Postcard: A scout's take on the World Juniors
An NHL scout,
on the condition of anonymity, agreed to share with Inside College
Hockey his thoughts on the performance of the collegians that represented
the U.S. at the recent World Junior Championship. Here’s what
he told us, with a focus on the players eligible for the 2003 NHL
North Dakota’s Zach Parise: He works so hard,
just relentless on the puck. I was so impressed because he never
gave up, just worked and worked and worked. He’s obviously
a smart player, he’s got good hands and all those other things,
but his work ethic is tremendous. Had they had everybody on the
team work as hard as he did, they probably would have been a little
Ohio State’s Ryan Kesler: Kesler is a big guy,
skates well. He competed hard, too. Battled in the corners, went
to the net with the puck. Smart player, and a good skater. Had a
little more size than a lot of the American players, and he can
really skate. He’s got a nice long stride and good speed.
Really smart. I watched him as far as playing the systems they were
playing or situations that would arise during the game, and he adapted
to them. Skill level is pretty good, he had his points, but it was
more his speed and his hockey sense and his effort that impressed
me. Probably similar to Parise, but in a different package –
one’s big and one’s small. I wouldn’t say they’re
overly, highly skilled players as compared to, say, some of the
Russians I saw, but they do have skill.
the U.S. goaltending: (Jim) Howard seemed to struggle
a bit in goal. He’s played very well this year at Maine, so
that was a surprise. He must have lost his confidence in the Russian
game. He played a little bit against Belarus, then they started
him in the last game but they pulled him at the end of the first
period, down 2-0. Not that it was his fault, I just think the coach
was trying to change the momentum or do something differently. He
just looked uncomfortable, like he didn’t have his confidence.
Goepfert played really well. I thought he had a very good game against
Canada in the semifinals. Sometimes a guy like Howard, who’s
draft-eligible, feels a little more pressure to perform. He thinks
maybe his stock in the draft will go up or down depending on how
he plays. Really, he shouldn’t think that way, but I think
it’s hard not to. The other guy is already drafted, so he’s
probably a little more carefree, a little looser, probably doesn’t
press as much and just goes in and has fun. He played very well.
the U.S. defense: (Colorado College’s Mark)
Stuart, on defense, was pretty good. I thought maybe as the tournament
progressed, as they got to better teams, he might have struggled
a little bit more with the speed of the game. It’s not easy
playing the Canadians – they can all skate, they all have
great strength – it’s not like playing your college
or your junior teams where maybe one guy on the other team is as
good as the guys you are playing against here. But Stuart played
well on the whole.
I thought (Ryan) Suter
(headed to Wisconsin next year) was pretty good, too, and he’s
a 17-year-old playing in what’s probably a 19-year-old’s
tournament. The more successful players are usually 19 years old.
I thought Suter played fine. He’s probably more dynamic in
his regular games with the Under-18 Team – he probably carries
the puck more – but I thought the better the game the better
he played. He will step into college next year and play very, very
Matt) Greene was very physical. That must be why they took him,
because most of the defensemen weren’t too big, but he and
Stuart probably were the biggest and the strongest. They really
battled hard in the corners and in front of the net.
some disappointments: (Minnesota’s Gino) Guyer,
(Boston College’s Ryan) Shannon and (Colorado College’s
Brett) Sterling really seemed to struggle with the speed and the
pace and the strength of the players they were playing against.
Those three guys were probably the bigger disappointments for me.
Shannon and Sterling were just not quite at that level – not
yet anyway – and it was reflected in how they were used.
the tournament’s impact: Do you want to see
them play a little bit better in the World Junior? Sure you do.
But you also have to understand what’s going on. Sometimes
players get put in a role where they’re asked to be a checker
and play more of a defensive role. If the guy doesn’t score
a bunch of points, don’t get excited about it – they
didn’t want him to do that. They didn’t play him on
the power play, but they let him kill all the penalties, that sort
of thing. It’s another piece of the puzzle. It is a really
good tournament, there’s lots of good competition, so I think
you’d have problems if you thought they played poorly. If
you think, I’ve seen him play better, or he could have played
better, that’s a lot different from saying, well, the guy
had trouble skating at this level or maybe he shouldn’t have