With the World Junior Championship ending in a home victory for Finland, it is time to have a look at some of the 2016-eligible prospects that could see their draft stock taking a rise thanks to a strong performance in the tournament. At the same time, I will have a look some players that could go the other way, meaning prospects who didn’t convince scouts and could see their stock decreasing as a result.
Yegor Korshkov (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Russia)
19-year-old Yegor Korshkov from Novosibirks, Russia had a strong WJC and tied for Russia’s top scorer with eight points in seven games. He has scored the game winning goal in the semi-final against the U.S. sending the Russians to the gold medal game. The goal was a thing of beauty as he held Zach Werenski off the puck in the corner with a spin-o-rama and powered his way to the net, jamming it past goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic. Korshkov was one of the best player on his team in that game and was awarded as the game’s best player of Russia.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) January 4, 2016
Korshkov convinced me throughout the tournament with his ability to create scoring chances using his big size and long reach. He is listed at 6’3” and 179 lbs and uses his frame to protect the puck. He excels best when he directly drives the net with the puck. Korshkov is showing flaws when executing plays and doesn’t possess the most powerful and accurate shot, probably one of the reasons why no team picked him up in earlier drafts. Still, there must be some organization’s scouts that have been impressed by his play at the WJC and this could help him getting drafted this year in one of the later rounds. Korshkov’s game winning goal proved that he definitely has some moves and skill to offer.
The right winger is playing for KHL-team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and has scored seven points in 31 games.
Patrik Laine/Jesse Puljujarvi (Tappara/Karpat, Finland)
Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi have both been projected as top five selections, therefore their stock can only rise to a certain extent. However, the way both played and produced points is very impressive. They have built by far the most dominant Finnish line together with Carolina prospect Sebastian Aho.
— Thomas Roost (@thomasroost) December 28, 2015
With their strong tournament, they may could have closed the gap to potential first overall selection Auston Matthews. According to some scouts, they could even open up the race for the first overall. As good as they both have been, I wouldn’t go that far. Although Laine could challenge Matthews in the stickhandling and shot area, Matthews remains the untouchable number one for 2016 in my eyes. However, both Finns have closed the gap to potential second overall Jakob Chychrun, who missed the tournament. Both Finns will surely make life’s of GM’s very hard this coming summer. Their stock just rose a bit more over Christmas, so did the hype around them in hockey country Finland.
Olli Juolevi (D, London Knights, OHL)
London Knights defenceman Olli Juolevi has been by far the most impressive 2016-draft eligible defender in the tournament. His nine assists in seven games have secured him with the title of the most productive defenceman and he is one of the reasons for the strong offensive performance of Finland. Although Juolevi is projected as a top 15 pick in the coming draft, he is probably the player that raised his draft stock the most.
Juolevi plays a very matured game, doesn’t commit a lot of mistakes and has a very good first pass. He has the ability to slow down or speed up the game from his own zone and uses his very powerful and accurate pass to do so. “Juolevi is a tremendous, powerful skater who makes carrying the puck up the ice seem effortless. What really stands out is his agility and quickness moving both laterally and backwards”, Steve Kournianos of “thedraftanalyst.com reports.
Olli Juolevi's 9 points is the most ever by a 17 year old defenseman at the World Juniors, surpassing Ryan Ellis who had 7.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) January 2, 2016
He isn’t the most physical player and doesn’t get involved very often in board battles as this is certainly the area where he needs to improve the most. His move to North America could help him develop his physical game and make him a great 360-degree player. The WJC 2016 has definitely made Juolevi one of the top defenceman to select in the draft.
Antti Kalapudas (C, Karpat Oulu, Finland)
Overshadowed by the likes of Puljujarvi, Juolevi and Laine, centerman Antti Kalapudas had a strong tournament. He has scored three goals including the game winner in the semi-final against Sweden.
Kalapudas has been very productive on junior level in Finland and is now looking to transfer his game into the pro leagues. This season he has made his debut in the Finnish Liiga and scored his first three points with Karpat. He provided Finland with secondary scoring throughout the whole tournament and scored in both important Finnish games in the quarter- and semi-final.
