The World Hockey Championships just concluded in Slovakia this past weekend and we were keeping a close eye on the festivities with a slant towards fantasy hockey... see our pre-tournament watchlist here. Well let's put a bow on this sucker with what some of the key learnings were.
Here's what we learned...
Mikael Granlund has a lot more fans than before... his performance (2+7=9 in nine games) and "The Goal" means that even amateur fantasy GMs will be all over this guy now. I'm a big fan but there's potential that the hype could overtake the upside here so if you're a Granlund owner already then it might be worth seeing how big a bounty he can bring in... doesn't hurt to ask around, especially if you aim high.
Ilya Nikulin tops my list of guys I'd love to see in the NHL but likely never will... the Russian dman was drafted by Atlanta in the 2nd round back in 2000 and despite rumours every few years that he's considering coming over he's never showed up. Damn shame as I think this guy would be an excellent point producing dman in the NHL as he's been one of the top dmen in the KHL/RSL for a while. Finnish goalie Petri Vehanen is another one I'd try to convince to cross the pond if I was running a real team but at 33 years old that's likely not going to happen.
Derek Stepan is ready to bust loose... the kid looked great playing #1C & top PP unit (2nd on the team in ice-time) for the US as he led them in points (2+5=7 in seven games) and was 2nd in shots (22). If he gets a little more PP time with the Rangers next year I think he's in for a big season.
Slovakia's team is well past their best-before-date and there's not a lot to look forward to... the hosts wheeled out the oldest roster in the tournament (average age of 31) with some serious greybeards like Zednik (35), Demitra (36), Satan (36) and Stumpel (38) but they still couldn't rack up a win against anyone but Denmark & Slovenia. Sad state of affairs for Slovakia as there is nobody around to replace these guys, actually I can count the decent Slovakian prospects coming up on one hand.
Jaromir Jagr still has a flair for the dramatic... with his hat-trick against the US in the QF. Dude can still play when he's motivated, he had 5+4=9 & 28 shots in nine games, perhaps trying to impress some NHL teams for one last kick at the can? I'm pretty sure that he could still be a useful fantasy player if he does return.
Being named tournament MVP certainly won't hurt Viktor Fasth's negotiating power... he had been drawing some NHL interest before the tournament and so look for him to sign with a team shortly. I'm not completely sold on this guy as he only has one season of experience in the SEL, I like my goalies thoroughly marinated.
Nashville prospect Craig Smith can play... prior to the tournament I thought he was a bit of an odd selection to the US team but the kid showed that he belonged as he joined Stepan (his former college teammate) on the top line and finished with 3+3=6 & 22 shots while averaging 17 minutes of ice-time in seven games. I have him pegged as a 3rd liner once he makes the pros but he showed me some more upside.
Alex Ovechkin didn't really want to play for Russia... and it showed. He came over right after the Caps were knocked out of the playoffs, have to give him credit for that, and he had some chances (23 shots in five games) but he didn't even register a point. For comparison sakes, he didn't have a stretch longer than three games during the NHL season without a point.
Ondrej Pavelec is a good goalie when he has a decent team in front of him... dude routinely gets hung out to dry playing behind ATL's "defence", so good for the kid that he finished off the year strong with seven wins, 1.88 gaa & .939 in eight games while leading the Czechs to the bronze.
I'm now a fan of Jakob Silfverberg... he was a 2nd round pick of the Sens back in 2009 but had never stood out to me at any prior international tournaments. He had a very quiet WCs with just 1A in nine games while playing limited minutes (11:01/gm) but I liked what I saw as he looked dangerous at times (18 shots). Let's see if he can build on this season where he finished top 25 in SEL scoring.
Carolina may have something here with Frederik Andersen... he's only 21 years old and has never faced competition of this caliber playing in the Danish league but the kid stepped up wining two of his four starts (losing to FIN & RUS) with a .910 sv%. We'll be closely monitoring his progress in the SEL next year with Frolunda.
Evgeni Nabokov is likely just glad this year is over... it started last summer when he couldn't get an NHL contract, was brutal in the KHL (3.02 & .888 in 22 games), wanted to play for the Wings but was claimed by the Islanders and capped it off with a joke of a performance with a 3.60 gaa & .880 sv% in four games before pulling himself out due to injury.