A Look Back at the 2007 WJHC Part 4
This was supposed to be a time for Sweden to shine on home turf. Their opening game was going to be a tough test against the reigning champion Canada. This was the only game where we had to go to the standing room section. There were quite a few Canadian supporters waving the red and white, but we were drowned out by a sea of blue and yellow. The Swedish fans were pretty humble, even complimentary after being shutout 2-0 by the visiting team.
Sweden lost their final round robin match in overtime to Team USA, setting up a semi-final against a very tough Russian squad. The Swedes were outplayed, coming up on the short end of a 4-2 score. The Russians looked dominant. Sweden lost 2-1 to the USA in the bronze medal game.
All totalled, I took in four of Sweden's seven games. Two players stood out for me:
Then: This was supposed to be a statement tournament for Nicklas Backstrom, whom the Caps drafted fourth overall (2006) to be Ovechkin's set up man. You could see that he had tons of talent, but was pressing too hard, trying to do everything himself. He did have seven assists in seven games, but it was a disappointing tournament all around for Backstrom. His team leading 20 penalty minutes illustrated just how frustrated he was.
Now: Backstrom went on to finish the year in the Swedish Elite League with 40 points in 45 games. He also participated in the World Championship, recording seven points in nine games. His three years in the NHL have yielded seasons of 69, 88 and 101 points, the last one included 33 goals. He has 18 points in 16 games so far this season, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him hit the century mark again this year.
Then: There was one defenseman that really stood out for me. He was very physical and dealt with the rough stuff quite well. I saw him handling the NHL in much the same way. It didn't hurt that he was also their top scorer from the back end. Niklas Hjalmarsson was his name. Although he only had three points, he was his country's most noticeable player.
Now: He played a big part on last year's Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. He logged top four minutes on the top team, earning himself a lucrative contract. He spent 99 games in the AHL, scoring 31 points and only has 21 points in 127 career NHL matches. Obviously, he is not going to be a good player to own in most fantasy leagues, but he is an important player for Chicago.
Then: Second on the team in scoring was the soon to be Oiler property, Linus Omark. He recorded five points in seven contests, but to be honest he really didn't do anything that stood out and made me think he'll be good at the NHL level.
Now: He's been a You Tube sensation for his highlight reel goals, but that doesn't get you a steady gig in the NHL. Since that tournament, Omark had a great World Championship, recording 10 points in nine games. He also played one year in the Swedish Elite League, recording 55 points in 53 games (third overall) and he followed that up with 36 points in 56 KHL games. This season, he is tied for third overall in AHL scoring with 19 points in 17 games. He's going to get his shot in the NHL, but he better produce or it might be back to Sverige for Linus.
Then: Patric Hornqvist scored three points in seven games. I didn't even know he was on this team until I started doing this write up, which means he didn't stand out.
Now: Following the tournament, Hornqvist scored 41 goals over two seasons in the Swedish Elite League. In 2008-09, he played 49 games in the AHL, netting 17 goals and 35 points and he also played in 28 NHL games, garnering seven points. Last year, he broke out in a big way with 30 goals and 51 points in 80 NHL games for Nashville. This year, he has eight points in 14 games.
Then: I saw flashes of offense in this guy, but not really enough to leave a lasting impression. Patrik Berglund had three points in seven games.
Now: Berglund was taken 25th overall in 2006. After the tournament, he played two seasons in the Swedish Second Division recording seasons of 48 points (in 35 games) and 54 points (46 games). He then proceeded to come out of nowhere to post a 21 goal, 47 point rookie NHL season. Berglund regressed last year, hitting only 26 points. He has six points in 14 games so far this year.
Then: Much more was expected from Niclas Bergfors. In the previous World Junior Championship, he netted six points in as many games. This time he only had two assists in seven games.
Now: Bergfors had a season and a half of AHL play to his credit before the 2007 World Junior tournament. He had 40 points in 65 games during his first AHL season and 32 points in 60 games after that. He went on to play another two years in the AHL, recording 27 and 51 points both in 66 games respectively. It was last year that Bergfors started lighting up the NHL, finishing with 44 points in 81 games. He was also a part of the big trade involving Ilya Kovalchuk. He looks for real this year and has 11 points in 13 games.
