December 29 2011 07:46AM
These days, the future of the Edmonton Oilers blue is on display at Rexall and in Calgary. How do these kids look, anyway?
Tracking defensemen after their draft day is difficult. You see them selected (if they're first rounders) and then read Stu Macgregor's words and after that it's hurry up and wait. Long years can go by before we get a strong look at a player, and that includes diehard fans. For instance, how many of us have actually seen Kyle Bigos play a hockey game?
This year's world juniors offers us a unique opportunity to view these youngsters against players their own age on a big stage. First impressions are exactly that, we shouldn't put too much importance on them. Having said that, here's my initial reaction to each of the four blueliners:
- OSCAR KLEFBOM 2, 0-0-0 +2: Fine skater, he can move the puck efficiently and makes a nice first pass. Does not have much of a shot--or at least hasn't displayed it here, using a quick wrist release instead--and is not terribly creative once he carries the puck out of his zone. Still, you can see why they like him: big, strong, size and a bit of a mean streak. Despite relative youth I think he's more advanced than some of these kids. Klefbom's best play so far in the tournament has come at even strength.
- DAVID MUSIL 2, 0-0-0 +1 The most impressive of the group so far, owing to an outstanding display on the PK and enormous TOI totals (I don't have them but trust me he's playing a lot). Foot speed is the thing that will keep him out of the NHL (if anything does) but I have to say that he's an impressive player in his own zone. Very aware defensively, breaks up plays with quick stick and smarts, he is very likely to be the best defensive player in the group. Blessed by good hockey genes, his Dad Frank played at the NHL level for several years.
- MARTIN MARINCIN 2, 0-1-1 +1 Has nice size and speed, marks his man efficiently and can certainly keep up with opposition forwards. I'd like to see him again, he didn't really do much wrong but also didn't break up many plays either (something Musil seemed to do every shift). Unlike Klefbom, he did get some nice offensive looks and I'd estimate the better offensive player between he and Klefbom.
- MARTIN GERNAT 2, 0-1-1 +1 Either Gernat is a player or he's a pretty good faker. Seemed more involved in the play than Marincin and pinched a couple of times showing good offensive instincts. He's the least defensive of the group but easily the most impressive with the puck on his stick (that I've seen).
For me, not much has changed after viewing them. Klefbom is the best bet to develop into an NHL defender with a nice range of skills, and Musil is the best player in his own zone. Gernat is the wild card and Marincin appears to be that player with an array of skills but nothing we can identify as a "calling card" or strength.
Based on what we know, Klefbom is the best bet by draft pedigree and "saw him good" despite the lack of offense on the other side of the pond.
There must be something in the Swedish water that blesses the entire nation genetically. This is May Britt, who was an export in the 1950's and ended up married to Sammy Davis, Jr AFTER the 1960 presidential election (or at least that's the story).
Oscar Klefbom is the most impressive player in the group. That doesn't mean he'll have the longest NHL career, as injuries and development will fill in the blanks. However, he's at the front ranks of a pretty impressive group of kids on display at this year's world juniors. David Musil has also impressed, especially on the many penalty kills weathered by the Czech team.
How soon will they be ready? Not soon enough, and that's for sure.