The World Junior Championship is a goldmine for young talent. While NHL scouts and GMs can always see their North American prospects at an NCAA or major junior game during the season, European draftees or draft-eligible players are not so simple. Same goes for writers. I can talk to scouts across the pond about some of Europe’s finest, but there’s still nothing better than seeing the players in person. With that in mind, here are a few players I’m excited to see at the world juniors in Buffalo.
Detroit’s second round pick in 2010, Jarnkrok was a late-riser in draft talk, thanks to a second half with Brynas that markedly outshined his first half. The smallish, but skilled Swede has continued his ascent this season, leading all junior-aged players in Elite League scoring with 18 points in 30 games. He will be counted on as Sweden’s top center at the tourney and has excellent playmaking skills. And isn’t it amazing how the Red Wings always seem to land that guy making the scouting headlines? Jarnkrok was the buzz Euro last year; the season before that it was Tomas Tatar’s performance at the world juniors that made the Slovak the scouting darling. And Detroit didn’t spend a first round pick on either.
True, Kitsyn was already over here this year as part of the Russia-CHL Subway Series (where he was a star), but there’s an added layer of intrigue now. The L.A. Kings prospect recently told Russian reporters he had played his last game in the Kontinental League. Though his team, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, seems to be digging in its heels, citing his contract. If Kitsyn does “defect,” he can just hitch a ride to his new home with Team Canada coach Dave Cameron, whose Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors own Kitsyn’s CHL rights. The fact Russia kicks off the tourney against Canada makes the round robin game almost like a live audition for Kitsyn in front of his potential new boss.
Peter Ceresnak, D, Slovakia
I’m not going to lie, I know very little about Ceresnak. Which, obviously, is why I’m excited to see him in person. I know he’s the top-rated Slovak for this year’s draft according to Central Scouting. I know he’s 6-foot-3 and already has experience playing against men in his country’s top league. Is he another Martin Marincin? I’ll report back from Buffalo for y’all.
Joel Armia, RW, Finland
One of the biggest ‘it’ players of the year, Armia has rocketed up the 2011 draft rankings since the season began. Could the interest lie in the fact he started the year on fire and boasts a 6-foot-3 frame? I guess I’ve answered my own question. Armia’s point production may have slimmed a little, but he still has 19 points in 30 games, meaning he trails only Suomi teammate Teemu Pulkkinen in scoring by a rookie in the country’s top circuit, the SM-Liiga. Speaking of Pulkkinen, if Minnesota Wild first-rounder Mikael Granlund can’t go, or is slowed down by the aftermath of an early-season concussion, then Finland’s offensive mantle falls a lot more on the Red Wings prospect.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays, The Hot List appears Tuesdays and Rookie Report appears every other Wednesday.
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