20176 U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup

Prospect Notes: Day Two

Sweden clinches but semifinals picture still foggy
Steve Kournianos  |  08/08/2017 |  New York  |  

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Photo courtesy of USA Hockey

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Tournament Rosters
Tournament Stats
Tournament Results

DATE HOME AWAY RESULT VIDEO
07 AUG 17 USA Sweden Sweden, 6-1
07 AUG 17 Canada Russia Russia, 4-3 (SO)
07 AUG 17 Czech Republic Switzerland Czech Republic, 6-2
07 AUG 17 Slovakia Finland Finland, 6-1
08 AUG 17 Switzerland USA USA, 2-1
08 AUG 17 Russia Slovakia Russia, 9-3
08 AUG 17 Sweden Czech Republic Sweden, 7-3
08 AUG 17 Finland Canada Canada, 5-1

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United States

C Jack Drury: It didn’t take long for Drury to reinforce his reputation as Team USA’s captain and go-to forward. The American roster may be thin in terms of pure skill and finesse, but Drury’s two-way game and strength on the puck sets a solid example for his teammates to follow. There’s nothing flashy about his game, and it seems to gets better results when he stays within himself and does the little things necessary to complete a play. Drury centered the top PK and PP units, and scored a critical opening goal against the Swiss with a wrister from the blue line. He’s able to hang on to the puck for a lengthy amounty of time, and even bigger opponents had difficulty knocking off the puck. Still, his upside is likely that of a depth player than a reliable or consistent scorer. He’s headed to a loaded Harvard squad next fall, so look for him to be a key cog for the USHL’s Chicago Steel this upcoming season.

LHD Jacob Semik: Team USA’s defense corps could use some work in the puck management department, but Semik was its most reliable. He quarterbacked the top power play unit, where he revealed a hard, accurate wrist shot and used quick head-man passes from as far back as his own goal line to catch opponents in a line change. He’s a fluid skater with above-average speed, and he uses strong edges and solid pivots to avoid pressure and create time and space. His one-on-one defending and play from inside his own zone is a bit rough, as he allows too much room on zone entries and is guilty of floating far from his slot responsibilities. He’ll likely play on Dubuque’s top pairing this season before heading to Ann Arbor to play for Michigan.

Sweden

C Jacob Olofsson: A skilled two-way center with an advanced brain and the size to augment his puck skills, Olofsson has been Sweden’s most consistent creator in terms of quality chances. He plays in all situations and will use a quick-strike mentality no matter the zone he controls the puck in. Olofsson is very dangerous off the rush since he own a hard, accurate shot, plus the vision and hands to set-up the linemate who will produce the best chance. He’s a beast on the puck and likes to get his hands dirty on the forecheck or in battles along the wall. He scored a nice goal against the Czechs — one off a turnover and backhand snipe. He belongs to Timra in the Allsvenskan, where he didn’t put up any numbers in a 14-game stint a year ago. Still, his size/skill combination, plus the ability to kills penalties or play on the power play, makes him someone to pay attention to as the season progresses.

Russia

LW Damir Bilyalov: A quick and slippery forward with excellent puck skills, Bilyalov shows no fear as he takes inside routes to get closer to the net. When he gets there, he can whistle a quick shot with a rapid release. He’s also a capable playmaker and will sneak tape-to-tape passes through clogged lanes. Bilyalov is a dangerous player from the circles inward, where he executes give-and-go’s and set-ups off the cycle. He has soft hands and can handle bouncing pucks with ease. Bilyalov should play most of this season for Krasnaya Armiya in the MHL.

C Ruslan Iskhakov: Tenacious and explosive skater with quick hands and excellent footwork who pivots like a pro and makes sharp cuts while moving at a high rate of speed. He is a flashy player who can beat you with a variety of shots, delivered via deadly moves made close to the goal. He also has pro-level vision and delivers his set-ups perfectly. A strong stickhandler who will get busy on the forecheck, Iskhakov also has a hard accurate shot with a quick release, and he still picks his corners while shooting off the pass. He has no problem taking the puck right to the net, and seems quite comfortable handling it from in close. He scored a pair of highlight-reel shootout goals in Russia’s win versus Canada on tuesday.

LW Pavel Rotenberg: A dual pass-shoot threat with very good agility and quickness around the cage, Rotenberg may be the son of a billionaire, but he certainly doesn’t play like he’s entitled to anything. He plays with an edge and isn’t scared of doing dirty work either in the corners or in front of the net. Rotenberg is poised with the puck and will hang on to it as long as possible, even if the walls are collapsing around him. He likes to position himself in the slot during the power play, and he’s shown good hand-eye coordination to tip home shots with either his forehand or backhand.

Canada

C Jack McBain: McBain is a big, strong forward who can play either center or wing. He used his size, reach and upper-body strength to win most of his puck battles, and he’s smart enough to identify the open man — likely well before he possess the puck. One thing that stood out is his deceptive speed and ability to close on a defender while forechecking aggressively. McBain isn’t an explosive skater, but he has a nonstop motor and is constantly moving his feet regardless of whether he has the puck or not. He developed instant chemistry with his linemates, and revealed a lethal shot/release combo.

LW Gabriel Fortier: You can always count on Team Canada to ice at least one penalty killing duo that seemingly drived every power play unit crazy. Enter Fortier, who along with fellow QMJHL’er Benoit Groulx were devastatingly relentless when down a man, creating chances and smothering point men with in-your-face pressure. He’s an explosive skater with first-step quickness — arguably the fastest of any player on Canada’s Hlinka roster.

Slovakia

C Kristian Kovacik: It’s been a rough tournament for the Slovaks, who were blown out in each of the first two days by a combined score of 15-4. Nevertheless, one of their more dangerous forwards was Kovacik, a speedy playmaker with a hard shot who plays a 200-foot game and creates chances from a relentless forecheck. Slovakia was in retreat mode for most of its 9-3 loss to Russia, but that didn’t stop the 5’11 center from playing engaged and doing whatever he could to create chances. He’s got very good speed and will cut inside if he sees a defender leaning the wrong way, and it doesn’t require much for him to snap off an accurate shot.

Czech Republic

C Jan Jenik: The Czechs were on the wrong end of a slugfest with the Swedes, who prevailed 7-3 but had their share of difficulties containing the Czech attack. One of the few bright spots was Jenik, a crafty player who is a net-front presence and does a lot of dirty work for his linemates. Tall yet wiry, Jenik revealed a proclivity for getting quality chances near the goal, and is a fixture on both the power play and on the penalty kill. His footwork is excellent, as he pivots and curls away from pressure before changing gears and darting up ice. Jenik competes in all three zones and will support his teammates in any zone, and once he has the puck, he’ll play poised before using timely lead passes that trap opponents. He was quite productive last season for Liberec in the Czech U20 junior circuit, and the fact that he made the 2018 draft on the absolute final day of eligibility tells me he’s on the verge of making his elite Extraliga debut.

C Karel Plasek: Super-charged goal scorer who plays center in just about every situation. Plasek was a consistent threat in each of the Czech Republic’s first two games, scoring twice in the loss to Sweden. His first goal was a clean breakaway from his own blue line, and his speed created enough time to fake goalie Olof Lindbom well out of position without having to worry about a defender catching up to him. He’s a lot of fun to watch, and he gives the Czechs a more balanced lineup that could serve them well in the next round.