The 2017 World Junior Championships are in the books! Team USA took home the gold medal with a thrilling shootout victory over Team Canada on Thursday night. Let’s take a look at how the Philadelphia Flyers skaters performed at the World Juniors.
- German Rubtsov (Forward)
- 2016 1st round pick (22nd overall)
- 2016-17 Team: Russkie Vityazi Chekhov (MHL)
- 2016-17 Stats: 15 games, 7 goals, 8 assists, 15 points, +2 rating
Rubtsov was the youngest skater for Russia taken to these championships, and over the course of them head coach Bragin applied his usual philosophy in regards to younger players, I.E. using them sparingly and letting the older players carry the load. There are many who espouse the credo that the World Juniors is a “19 year olds tournament”, and Bragin is certainly a believer in that. The encouraging thing over the course of the tournament for Rubtsov was that the cautious Bragin trusted his enough to use him as a regular in the PK rotation, on the second unit. The young pivot was however shuffled between third and fourth line at 5v5, and played both right wing and center over the tournament, with the fourth line right wing role being the one he saw most time at.
He was not really given a role in which he could show his skills in, as he was tasked with playing a simple, conservative game. The only time he showed the talent that helped him light up his age group at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, the Ivan Hlinka tournament and most recently the World Junior A Challenge was on plays where he did not have to worry about making a mistake. In the group stages he created a few nice opportunities on odd-man rushes, and walked a Canadian defenseman in their match-up. Rubtsov also came inches from opening the scoring against America, when he was denied on the doorstep. Every shift the youngster worked had and showed his dedication to a 200-ft game.
His tournament post-group stages however was brief. Early in the second period of Russia’s quarter-final victory against Switzerland he was caught up high with a brutal high-stick, which re-arranged his nose and left a pool of blood on the ice. His nose was broken, and the Vityaz product also apparently sustained a concussion. His tournament was over. The extent of the damage could be seen in Russia’s bronze medal celebrations, as his future general manager Ron Hextall observed “he’ll look like a hockey player now.”
Rubtsov will be back at the World Juniors next year, and next time it is all but certain he will play an extensive role, likely centering the first line for his nation. He will be the only forward from this roster eligible to compete next season, and centered the first line at the u-17, u-18 and u-19 levels. He has a bronze medal in the bag now, and will be hoping to spearhead Russia to gold next time around.
5 games, 0 points, -1 rating
- Mikhail Vorobyov (Forward)
- 2015 4th round pick (104th overall)
- 2016-17 Team: Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
- 2016-17 Stats: 36 games, 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points, +2 rating
While the under-aged Rubtsov was used sparingly across the course of the tournament the opposite was true for his hulking counterpart Vorobyov. The Russian first line of him in-between tournament MVP Kaprizov and fellow KHLer Polunin has a claim to being the most dangerous line of the tournament, they combined for twelve goals and twenty-nine points across the tournaments seven games. Russia only scored twenty-four goals in open play, which highlights how much of the load the trio carried.
Vorobyov did not show the flash his diminutive line-mate Kaprizov showed, but his all-around game was one of the best on display by any center at the tournament. There is an argument to be made that only Minnesota Wild first rounder Joel Eriksson Ek, who coincidentally Flyers scout Todd Hearty compared Vorobyov favourably to after the draft, showed as rounded a game up the middle of the ice as Vorobyov did over the tournament. Eriksson Ek has already played in the NHL, and not looked out of place. This tournament has almost certainly opened a lot of Flyers fans eyes to the possibility of the big man from Ufa being in Orange and Black sooner than later.
While the physically imposing pivot showed off his impressive defensive game on more than one occasion, and also dominated on the dot – winning 61.4% of the draws he took over the tournament – but it was his subtle, crisp passing that was most visible. It was not sheer coincidence that he ended the tournament as the “Assist-King” with ten tallies across the seven games. He picked out eye-of-the-needle gaps on a regular basis, and made sure that wherever Kaprizov was on ice he had a way to pick out his line-mate and create chances. His pass from behind the net to Kaprizov in the Quarter-final was a thing of beauty, almost Gretzky-esque. In that game he also scored a nice shoot-out goal, albeit in vein, faking like he was going to make a deke before firing quickly over goalie Parsons blocker.
