Nail Yakupov has been a star for Russia and is projected to go early in Round 1 of the NHL draft this summer. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Though the World Junior Championship is widely regarded as a tournament for 19-year-olds, this year in particular has featured some of the top draft eligible talent available for 2012. These youngsters were given a huge stage to showcase their skills and the results heading into the final games have been mixed to be sure. So how did they all fare? Glad you asked.
Nail Yakupov, LW – Russia
Depending on whom you ask, Yakupov is either the first- or second-best prospect in the draft. I say he’s first and he cemented it in Calgary. Though he is known more for goal scoring, the talented kid from the Tatar region actually put nothing but assists up heading into the gold medal game - nine in six games to tie for the tourney lead with Finland’s Mikael Granlund. That ability to vary his contributions is nice to see and his competitive drive (not to mention the best press scrums since Kirill Kabanov) is undeniable.
Mikhail Grigorenko, RW – Russia
An ankle injury against Latvia limited Grigorenko to spot duty for most of the tourney, so it’s hard to gauge his effectiveness. Those who don’t favor Yakupov go with Grigorenko at No. 1, but he couldn’t improve his station based on Calgary thanks to the injury.
Ryan Murray, D – Canada
True, Murray had the game from hell against the Russians, but the rest of his body of work was sound. He gave Canada big minutes when Scott Harrington and Nathan Beaulieu went down against Team USA and his skating ability was already well-known. I would still rate him the top D-man in the draft.
Filip Forsberg, LW – Sweden
Forsberg’s stickhandling and creativity has been quite evident in Calgary, but it hasn’t translated into results. He posted just one point through five games, but on the plus side, was chosen for the shootout against the Finns in the semifinal. At 6-foot-2, he also has enviable size.
Andrei Vasilevski, G – Russia
Goalies are always ranked differently in the draft, so this is as good a place as any to include Vasilevski. Forget the Canada comeback; the Russian has been bailing his defense out all medal round and has a flair for the dramatic with his glove hand. He’s a battler and will be one of the top goalies taken along with Malcolm Subban of OHL Belleville.
Jacob Trouba, D – United States
Big, ornery and skilled, Trouba brings a lot to the table. One of the better U.S. defensemen at the tourney, he has certainly solidified his draft stock and probably even given it a boost. Right now he’s looking like a top-10 pick for sure.
Sebastian Collberg, RW – Sweden
Another youngster trusted in the shootout against Finland, Collberg scored on his attempt and has put up great numbers for the Swedes. The mid-sized winger had four goals and seven points through five games, placing him second on the team behind Max Friberg’s 11 points. Collberg definitely has some slick hands and creativity and his stock will rise now.
Olli Maatta, D – Finland
An early concussion knocked Maatta out of the tourney, denying Finland one of their better offensive defensemen. Depending on the length of time he’s out, the OHL London import may get passed by other prospects, at least in the short-term.
Tomas Hertl, C – Czech Republic
An offensive catalyst for the Czechs, Hertl showed off some great playmaking skills with linemate Dmitrij Jaskin and in the process opened a lot of eyes towards his potential. Coupled with his numbers in the Czech League (15 points in 23 games), he’s looking like a first-rounder for sure.
Ryan Kennedy will be filing regularly from thw World Junior Championship medal round in Calgary.
Kennedy, the co-author of Young Guns II, is THN's associate senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His column appears Wednesdays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/THNRyanKennedy.