The 2009 IIHF World U18s are here, and the rosters set. Get a full country-by-country breakdown in today's Bugg Bytes, starting with Europe.
Top 2009 Draft Eligibles, F
Andrej Nestrasil, LW
6'2, 194 lbs 2/22/1991
Statline: 66 GP, 22-35-57, 67 PIM (QMJHL)
Michal Hlinka, LW
6'3, 190 lbs 3/19/1991
Statline: 41 GP, 12-22-34, 38 PIM (QMJHL)
Ondrej Palat, C
5'10, 154 lbs 3/28/1991
Statline: 42 GP, 23-33-56, +38, 14 PIM
Jakub Jerabek, D
5'11, 181 lbs 5/12/1991
Statline: 38 GP, 8-19-27, +6, 28 PIM
Adam Polesak, D
6'1, 181 lbs 7/12/1991
Statline: 38 GP, 7-13-20, +36, 68 PIM
Marek Mazanec, G
6'3, 176 lbs 7/18/1991
Youngest player: David Musil, D (4/09/1993, or still 15!)
Tallest player: David Musil, D (190 cm, or 6'3!)
Shortest player: Petr Mrazek, G (5'6; a 1992 born)
Famous Family: Musil is the son of former NHL defenseman and current Oilers scout Frantisek Musil. Musil Sr. will actually be coaching his son in the tournament.
Summary: Steadily on the decline in recent years thanks to the lack of a superstar, the Czech Republic enters the U18s with a decidedly more Canadian entry. Driven by necessity rather than strategy, big, physical forwards have taken the place of speed and skill. The result is a team that's managed to hang around in international play despite no elite talent.
Who to Watch: Andrej Nestrasil isn't yet listed on the official roster, but he'll be there. After a successful rookie season in North America with Victoriaville, the 6'2, 194 lbs power winger continued producing into the Q playoffs with a team-leading three points in a four game sweep. Also playing on this side of the ocean was Michal Hlinka. Still a relative unknown to scouts despite playing in the Top Prospects Game, Hlinka has both excellent work ethic and skating ability for his size. A big tournament would push him into the top half of the second round.
On the back end, two highly mobile, extremely responsible defenders highlight the Czech class. Jakub Jerabek and Adam Polesak were a top-notch tandem at the 5 Nations tournament, totalling six points and a +6 rating in four games.
Last but not least, Goaltender Marek Mazanec is bound to draw attention thanks to his pro-ready frame. However, despite a great season on paper- 2.53 GAA and 0.926 Sv%- HC Plzen was the second-best defensive team in juniors. As it is, Mazanec struggled at the U18 Five Nations tournament earlier in the spring, allowing eight goals in just 2.6 games.
Top 2009 Draft Eligibles, F
Erik Haula, LW
5'11, 176 lbs 3/23/1991
Statline: 49 GP, 24-55-79, 42 PIM (USHS)
Joonas Nattinen, C
6'2, 181 lbs 1/3/1991
Statline: 30 GP, 9-29-38, +20, 6 PIM
Toni Rajala, RW
5'10, 163 lbs 3/29/1991
Statline: 31 GP, 14-17-31, +15, 18 PIM
Tommi Kivisto, D
6'1, 198 lbs 6/7/1991
Statline: 65 GP, 1-21-22, -9, 49 PIM (WHL)
Sami Vatanen, D
5'9, 159 lbs 6/3/1991
Joni Ortio, G
6'1, 181 lbs 4/16/1991
Youngest player: Joonas Donskoi, C (4/13/1992)
Tallest player: T- Ville Hyvarinen, D Sami Tervonen, D (6'2)
Shortest player: Jere Laaksonen, F (5'8, 163 lbs)
Famous Family: None
Summary: Once relegated to the role of scrappy underdogs, an incredible 1991 and 1992 talent pool has revitalized Finnish hockey. As many as four Finns may go in the top ninety of the '09 Draft, with three more potential first-rounders in 2010.
Who to Watch: The U18s will be much-maligned winger Toni Rajala's final shot to impress the scouts. A strong second half plus a reknewed dedication to playing sound, balanced hockey has given the tiny winger's stock some life. If Rajala is 'on', he could net as much as 2 PPG and re-claim a top five position among RWs in the '09 class. Meanwhile, the decision to come overseas and play North American hockey has fellow phenom Erik Haula on solid ground. Now the owner of some muscle and strength to go along with his dazzling skill and work ethic, the Shattuck St. Mary's left wing is considered the safer choice between he and Rajala, and that could be the difference between being a second or third rounder.
The future is not so bright on defense, however. Despite plenty of hype and an NHLer's maturity, Tommi Kivisto showed little in the way of pro readiness during his rookie NA campaign with Red Deer. Finland's next-best defenseman is 5'8 Sami Vatanen; while a tremendous skater and thinker, Vatanen does not project to be a star player.
Top 2009 Draft Eligibles
Dmitri Orlov, D
5'11, 179 lbs 7/23/1991
Igor Bobkov, G
6'4, 192 lbs 2/2/1991
Youngest player: Kirill Kabanov, RW (7/16/1992)
Tallest player: T- Igor Bobkov, Stanislav Solovyov (6'4)
Shortest player: Stanislav Kalashnikov (5'9, 163 lbs)
Summary: We're not relying on the transfer agreement excuse when we say there are just two NHL-quality '09 prospects on the Russian U18 team. They're just not that good. The bulk of the team's offense will come from three '92 born forwards, and the team will be simply impotent when they are not on the ice.
Who to Watch: The pickings are thin, but if you want to have two star players, it's on D and in net. Orlov is a tad undersized, but like much-hyped Dmitry Kulikov, he possesses outstanding smarts, mobility and offensive instincts. He'll play in every situation, and log upwards of 35 minutes. Bobkov, meanwhile, is a late surprise; having already seen KHL action, the mammoth tender was the Top Goaltender at the recent Five Nations tournament.