Vorobyov also played a big role in bringing home the bronze medal. He was awarded the player of the game award for his efforts in against Sweden, where he played a big part in shutting down their top players while also providing an assist. Hopefully he can go back to hometown club Salavat Ufa Yulaev and carry his confidence and play from the World Juniors to the KHL. If he can his production will surely see an uptick over the rest of the year.
7 games played, 10 assists, +6 rating
- Philippe Myers (Defenseman)
- Signed as undrafted free agent September 2015
- 2016-17 Team: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
- 2016-17 Stats: 19 games, 8 goals, 10 assists, 18 points, +9 rating
Philippe Myers went into camp fighting for a spot on the blue line, and he came out of camp as one of the best defensemen on the team. Myers was regularly paired on the top-pairing with Thomas Chabot and was viewed by many as one of the most important players for Team Canada.
Myers immediately showed off his skillset in Canada’s first round robin game against Russia. He led an end-to-end rush before dropping the puck to Tyson Jost for the goal. It was a thing of beauty from the 6’5″ defenseman that showed off his skating, patience and vision. He was just one of two players for Canada to play over 20 minutes against Russia, picking up that assist as well as a +1 rating in the game.
Myers played a solid game in Canada’s 5-0 win over Slovakia, though he didn’t play a role in any of the five goals. He was held pointless with a 0 rating in 17:38 of ice time. It was a good game for the team to cycle in all of their players as most players saw a good chunk of ice time.
The defenseman’s real coming out game was against Latvia. His assist in the opening game was nice, but he picked up two assists in a 76 second span in the first period for Canada in their 10-2 rout of Latvia. His first assist was more of a clearing attempt that Matt Barzal picked up for a breakaway, but it counts as an assist nonetheless. His second assist was more like him, however. He got the puck at the point on the power play and fired a shot through traffic on net. Nicolas Roy was in perfect position to deflect the puck home for a 2-0 lead halfway through the period, with Myers picking up the primary assist on both goals.
Philippe Myers was one of the best defensemen in the tournament, period. He was knocked out of the last round robin game on Saturday with a concussion, but returned to the ice in uniform for the medal ceremony last night which is a fantastic sign.
Myers is making everyone ask the same question: how did this kid go undrafted? The Flyers have found quite a prospect in the six foot-five inch smooth skating defenseman. He handles the puck with ease, is a right-handed shot, and has fantastic patience and vision. It was an unfortunate end to the tournament for Myers, but we’ll be hearing his name in the future for the orange and black.
4 games played, 3 assists, +1 rating
Team Czech Republic
- David Kaše (Forward)
- 2015 5th round pick (128th overall)
- 2016-17 Team: KLH Chomutov (CZE)
- 2016-17 Stats: 16 games, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, -1 rating
Kaše started the WJC snake bitten. It seemed that he could not buy a point despite a high level of play.
In the first game of the tournament he was his nations player of the game as they eked out an important 2-1 victory. He played a vital role in the first goal, cutting off an outlet play with a hard fore-check on the right half-boards. Kaše did not pick up the assist on the play, but without him it would have never happened, he also put a puck just past the Finnish post, and had a good chance denied by a quick save. As I said, snake-bitten.
Against Switzerland and Denmark the same. He buzzed, created chances, had high quality shots saved, but nothing would go. But David Kaše never once hung his head, looked down, gave up on a play. He kept up his frenetic, energizer bunny playing style when others around him visibly waned. He led by example and helped his Czech side stay in every game through every period.
In the final group game against the Swede’s it seemed like the same story was going to unfold once again. Kaše buzzed from the start, and was heavily involved in play early on, being denied by a strong save early on after he walked around fellow Flyers prospect David Bernhardt and stuffed an attempt at the short-side.
But despite a positive start from his side they found themselves down by five goals early in the third period despite creating a similar number of chances as their Swedish counterparts. At this point the puck-luck finally started coming Kaše’s way. With seven minutes left on the clock he went to the gritty areas around the crease and was rewarded with a goal that he opportunistically jammed past Swedish goalie Gustavsson. Minutes later he was on the score-sheet again, this time with an assist on the power-play as he tee’d up defenseman Hronek for the big point-shot.
