As you may well know 2012’s edition of the World Junior Championships are now underway. You are also likely aware that the Detroit Red Wings are known for their drafting excellence, specifically relating to European players. It should come as no surprise to you then that featured in this year’s WJC competition are 5 Red Wings prospects, all of them European, and all of them good.
3 forwards, a defencemen, and a goaltender will represent the Red Wings along with their countries at this years WJC event. Hailing from Slovakia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic, Detroit’s under 20 youngsters have already begun to prove themselves valuable just 2 days into the tournament. So just who are these 5 Red Wings players you should keep your eye on as you watch some of the best prospects in the world compete for their countries in the global spotlight, and how are they doing currently? Here’s your answer.
*Statistics last updated 1/6 @ 8:40AM ET
G – Petr Mrazek – Czech Republic [6 GP, 3 W, 2.49 GAA, .927 Sv%, 1 SO] **Was named best goaltender of tournament**
Drafted 141st overall (5th round), 2010
The current starting goalie for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, Mrazek is 3rd in the league in wins with 16, having played in 29 games. Despite rather average stats on the season (3.01 GAA, .909 Sv%), Mrazek has helped the 67’s climb to the top of the Eastern Conference. Average play wasn’t the norm for Mrazek last season though, as he boasted a .920 Sv% in 52 starts last season. At 6’2″ and 185lbs, Mrazek has a size beneficial to playing between the pipes. If he can learn to use that size to his advantage and consistently play at a .920 Sv% level he could shoot past other struggling Red Wings goalie prospects on the depth charts.
- After an easy shutout (facing only 12 shots) against Denmark, Mrazek’s true test will come Wednesday as the Czech’s face Canada.
- Mrazek found himself on the other side of a shutout on Wednesday, giving up 5 goals on 38 shots from a high powered Canadian squad.
- Mrazek stopped 52 of 54 shots from the United States to help his team win their 2nd game of the tourney.
- Mrazek found himself on the losing side of a shootout again against Finland, stopping just 24 of 28 shots against.
- Petr stopped 43 of 45 shots, but it wasn’t enough for the win against Russia, who won 2-1.
- Mrazek finished the tournament with a handy 29 save win over Slovakia on Wednesday, facing 31 shots.
D – Mattias Backman – Sweden [6 GP, 0 G, 3 A, +5]
Drafted 146th overall (5th round), 2011
With just 6 points in 26 games for Linkoping of the Elitserien, Backman isn’t a wildly offensive defensemen by any stretch of the imagination. At 6’1″ and 160lbs, Backman would likely need to bulk up a bit in order to excel playing North American style hockey, but the Swede has strong potential (hence him being picked to play in the WJC’s).
- Backman logged an assist and a +1 rating in Sweden’s 9-4 route of Latvia on the 27th.
- Backman repeated his performance with another assist and +1 rating against the Swiss on the 28th.
- Backman found the scoresheet again against Slovakia with his 3rd assist.
- Mattias failed to record a point for the first time in this tournament, but still went +1 and helped his team come from behind to defeat the Russians.
- Backman went without a point but helped Sweden came from behind to win their semi-final matchup with Finland.
- Mattias was strong defensively in the final game of the 2012 tournament, and walked away with a gold medal because of it.
RW – Teemu Pulkkinen – Finland [7 GP, 6 G, 4 A, +4]
Drafted 111th overall (4th round), 2010
With 9 goals and 13 assists in 32 games with his SM-liiga team, Jokerit, Pulkkinen is one of the most promising prospects the Red Wings currently have in development. Touted as one of the best players on Finland’s team this year, the 5’11” winger has been heralded for his offensive creativity and ability to both shoot and pass effectively. However, some doubt has been raised about his defensive play in the past. With a Detroit team that places emphasis on two-way forwards, that wont fly, but Pulkkinen has steadily upped his game throughout his career. While it remains to be seen how Pulkkinen would fare in North American hockey, it is likely would could see him in a Grand Rapids Griffins jersey in the coming seasons.
- Pulkkinen was not alone in failing to produce against a dominate team Canada that pummeled the Fins with an 8-1 victory in their first game.
- Teemu recorded his 1st point, an assist, to help Finland beat the United States 4-1.
- Pulkkinen exploded for 4 goals and an assist, firing 13 shots on goal, helping Finland down Denmark 10-1.
- Pulkkinen notched a goal and an assist Saturday against the Czech Republic.
- Pulkkinen again had a goal and an assist Monday against Slovakia. Teemu also fired 9 shots on goal and left with a +1 rating.
- Pulkkinen had 4 shots on goal but no points and wasn’t given a chance in the shootout as Finland lost to Sweden in heartbreaking fashion in the semi-finals.
- Teemu failed to score on a penalty shot and the Finns couldn’t find the back of the net against Canada in their fight for the Bronze.
LW – Marek Tvrdon – Slovakia [6 GP, 3 G, 1 A -4]
Drafted 115th overall (4th round), 2011
Tvrdon looks like he could be another late round gem that only the Red Wings spotted. Currently playing for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, Tvrdon has 37 points in 33 games. At 6’2″ and 217lbs he’s the largest Red Wings’ prospect in the tournament and possesses the size necessary to play a physical North American game, perhaps why he has excelled doing so. Having consistently put up better than point-per-game numbers throughout his junior career, the 18 year-old has proven he can play most any style of hockey, and excel at doing so.
- Tvrdon scored the game winning goal on 1 of his 7 shots on the night to help Slovakia down Latvia in their first game.
- Tvrdon had an uneventful night with just 1 shot on goal and no points as Russia downed Slovakia 3-1.
- Marek scored Slovakia’s lone goal as Sweden routed his team 9-1.
- Tvrdon recorded an assist but was a -1 Saturday.
- Marek had a goal but a -2 rating Monday in a loss to Finland.
- In Tvrdon’s final game of the tournament he failed to register a point and was a -2 once again.
RW – Tomas Jurco – Slovakia [5 GP, 1 G, 6 A, +4]
Drafted 35th overall (2nd round), 2011
Largely considered a steal for Detroit after somehow slipping to the 2nd round, Jurco has been called “the next Pavel Datsyuk” by many thanks to his creative stick work. With 45 points and a +28 rating in 30 games this season with the St. John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL, Jurco has clearly stepped up what was already a very impressive game. His 3 season North American career has already seen him put up 152 points in 154 regular season games with the Sea Dogs, no small feet on a team loaded with talent like Jonathan Huberdeau. There’s no reason not to be excited about Jurco, who will very likely find himself playing closer to Detroit within the next 2 seasons. Chris Ralph has more on Jurco here.
- Tomas Jurco scored the 1st of 3 Slovakian goals on Tuesday (27th) in their first game against Latvia.
- Despite putting 7 shots on net, Jurco failed to record a point against Russia on the 28th and was a -2 rating.
- Jurco assisted on Slovakia’s lone goal against Sweden, but found himself with a -2 rating for the second game in a row.
- Jurco had his best game so far recording 4 assists and +4 rating against the Swiss.
- Tomas had an assist in Slovakia’s loss to Finland on Monday.
- Jurco did not participate in Slovakia’s final game, a loss to the Czech Republic.