The 2015 World Junior Championships are coming to a close, and with so much focus on the draft eligible players in this year’s tournament, it is easy to forget that most of the top performers are drafted prospects of NHL teams. The New York Rangers have four prospects in this year’s tournament, and each one of them has had his moment to shine.
Duclair, drafted 80th overall in the 3rd round of the 2013 entry draft, was impressive enough in pre-season to earn a spot on the NHL roster.
After the Rangers lost key players to injury, Duclair saw ice time in a top-9 role and registered 1 goal and 6 assists for 7 points in 18 games and managed a +4 rating. ‘The Duke’ as his coach and teammates have nicknamed him, scored his only goal of the year in dramatic fashion as the Rangers came from behind to defeat the Minnesota Wild.
His play never seemed to dip, but with players returning from injury, Duclair became a healthy scratch as he learned the pro game and paid his dues. Unfortunately for Duclair and the Rangers, he was not eligible to be sent to Hartford due to age, and with diminishing ice time, it seemed as though playing in the World Junior Championship was a perfect way to continue his development.
Duclair started the pre-tournament games on a line with Arizona’s 1st round pick Max Domi, and Buffalo’s 1st round pick Sam Reinhart, who also saw NHL action earlier this season. The line immediately formed chemistry and has stayed together for the entire tournament. Over the preliminary games and the quarterfinal match-up, Reinhart is tied for the tournament lead with 9 points, Domi is close behind with 7 points, and Duclair has managed a point per game with 2 goals and 3 assists.
The only element of Duclair’s game that has been in question is his discipline. Duclair has registered 16 PIM and is 3rd in the tournament in that category. With the way the tournament is going, it remains to be seen whether or not Duclair’s penalty trouble will ultimately hurt Team Canada. Canada remains undefeated and cruised past Denmark 8-0 in their quarterfinal game on Friday.
Drafted just ahead of Duclair in the 2013 entry draft at 75th overall, Buchnevich has generated a lot of buzz this season playing in the KHL for Cherepovets scoring 10 goals and 11 assists in 32 games thus far.
Entering this year’s tournament, Buchnevich was considered one of Russia’s elder statesmen on a very inexperienced team as he tallied 2 goals and 5 assists in 7 games during last year’s WJC and helped Russia to a Bronze medal win over Team Canada.
This year, Buchnevich has picked up where he left off, scoring 1 goal and 4 assists in 5 games including their 3-2 win over Team USA in the quarterfinals. As one of only four forward draftees for Russia, he will be looked to for production as Russia enters their Semifinal game today against Sweden.
One of Buchnevich’s teammates, Igor Shestyorkin, is most responsible for the Russian’s ascent into the Semifinals. A 4th round draft pick (118th) in 2014, Shestyorkin has excelled for Russian junior team VMF Karelia, posting 1.72 GAA and .943 SV% in 8 games. During the Super Series between Team Russia and the all-star teams of the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL, Shestyorkin helped lead his team to a series victory with a 2-1 record and a 1.72 GAA and .942 SV%.
This year at the WJC, Shestyorkin has only gotten better with a 2-1 record in 3 starts and a 1.67 GAA and his .949 save percentage is 3rd best in the tournament behind Zach Fucale and Brandon Halverson, though Halverson only started one game. Shestyorkin’s 39-save performance against the United States in the quarterfinal game including 19 saves in the 3rd period, helped propel the Russians into the Semifinals.
Selected two rounds earlier in the 2nd round (59th) Brandon Halverson is the other Rangers prospect goaltender in the WJC. I say ‘other’ because he played behind Team USA starter Thatcher Demko and only got one start in the tournament. In that start against Germany, however, Halverson faced 14 shots and stopped them all, en route to a 6-0 win.
This season in the OHL, Halverson has posted an impressive 16-3-0-2 record with Sault Ste Marie and has managed 2.93 GAA and .908 SV%.