Image Well ladies and gents, another holiday season and another World Juniors gone by. This was perhaps Canada's toughest test on the U20 stage. Defending gold on European soil, facing an extremely talented home team, jet lag, cultural variance... and models. Want to know how patriotic our boys were? They gave up the opportunity to spend time with svelte blond women named Hanna and Anna to play for our country. We salute you! In case you missed it- and someone did, because there were people OUTSIDE during the GOLD MEDAL GAME- Team Canada came up with a 4-2 win. While he was named player of the game a couple times during round-robin play, Oilers draftee Andrew Cogliano never looked as good yesterday. His rushes with the puck were a thing of beauty-. And our coaching staff was so good that he actually scored whole standing still! I'd bet money that Cogs could count on his fingers the number of times he's done that in his career, but I can't keep him still long enough to ask him. Perhaps his best use of speed, though, came after the game, when he heard that there was a shuttle departing for a nearby nude beach.

The game almost never finished, however. Swedish rink officials wanted to charge the WJC committee extra for having two different sports on the ice at the same time. They argued that the complex had only been rented out for hockey, and not for diving as well.

Kidding aside, a few Russians stood out. Besides having numerous pucks hit his pads and bounce out while his body was going the other way, Russian goaltender Sergei Varlamov wasn't too shabby. His style is a tad similar to that of Dominik Hasek's, minus the uncanny ability to assault people while playing roller hockey. However, the problems Hasek has are ones Varlamov also must face: with the bottom of the net always occupied, it's tough to do the same for the top half. Better reading of the play and the willingness to disrupt the movement of the puck will go a long ways towards combating this minor hole in the young keeper's game.

Another standout for the red and white (the other red and white) was 2006 mystery draft pick Pavel Valentenko. A 5th round choice of the Montreal Canadiens at last summer's Entry Draft, 6'2, 202 lbs defenseman was woefully underscouted. However, the same pair of eyes that brought Alexei Yemelin into the Habs fold noticed the overage blueliner during lower league scouting trips. Like Yemelin, Valentenko's game is smart positioning and punishing hitting. It doesn't hurt to have a bit of a crazy factor either, and the latter demonstrated one when he clotheslined an opponent with his stick in a scramble.

One member of Team Russia, however, did not live up to his name. And that's good. Forward Alexander Bumagin didn't put the 'bum' into his last name. Like Cogliano, the overager had his best game of the tourney when it mattered most. An unrelenting forechecker thanks to his non-stop motor, the 19 year-old left wing played a flawless defensive game to lay the groundwork for an attempted comeback. And when he needed to, Bumagin was dangerous in the offensive zone, generating chances with perfect cross-ice passes and positioning. Selected in the 6th round, 170th overall in 2006, the 6'0, 180 lbs native of Togliatti is poised to jump to North America within the next two years.

With the WJCs now behind us, let's crack open the reader e-mail.
The mid-season pool was really nice, definitely more in-depth than 
Hockey's Future in terms of the amount of prospect info. A year between pool
guides is a long wait, so it was nice to have some mid-term info.

I was surprised there was no mention of Robbie Schremp nor Marc Staal. One thing I
would be interested in seeing next year would be your ranking of goaltender
prospects. I have a few other pool
questions:

Who has the least fanatsy potential in a keeper league: Paul Martin,
Fedor Tyutin, or Lukas Krajicek?

Who are your top 5 goalie prospects?

Who's more of a sure thing: Robert Nilsson, Jeff Tambellini, or Claude
Giroux?
-Mike

Since most pools are won or lost by one's actions at the mid-season waiver draft, we knew how important a guide like this is. I hope you get your money's worth- heck, I know you'll get your money's worth. You're in good hands.

schremp 1. Robbie Schremp: The master of stickhandling didn't get a mention in the top three because he's not yet pro-ready. Along with Pouliot, Mikhnov, and Jacques- all of whom have gotten call-ups- there's Kyle Brodziak, Patrick Thoresen and Toby Petersen ahead on the depth chart. A lot of injuries would have to happen for Kevin Lowe to even consider Robbie. Next year we'll have a better idea of how close he is.