Alexander Polunin (LW, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Russia)
Smallish forward Alexander Polunin impressed me with his speed, puckhandling skills and ability to create scoring chances. Most of all impressed me his defensive game though. He always hustled back to eliminate odd-man rushes and showed a good backchecking. He used his stick to interrupt passes and displayed an energetic style of game not only in the offensive zone but also in his own zone. He didn’t take a shift off and I liked his overall performance as well.
Polunin is an excellent skater, very agile, good acceleration and can make fast turns with the puck. He played already in 19 KHL-games this season and has managed to score nine points with Yaroslavl. His strong performance at the WJC combined with his point production in the KHL could keep his draft stock rising.
Mathias From (RW, Rogle BK, Sweden)
Denmark played a phenomenal tournament and made it to the quarter-finals a second straight time after defeating Switzerland also at this year’s tournament. The Danes rather convinced with a solid team effort than with individual players deciding games. Therefore it is no surprise that no Danish player has scored more than two points in the tournament. However, the Danish forward that stood out most to me is big-sized Mathias From.
With his decent frame, puck moving ability, stickhandling and skating, From is the type of player who can easily get the attention of scouts. He uses all of those skills to play a powerful offensive game and convinced me with good top speed. Once he was in full motion it was extremely difficult to stop him and separate from the puck. I am looking forward to his development and see him having a chance to get drafted in 2016.
From is playing for Swedish team Rogle BK and after playing the majority of the season in the Swedish junior league, he has made his debut in the Swedish Hockey League this season. Hopefully for his development, he can continue to suit up in Sweden’s top league and compete against men.
- Yegor Rykov (D, SKA St.Petersburg, Russia)
- Jiri Smejkal (C, Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL)
- Pius Suter (C, ZSC Lions, Switzerland)
- Alexander Nylander (C, Missisauga Steelheads, OHL)
On the Downfall?
Where there is light, there is also shadow! Contrary to the players mentioned above with a rising stock, there are of course also players who couldn’t convince at the WJC. Some of the players mentioned below couldn’t shine and could see their draft stock being on the decrease:
Alex DeBrincat (C, Erie Otters, OHL)
The undersized center from the Erie Otters entered the tournament as one of the OHL’s best scorers. DeBrincat scored over 100 points last seasons and is on a good pace to repeat it this season. He has tallied 51 goals last season and will probably even surpass this mark in 2016. At the WJC though, he has collected only one point in five games with a high-scoring U.S. team. He is listed as a potential top 20 player in almost all pre-draft rankings and could see his stock decreasing because of his disappointing performance. However, his point production should be handled with care as he suffered an injury in the game against Sweden.
Alex DeBrincat 13th forward for Team USA right now; Wilson says he's handling reduced role well, acting like "the ultimate professional"
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 3, 2016
Julien Gauthier (RW, Val-d’Or Foreurs, QMJHL)
Big-sized forward Julien Gauthier could be a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft if you believe most scouting agencies. He has been a reliable scoring machine for his team Val-d’Or. He scored 29 goals in 30 games in the QMJHL where he is one of the best in this matter. He had only two assists on a disappointing Canadian team and didn’t convince me at all. He will need to pick up his pace again once being back with the Foreurs.
Chad Krys (D, USA U18)
I have never been very high on defenceman Chad Krys, but some pre-draft rankings have him as high as 21st overall. After a decent U18 World Championship in April, Krys didn’t convince me at the five nations tournament in Switzerland in November nor now at the WJC. It seems to me that he will need to develop his body and strength further. He couldn’t help the U.S. team’s offence the way I expected and played a pretty invisible tournament and was held scoreless.
Veini Vehviläinen (G, JYP, Finland)
He gave Finland the opportunity to play for gold at the U18 Worlds with stellar performances and was selected into the All-star of the tournament. Surprisingly, he remained undrafted last summer. This year at the WJC he couldn’t confirm his strong U18 tournament and had shaky games, especially against Canada. He displayed big trouble in finding pucks and had a bad rebound control. He would have raised his stock a lot with a strong performance, but keeps leaving scouts in uncertainty with his recent play now.
Independent Scout covering European Hockey and Prospects for TheHockeyWriters. Located in Switzerland and blogging on www.scouting-factory.blogspot.com. Opinions on blog are my own