Even through just the exchange of emails from Russia, the excitement was easy to detect. NHL scouts love the world junior championships, and the tournament is now heating up.
"[It's] just starting to get its character," one NHL team's director of amateur scouting wrote Tuesday. "Ufa has been a good host city, hard to get here but the organization has been first class. And snow on a daily basis -- not sure it ever stops."
The challenge for scouts working the tournament is to remove the emotion that comes with covering an intense international tournament, and use these games as another part of a larger evaluation of players. But sometimes it's impossible. When picking players off waivers, general managers still reference a performance the guy had in a world junior championship years ago as proof as to why he may pan out. These games on such a big stage burn into the memory.
"You have to take the whole year into consideration," one Western Conference front office executive said Tuesday. "There's a lot of times that kids don't perform that well when they're playing at a much higher level like that, but it's about analyzing the whole year from the start. Actually, it's a couple years."
Our own NHL scout -- Grant Sonier -- provided his player evaluations Tuesday from the tournament's round-robin portion. As the tournament surges to a conclusion (and a rematch Thursday between Canada and Team USA in the semifinals), I checked with a number of scouts who are in Russia to get a sense of which players made the biggest impressions on them during the prelims. Here's a sampling:
United States: Draft-eligible defenseman Seth Jones had four assists in Team USA's rout of the Czech Republic early Wednesday morning, but he wasn't the first defenseman mentioned by scouts. Jacob Trouba was the one highlighted for his play early on. The Winnipeg Jets' first-rounder has four goals and four assists through five games.
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