive punch his well-rounded approach to the game will be key to helping Slovakia. It should be a given that he sees significant power-play time as well as kill penalties. He leads by example and could wear a letter in order to utilize his leadership skills. NY Islanders’ 4th round pick, 115th overall in 2006.
Cody Franson, D — Canada
May have made the team as a 6/7th d-men, however don’t expect that to last long. Franson moves the puck very well and possesses a tremendous package of size, skating, puck movement, and hockey sense. He has a great first pass out of the zone and can “thread the needle” when the opportunity presents itself. Nashville’s 3rd round pick, 79th overall in 2005.
Fredrik Pettersson, RW — Sweden
This highly skilled offensive forward will be counted on to be one of the offensive leaders for Sweden. Has the speed to get open in the offensive zone and a quick shot. Edmonton’s 5th round pick, 157th overall in 2005.
NHL 2007 DRAFT ELIGIBLE
Jakub Voracek, RW — Czech Republic
Currently ranked #1 overall here at ISS for the 2007 NHL draft. Voracek has adapted quickly to the North American game, and has been the Halifax Mooseheads’ best player most nights. This highly skilled offensive forward will be counted on to be one of the offensive leaders for team Czech Republic. Has the puck on his stick every shift and thinks the game beautifully. The puck seems to gravitate toward him and follows him around the ice.
James Van Riemsdyk, RW — USA
Has clearly established himself as a top 5 prospect for the 2007 NHL Draft. Van Riemsdyk has the size/scoring combination all scouts seek from the wing position. He uses his big frame exceptionally well and has become much quicker. He has all the tools for stardom. Will score some highlight reel goals, and can score in a variety of ways.
Karl Alzner, D — Canada
Currently ranked 5th overall by ISS, Alzner has quietly entered into the upper class of young d-man in the WHL. Alzner has a good shot, but the skills that stand out are his skating and hockey sense. He may only see limited ice time however it will certainly be a learning experience for the youngster.
Sam Gagner, C — Canada
Gagner is a tremendously gifted player. His offensive skills are very good and he has been a top point producer at every level that he has played. Shows very good puck control at a high rate of speed. Linemates benefit from Sam’s excellent anticipation, vision and passing skills, often being set up in excellent scoring positions.
Patrick Kane, RW — USA
Kane is a very skilled forward who is always dangerous offensively. He has tremendous down-low skills around the net and a terrific shot. His quick release and ability to handle the puck in close quarters makes him a desirable commodity for the upcoming draft. Currently ranked 11th overall by ISS.
Alexei Cherepanov, RW — Russia
There is a lot of interest in this young player and rightfully so. One of the most offensively skilled players in his age group. With his strong early season play in the RSL, Avangard’s rookie Alexei Cherepanov has emerged as a bona fide early first rounder for the upcoming 2007 NHL draft. Has been very impressive with 18 points, including 10 goals in 25 games. Mature for age, has tremendous offensive skills. He handles the puck well at high speed.
Juraj Valach, D — Slovakia
He is quickly becoming very comfortable in demonstrating his ability to efficiently move the puck. Look for Valach to be steady defensive stalwart back on the blue line for Slovakia. He can be used in any situation- uses his wide range well in PK and big shot from the point in PP.
Michal Repik, RW — Czech Republic
Was selected by the Vancouver Giants with the 21st pick overall in the 2005 CHL import draft. Repik will have to earn a spot on this year’s edition of the WJC. He is a highly skilled forward who demonstrates a mastery of puck control and precision when locating teammates. He may only see limited ice time, but may get a chance on the powerplay.
Yannick Weber, D — Swiss
He isn’t the biggest kid, but he plays hard and seems very strong. He has good offensive tools and a nasty disposition that serves him well. Very good feet that he uses effectively. Strong trunk. Passes like a pro and is very strong on his skates
David Skokan, C — Slovakia
Will be relied on heavily for his ability to contribute offensively and play in key situations. It should be a given that he sees significant power play time as well as kill penalties.
SMALL BUT MIGHTY
Nathan Gerbe, C — Boston College
Fun to watch. His work ethic will be a model for his teammates and his attention to defense will certainly be required if Team USA hopes to advance in this tournament. Buffalo’s 5th round pick, 142nd overall in 2005.
Kris Russell, D — Medicine Hat Tigers
Small and skilled. Sparks transition game with quick puck movement and smart passes. If you were going to prototype a young d-man for the game with the new rules, this is where you start. Great ice awareness, tremendous hockey sense, understands game better then most coaches. Columbus’ 3rd round pick, 67th overall in 2005.