OK, try to follow along with us on this one:
A soccer match in Gothenburg, Sweden was interrupted the other day when a fan-thrown firecracker temporarily deafened a rival Malmo player and a nearby referee. Enraged, the Malmo player tore the corner flag out of the ground and hurled it at the crowd. Play was suspended as the officials debated whether or not the game should go on and as they did, a fan from the stands jumped onto the field.
Finland is golden again thanks to the under-18s in North Dakota and all the international usual suspects came through at the tourney. Jesse Puljujarvi was huge, Clayton Keller took home MVP honors and Tyson Jost led the tourney in scoring. European scouts are basically done watching games now and the CHL playoffs are getting to the big stages, so you can feel the draft combine coming on the horizon. With the AHL starting Calder Cup proceedings, there is still a lot of good hockey left, though. So let’s take a trip around the prospect world again, shall we?
Finland has won gold again – get used to it.
Led by superstar 2016 draft prospect Jesse Puljujarvi, the Finns dusted off archrival Sweden in the final of the World Under-18 Championship in North Dakota on Sunday. Puljujarvi scored a hat trick in the 6-1 demolition, while the home-side Americans earned bronze with a 10-3 walloping of a disorganized Canadian squad.
If it sounds like the Finns have been on the podium a lot lately, it’s because they have. This is the third junior-level gold in three years for Suomi, when the 2016 and 2014 world junior titles are added in. So how are they doing it?
Ryan Bahl can swear in Cantonese, Czech, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and, of course, English, including a potpourri of American, South African, New Zealand and Australian slang. They’re the first words he learns when landing in a new country, sticks in hand, hockey bag in tow. No matter where Bahl has travelled to play the game – Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America, and even Africa – profanity has proven to be the universal mode of communication.
“If you get into it on the ice, you can just use curse words,” Bahl said. “I try to learn the worst words possible and use them if it gets too heated.”
The world under-18s are going full-bore in North Dakota right now and there is some fantastic talent assembled. Sure, Russia’s under-18s were pulled out because of a drug scandal, but youngsters such as Klim Kostin and Andrei Svechnikov just get to make their impressions a year earlier. And with Jesse Puljujarvi joining Finland, the Americans will have several rivals to fend off if they want to defend their gold medal from last year. We’ve also got CHL playoffs getting serious and a special guest star from the coaching ranks in this week’s prospect round-up.
Welcome to the third installment of my 2016 draft rankings. I will do one more ranking before the actual festivities throw down in Buffalo, but with the CHL playoffs getting serious and the influential world under-18s about to start, this seemed like a good time for a snapshot. Here are a few notes to frame things:
My rankings are based off numerous conversations with NHL team scouts/executives. They’re the only ones with skin in the game, so I value them the most. From those conversations, I’ve been told that this year’s crop is pretty good for about 20-23 picks and then the field is wide open. This is a sneaky way of me telling you the latter half of my first round may turn out to be off when all is said and done.
For now, my rankings are based off “best player available.” This is pertinent because we would assume that Edmonton – guaranteed a top-five pick – will take a defenseman, based on organizational need. But anything can happen on draft day, so let’s just go with BPA for now.
With that being said, here’s my updated top 30:
The three top prospects for this year’s NHL draft all played in Europe this season and they’re all projected to become enormous stars in North American and make millions of dollars over the course of their careers. And if things go as planned, they’ll be a cash cow for their NHL employers, as well.
But what about the teams they’re leaving? In the case of Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, the Tappara and Karpat teams in the Finnish League will not only be losing their best players, they’ll also be parting with two young men in whom they’ve invested an huge amount of resources. And once they sign deals with the NHL teams that select them, they’re receive a one-time payment of about $240,000. That’s it. Nothing more. Do not pass Go. Do not collect any more money. And in the case of the Zurich Lions in the Swiss League, they won’t receive a cent.
Two days after news broke that the U17 Russian team would be replacing the U18 squad at the U18 World Championships due to a meldonium doping scandal, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation (RIHF) has acknowledged that the swap was made in order to “protect the athletes.”
The official statement from the RIHF says that players training with the U18 have used mildronate, which is the trade-name for meldonium, “as to protect the heart muscle in periods of high exertion. Supplies of the drug were carried out officially in accordance with the Federal Medical-Biology agency.”
However, the RIHF said reports that as many as half of the Russian U18 team tested positive for meldonium are false, and said the players have not been using the drug since fall 2015, when the World Anti-Doping Agency made the decision to add meldonium to the banned substances list. That ban took effect Jan. 1. Read more