In the quarter-final against the Canadian’s Kaše played a bit part in a performance his side could be proud of. They eventually lost 5-3, but twice tied up the game and were within one goal with only fifteen minutes left. Kaše opened the scoring in the game to put his side 1-0 up. It was as if all his bad luck was balanced out at once on the goal. A Czech shot hit a Canadian defenseman, bounced off the linesman’s hip, and amongst a sea of panic and confusion it seemed the Flyers young Czech prospect was the only player on ice to see where the puck. He calmly deposited it into the almost empty net to send his bench into raptures. Kaše continued to hassle and harass the Canadian defensemen all game, playing over 18 minutes of high quality hockey. He showed once again that when it comes to playing against those his own age he is virtually any-ones equal. Flyers fans might not be over-familiar with the wingers game, or even with him as a prospect, but he showed at the WJC he should not be underestimated.
He was rewarded for his high level of play by being named as one of the Czech’s three players of the tournament.
It has long been thought that David is more talented than his older brother Ondřej, and has outperformed him at the domestic and age-group levels consistently at the same ages. Ondřej is currently playing on Ryan Getzlaf’s wing in Anaheim. David is slightly smaller than his big brother, but plays a similar brand of hockey. Give him a few years and he could be bringing a similar energy role to the Flyers.
4 games played, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points, -1 rating
- David Bernhardt (Defenseman)
- 2016 7th round pick (199th overall)
- 2016-17 Team: Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
- 2016-17 Stats: 21 games, two goals, five assists, seven points, +4 rating
Bernhardt was not expected to be at the World Juniors just a few months ago, but his strong play since making his senior debut for club-side Djurgårdens in the SHL got him a spot on Sweden’s camp roster, and his performances at camp and in the warm-up games meant he stuck once the final cuts were made.
In the first few games of the tournament Bernhardt played very well. His pairing with Lucas Carlsson played a measured and effective game that had propelled them into being effectively Sweden’s second pairing. They led Sweden’s blue-line in plus-minus after the group stage, and had not been on ice for a single goal against at that venture. While Bernhardt is generally most well known for his booming shot and offensive prowess he simplified his game, and played a solid defensive game in his own zone, using his size and strength to defend his crease well and win board battles regularly. He also showed with his assist against Denmark his impressive offensive IQ, he showed shot, then laid a beautiful slap-pass right onto the stick of Alex Nylander for an easy goal into a virtually empty net.
Once the knock-out stages started Bernhardt struggled to keep up his high level of play from the group stages. In the Quarter-final especially he struggled. Sweden may have won 8-3 but Bernhardt made several mistakes around his own net and on outlet passes. His game in the Semi-final is harder to evaluate. No-one on the Swedish blue-line played well, and the team was hemmed in their own zone for the majority of the game, he was partially responsible for a goal against though, losing a man in-front for what ended up an easy goal. In the bronze medal game however he played better. Despite his side losing 2-1 he looked more like the player he had been in the group stages. His time on ice increased from period to period, and in the seventeen minutes of ice-time he saw he played well. He helped prevent a dangerous Polunin chance in-front at one point and came close to scoring in the third period with a booming shot that caused havoc in the crease.
Upon his return to the SHL Bernhardt will be looking to cement a spot in his club-sides regular top six defensemen, and play consistent minutes instead of flit in and out as the number six and seventh defenseman.
7 games played, 3 assists, +6 rating
- Tanner Laczynski (Forward)
- 2016 6th round pick (169th Overall)
- 2016-17 Team: Ohio State Buckeyes (NCAA)
- 2016-17 Stats: 15 games, 6 goals, 16 assists, 22 points, +15 rating
Laczynski was a surprise to make the final roster for Team USA, but he is making the most of the opportunity on the fourth line for his country.
The Ohio State freshman scored a goal in his second tournament game after being held of the scoresheet in the opener. He found the rebound on a shot and made no mistake in depositing it into the back of the net, past Matej Tomek. He continued his scoring streak the next game against Russia, this time picking up an assist in a 3-2 win.
He made the most of his ice time in a fourth line role for the champions. He unfortunately missed the semifinal game with an illness, but played 7:17 in the gold medal win. He ended the tournament 11th in face-off percentage, winning 22 of the 32 draws he took.
7 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, +2 rating
Stay tuned for a look at how the goaltenders performed (spoiler alert: quite well) at the World Juniors!
Alex Appleyard provides weekly updates of Flyers prospects in Europe here at Sons of Penn. You can find him on Twitter at @avappleyard for live updates and conversation regarding the young guns overseas and the big club here at home in Philadelphia