The World Hockey Championships concluded in Sweden/Finland last weekend and we were keeping a close eye on the festivities with a slant towards fantasy hockey... see our tournament watchlist here. Well let's put a bow on this sucker with what some of the key learnings were.
Here's eight things we learned...
Roman Josi may actually be even better than he has looked for Nashville... He turned in a dominant performance for the Swiss as they lost only one game (the final) during the tournament. Josi led all dmen in scoring with 4+5=9 in 10 games and picked up Best Defenseman & tournament MVP honours. He had a solid second season for Nashville with per82 numbers of 9+22=31 in 23:31/gm but playing for the lowest scoring team in the league surely didn't help his numbers. If Nashville can add some more talent and Josi picks up his PP production... look out.
Antti Raanta has done enough to get a contract with an NHL team... Rumours have at least five NHL teams interested in the young Finnish netminder after his outrageous season where he won everything there is to win in SM-liiga. He was very solid at the WCs with a 2.09 & .928 in seven games for what was a pretty weak Finnish team. If an NHL team does take a chance with him then he'd probably be expected to prove himself in the AHL first but he'd be a nice pickup in your prospect draft this summer.
Nashville would do well to make a trade for Paul Stastny as he and Craig Smith are like gasoline and fire together... These two were coming off of horrid seasons in the NHL as they combined for just 13 goals and 36 points in 84 games aggregate but nearly matched that total in 10 WC games together with 11+18=29. Stastny was 2nd in tournament scoring and Smith ended up 3rd. Every time I watched these guys they were dangerous and created numerous chances. They showed some great chemistry on a line with David Moss and hopefully all three will be able to use the experience to their benefit next season. I like Smith as a sleeper for next season but, again, it'll be tough to really rack up the points playing for Nashville.
The media isn't helping Jay Feaster keep touch with reality... The Flames GM said back in April that he thinks Reto Berra is one of the top two goalies in Europe, which was a little odd as Berra was coming off a season where he had a .906 sv% against shooters in the Swiss league, only good for 9th in the league. Then during the tournament, TSN announcer Marc Crawford, who coached in Switzerland this year, said Berra is the best goalie in the league?!? Well just for the record, Berra came out of the tournament smelling like roses as he won all four games he played with a 1.00 gaa & .967 sv%. Context is important here though as he played second fiddle to Martin Gerber and only saw action against the Czechs, Denmark, Belarus & USA, not exactly the fab 4 of international hockey. Call me a skeptic.
Jhonas Enroth is the best goalie in the world... Alright, that may be hyberbole but he was named the Best Goaltender of the World Championship while leading Sweden to gold on home soil. He only gave up eight goals over seven games and finished with a 1.15 gaa & .956 sv%. He is only 24 and has a career NHL sv% of .914, so there are some pretty encouraging signs here that he could be a solid #1 if given the chance. Who knows what Buffalo has planned for Miller this summer but Enroth could be in for a bigger role next season.
Maybe the US should have just entered their entire WJC squad... Three members of their 2013 WJC Gold-winning squad played key parts in their bronze medal at the WCs. John Gibson looked like he was just with the team to soak up the experience but he ended up taking over the #1 job and led the team through the medal round including wins over Finland (twice) and Russia in the QF. Gibson finished the tournament with 1.56 & .951 in five games and looks ready to take his game to the pro level next season. Jacob Trouba didn't have a major role, averaging just 12:59/gm in ice-time, but he was relied on to quarterback the top PP unit ahead of NHL veterans like E.Johnson, McBain and Carle. He finished with just 1+2=3 in seven games but I've liked everything I've seen out of him this season. Alex Galchenyuk was a late addition to the team after the Habs exited early from the playoffs but he jumped right into a scoring line role and won the bronze medal game with two clinical finishes in the shootout.
Dennis Hollenstein didn't hurt his negotiating power with a head-turning performance... The 23-year-old Swiss sensation drew the interest of NHL scouts with some finishing ability while seeing just 13:27/gm of ice-time. He had 4+4=8 in 10 games while leading his team in shots (31). Hollenstein played two seasons in the OHL but seems to have really come on the last three seasons while playing in his homeland. He had a nice all-round season with 12+25=37, plus-15 & 89 PIMs in 48 games. Would love to see him try his luck in NA again but he is signed to a long-term deal in Switzerland so he may not be that eager to make the jump.
A few young guys were in over their head... We were hoping to see something out of soon-to-be-NHLers like 21-year-olds Calle Jarnkrok & Oscar Lindberg from Sweden, 20-year-old Nick Bjugstad and 19-year-old Tomas Hertl. But mostly they just showed their age and were riding the pine when the games became heavier. I didn't see much when I watched the young Swedes play, Bjugstad had a few flashes when he used his large frame to protect the puck and Hertl actually saw quite of bit of time on a line with Voracek & Hudler but didn't record a point. Of the four, I'm highest on Hertl, the kid has nice size (6'2" & 196), is strong on the puck and, despite what the critics say, I don't think his skating will hold him back.