A Blog Not About Jimmy Vesey and How I Watched The Ivan Hlinka Tournament
Summer is not a great time for hockey. That’s a factinion. Even with the NHL trying to drum up some interest and more importantly “dollars” with the “World Cup,” the summer is genuinely slow. It’s so excrementally slow that we have to be tortured with the slogging “Will she, won’t she” romance of Jimmy freaking Vesey for months on end. A saga so boring and filled with superfluous drivel that I wonder if it isn’t some sort of grand conspiracy that thousands of writers that have seen him play perhaps 3 games (since nobody cares about the ECAC which happens to be the weakest NCAA division of the Big Four) are planning to raise him to be some kind of Mayan-esque Snake God that will devour the souls of the unwillingly tortured unwashed masses of fan bases linked to the insignificant phenomenon of hype. All this coverage, much like this paragraph is completely UnVeseyssary.
However. One good thing comes once a summer and it isn’t my annual bath. The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament takes place every year, usually in some rundown area of Europe. It brings together much anticipated U18 talent and is the first view we receive of the types of quality we’re in for in the upcoming drafts. All the big names are there! Canada, the USA, Russia, Finland, Sweden…the other countries! All to fight for what I presume is the glory of having scouts make a final decision on whether you’re interesting or not based on five arbitrary games.
I managed to watch five games…obviously the non-arbitrary ones…as I’m planning to do the 2017 draft with the level of detail I had in years past.
What was interesting for me was going in knowing that there really wasn’t the “Next One” to watch at this tournament. There was no Matthews/McDavid/Tavares etc. I suppose the closest would be Swedish Defenseman Timothy Liljegren who is considered an early candidate for a top-3 pick in 2017. Garnering the lofty comparisons to Erik Karlsson. The presumptive number one Nolan Patrick was not at the tournament, though he was crucial in their Gold Medal win last year.
The tournament also featured three of the expected headliners of the 2018 draft. Joseph Veleno of Canada who became the first player in the QMJHL to gain Exceptional Status and enter the league at 15. Milos Roman of Slovakia who might be the first Slovak picked in the top-5 since Marian Gaborik way back in 2000. Lastly, Andrei Svechnikov of Russia, brother of the Red Wings first rounder from 2015 Yevgeni. Svechnikov is taking a road less traveled by going to the USHL this upcoming season. It’s a bold strategy Cotton, let’s see if it pays off.
In the coming three articles I will focus on who impressed, who disappointed and finally who surprised. It will be a detailed look at the player’s performances themselves.
Gold – Czech Republic (No…really)
Silver – USA
Bronze - Russia
Some General Thoughts
Canada was garbage.
I think it’s safe to say that Canadians are getting more and more used to poor performances at the International Level by our junior stars. The air of invincibility has been shattered by various upsets and meltdowns, causing us to question management and everyone involved…and lynch whatever poor sob had to play goalie that year.
Have no fear with regards to the net though. Michael DiPietro was the saving grace of the tournament for the Canadians and was pretty much the second best goalie after the Gold Winning stunning performance by the 16 year old Jakub Skarek. Aside from DiPietro and a valiant effort by 2017 eligible Maxime Comtois, Canada was a very poor side that was muddled and confused. The defensive structure in particular was very poor. I get that it’s a group of random players from various leagues that are 17/18, but they were piss poor and the puck movement and positioning seemed off. I’ll also add that Strome and McLeod were really disappointing, but that’s for another blog.
Russia needs to invest more on defense and centers, less on wingers and give a big fat raise to whomever is running their goaltending.
Russia is pumping out some really great goaltending performances. Vasilevsky, Samsonov, Shestyorkin, Sorokin and now Melinkov have all recently impressed. While the Provorov, Sergachev and Zadorov’s of the world seem to be few and far between. Mark Rubinchik was giving off some of those vibes and I loved his mobility, but other than that the Russia team relied on strong structure and individual moments of individual brilliance to propel them. Rubinchik has confirmed he will play in the WHL for Saskatoon and should be a guy to watch for rising in the draft boards. Samorukov was the defender I wanted to see the most as he had a great U18 earlier this year, but he fell flat to me. Very hesitant and made a lot of questionable pressure passes. Hopefully he can turn things around on the Guelph Storm.
Thanks for reading.