Then: Sweden's goaltending was split between two 'tenders. Joel Gistedt was drafted in the second round (36 overall) of 2007 the NHL entry draft by Phoenix. He was markedly better than Jhonas Enroth, who was Buffalo's second round pick (46 overall) in the 2006 draft. Gistedt (1-4, 1.96, 0.912) started the tough games against Canada and USA in the round robin and also played in the bronze medal game. Enroth (2-1, 2.91, 0.887) started against Russia in the semi-final game and got yanked after giving up three goals.
Now: Gistedt spent some time in both the Central Hockey League and ECHL and got lit up in both. He is now back in Sweden in the Second Division trying to get his game back on track. The good news is that he is only 22-years-old and there is lots of time left before he can be considered a bust.
Now: Enroth played in the following year's World Junior Championship, recording a much better 4-1 record with a 2.33 goals-against-average. He followed that with a very good season in the Swedish Elite League recording a 2.13 goals-against-average and a 0.932 save percentage. Enroth spent the next two seasons honing his skills in the AHL including last season where he finished with a 28-18-1 record, five shutouts, a 2.37 goals-against-average and a 0.919 save percentage. This season he has played four NHL games with mixed results. He is 2-1-1 with a 3.42 goals-against-average and poor 0.876 save percentage. He has looked good at times, but he will need some more seasoning to feel comfortable at the NHL level.
I managed to see only two of the six Russia games, the semi-final against Sweden and the gold medal game against Canada. The Russia/Sweden semi-final immediately followed the Canada/USA semi-final and the Russians seemed like they were at another level. The team speed they displayed was unreal. One Canadian fan asked how Canada was going to compete against that speed and I replied that we'll step it up against Russia, we always do. And we did, jumping out to a four goal lead in the gold medal game, en route to a 4-2 victory and third consecutive championship, all over Russia (they must really hate Canada!).
Then: By the time I watched my first game, I knew that the Russians were led offensively by a 17-year-old Alexei Cherepanov. The IIHF makes all players under 18 years of age wear full-face protection, so he was easy to spot on the ice. He finished with eight points in six games and was full-value for his points, garnering the Best Forward in the tournament.
Now: Cherepanov finished the season in Russia with 29 points in 46 games. He played another World Junior tournament recording six points in as many games and recorded 27 points in 46 games in the top Russian league. In the 2008-09 season, Cherepanov was having what appeared to be a breakout year offensively with 13 points in 15 games. During a game he collapsed and never recovered, ending a promising young life far too early.
Then: One goaltender played all six games for Mother Russia. Semen Varlamov had a 5-1 record with the only loss coming in the gold medal game. His goals-against average of 1.51 and 0.934 save percentage were second only to the tournament's top goaltender.
Now: Varlamov played two seasons in Russia's top league recording a 2.17 (33 games) and 2.45 (44 games) goals-against-average respectively. In 2008-09, he came to play in North America, recording a 19-7-1 record, a 2.40 goals-against-average and 0.916 save percentage in the AHL. Last season, he posted a 15-4-6 (2.55, 0.909) record with Washington and tried to build off of his previous NHL playoff experience, ultimately coming up short again. In last year's World Championship (post-Olympics), he was 4-1 (1.41, 0.951) for the gold medal winning Russian squad.
Then: I only remember snippets of offense from Artem Anisimov, but he scored three points in six games. The Russians played a strong team game and other than Cherepanov, not many guys stood out.
Now: He burst onto my fantasy radar with a 37 goal, 81 point AHL season in 2008-09. Not many 20-year-olds can score that many points at that level. Last year, Anisimov had 28 points in his rookie NHL season. He is in the midst of a breakout season with 13 points in 16 games. I have no doubt he is for real.
Then: Alexander Vasyunov had two goals in six games.
Now: Last year, in his second AHL season, he scored 38 points in 68 games. This year, he has three points in eight games for New Jersey. He might be a player, but there really isn't any statistical evidence to base it on.
Then: Ilya Zubov had three goals and four points in six games.
Now: The Ottawa property played two AHL seasons recording a high of 52 points in 63 games in 2008-09. Last year, he played one AHL game and bolted for home where he had seven points in 31 KHL games. This year he has 13 points in 20 KHL games.
Still to come:
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