The 2011 IIHF World Junior Championships, which will be held in Buffalo and Niagara Falls from Dec. 26 – Jan. 5, will feature the best of the best in junior hockey. Roman Piontkovsky, Alessandro Seren Rosso, and myself will tell you which Caps prospects will be fighting for their respective countries and what we can expect of them.


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Cody Eakin, C, Team Canada
Team: Swift Current Broncos, WHL

Profile by: Roman Piontkovsky

What can you say about this player’s season so far?

I think everybody was expecting a little bit more from Cody Eakin. At the start of the season, a lot of people said that he was one of the candiates for the WHL Player of the Year award. But unfortunately, he had to fight not only with his opponents, but with his own injuries as well. It has definitely affected his game and his statistics. He’s unlikely to score the 50 goals we all dreamt about earlier, but he still can reach 40 with a good second half of the WHL season. In his final three games before the selection camp Eakin had six goals and three assists, and we hope he can keep it up his torrid scoring during the WJC.

What role, in your opinion, will this player fill on his WJC team?

According to the camp exhibitions against Sweden and Switzerland, Eakin will play on the right wing on the third line with Ryan Johansen and Brett Connolly. Analysts have pointed out that the current Canadian roster is less talented than their predecessors, but the Canadians can still win the WJC with the hard work, good defensive play, and persistance. That’s why Cody Eakin is on this team. He surely can score some goals, too.

What is best-case scenario for this player in the NHL?

If everything goes perfectly, Eakin could become a hardworking top-6 player like Brooks Laich and score 20+ goals per season. He doesn’t have Laich’s size, so it’s difficult to say how will he perform against big NHL defensemen. But Eakin could get some value out of his speed and mobility. If his offensive skills don’t translate, he has the qualities to become a solid third-liner.


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Philipp Grubauer, G, Team Germany
Team: Belleville Bulls, OHL

Profile by: Roman Piontkovsky

What can you say about this player’s season so far?

He has not been consistent this year, having both fantastic and terrible games. It is reflected in his stats. He is 15-8-2 with a 3.43 GAA and a .908 save percentage. Such inconcistency in some ways is characteristic for all young goalies. One notable statistic however is that Grubauer has been unbeatable in shootouts winning four of four.

What role, in your opinion, will this player fill on his WJC team?

Coaches of the German WJC Team consider Grubauer as their #1 goalie and team leader. He’s one of a few players who was drafted by a NHL team in the draft.

What is best-case scenario for this player in the NHL?

It’s hard to forecast goalies’ futures: sometimes undrafted players become starters (Bobrovsky) while first-rounders never play a game in the NHL. But since we are considering a best-case scenario, Grubi has a chance to become a starter in the NHL.


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Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/RW, Team Russia
Club: Traktor Chelyabinsk, KHL

Profile by: Alessandro Seren Rosso

What can you say about this player’s season so far?

Kuznetsov is having a very good season in the KHL. He has already improved upon his statistics last year, and his role on the team is expanding. Also, this season Traktor hired Valery Belousov, who is considered a great mentor for younger players. This can only speed up his development for the NHL. He’s currently one of the best prospects in Russia and in Europe.

What role, in your opinion, will this player fill on his WJC team?

Kuznetsov is one of Russia’s first line players. He’ll be one of the team leaders, and there are high expectations of him. He showed some great chemistry with Sobchenko and Tarasenko, which means that their first line might be one of the best at the WJC. Next year he will still be eligible to return, which is great for team Russia.

What is best-case scenario for this player in the NHL?

Kuznetsov is a player with a high ceiling and he has what it takes to be a first line player in the NHL. If he develops, he could become a 100-point player. As he has said himself, he’s going to spend another year in Russia and this should be good for his development. He will only cross the pond when he feels he is ready.


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Dmitri Orlov, D, Team Russia

Club: Metallurg Novokuznetsk, KHL

Profile by: Alessandro Seren Rosso

What can you say about this player’s season so far?

Orlov had a very good start of the KHL season, as he was a regular on the scoresheet and was a part of Metallurg’s first defensive pairing. Then something happened and Orlov lost his touch. After a prolonged scoring slump, Dima was demoted down to the MHL. He now gets a lot of minutes and has since improved.

What role, in your opinion, will this player fill on his WJC team?

Most likely, Orlov will be the number one defenseman for Valery Bragin’s team. He’s going to log big minutes. Also, he was named an alternate captain.

What is best-case scenario for this player in the NHL?

Orlov has all the talent to become a solid NHL offensive defenseman, but he needs to continue to work. On the defensive side – he needs to play more physically, and on the offensive side – he needs to improve his shot’s accuracy. He can become a top four defenseman with Powerplay duties.


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Patrick Wey, D, Team USA
Club: Boston College Eagles, NCAA

Profile by: Fedor Fedin

What can you say about this player’s season so far?

Pittsburgh-native Patrick Wey, who participated in the 2009 and 2010 USA Hockey National Junior Team Evaluation Camp, represents Boston College, who is considered one of the strongest hockey organizations in the NCAA. BC is loaning three players to the 2011 WJC USA roster, which is most among all NCAA teams. Wey performs well in his shutdown defenseman role, though his scoring stats are nothing to write home about: one goal and three assists in 16 games. Recently Patrick was apart of BC’s third defensive pairing, but – to be honest – all of the defenseman on the team there seem of equal talent and are interchangeable.

What role, in your opinion, will this player fill on his WJC team?

Wey is going to be the seventh defenseman, but in junior hockey, you can use seven blueliners in each game. I think he’s going to get big minutes on the PK, and the fact that he was chosen over Pens prospect and current BC teammate Philip Samuelsson (son of Ulf Samuelsson)  was a surprise for many. This is his last year of WJC eligibility.

What is best-case scenario for this player in the NHL?

Even though the Caps aren’t a defensive powerhouse, they have a lot of young, talented, stay-at-home defenseman who they control the rights of for a long time including Jeff Schultz, Karl Alzner, and John Carlson. Schultz, who I believe is a comaparable example, had a breakout season at the age of  25. Wey is currently 19. Therefore, he still has a lot of time to develop. Look for him to play with the AHL’s Hershey Bears in the next year or two, though keep in mind, he still has two years of college eligibility after this season has concluded.


BONUS! Here is a list of all of the Caps prospects who have played in the WJC recently.

2010: Stefan Della Rovere (Canada), John Carlson (USA), Marcus Johansson (Sweden), Dmitri Orlov (Russia)
2009: Stefan Della Rovere (Canada), Dmitri Kugryshev (Russia)
2008: Karl Alzner (Canada), Josh Godfrey (Canada), Michal Neuvirth (Czech Rep.)
2007: Oskar Osala (Finland), Semyon Varlamov (Russia), Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden)

  • FedFed

    Update: Stanislav Galiev was sent home today by Team Russia as well as potential 2011 first-round pick Evgeny Namestnikov.