A Look Back at the 2007 WJHC Part 3
Team USA played well and took home the Bronze medal. I caught four of their games and came away impressed with several players:
Then: It's not every tournament where a defenseman ties for the lead in points, but that's just what Erik Johnson did. He had 10 points in seven games. Watching him play, you couldn't help but admire his calm demeanour, seemingly always in control. He also led the team in shots on goal (32) and penalty minutes (16). I didn't get the impression he will ever be a particularly mean player in the NHL though.
Now: The first overall pick in 2006 had a very good NHL rookie year in 2007-08, scoring 33 points in 69 games. He blew out his knee (in a golf cart accident no less!) and missed his entire sophomore season. Last year, he had 39 points in 79 matches. This season, he has started slowly with only four points in 14 games. If only you saw him like I did, you would be trying to acquire him in your keeper pools right now.
Then: I became a big Jack Johnson fan during the round robin game versus Canada. In the small Mora rink (3,539 in attendance), the boisterous Canadian fans were merciless in taunting Johnson (all in good taste) and when he took a charging penalty, he looked up at the crowd and gave us a wink and a smile, that was it, instant man-crush. He only had three goals and 14 penalty minutes in the tournament, but one of the goals was the overtime winner against Sweden. He played like a rover though, complete riverboat gambler, but had the skating ability to usually get back in the play. You could just tell that he was a player.
Now: JJ had some growing pains while learning that he actually had to play defence in the NHL and couldn't get by the way he was playing. The third overall pick in 2005 was traded by Carolina to Los Angeles when he wouldn't forego his 2006-07 season at Michigan, where he finished with 39 points in 34 games. He notched 11 points in 74 games in his first full NHL season, following that up with 11 points in 41 games and then last year he had a mini-breakout with 36 points. He appears to have turned the corner this year with 11 points in 14 games and for the first time in his NHL career, it looks like he might actually be a plus player.
Then: Top forward point scorer on the team was some punk kid who would later that year would go first overall at the 2007 draft. Patrick Kane had nine points in the tournament and finished his OHL season with 145 points in 58 points. He was easily the most dynamic player on the ice, the only question was how would he fare against NHL competition. No rumour if any cabbies were harmed during the tournament.
Now: Well he's held up pretty well I'd say! There was his 72 point rookie season, where he copped the Calder trophy and then recorded 10 points in seven games at the 2008 World Championship. His sophomore season was 70 points and then last year he raised the bar to 88 points. He has 15 points in 17 games so far this season.
Then: Peter Mueller had six points in seven games. He was one of the go to guys on this team and always seemed to be creating offence.
Now: Mueller went on to score 78 points in 54 games in his last year of junior hockey. He had a 54 point debut season in the NHL, but disappointed the following year with 36 points. Last year, he finished with 37 points, but had 20 points in only 15 games following a trade from Phoenix to Colorado. Unfortunately, he sustained a concussion near the end of last season and hasn't made a return to the ice yet.
Then: I really wasn't all that blown away by Jack Skille. He did record six points in seven games, but nothing stood out that said he would be a star at the NHL level.
Now: After the tournament, he bolted from college hockey (18 points in 26 games for Wisconsin) and made his professional debut in the AHL where he scored eight points in nine games. The next two years, he bounced back and forth between the AHL and NHL and had decent numbers. Last year, he had 49 points in 63 AHL games and two points in six NHL games. This year he has four points in 17 NHL games. I just don't see the star qualities necessary to put up big numbers in the big league.
Then: Defenseman Taylor Chorney recorded six points in seven games, but he didn't seem to create much himself. I pegged him as more of a support player in the NHL.
Now: He finished his college year out with 31 points in 39 games, but the following year he took a step back, recording only 24 points in 43 games. Then he turned pro and turned in a so-so season with 21 points in 68 games, but was a brutal minus-29. Last year, he split the season between the AHL (32-13) and the NHL (42-3).
Then: Being vertically challenged myself, I just had to watch this under-sized dynamo play for the American side. Nathan Gerbe didn't disappoint, he had six points (all assists) in seven games. As with all players under six feet, the question would be could he handle the bigger NHL players and survive the grind of an 82 game season?
