Now that the annual re-hash of Wayne Gretzky's trade from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings is in the books, this is where hockey news really dries up for the next three weeks or so.
Gretkzy has had plenty of media time this week. It was announced that he will serve as an ambassador for the KHL's Kunlun Red Star team as efforts continue to grow the game of hockey in China ahead of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
The Great One has also put his name on the U18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup as it makes it debut on Canadian soil this year. After a day off on Thursday, the semifinals run today in Edmonton, before the gold and bronze-medal games on Saturday. Friday's schedule sees Sweden taking on Russia at 2 p.m. before Canada meets the U.S. at 6 p.m.
Canada and Russia both went through their respective brackets undefeated. Two Canadians and four Russians lead the scoring race after the three-game round robin with six points each. For Canada, it's captain Alexis Lafreniere, a 16-year-old whose October birthday means he's not draft eligible until 2020, as well as 17-year-old centre Ryan Suzuki of the Barrie Colts, who will be draft eligible in 2019. The Russian players with six points are Vasili Podkolzin (2019, SKA St. Petersburg of Russia's MHL), Daniil Gushchin (2020, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva of Russia's MHL), Yaroslav Likhachyov (2019, Gatineau of QMJHL) and Mikhail Abramov (2019, also Krasnaya Armiya Moskva of Russia's MHL).
Lafreniere and Gushchin aren’t the only youngsters who have been making waves this week. The Swedes have also been led by a pair of 2020-eligible stars, Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz, and have been playing a 15-year-old old, Jesper Wallstedt, in net.
Prospects guru Steve Kournianos has already taken a crack at ranking the top prospects for the 2019 draft. Click here
to check out his list.
Jack Hughes isn't the only 2019-eligible player who skated in last week's World Junior Showcase in Kamloops rather than at the Hlinka this week. Looking at Kournianos' Top 10, Finland's Kaapo Kakko and Anttoni Honka also played in Kamloops last week, as did Canada's Raphael Lavoie.
Top 10 players from the list who are in Edmonton this weekend: No. 2 Peyton Krebs, No. 5 Bowen Byram and No. 10 Dylan Cozens, all from Canada. They're also all WHL kids—it looks like the Western League will be very well represented at the 2019 draft.
These one-game knockout formats are merciless, but big individual performances and gold medals can do a lot to raise a player's draft stock early. Our own Brock Boeser and Petrus Palmu tied for second in tournament scoring in 2014, with eight points each, one point ahead of the likes of Mitch Marner, Mat Barzal, Sebastian Aho...and Lukas Jasek!
There has been talk of the attendance in Edmonton being disappointing this week but that's a big rink they're trying to fill at Rogers Place! The lower bowl has looked pretty well populated when Canada has been playing and I think we'll see even more substantial crowds for Canada's medal-round games this weekend.
I'll finish off today with another quick update from Da Beauty League. With one week left in the 'regular season,' Brock Boeser's Team Bic took another loss without goaltender Alex Stalock in net, falling 7-6 to Velocity on Wednesday. Bic now sits second in the six-team league with a 4-2 record through six games. The top four teams will advance to the semifinals on August 20.
Like clockwork, Boeser picked up his usual goal and three assists in the game.
He continues to lead the league standings, now with 22 points in five games—five ahead of second-place Brock Nelson. He has never had less than four points in any game.
Save some for us!