Marcus Hogberg will be gunning for the No. 1 job at the WJC for Sweden this year. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Canada won its sixth straight title at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic, while the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp wrapped up in Lake Placid. We were there at Herb Brooks Arena, watching the under-20s from Canada, Sweden, Finland and the U.S., so here’s a look at some of the players who impressed and a couple more prospects from around the hockey world.
Marcus Hogberg, G – Mora (Swe.)
While Oscar Dansk has already been to the world juniors as Sweden’s third-stringer, it may not be an easy coronation with Hogberg coming on the scene. The Ottawa prospect had a very good showing in Lake Placid, stoning the Americans for a 4-0 shutout in a game where he had to make some lightning-quick saves on cross-crease plays.
“I play simple,” Hogberg said. “And I love to compete. That’s my strength.”
Hogberg wants to improve on his stickhandling and communication with his defenseman as his career moves on. Most recently with Linkoping, he will play for Mora this season, where he hopes to get more opportunities in net.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “It’s the first year I’m going to play senior hockey, so I look forward to playing for them. I hope I play many games.”
After having a great playoff run with Linkoping’s under-20 team in 2011-12, Hogberg was kept on the bench during the most recent post-season in favor of the older Jacob Johansson, baffling scouts. But the youngster was a good soldier and is saying all the right things about the experience.
“My other goalie was really good,” he said. “We competed every day and it was close. Maybe he was better at the end, I don’t know.”
With his 6-foot-5, 212-pound frame, not a lot would get by Hogberg anyway, but with his movement in net, he projects to be a very capable goalie. And he may help out the Tre Kroner sooner than later. Drafted 78th overall by Ottawa in 2013.
Artturi Lehkonen, LW – KalPa (Fin.)
National linemate Teuvo Teravainen got the props last week, so this one goes out to Lehkonen, who was the triggerman on Finland’s top line in Lake Placid. His five goals in five games led everyone at the tournament and his chemistry with Teravainen was incredible. Lightning wrister, too. Drafted 55th overall by Montreal in 2013.
Damon Severson, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
It’s going to be an epic battle for one of Canada’s blueline spots at the world juniors and though Severson can contribute at both ends of the ice, it may be his penalty killing that puts him over the top. The Rockets D-man was huge against Sweden, stopping two 5-on-3s with his dogged puck pursuit and strength. Drafted 60th overall by New Jersey in 2012.
Adam Erne, RW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
His brutish frame made Erne a tough train to stop, particularly against Sweden. But it was the right winger’s heroics against Finland the day after that really stood out, with Erne contributing two points and then two shootout goals in a row to seal the win for Team USA. Drafted 33rd overall by Tampa Bay in 2013.
Spencer Watson, RW – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
The leading scorer and MVP for the gold-medal Canadians at the Ivan Hlinka, Watson put up four goals and 10 points in five games to earn his honors. Part of a great emerging core in Kingston, the youngster has an excellent mind for the game and can really wire the puck. Draft eligible in 2014.
Nick Schmaltz, C – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Schmaltz, who will join older brother and St. Louis first-rounder Jordan at the University of North Dakota for the 2014-15 season, will be the one to watch in the United States League this year. Blessed with elite skill and a creative hockey mind, Schmaltz led Team USA with eight points in five games at the Ivan Hlinka. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jakub Vrana, C – Linkoping (Swe.)
A force all tourney long, Vrana popped in two points on the Czech Republic’s three goals, helping the co-host team earn bronze over the Russians at the Ivan Hlinka. Vrana plays a complete game up front and is honing his skills in the tougher Swedish junior ranks. Draft eligible in 2014.
Julio Billia, G – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
The Canadians had some close calls at the Ivan Hlinka, but Billia was their top netminder. Along with the title, Billia ended up with a tourney-best 1.58 goals-against average and two shutouts in five appearances. Draft eligible in 2014.
Tyler Bird, RW – St. John’s Prep Eagles (Mass. HS)
Does hockey stop in the summer? Never. The Beantown Classic just got underway in Massachusetts and there are some new names to watch for. Bird is one of those prospects, as he has the size and skill to make an impact. At nearly 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds already, the Brown University commit has a nice finishing touch around the net. Draft eligible in 2014.
Simon Kindschi, D – Davos (Swi.)
A big boy on the blueline, Kindschi comes in at 6-foot-2, 214 pounds. And while he hasn’t traditionally put up a lot of numbers from the back end, he was golden for the Swiss at the Ivan Hlinka, leading the upstarts – they beat Sweden and took Canada to a shootout – with four points in four games. Draft eligible in 2014.
The Hot List, a roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re excited to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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