Today’s announcement of the Czech Republic World Cup roster made official what we had already known: Jaromir Jagr would not be suiting up for the national squad. And hey, that’s fair – the man is an icon and he needs some rest as he continues a marvelous NHL career. So let’s turn to the players who will be playing in Toronto this summer.
Ryan Kennedy is the associate senior writer and draft/prospect expert at The Hockey News. He has been with the publication since 2005 and in that span, Don Cherry, Lil Jon and The Rock have all called his house. He lives in Toronto with his wife and kids where he listens to loud music and collects NCAA pennants.
Given how important the youth have been to Finland this year, it’s probably not a shocker that the final seven roster spots for the nation’s World Cup of Hockey team skew young. But it is nice to see the kids rewarded.
It’s hard not to see a bitter irony in the fact that Madison Bowey is still playing hockey, while the Washington Capitals are not. After all, the Caps are the dream for Bowey, a physical two-way defenseman currently enjoying his first year of pro with the AHL’s Hershey Bears.
But if Bowey can help the Bears get five more playoff wins, it will be the perfect ending to an excellent year of development for Washington’s most promising blueline prospect. And perhaps a glimpse of the Capitals’ future.
The London Knights are steamrolling the competition at the Memorial Cup and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner is leading the way, just as he did in the OHL playoffs. All told, the right winger has 57 points in his past 21 games (13 in three Memorial Cup wins). Add in the 116 points he had during the regular season and you’ve got a weaponized threat on the ice.
The Knights have already clinched a spot in the Memorial Cup final thanks to a 3-0 record (in which they have outscored their opponents 20-5), so with one game left on the docket for the team, it’s hard not to speculate what Marner’s future holds next season.
So let’s speculate, shall we?
Call him The Narrative Slayer.
When Connor McDavid charged the net for what turned out to be the game-winning goal in Canada’s 2-0 golden performance at the World Championship in Russia, the young Oilers star punctured a pretty good storyline in the making. That being, of course, that a Finland victory would have given Suomi all three major IIHF men’s titles this year.
But while Finland may have lost at the worlds, the country’s gold medals at the world juniors and world under-18s were reason enough to believe that Finland is entering a golden era of hockey.
Before Mikko Rantanen even got drafted, before he knew which players he would be competing against for a job, he maintained that his goal for 2015-16 was to play in the NHL. And after the powerful right winger was taken 10th overall by the Colorado Avalanche, he did just that – for a handful of games, at least.
Rantanen, the brightest prospect in Colorado’s system and Future Watch’s No. 5 prospect overall, made the Avalanche out of camp and played the first six games of the season. The strapping young Finn didn’t register a point and never eclipsed 11 minutes of ice time in any given game, but it’s tough to consider his assignment to the AHL as a disappointment, especially given how Rantanen has performed ever since. “It was an experience for him to dip his toe in the water,” said David Oliver, Colorado’s director of player development. “With ice time comes confidence, and for his development curve we wanted to get him to the AHL to play those big minutes.”
The Memorial Cup begins today in Alberta, with the hosts from Red Deer taking on the OHL champs from London. Along with the Rebels and Knights, fans will be treated to performances by the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings and QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. These teams didn’t get here by employing a bunch of scrubs, so there are many players to get excited for.
A lot of those kids have already been drafted by NHL teams and for franchises that don’t have any prospects in the tournament, there is also a raft of talent eligible for this summer’s draft in Buffalo. With that in mind, here’s my list of who to watch, no matter which NHL team you follow.
Defenseman Patrick Wiercioch may be headed to unrestricted free agency a little early if a report by the Ottawa Sun‘s Bruce Garrioch comes to fruition. According to Garrioch, there are major rumblings that the Ottawa Senators will not qualify the pending restricted free agent this summer, forcing the defenseman onto the open market.
Wiercioch would cost the Sens at least $2.7 million should Ottawa choose to qualify him and based on his recent returns, that’s a lot of money. At a lower cap hit (which any team could sign the blueliner to this summer) there is certainly some value in the 25-year-old, but new Senators GM Pierre Dorion seems to be taking a decisive stance early in his tenure. And I like it.