I got so excited about Vasily Podkolzin and the Karjala Cup over the weekend that I neglected to notice another international tournament which also featured a couple of Canucks prospects.
The 2020 Deutschland Cup was also contested last week in Krefeld, Germany, located northwest of Dusseldorf. Like many places right now, Germany has been grappling with the coronavirus, so there were no fans in the stands and the format was changed this year to just a three-team tournament — the host Germans, Latvia, and a younger German squad that was headlined by recent first-round draft pick Lukas Reichel. No Tim Stuetzle, though — he's recovering from an arm injury, but is expected to be ready for World Juniors in December.
The main German team included NHL veteran Korbinian Holzer on defense, and Canucks prospect Marc Michaelis up front. The Mannheim native was signed as a free agent by Vancouver in March, following the end of his fourth year at Minnesota State - Mankato, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
Last week, 25-year-old Michaelis was loaned to his home squad, Adler Mannheim. The German league has not yet played any games, due to Covid, so this tournament was Michaelis' first real game action of the year. He took advantage, finishing as the leading scorer with four points in three games.
Arguably the bigger story, however, was Latvian goaltender Arturs Silovs, who the Canucks selected in the sixth round in 2019. The 19-year-old won both his starts. In the round robin, he made 16 saves as the Latvians beat the young "Team Peking" 4-2. To wrap up the round robin on Saturday, Latvia went with 18-year-old Rudolfs Lazdins in net — and he stopped 32 of 33 shots in a 2-0 shutout loss to the main German team, which was sealed with an empty-net goal.
With the tournament final on Sunday, Latvia turned back to Silovs for the back-to-back, and he impressed. He stopped 39 of 41 shots and held the fort in overtime to give Latvia a 3-2 upset win and the tournament championship — the first ever for Latvia at the Deutschland Cup.
Silovs spent last season with the Barrie Colts, appearing in a solid 36 games and posting a 16-13-4 record with a 3.87 GAA and .891 save percentage. He's currently on loan to HS Riga of the seven-team Latvian league — the club he played for before he was drafted.
It's too bad Latvia won't be icing a team at the World Junior Championship. Their last appearance was in 2017, when they finished last and got relegated back to Division 1A. Because of coronavirus, the IIHF is not holding any lower-level tournaments this year, so Silovs won't get a chance to play at the 1A level, either. Because of this, there will also be no promotion or relegation this year, so the 10 countries participating in this year's World Juniors will remain the same in 2022, when the tournament is scheduled to return to Edmonton and Red Deer.
Also on the prospect front, the USHL got its schedule underway last weekend, and 2020 Canucks fourth-rounder Jackson Kunz gave us good reason to add his name to our watch list as we wait for the NHL season to get rolling.
The big winger picked up two goals and was named first star as the Green Bay Gamblers kicked off their season with a 4-2 win over the Muskegeon Lumberjacks, with just over 1,000 spectators in the 10,000-seat Resch Center in Green Bay.
Finally, I'll wrap up today with thoughts on a more ripe Canucks prospect — 24-year-old Jalen Chatfield, who gets the Ben Kuzma treatment in The Province
Originally signed as an unrestricted free agent from the OHL's Windsor Spitfires in 2017, Chatfield went on to win the Memorial Cup later that spring, then saddled up with the Utica Comets. Offense is not exactly his strong suit — in 142 AHL games over three seasons, he has two goals and 17 points, total. He has also missed significant time with injuries, playing 60 games in his rookie season, 34 in 2018-19 and 48 last year.
Nevertheless, Jim Benning seems to have Chatfield at the top of the list of candidates to fill the hole on the right side of the defense corps that has been left after the departures of Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher, and the arrival of Nate Schmidt.
"He’s a lot like (Zack) MacEwen," Canucks general manager Jim Benning told Kuzma. "He (Chatfield) is such a competitive guy that he’s going to figure out a way to be a good player in the league. He has worked extremely hard.
"He’s kind of a cross between Tanev and Stecher because he takes away time and space and has excellent mobility. He can get back and transition the puck up ice fast and he’s smart defensively. And he can be physical and get in your face."
With Olli Juolevi almost certainly pencilled in as an NHL regular this year, Chatfield may have the inside track on that sixth or seventh spot. But he'll have to fend off other challengers like the offensively gifted Brogan Rafferty and left-sider Jack Rathbone if he wants to see his name on the lineup sheet on opening night — whenever and wherever that might be.