Ed. Note: The following is from Richard Werther, an Islanders fan and Lighthouse reader with a close-up view of the junior showcase taking place this week near his Michigan home. Thanks for sharing, Richard!
The World Junior Summer Showcase, being held at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth is nearing a close. As a regular at the Arena (I am an Islander fan living in Michigan and am a season ticket holder for the National Team Development Program U17 and U18 teams based here), I have attended every game of the Showcase thus far and will provide some observations as to the Islander prospects involved.
For the four teams (the USA, Canada, Finland, and Sweden), the Showcase is a hybrid: part round-robin tournament, part tryout camp for the World Junior, which commence on Dec. 26 in the Czech Republic. The tryout camp part is more applicable to the U.S. and Canada, both of whom came in with large rosters.
There were five Islander prospects involved, all are on the American squad. The Americans started with a split squad (44 players in total). The U.S. Blue and White teams took turns facing Sweden and Finland playing one game each last Saturday and Sunday, after which cuts were made to reduce the roster to one 31-player group. One more round of reductions is anticipated by the time the Showcase concludes.
The Blue team, with one Islander prospect, Christian Krygier, won both its matchups, while the Whites quad, with the other four NYI prospects, lost both. Below are my observations about each player:
Christian Krygier (Defense)
That Krygier remains with the team has to be a surprise as only one drafted player among the four teams in the Showcase was picked lower (American goaltender Dustin Wolf). He was also the only one of the Islanders prospects in the tournament not to come through the NTDP, playing his juniors with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars.
The play of the Michigan State recruit and overall 196 th pick (round 7) has been an eye-opener. The 6’2”, 192-pound Krygier has been solid defensively, showing good defensive positioning. As with all big players, he will have to grow his foot speed and mobility, but he looks as if he could be a find.
Not known for his offense, he nonetheless chipped in with three assists in a 7-1 drubbing of Finland, getting tippable pucks through to the net. The icing on the cake for him is that he’s performing just down the road from his hometown (and mine!) of Novi, Michigan.
Blade Jenkins (Wing)
Jenkins was a casualty of the first round of cuts. In the two games he played, he did some work on the PK and was showed some strength in the corners, but really never figured much into the outcome of either game.
Oliver Wahlstrom (Wing)
Wahlstrom is a true puck-hound. When it’s not on his stick he’s tenacious in getting it. There’s a bit of selfishness in his game, and I mean that in a good way (I can think of a couple of current Islanders who could probably benefit by shooting more).
He was on the first powerplay unit, and his spot is Ovi’s office. He’s got a rocket of a one-timer, something the Islanders desperately need, although his first tournament goals versus Finland was from in close. He’s always looking to shoot, but if overplayed he has the talent to make a quick cross-seam pass.
In the game against Canada, where the Canadians smothered the American offense in a 4-1 win, Wahlstrom looked frustrated at times, as did many of the U.S. players, with the team not hitting on all cylinders. He definitely plays with an edge to his game.After the Canada loss, he was a healthy scratch for the Sweden victory, but is a lock to make the final team.
Jacob Pivonka (Center)
Another legacy of a Washington Capitals player, as is Krygier, Pivonka I believe grades out at best as a bottom-six center, perhaps a Czikas type, but with the bloodlines you never know. Dad Michal Pivonka had a decent career, with nearly 200 goals over 13 NHLseasons.
Jake is an Islander 4th rounder and NTDP grad, going into his second year at Anders Lee’s alma mater, Notre Dame, so we’ll have to see how his game develops under coach Jeff Jackson.
Bode Wilde (Defense)
I watched Wilde play two seasons in the NTDP and he lived up to hisname – he was all over the ice and really liked to push the offense. His foot was on the accelerator at all times, usually with good outcomes, but once in a while he would get caught out of position.
The Wilde so far at the Showcase has been a much more disciplined player, rarely rushing the puck. He got lots of powerplay time, so the offensive skills are still there, and was in Wahlstrom’s PP spot once or twice when the U.S. defeated Sweden 6-0.
The right-shot D didn’t shy away from the rough stuff, getting into a couple of tussles in the two games against Sweden.
The coming additional cuts will still not determine the final US team: the roster will still be carrying some “bubble” players, and a lot can change between now and December as to who’s hot and who’s not, who’s healthy, etc. It will be interesting to track the Islander prospects. The World Juniors can be the crucible to develop some pretty good clutch players (like a guy whose initials are JT).
The tournament continues Friday, Aug. 2, with televised coverage on NHL Network (1 p.m. ET Sweden vs. Canada, 4 p.m. Finland vs. USA.)