December 27, 2008

Meet The WJC Stars

Judging any of these players based on one game is a very dangerous way of assessing a player. And I do not get enough of a look at hockey at this level to really pass much judgment on the players.

But Kamloops Blazer writer Gregg Drinnan certainly gets a great look at many of these players. I asked Gregg to give us a quick thumbnail sketch on the following Team Canada players:

Team Canada

Colten Teubert: Big, tough, rugged. One of three key defencemen with the Regina who are used to playing big minutes. Aggressiveness sometimes results in his getting caught out of position.

Tyler Myers: A giant of a man who has exceptional co-ordination for someone his size and age. Said to be a good skater for a big man; I say he's a good skater for a person of any size. The reach of a pterodactyl.

Thomas Hickey: Your prototypical offensive defenceman. Makes a great first pass. Skates well. A little undersized but that doesn't hamper him in today's game. Give him room and he'll lug it out. Pressure him and he'll make the pass.

Keith Aulie: Somewhat under-appreciated because of the forwards he has played behind on the Brandon Wheat Kings. But he's a horse back there. The simpler he keeps it the better off he is. Big, strong farm boy who saved his father's life when he fell through the ice on a dugout on their farm a couple of winters ago.

Zach Boychuk: Attack, attack, attack. Big-time speed and lightning-like quickness. His game is offence and the Lethbridge Hurricanes' coaching staff allows him to play that game all the time.

Brett Sonne: He can check, play physically, duke it out and score. What more do you want? Was limited to 29 games last season and had only four points in 16 playoff games. Some saw him as a third-liner going into this season. Destroyed that school of thought with 55 points in 34 games.

Jordan Eberle: A sniping right winger who absolutely loves to score. He skates well and knows where the net is. Will shoot off the rush and will go to the net for the garbage.

Tyler Ennis: A waterbug. Another under-sized forward, like Zach Boychuk, who can really dangle and loves to score goals. But don't discount his defensive play as he is quite responsible in that area.

Jamie Benn: Came to the WHL from junior A early last season and has been scoring goals even since joining the Kelowna Rockets. Big-time shot off the left wing. Skates better than some people think. One of those players the puck seems to follow around. Could use his size better but the way he scores, who cares?

And The Rest Of The World?

I also asked Mr. Drinnan to comment on most of the players from the WHL that are representing countries other than Canada. He kindly obliged.

Oscar Moller, Sweden: I loved watching him play with Chilliwack. He had some real chemistry with Mark Santorelli. The thing about Moller is that he can score and make plays. So he really is something of a double threat. Will be interesting to see how he adapts in going from the NHL to this tournament.

Joe's Note: Oscar Moller is the only NHL player released by his team to play in the 2009 WJC.

Tomas Vincour, Czechs: In his second season with the Edmonton Oil Kings, he has 28 points in 35 games. Provides the second-year team with speed and will do the same for Czech Republic.

Zdenek Okal, Czechs: I haven't seem this guy yet but he must be doing something right. In his first season over here, he has 32 points in 36 games and, if you believe in plus-minus, he is plus-11, the second-highest number on the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Stepan Novotny, Czechs: Came to the Kelowna Rockets from the USHL. Didn't have good numbers last season but looks to be getting comfortable in the WHL and with Kelowna. Is a better skater than I thought he would be and looks like he could be a key performer in the second half of the season.

Metsola Juha, Finland: Surprised a lot of people by playing so well that the Lethbridge Hurricanes gave him the starter's job for their playoff run to the WHL final last spring. Has respectable numbers this season -- not great, but solid -- but they have been getting better on a team that got off to a really slow start.

Jonathon Blum, USA: Hard to imagine there's a better junior-aged defenceman playing any better right now that this guy. He is the key that turns on the Vancouver Giants' engine. What I really, really like about Blum is that he always looks to be having a whole lot of fun out there. Yes, it's more fun when you're winning, but he always look to legitimately be enjoying himself out there. Makes the first pass. Lugs the puck. Is great in the offensive zone at getting into position for a shot.

Drayson Bowman, USA: A real sniper. Will score off the rush coming off the left wing. Loves to shoot the puck. Another player who seems to thoroughly enjoy playing the game.

Jim O'Brien, USA: Originally, a bantam draft pick of the Kamloops Blazers who went to the U of Minnesota before being a first-round pick by the Ottawa Senators and then joining Seattle for 2007-08. Looks to me that he's a bit bigger this season than he was a year ago and shows promise of becoming something of a power centre. Got off to a slow start last season but I really like what I saw of him late last season and in the first half of this season.

Mitch Wahl, USA: One of my favourite WHL players. He can play defensively, score goals, spark the power play, kill penalties. Had a tremendous season as the Chiefs won the Memorial Cup and has been doing just fine again this season. Will be interesting to see how much ice time, if any, he gets with Bowman. The two of them together could be a threat on the penalty kill.

Team Canada Czech Republic Finland Germany Russia Slovakia Sweden USA

No comments: