It’s cold in Buffalo, but the Dallas Stars World Junior Championship prospects are starting to heat things up. Both of the Stars’ goalie prospects have split time with their respective teammates guarding the net. The Stars two blue line prospects are logging significant minutes, and their two forward prospects are also making a positive impact.
As I leave the Frozen Tundra of Buffalo today, it’s been a fun week. Note to anyone coming to Buffalo for the first time – be sure to pack plenty of warm clothes. You won’t find Texas barbecue here. However, I recommend the Beef on a Weck, or Buffalo Wings of course.
I didn’t make it over to the outdoor game but did attend most of the WJC games going into today. The majority of games are at the KeyBank Center where the Buffalo Sabres play. They are also using the Harbor Center rink for some games. That venue is interesting – it’s basically a rink on the seventh floor of a parking lot next to the Key Bank Center.
Dallas Stars – European WJC Prospects
Since my last article focused mostly on the college WJC prospects, I’ll start with the European prospects today.
Czech defenseman Ondrej Vala is a 19-year-old with NHL size at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. The undrafted free agent is in his second go-around with the National Junior Team which has earned him alternate captain status. Vala, who also plays for Kamloops in the WHL, has four shots on goal and a plus-two rating after four games (3-1). He’s averaging just about 17 minutes of ice time per game.
Getting a puck from Vala Ondrej? Yeah, that face says it all! ? pic.twitter.com/TOn9u9w3LC
— WJC 2018 in Buffalo (@WJCinBUF) December 28, 2017
Meanwhile, the Stars third-round pick (90th overall) from 2016, Fredrik Karlstrom, is helping the Tre Kronor rout their competition, as Sweden is off to a 3-0 tournament start. The 19-year-old forward had four shots on goal and two assists to go with a plus-one rating in Sweden’s three wins. Karlstrom is 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds. He also plays for Linkopings HC in the SweHL.
Finland’s Miro Heiskanen has two assists while logging over 21 minutes of ice time in three games (2-1). The Stars top prospect and 2017 first-round pick (third overall) is still only 18-years-old. The 6-foot-1 and 176 pound No. 1 defenseman has 11 shots on goal and is a plus-three with games against Switzerland and Team USA still to come. By this time next year, look for Stars coach Ken Hitchcock to have Heiskanen paired with John Klingberg or Julius Honka.
Stars North American WJC Prospects
Riley Tufte the Stars 2016 first-round pick (25th overall) has eight shots on goal and one assist thru the first three games (2-1) for Team USA. The 19-year-old is a physical specimen – 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds. Look for Tufte to take on a more expanded role as the tournament moves on with Team USA a bit banged up already.
As previously mentioned, Jake Oettinger and Colton Point have been protecting their respective creases in a bit of a timeshare situation so far. However, both have a shot to lock down more playing time after winning their starts in dramatic fashion.
— #WorldJuniors (@HC_WJC) December 28, 2017
Oettinger stood tall in the snowy outdoor game against Canada on Friday. After giving up two goals, he held the fort as Team USA came back to force overtime. After a scoreless overtime, Oettinger went on to deny three Team Canada players in a 3-2 shootout victory for Team USA. Meanwhile, Point, the Stars fifth-round pick in 2016 (128th overall) was impressive while shutting out Team Slovakia with 20 saves in a 6-0 route.