Grading NHL teams by WJC prospects
January, 7, 2014
By Corey Pronman | ESPN Insider
Ludvig Thunman/AFP/Getty ImagesFilip Forsberg (left) was named the MVP of the World Junior Championship, with 12 total points.Finland shocked host team Sweden in the gold medal match to conclude the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. But while the team results of the event are important, the individual performances are what many focus on, as some of these players will be stars in the NHL in the coming seasons.
Below are my grades for NHL teams in terms of the players in their pipeline that participated in the event, including some observations on every drafted prospect. This is based mostly on video observations, but also discussions with scouts. Bear in mind that the team grades are not meant to show total prospect value, as that cannot be determined from a short tournament, and that we focus more on the scouting angle instead of the statistical angle for these rankings. For reference, an "A" represents a high number of prospects participating in the tournament and performing at a high level. A "D" represents few prospects in the tournament and those that did participate did not perform particularly well.
Nashville Predators: A
• F Filip Forsberg was outstanding and was named MVP of the tournament. He dominated opponents with high-end puck skills, a great work ethic, a top-end power game and good instincts. He was always involved in the play when he was on the ice, sometimes creating chances through sheer will. Forsberg looks like a potential top-line NHL forward, and perhaps a star.
• F Saku Maenalainen had a surprisingly great tournament, as he was the top goal scorer, and a threat every game on Finland's top line. He doesn't have great puck skills, but he's a big, strong forward who skates well, went to the high percentage areas, showed good awareness and quality finishing skills.
• G Juuse Saros was the best goaltender at the tournament, a natural progression after being the best goalie at the under-18 tournament last spring. Saros may be small, but he's an incredibly gifted goaltender in all other aspects. He's quick, smart, poised and most impressive of all are his reads and reflexes. Saros reads shots off the stick perfectly, anticipating when to stand, go down and make movements within the crease.
• F Zach Stepan was the 13th forward for most of the tournament for Team USA, but slotted in briefly for Danny O'Regan. He's a decent all-around player who made a few nice plays at the tournament, but was mostly a non-factor.
• D Mikko Vainonen was a solid, physical defensive presence. He regularly made some tough stops and cleared forwards out of the high percentage areas well. However, he didn't get much done in terms of puck movement.
Washington Capitals: A
• F Riley Barber was outstanding, and was a consistent offensive threat for the Americans. He brought speed, skill, energy and effective decision making on a regular basis, showing why he's been one of the top players in college hockey this season.