I was impressed by the smarts and the work-ethic of Canadian winger Chris Neilsen. He is very versatile, gives his all for the team and doesn’t ignore any part of the game. 16-year-old defenseman Jay Bouwmeester certainly looks like someone who can evolve into a world-class player. It is very rare that a player who’s 6’4″ can be such a magnificent skater.
Jason Spezza also looked good in the spot duty he got and in hindsight maybe he should have got all the icetime Mike Ribeiro, who was very disappointing, got. Josef Vasicek was a more consistent contributor that Milan Kraft, and deserved the All-Star nod ahead of the more inconsistent Kraft. The choice of Rick DiPietro as best goalie was right on. He was very solid, a true star in this tournament.
Of the 2000-prospects, Marian Gaborik shined, but also his smart all-round center Tomas Kopecky. Dany Heatley will surely be a high-pick in Calgary this summer. He looked better than highly-touted Jamie Lundmark and Mark Bell, picked 11th and 8th respectively, did. Heatley can put the puck in the net and has a deadly shot.
Boy oh boy is Milan Kraft looking like a draft jewel! He shows up at the World Junior Championship and dominates. Kraft ended the tourney with 5 goals 7 assists in 6 games. He helped the Czech Republic win gold, and he is a major piece in the building of the future for the Pittsburgh Penguins who seem to be rejuvenated with new coach Herb Brooks. Jaromir Jagr loves the offensive freedom. Kraft can be the total package when he adds weight to his frame, and a little knowledge defensively. Other than that, he is one year away from playing with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL for a few games before a call up to play with the best there is, Jagr. Alexander Zevakhin has been playing superb hockey also, collecting 5 points in 5 games, with fairly limited ice time. Alexander needs to mature up and play harder, he seems out of shape at times gasping for air after a bad shift. He plays like Pavel Bure at times, and Andrei Kovalenko at others.
It seems as though Craig Hillier is never going to get his chance like J-S Aubin. He needs more confidence and ice time in the parent league. Hillier plays like Martin Brodeur when he is confident, but most of the time no one has confidence in him, thus leaving him no confidence in himself. He can be a regular goalie when and if he is called on. Hillier should just wear number 13, because that is how his career has turned out to be. Lucky at times and unlucky at times sums it up nicely.
Andrei Maximenko has not been living up to expectations with the Soviet Wings this season. Despite playing on a line with 17 year old phenom Sergei Soin, Andrei has had almost no impact in Russia’s second league this season, with only 5 goals in 30 games.
Ryan Barnes has returned from his 25 game suspension in the OHL. He has 8 points in 11 games with Barrie, and it is hoped he will continue to develop his offensive game.
With Manny Legace in Detroit for most of December, Jason Elliott took over the starters role in Manitoba of the IHL. Despite his tremendous play, Elliott reassumes his backup role now that Legace is back with the Moose.
Henrik Zetterberg, the leader of Sweden’s second line, had a strong WJC. Zetterberg was a +3 and finished with 3 goals and 2 assists in 7 games.
Tomek Valtonen was a -2 and finished with just 1 goal on 14 shots in 7 games for Finland at the WJC. He was benched in the last game.
Aren Miller recorded his second career shutout recently, stopping 34 shots for Cincinnati after missing 9 games with a broken finger. He has stopped 69 of his last 70 shots.
Philippe Audet, after a horrendous start, has 18 points in his last 18 games with Cincinnati of the AHL. Audet averaged around 3 shots per game through December.
Jiri Fischer, who was assigned to Cincinnati on a two-week conditioning stint, has 2 assists, is a -2, and has taken 8 shots in 4 AHL games.
Maxim Kuznetsov, playing with Cincinnati, will miss at least four weeks undergoing knee surgery. Read more»