Now: Gerbe went on to finish the college season with 47 points in 41 games and blew that away the next year with 68 points in 43 games, drawing comparisons to another pint-sized Boston College grad, Brian Gionta. Gerbe went on the AHL and proceeded to win the rookie of the year with 56 points in 57 games. He also had a 10 game NHL audition where he scored one point. Last year, he had 38 points in 44 AHL games and this time he scored five points in another 10 game NHL trial. This year, he has two points in nine games. He could, ahem, grow into a Gionta-lite type of player in a couple of years.
Then: Even though this guy scored one measly point, he was continually creating scoring chances. Kyle Okposo had the look of an NHL player and he played a tough brand of hockey at the tournament, sitting for 12 penalty minutes.
Now: Immediately following the tournament, Okposo bolted his college team for the AHL and scored 28 points in 35 games. He finished the season up with the Islanders, recording five points in nine games. He didn't disappoint in his rookie NHL season, scoring 39 points in 65 games. Last year, he had a mini-breakout with a 52 point season. This year he hasn't played a game yet as he is recovering from shoulder surgery.
Then: This guys wheels were always turning. The first thing you noticed about Justin Abdelkader was his speed. He didn't seem to have much of a scoring touch, finishing with two points in the tournament.
Now: In his final college hockey season, he scored 40 points in 42 games and in his AHL debut, he recorded 52 points in 76 games. Last year, he split the season between the AHL (33-24) and the NHL (50-6). This year he has three points in six NHL games. I think he might have some scoring ability, but he's stuck on Detroit's checking line and until he is given a shot at a top six role, he'll never produce fantasy-worthy points.
Then: James van Riemsdyk was a highly touted prospect who would go at the top of the NHL entry draft six months later. I watched him to see what I could glean. I didn't learn much as this is a 19-year-old tournament and JVR didn't stand out at all. He had one point in seven games and was chosen second overall at the draft.
Now: He went on to dominate the next two World Junior Championships, scoring 11 and 10 points respectively. He also had 34 and 40 point seasons in college before turning pro and registering two points in seven AHL games at the end of the 2008-09 season. Last year, van Riemsdyk played 78 games in his first NHL season and scored 35 points. This year, he's off to a slow start with four points in 13 games.
Then: I didn't even know who Jamie McBain was until last season, but he played in all seven games for the USA, going pointless.
Now: McBain scored 37 points in 40 games over his last year of college hockey. Last year, he broke out with 40 points in 68 AHL games and an incredible 10 points in 14 NHL games. That set up unrealistic expectations this year, especially when you consider that the Hurricanes brought back both Joe Corvo and Anton Babchuk. I am completely sold on this kid's talent and once Carolina clears some space on the blueline, we'll see a 50-60 point defenseman in a couple of years.
Then: He had to be the fastest skater at the tournament. Bill Sweatt was incredibly swift, but he immediately reminded me of Martin Gelinas - all wheels, no finish. He did manage two points in seven matches, but he had so many scoring chances due to his speed that he just couldn't capitalize on.
Now: Sweatt was drafted 37th overall by Chicago the following summer and played four years of college hockey. In his final season, he recorded a respectable 33 points in 39 games. He was traded to Toronto in the Versteeg deal and then was waived, eventually signing with Vancouver. He has a promising eight points in 14 AHL games this year, but I'm not sure if his hands will ever catch up with his feet enough to produce in the NHL.
Then: Goaltender Jeff Frazee recorded four wins against only one loss and had a 1.72 goals-against-average with a 0.939 save percentage. He looked solid, but not spectacular in front of a very good USA team.
Now: How awesome is it to be a goaltender drafted by New Jersey!? Frazee had a couple of mediocre college seasons and followed that up in 2008-09 with a 28-22-6 record, 2.62 goals-against-average and a very good 0.920 save percentage in the AHL. Last year, still in the AHL, he regressed a little going 14-16-0 with a 2.80 goals-against-average and 0.910 save percentage. The jury is still out on whether he'll ever be an NHL netminder.
Still to come:
Part Four - Sweden and Russia
Part Five - Canada
12 Team "Experts" Roto representing Dobberhockey 2nd
G,A,PPP,+/-,SOG,Hits,Blocks,Wins,GAA,SV% - Keep 4
12 Team Salary Cap Roto Dynasty 3rd (G,A,Pts,FPts,DPts,Pim,SOG,H,BS,W+OTL+SO,GAA,SV%)
12F-Ovechkin,Kopitar,P&E Kane,Kessel,Ryan,M&N Foligno,Ennis,Hodgson,Killorn,Horton,Wolski,Morrow ,Bonino