Brent Sutter may not be at the helm of the Canadian U20 team anymore, but his style of play is still having an effect. Team Canada's entry at the 2007 WJC is a decidedly physical squad, forgoing offensive punch for lots of crunch. Here's who to pick up in your keeper league as a result of their WJC selection.
Wayne Simmonds, RW- Every year, at least one player enters the Entry Draft with zero momentum and spends the next year rocketing up the charts. Playing below the CHL in his first year of draft eligibility, 19 year-old Wayne Simmonds appears to be 2007-08's major surprise. Buried behind the powerhouse line of Scott Tregunna, Trevor Lewis and Bobby Ryan, Simmonds quietly registered 23 goals, 49 points and 112 PIM as an OHL rook. Projected to be a later round pick- if chosen at all- the Kings built on their surprise selection of rearguard Thomas Hickey, using a second round choice on the tall, lanky forward. That decision appears to be a really, really good one. After an extremely strong NHL training camp that had some talking about a job this year, Simmonds went back to the OHL with plenty of confidence. With six fewer goals in nineteen games than he had all of last year and an impressive showing at the WJC Selection Camp, Simmonds will now have the opportunity to display his abilities on the world stage. A bevy of gifted playmakers should allow him to shine.
Scouting Report: An unstoppable scorer when driving down the wing; has the bullish frame and puck protection skills to plow through coverage. Deft hands and a hard, simple wrister. Needs to add at least forty pounds in order to maximize his potential.
Potential: 2nd line winger, 25-30-55, 120 PIM
Verdict: Definitely worth a pickup in a keeper league; could make an impact as soon as next year on a line with Patrick O'Sullivan.
Riley Holzapfel, C- It was only a matter of time. The prototypical banger and crasher, 19 year-old Riley Holzapfel was nevertheless looked over last season for a spot on a national team that prides itself on banging and crashing. One of 2006-07's biggest breakout players, the fireplug of a pivot registered a team-leading 39 goals and 82 points for the pitiful Moose Jaw Warriors. Off to a colder start this year with just fifteen points in twenty games, the second round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers was nevertheless in the right place at the right time during the 2007 Selection camp. Looked upon to bring a simple, devastating physical game on the fourth line, don't expect a great deal of production during the WJCs- but do expect some at the NHL level.
Scouting Report: One of the hardest working forwards in major juniors. Only 5'11, but built like a safe. Hits with abandon and passion. Offensive game may or may not translate well to the NHL.
Potential: Second-line C, 25-35-60, 100 PIM
Verdict: If you're hard up for safe prospects in general, go with Riley. He'll make it as a bottom-sixer at the very least.
Shawn Matthias, C- Is it possible? Did the Detroit Red Wings actually make a mistake? While it can be debated that Todd Bertuzzi was worth a gamble, there is no debating a 6'3 centreman scoring at almost 2 PPG in the Ontario Hockey League. That's what the Florida Panthers got in exchange for an aging, injured and ultimately unproductive forward. A dominant player down low due to his size and puck control, Matthias, 19, almost makes the Roberto Luongo trade look better. Almost. An absolute beast that has the ability to eat up smaller rearguards on the international stage, Matthias could have a breakout WJC.
Scouting Report: Huge, intelligent, and a diligent worker. Excels at making difficult passes. Despite being 6'3, could stand to be more physical.
Potential: In his prime, a lesser version of the guy he was traded for (30-35-65, 60 PIM)
Verdict: If he's still around, grab him.
Luke Schenn, D- While it wasn't much of a surprise to see two 17 year-old defenders make Team Canada, it was who they were that made waves. Instead of Mike Del Zotto and his 23 points in 30 games or Alex Pietrangelo and his 28 in 28 games to go along with a 6'3 frame, it will be WHL stay-at-homer Luke Schenn that will join phenom Drew Doughty in the Czech Republic. One of the oldest players in his draft class, Schenn was nevertheless considered a long-shot to make the national squad due to the offensive talents of his peers. However, with Josh Godfrey (Was), PK Subban (Mon) and Logan Pyett (Det) the team's designated ODs, Pietrangelo and Del Zotto were eliminated from a spot early in the process. Schenn's mature defensive game instead stole the show, and the 6'2 rearguard stands to improve his draft stock with a strong showing.
Scouting Report: Doesn't care much for funny business; just smartly clears loose pucks, but is mobile enough to make teams respect his rushing game. Built like a wild horse and as mean. Owns a bomb of a slapper and a surprisingly good wrister.
Potential: #2 D, 10-35-45
Verdict: Worth a look if you need a longshot fantasy-worthy defensive prospect. May be more McLaren than Pronger, however.
Oh, and how'd I do last week predicting Team Canada? Well...
So, both goalies, five of seven D, and half of the forwards. Not bad at all.