Another world juniors is in the books and no one could have guessed how this one would wrap up. When I began writing this at the Copenhagen airport, members of the champion Finnish team were dining a few tables away at a pizza restaurant. They came in with golden hockey helmets on and yes, they had their gold medals (wonder if they had to take them off to go through airport security) around their necks.
The Finns would lose just one game in the tourney, while Canada dropped three in the end. Sweden lost only once, but it was on the wrong day. Here’s a look at some of the players from the tournament we’re excited to see in the NHL soon.
Ivan Barbashev, LW – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
The youngest player to suit up for the bronze-medal Russians, Barbashev had to adjust his game from the one he usually plays in the Quebec League, where he’s the go-to guy on the Wildcats.
“Coach told me I need to play much better in the defensive zone because I was on the third line,” Barbashev said. “I didn’t get a chance to be on the power play much, so I played on the penalty kill.”
But the fact Barbashev could still contribute as a grinder bodes well for his draft stock. The big winger played heavy on the forecheck and when he did create turnovers, he used excellent speed to get himself scoring chances. Playing on a line with Edmonton pick Bogdan Yakimov, Barbashev soaked in the experience in Malmo.
He’s a two-way center and a huge guy,” Barbashev said. “It was really nice to play with him, I learned a lot from his game.”
In a thin year for the ‘Q,’ Barbashev stands out as one of the few definite first-rounders (Halifax’s Nikolaj Ehlers is a potential peer there) and his NHL dream spawned his voyage from Russia to the Maritimes for major junior.
“It was really important to me, because I want to play in the NHL,” he said. “I talked to my family and my agent and we said, yeah, I should move to Canada.”
So far the move has paid off in terms of exposure to scouts and a bronze medal at the world juniors. With a shot at another medal next year when the tournament moves to Toronto, Barbashev has all the more reason to be interested in Canada. Draft eligible in 2014.
Teuvo Teravainen, C – Jokerit (Fin.)
The captain of the team and my pick for tournament MVP, Teravainen is an excellent playmaker who also showed off his top-end scoring skills with his penalty shot goal against Canada. Finland’s best forward, Teravainen also spent time killing penalties, showing off his all-around game. Drafted 18th overall by Chicago in 2012.
Hudson Fasching, RW – University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big Ten)
Already looking like a steal, Fasching may have dropped in his draft year, but he has figured out his game: he’s a big-bodied power forward who owns the corners and makes things happen. He was hot for the Gophers coming into the world juniors and left as one of Team USA’s best players. Drafted 118th overall by Los Angeles in 2013.
Esa Lindell, D – Jokerit (Fin.)
Finland won gold with defense and Lindell was one of the better blueliners when the games counted most, shadowing opponents and cutting off scoring chances. He also silenced the Swedish crowd (momentarily) just 30 seconds into the first period of the gold medal game with a nice point shot that gave Finland the lead and a heap of confidence. Drafted 74th overall by Dallas in 2012.
Curtis Lazar, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
In a tournament where most of the Canadians had sub-par showings, Lazar distinguished himself as a jack-of-all-trades forward who could kill penalties, work the power play, take the body and play a variety of positions up front. Basically, he did whatever was asked of him and was usually one of the best players on the Canadian side. Drafted 17th overall by Ottawa in 2013.
Robert Hagg, D – Modo (Swe.)
Though he was officially the defenseman beaten by Rasmus Ristolainen for the gold-medal goal in overtime, Hagg was a rough-and-tumble stalwart on Sweden’s blueline. He’s a very physical defenseman and Flyers fans will love his nasty edge. Hagg can also carry the puck up ice, proving his diversity out there. Drafted 41st overall by Philadelphia in 2013.
Martin Reway, LW – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
One of the highest-scoring players in the tournament, Reway led Slovakia with four goals and 10 points in five games. His stick skills are amazing and the youngster acknowledged that his second year in the ‘Q’ really changed his game. Though undersized, Reway has deadly 1-on-1 skills. Drafted 116th overall by Montreal in 2013.
Juuse Saros, G – HPK (Fin.)
What else needs to be said about Saros? While his 5-foot-10 stature isn’t that of a typical modern goalie, the kid makes huge stops and is very economical with his movements when the game is under control. He has played very well against men back home in Finland, where a lack of support from those in front of him means his win-loss record is worse than his efforts would indicated. Drafted 99th overall by Nashville in 2013.
Jack Eichel, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
American coach Don Lucia made it pretty clear what he thought of Eichel, giving one of the youngest players in the tournament a huge role on Team USA. The Boston University commit centered the team’s second line and was trusted with pressure situations, such as faceoffs during the last minute of tight games. Draft eligible in 2015.
David Pastrnak, RW – Sodertalje (Swe.)
The young Czech saw time on the team’s top line and was entrusted with secondary penalty-kill duty. Willing to work for his chances, Pastrnak is an offensively sharp player who plays with confidence and will now be joined by another top prospect, Willie Nylander, when he returns to Sodertalje. Draft eligible in 2014.