While they may be at different stages in their careers, three monster players will be the center-well, winger and defenseman- of attention whether they make the NHL or not during upcoming rookie and main training camps. Plus, I gloat a bit about predicting Russia's new additions were more than just fluff, and a tough critic has some rare kind words in Super Series news.
While men have often decried the statement that size matters, every inch matters in the world's best hockey league. Despite the rule changes meant to open up the flow of the game, teams have and likely will continue to gamble on big players who demonstrate offensive savvy to go along with their fortuitous genetics. The Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers did just that, and the results look to be mighty interesting.
It's fairly easy to guess where Detroit's two towers of power hail from. With a tremendous history of plucking talent out of Europe, it just wouldn't be a new season without new players only the Wings have heard of. Starring for the Motor City at the annual Traverse City Prospect Tournament are Swedes Johan Ryno and Patrik Magnusson. While they opened the annual tournament with a loss to a team composed of Atlanta's young guns, and will be in tough against strong squads from Tampa, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis and New York, all eyes were focused on Ryno- a 5th round pick from 2005- and Magnusson, a rearguard who went undrafted through seven rounds in Columbus.
Ryno is easily the best-known of the two. 6'4 and 200 pounds when drafted, the right winger has added an additional inch and ten pounds since then. And while he has had his struggles- namely painful back surgery to start the 2006-07 season- nine points in his first eleven Swedish Elite League games made the rehab worth the wait. The 20 year-old finished last season with a respectable 11 points in 25 games, not bad for playing in one of the toughest leagues outside the NHL. Pointless in last night's 3-2 loss to the Baby Thrashers, the relatively experienced youngster is nevertheless expected to lead the charge offensively for his side.
Detroit's second big project is actually a monster one, and in a good way. Standing an incredible 6'7 and 245 pounds, 18 year-old Patrik Magnusson was an equally incredible +30 in 41 games for HV 71's U20 squad in 2006-07. The December '88 birthdate also racked up 19 points and 91 PIM, leaps and bounds better than four points and a minus six rating last year in 25 games at the same level. A minus in his first competitive game ever on North American ice, Magnusson would normally be sent back however well he did in Traverse City. However, as the undrafted behemoth has committed to the Prince George Cougars for this upcoming season, Magnusson becomes a free agent. The Wings have stated that he'll be offered a contract if he impresses.
Not to be outdone, the Edmonton Oilers look to have stolen one from their Western Conference counterparts at the 2007 draft table. While their scouting staff only saw him one time, left wing William Quist obviously did something right as the team scooped him up in the 6th round. One of the youngest players in his draft class thanks to a July birthdate, the 6'3, 185 lbs forward nevertheless dominated Swedish Junior, racking up 23 points to go along with 71 PIM in 20 games. Playing in an out-of-the-way city in the southern-most reachest of the country, numerous teams will likely be circling that portion of the country several times over in the coming year. In addition to being a rough yet skilled player, the big man has no trouble moving around the ice thanks to a powerful, refined skating technique.
Last but not least, the Flyers have uncovered a gem of their own- and he may be the best of all. While NHL teams seemed to have a personal vendetta against the rather young North American Hockey League Tier II circuit in 2006, 2007 was a different story altogether. In stark contrast to a 2006 draft that saw zero players taken from the NAHL, a relatively high two players from that league found willing takers in Columbus. It should come as no surprise that one of those two was league MVP Patrick Maroon. While his numbers must be taken with a grain of salt due to being 19 years old in a league of watered-down talent of every age, the 6'4, 225 lbs left wing racked up an impressive 95 points in just 57 games. Even more impressive were his 157 PIM, an average of almost three minutes in the box per game. Ignored in 2006 due to poor skating ability and an alarming 250 lbs measurement on the scale, Maroon managed to drop twenty of those pounds- a move which allowed him to gain better footspeed. The Dustin Penner-esque forward received a sweet offer from the London Knights, a move which enticed Maroon to come north. In his first two games with the CHL powerhouse, Maroon has two goals.
Speaking of London, 2007 6th overall selection Sam Gagner has had a simply outstanding Canada/Russia Super Series, but his 14 points in seven games hasn't been his most outstanding achievement. That honor goes to comments made by Team Canada head coach Brent Sutter, the most successful head coach in Canadian international junior team history. The notoriously tough coach praised Gagner's adjustment to meet demands of defensive excellence, and called the crafty center's offense 'dynamite'.
That platitude could also easily describe Game 7 of the series. On Sutter's home turf and with a roster of better team players, Team Russia pulled off an upset, or at least an upset in their case. Losers of the first six games of the much-hyped mini-tournament, the overseas challengers eeked out a 4-4 tie in an emotional, fast-paced affair in Red Deer. Brandon Sutter fittingly earned Player of the Game honors, however, thanks to more superb penalty killing. Kyle Turris added another goal, but it was Gagner's sixth of the series and an assist that stood out offensively. A highlight-reel pass to Sutter set up a crucial goal by Canada in the second period.
Players Mentioned In This Article:
Johan Ryno, LW
Born: June 5th, 1986
Drafted: 2005, Detroit Red Wings (5th Round, 137th Overall)
Height/Weight: 6'5, 209 lbs
2006/07 Team: Timra, SEL
2006/07 Stats: 25 GP, 5-6-11, -3, 8 PIM
Potential: Second-line winger, 35-40-75
Patrik Magnusson, D
Born: December 3rd, 1988
Drafted: Undrafted, Eligible 2007 (Try-out w/ Detroit)
Height/Weight: 6'7, 244 lbs
2006/07 Team: HV 71, Sweden U20
2006/07 Stats: 41 GP, 7-12-19, +30, 91 PIM
Potential: Poor man's Chara, 15-20-35, +20, 100 PIM
William Quist, LW
Born: July 31st, 1989
Drafted: 2007, Edmonton Oilers (6th Round, 157th Overall)
Height/Weight: 6'3, 185 lbs
2006/07 Team: Tingsryds AIF, Sweden U20
2006/07 Stats: 20 GP, 8-15-23, 71 PIM
Potential: Second-line forward, 30-35-65, 80 PIM
Patrick Maroon, LW
Born: April 23rd, 1988
Drafted: 2007, Philadelphia Flyers (6th Round, 161st Overall)
Height/Weight: 6'4, 225
2006/07 Team: St. Louis Bandits, NAHL
2006/07 Stats: 57 GP, 40-55-95, 157 PIM
Potential: Meaner Dustin Penner, 35-30-65, 100 PIM