The Hot List: Pavel Zacha and other prospects from the world juniors

Pavel Zacha (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

Another world junior tournament is in the books and it was a dandy, with Canada holding off the Russians 5-4 in the gold medal game. Next year, the holiday classic shifts over to Finland, where the host nation will hope to rebound from a sub-par outing in 2014. There was a ton of talent in Montreal and Toronto, so here’s a wrap of some players that caught my eye. As always, only prospects who have yet to play an NHL game were eligible.

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What makes a great fan base? It’s a lot more than just noise

WC Crowd

When we were building the formula for our NHL Fan Rankings, the notion of noise was tabled. Should we try to concoct a volume measurement and weave that into the calculations?

The suggestion fell on deaf ears, for a couple reasons. For starters, we couldn’t think of an objective methodology. There is no decibel-per-game average available anywhere. Secondly, and more to the point, loudness doesn’t necessarily equal good fandom. Read more

Joe Pavelski is proving his 40-goal season was no fluke

Jared Clinton
Joe Pavelski (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The top three goal scorers in 2013-14 were Alex Ovechkin, Corey Perry, and Joe Pavelski. At first glance, it’s easy to say one of these things is not like the other, but Pavelski is proving in 2014-15 that he certainly does belong.

Pavelski, 30, has been an underrated star in for the San Jose Sharks since he broke into the league in 2006-07. The feisty winger has turned a quick release and nose for the net into becoming the Sharks go-to goal-scorer, and he’s on pace to get right back to where he was last season in his breakout year. Read more

Hockey Canada badly misjudged the hockey fans in Montreal

Auston Matthews  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

MONTREAL – A few random thoughts as your correspondent packs up and heads back to Toronto for the medal round of the World Junior Championship:

* The next time our friends at Hockey Canada and TSN remind us how important this tournament is to Canada’s hockey identity and cultural fabric – and that should happen in say, the next 30 seconds or so – it might be relevant to point out that only one in 10 Canadians actually watched Canada’s preliminary-round games on television and, in Montreal at least, that patriotism has definitive limit. Read more

Top 10 players of 2014: Game’s brightest shine in Olympic year

Sidney Crosby

Whether the NHL participates in the 2018 Olympics or not, it will forever be hard to top the talent seen in both the 2010 and 2014 games. Not only was the men’s game showcased on one of the brightest stages, the women’s game provided some incredible drama in the medal round.

As such, there is a pair of women on this year’s top 10 players. There are also appearances from a few future stars. One member of this list did outstanding things before becoming a pro, and is already making his mark on the NHL in his rookie season, while others are breaking out or remaining at the top of their games. Read more

Team USA World Junior Championship Preview

Hudson Fasching (Francois Laplante / HHOF-IIHF Images)

These are the salad days for USA Hockey. The Americans have won two world junior titles in the past five years, and even if the results surrounding those triumphs have been uneven, it’s something the national squad can still hold over it Canadian neighbors, who have no golds during that span.

Obviously, the talent pool has a great deal to do with the recent success – players are coming from an ever-expanding number of states in the south and west, joining the traditional east and Midwest hotbeds – but the team’s brass has also found a knack for picking effective coaches. Read more

Who’s No. 1, Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel? WJC will help solve the debate

Jack Eichel by Brian Babineau, Connor McDavid by Adam D’Oliveira

Chairs and a podium. That was Connor McDavid’s first victory of the season in his battle for the hearts and minds of the hockey world with Jack Eichel. Both 2015 draft phenoms had the opportunity to play at First Niagara Center, the home of the Buffalo Sabres, in the fall, and both were incredibly impressive.

Eichel, who went first, posted two points and earned MVP honors at the All-American Prospects Game, an annual showdown featuring the top draft-eligible prospects from the United States. A month later, McDavid’s Erie Otters hosted the Niagara IceDogs in a special Ontario League game that ended with him ravaging the competition for four points in an 8-4 stomping. When it was time to meet the press, McDavid got a podium, and the scribes were seated. Eichel had to stand for his post-game scrum. Read more

World Junior history can show strength of international hockey

Norway's Martin Ronnild vies with Finland's Teuvo Teravainen (ANDREAS HILLERGREN/AFP/Getty Images)

The World Junior Championship is an old entity, four decades old to be precise, and in some ways has been a more consistent barometer of the state of hockey across the world. While boycotts and amateur status debates drastically affected Olympics rosters over the years, the under-20s have routinely held the top competition for the best young players from major hockey-playing countries.

For this reason, we have grounds for some interesting comparisons among these countries, in particular the leagues that have shared their talent for the world juniors. Their players’ performance within those leagues and their subsequent WJC performance can tell us a lot in a larger sample. By looking historically, we can also add context to the story, including how political shifts like the division of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia affected these programs. Read more