Senators WJC preview

By Sean Keogh

The World Junior Hockey Championships are often a launching pad for a successful NHL career, and that is true for several current Senators players. In the past, graduated prospects such as Jason Spezza, Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat and Wade Redden have all suited up for their native countries in this tournament. Last year, current prospects such as Brooks Laich, Alexei Kaigorodov and Jakub Klepis, later dealt to Buffalo for Vaclav Varada, were there for Senators scouts to observe. Making the trip to Helsinki, Finland for this year’s tournament are four Senators prospects, although it easily could have been five.


Patrick Eaves: United States – 1st round, 29th overall, 2003- RW


Ottawa’s first selection in the 2003 draft, Boston College’s Patrick Eaves is expected to play a major role on the American squad heading to Helsinki. With his father Mike, the head coach of the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team, being behind the bench for the Americans, Eaves is sure to get plenty of ice time. With players like Patrick O’Sullivan, Dan Fritsche, Zach Parise and Ryan Kesler also on the squad, Eaves will have plenty of help shouldering the offensive load. Early projections suggest that the Minnesota native could line-up with O’Sullivan, a player with whom he has had previous success in international tournaments. Not only is Eaves a gifted offensive player, but he plays with a level of grit and energy that can be incredibly valuable in this tournament. It is this feistiness that has led to injuries in the past for Eaves, including a recent knee injury this season. Despite the knee injury, Eaves has still recorded five goals and 15 total points in 11 games this season with Boston College.


Philippe Seydoux: Switzerland- 3rd round, 100th overall, 2003- Defense


Of the three blueline prospects the Senators have headed to Helsinki, Philippe Seydoux is the one who is expected to play the greatest role for his respective team. Known for his grit and in-your-face style, Seydoux is in his second full season with the Kloten Flyers of the Swiss National League. He is expected to play significant minutes, despite being the youngest blueliner on the Swiss entry in the tournament. It is possible Seydoux could form a pairing with swift-skating Calgary second round pick Tim Ramholt. With veteran goaltender Tobias Stephan injured and out for the tournament, the Swiss team’s hopes have taken a significant hit, and defensemen like Seydoux will be relied on more heavily to help their new starting goalie, most likely Carolina 2002 fifth round pick Daniel Manzato. So far this season, Seydoux has 2 goals and 4 points in 17 games with Kloten.


Sergey Gimayev: Russia- 5th round, 166th overall, 2003- Defense


An often-overlooked prospect within the Senators system, Sergey Gimayev will suit up for the Russian team in Helsinki. Known for his steady, physical brand of hockey, Gimayev is not blessed with a wealth of skills, but is a good skater, which could help him gain ice time on the Russian team. The Russian blueline lacks any big name players, although prospects Konstantin Korneev, Dmitri Kosmachev, Denis Grot and Denis Ezhov are expected to form the top four. The best Gimayev can hope for is regular third pairing duty, although it’s highly unlikely he will receive any powerplay time. In 25 games with Severstal Cherepovets in the Russian Super League this season, Gimayev has yet to register a point.


Johan Bjork: Sweden- 4th round, 125th overall, 2002- Defense


The third and final defenseman headed to Helsinki is Johan Bjork, a Swede who like Gimayev, is unlikely to log a lot of minutes for his respective team. While Bjork possesses a solid all-round game and has the offensive instincts to play the powerplay, he is coming off a minor injury. It will not prevent him from playing, but may restrict his workload. Bjork, who has been up with in the Swedish Elite League for about two thirds of the season, could surprise though. With no defensemen over 6’1″ and players such as Henrik Blomqvist (5’11”, 183lbs), Tobias Enstrom (5’10”, 174lbs), Tomas Skogs (5’10”, 178lbs) and Alexander Tang (5’11”, 186lbs) manning the Swedish blueline, the 6’1”, 194-pound Bjork could see more minutes in games against bigger teams like Canada. Bjork only has one goal to show for his 23 games with the MIF Redhawks of the Swedish Elite League, but with their junior club, he has two goals and six points in only 12 games.


Not joining the four above players in Helsinki is Russian sniper Igor Mirnov. The Senators second round pick, 67th overall last year, had been on fire in the Russian Super League this season, but sustained a knee injury that will keep him out of the tournament. The Dynamo Moscow forward was expected to play a major role on the high-powered Russian offense. The extent of the injury is not yet known, although it is not expected to be major.