Four Nashville Predators prospects played in the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championships and they all advanced to play medal round games. The players are, in order of medal finish, Ryan Parent (Canada), Alexander Radulov (Russia), Teemu Lassko (Finland) and Vaclav Meidl (Czech Republic).
Ryan Parent, D – Guelph Storm (1st round, 2005 Entry Draft, 18th overall)
Height: 6’2 Weight: 200lbs. Age: 18
Part of Team Canada’s top defensive pairing along with Marc Staal (NYR), Parent was used in all situations by head coach Brent Sutter. Throughout the tournament, Parent and Staal were called upon to defend against their opponents’ top units.
Prior to the tournament, Parent offered these comments on potentially playing alongside Staal:
“I’ve been paired with him since we were selected to the team and we’re rooming together, too. Hopefully we can stick together. I see him a lot in the OHL and we’ve played together before a little bit. We see each other well out there, we’re kind of similar in our style of play and we make things easy for each other on the ice.”
In conjunction with Canada’s torrid, backchecking forwards, Parent made things anything but easy for top guns like Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin (PIT), limiting them to outside shots and very low percentage scoring chances.
Parent utilized his amazing reach and balance to consistently move opponents away from the front of the Team Canada net, which provided goaltender Justin Pogge (TOR) with plenty of room to see oncoming shots.
Alexander Radulov, F – Quebec Remparts (1st round, 2004 Entry Draft, 15th overall)
Height: 6’1 Weight: 190 lbs. Age: 19
With 71 points in 31 games in the QMJHL this season, it is apparent Radulov possesses the talent to dominate games. When Radulov arrived for his second WJC, expectations were high for contributing offensively for Team Russia.
Like each of his teammates, Radulov played in the shadow of Malkin. He centered the team’s second unit between wingers Sergei Ogorodnikov (NYI) and Roman Voloshenko (MIN).
On a team with deep offensive talent, Radulov probably underachieved at the WJC, posting one goal and three assists. Had he made an impact early in the tournament, Radulov may have made it more difficult for teams to focus specifically on defending against Malkin. The quality of play in the tournament increased as the medal round progressed and Radulov was unable to make consistent contributions in terms of secondary scoring.
In this elite junior tournament, Radulov’s performance left many observers wonting for more, perhaps unfairly due to his phenomenal scoring exploits in Quebec this season. He has demonstrated far too much talent, leadership and offensive prowess in the CHL to justify such an average performance in a global showcase like the WJC.
Teemu Laakso, D – IFK, Helsinki (3rd round, 2005 Entry Draft, 78th overall)
Height: 6’0 Weight: 196 lbs. Age: 18
Laakso logged what must have seemed like hours of ice time for the upstart Finns during the WJC, especially during medal round play against Sweden, Canada and the USA. It would be difficult to suggest he could give much more than he did.
He played in all special teams situations and was a consistent offensive contributor from the blue line with three goals and one assist. He was +7 for the tournament. His personal highlight was scoring the overtime goal against Sweden in a quarterfinal game, where goaltender Tuukka Rask (TOR) stopped a total of 53 shots to earn a shutout victory.
Laakso and mates earned a bronze medal at the WJC with a 4-2 victory over the USA. They lost twice to Canada; 5-1 in the preliminary round and 4-0 in the semifinal, and fell 6-5 to the USA in the preliminary round.
The Finns reaped praise from North American observers as they consistently provided a fierce presence in their own zone. There is a persistent, pugnacious attitude in their play, regardless of the quality of opponent. Short on offensive firepower at the 2006 WJC, other than Lauri Tukonen (LA) with three goals and seven assists, the country’s bronze medal is a direct result of their commitment to team play and an almost unmatched work ethic.
Vaclav Meidl, F – Plymouth Whalers (3rd round, 2004 Entry Draft, 81st overall)
Height: 6’5 Weight: 215 lbs. Age: 19
As the tournament progressed, Meidl saw an increase in ice time, likely a reward for his feisty play along the boards and in the attacking zone. While contributing one goal and one assist in five games, Meidl used his size to play a physical role for the Czechs. Not known as an offensive threat, he worked hard to create scoring opportunities for the second unit on a team that produced much less than anticipated.
The Czech Republic entered the tournament boasting a line-up with a dozen CHL players, yet they managed little offensive dominance during the WJC, with the exception of a 5-3 preliminary round win over Slovakia. Petr Pohl (CBJ) provided the most consistent offensive effort over the course of the tournament. David Krejci (BOS) led the team with six points, largely due to a three-goal game against Slovakia.
Michael Frolik, who commented to HF prior to the tournament that the 2006 NHL Entry Draft was not on his mind, played as if that was entirely the case. He arrived amid some hype as a potential first overall pick next summer and unfortunately fought the puck throughout the tournament. Frolik, who plays for Kladno in the Czech Elite League, counted one assist in five games. He likely did little to boost his stock in comparison to performances offered by Jonathon Toews, Erik Johnson and Kessel.
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