The Journey: World Junior Stock Risers
Kevin is back in the saddle this week for a Journey edition of stock watch at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo.
Jordan Kyrou – Canada – 2016, 35th Overall – STL
Kyrou’s stock has been rising all season, as he leads all Ontario Hockey League scorers with 58 points in 30 games for the Sarnia Sting. With Team Canada, Kyrou’s superb season has continued. He is tied for fourth at the World Juniors through three games with four points, and has helped Canada to a 2-0-1 start in Group A. Canada’s top line with Kyrou, Dylan Dube and Sam Steel has been rolling, piling up a total of 10 points in three games. St. Louis has done a terrific job at identifying talent deep in the first round and into the middle rounds, and Kyrou is no exception. When he was drafted, the biggest knock against the playmaking forward was consistency, which he has seemed to find this season, increasing his points-per-game rate from 0.78 in his draft year, to 1.42 last season and finally 1.93 early in this campaign.
Henri Jokiharju – Finland – 2017, 29th Overall – CHI
With all the talk about how terrific Finland’s blueline group heading into the tournament, the names you most likely were to hear were Miro Heiskanen, Juuso Valimaki and even Olli Juolevi. However, Jokiharju, another Finnish first rounder playing for the U20’s, has been equally impressive. He and Juolevi are tied for the tournament lead in shots on goal by defenseman with nine through two games, and Jokiharju currently is tied for third in points by a defenseman with three. The Portland Winterhawk ranks fifth in the Western Hockey League in scoring among rearguards with 37 points in 31 games. At the time he was drafted, Jokiharju was viewed as a top-40 prospect, as a guy who could come off the board in the late first or early second. Chicago must be pleased with his development this season, as he has showed more offensive touch then in his draft year.
Martin Necas – Czech Republic – 2017, 12th Overall – CAR
Necas showed some traits early this season that earned him a very short stint with Carolina to start the year as an 18-year-old, before being sent back to the Czech league to develop further. In the World Juniors, he has looked like a man against boys. He was the best player on the ice in the Czech Republic’s opening round upset of the Russians, and was equally impressive in his team’s second game against Sweden. Necas’s speed and skill have been on display, as he has consistently prevailed in one-on-one board battles and open ice situations. The 2017 first rounder has played with 2018 draft eligible Filip Zadina, and the pair has been dynamic to this point in the tournament. I’d like to see him shoot the puck more, but he has provided offense for his team with three points in the Czechs first two games.
Casey Mittelstadt – United States – 2017, 8th Overall – BUF
Would be hard to have this article without mentioning the clinic that Mittelstadt has put on through the first three games of the World Juniors. His six points lead all scorers with three goals and three assists, and he nearly single-handedly willed the Americans to an overtime win over the Canadians Friday at New Era Field, assisting on all three of Team USA’s goals. Everyone knows the offensive ability that Mittelstadt possesses, and it’s likely why you drafted him higher than the eighth he was taken in the NHL draft in your prospect draft this summer. The University of Minnesota prospect thus far has put on a show for the Buffalo fans who are hoping for him to be in a Sabres sweater sooner, rather than later.
Kieffer Bellows – United States – 2016, 19th Overall – NYI
This season has gone much more smoothly for Bellows, after making the difficult decisions to leave Boston University and college hockey after his freshman season to ply his trade in the Western Hockey League. His 40 points in 31 games for the Portland Winterhawks have been impressive, and his 19 goals rank in the top 20 WHL scorers this season. In the World Juniors, Bellows has shown the kind of ability that had many Islanders fans very excited when they drafted him in 2016. He has an NHL release already, and is learning to consistently find the pockets of space in the offensive zone that will allow him to be a high-volume scorer some day at the NHL level. Bellows has scored four times in three preliminary round games at the World Juniors, which leads all goal scorers.
Klim Kostin – Russia – 2017, 31st Overall – STL
It’s laughable that Kostin lasted until the last pick of the first round in 2017, but he did and St. Louis will reap the dividends. The Russian forward’s frame is nearly NHL ready as an 18-year-old, and as he continues to develop, Kostin could bring a scary combination of size and skill to a Western Conference team that seems to reload, rather than rebuild each year. Starting the tournament in limited minutes, Kostin has forced the issue and earned his ice in a tournament that is typically dominated by players two years his senior. His five points in three games are tied for second among all scorers in the WJC, and his 13 shots are currently tied for third. The Russians had a small hiccup against a deserving Czech Republic team in the tournament’s opening game, but since the third period of that contest have looked to be a competitor for a medal when the dust settles next week.
Filip Gustavsson – Sweden – 2016, 55th Overall – PIT
When talking about the Swedes before the tournament began, Gustavsson’s name didn’t come up often. In fact, if it did, it was likely more a question of whether or not the teams goaltending would be good enough to contend for gold. To this point, Gustavsson has passed the tested presented to him. In two games, the 19-year-old, has stopped 32 of 34 shots and has helped Sweden to a 2-0 record. The young netminder has not given up a five-on-five goal yet in the tournament, and has proved to be a steading force for the Swedes in net behind a stellar defensive group. Sweden’s road gets a bit tougher starting today with a matchup against the Swiss, and a New Year’s Eve tilt against the Russians that will likely decide top seed in Group B. We will see if Gustavsson is up to the challenge.
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