2. Marc Staal: While it kind of looks silly in the wake of his tremendous offensive work in the Gold medal match today, Marc Staal doesn't produce enough offense to be a major fantasy asset. Make no mistake, teams win with him. NHL teams. But not fantasy teams.

3. Fedor Tyutin. Krajicek is a major longshot to ever fulfill his potential, but his upside offensively is higher than Tyutin's. Martin has already shown he can be an effective two-way defender.

4.

Top 10 Goalie Prospects:

1. Leland Irving
2. Carey Price
3. Semen Varlamov
4. Marek Schwarz
5. Al Montoya
6. Jaroslav Halak
7. Jonathan Bernier
8. Ondrej Pavelec
9. Cory Schneider
10. Josh Harding

5. Claude Giroux. Without a doubt. Nilsson's next- still has work ethic problems- and Tambellini is next based purely on lowest upside.

Remember, if you have a question you'd like to ask, send an e-mail our way. It's tough slogging these days- Dobber's a popular man, as such a stylish, sexy and smart male should be- but we'll do our best to answer some questions. (PS- stylish, sexy and smart males should also be giving me a raise).

And of course, with the spring looming, so are questions about the upcoming Entry Draft. Deeper than Don Cherry's hatred for visors and Euros, the 2007 draft class is, as Jonathan Toews would say, ****ing awesome.

The most common question is something like this:

In a keeper league what order would you pick Logan Couture, Jakub Voracek, Sam Gagner, and Angelo Esposito for your farm team? What are there long term potential and likelihood to achieve it?

Couture, Voracek, Gagner and Esposito are, for those just tuning in, four of the better players available for 2007. Russian winger Alexei Cherepanov, Calgary Hitmen blueliner Karl Alzner and American forward Patrick Kane round out the top seven.

Here's a bit about each:

Logan Couture, C, Ottawa 67s- A born leader with tremendous vision and passing ability. One of those players with that rare mix of talent and heart.

Jakub Voracek, W, Halifax Mooseheads- Dominating the WJC with his strength on the puck. Loves to hit, shoot and pass. Excellent skater.

Sam Gagner, C, London Knights- Spezza clone. World-class stickhandler, and he has a great defensive game when he wants to use it, but it's not often enough.

Angelo Esposito, C, Quebec Remparts- Go big or go home prospect. Unreal skill set and heart, but little offensive awareness. Can dangle and skate like no one else, though.

Alexei Cherepanov, W, Omsk Avangard- One of the hardest-working snipers you'll ever see. While ony 5'10, Cherepanov plays like he's 6'3 and often wins battles against players that size because of incredible strength. A threat off the rush to beat.

Karl Alzner, D, Calgary Hitmen- An extremely smart defenseman who can skate around or handle the puck by anyone. His movement with the biscuit is a thing of beauty. Compares favorably to Wade Redden, but his offensive upside is just as limited due to being the defensively responsible partner most of the time.

Patrick Kane, W, London Knights- A very strong WJC in which he was a threat most every shift has boosted his stock. The best pure deker in the draft and knows what to do with the puck to boot. Desperately needs to add muscle and defensive awareness in order to make him a complete player.

In a keeper league, I'd go this way:

1. Couture- 90+ points, 80% chance. 100+ points, 75%
2. Voracek- 90+ points, 90% chance. 100+ points, 65%
3. Cherepanov- 90+ points, 75% chance. 100+ points, 70%
4. Kane- 90+ points, 90% chance. 100+ points, 60%
5. Gagner- 100+ points, 50/50
6. Esposito- 100+ points, 40/60
7. Alzner- 30+ points, 90% chance. 50+ points, 65%

Keep 'em coming!

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