This is Sean Couturier. The big (6.03, 192 and barely 18) power winger enters this year’s Wolrld Junior Championships as the number one overall prospect for the 2011 draft. Although Oiler fans concede the Islanders and Devils are too dreadful to catch, Couturier isn’t the only name they can watch Boxing week with an eye to the 2011 draft.
- C/L Sean Couturier, Canada: He brings impressive offense (96 points in the Q a year ago, on pace for over 100 this season) and is a 5-tool prospect: size, hands, speed, shoot and take/make a pass. He’s a C/W but the team winning the lottery will project him as a #1 C for a decade or longer. Oilers fans will need to hope for a "Chicago wins the Patrick Kane lottery" scenario based on the sounds coming out of the Jersey swamp and Long Island’s nightmare. Stranger things have happened. A reminder: this is a tournament dominated by 19-year olds, so expecting Couturier to impact the game at a high level is not reasonable. Taylor Hall’s numbers from a year ago (6gp, 6-6-12) would seem a better line in the sand.
- D Adam Larsson, Sweden: He’s a monster, an absolute giant (6.03, 220) who turned 18 in late November. Calm feet, effective puck mover with good speed and capable of making sublime passes. Good on-ice vision, already a solid positional defender. Went 5gp, 2-1-3 at last season’s WJ’s and should have more offensive impact at this tournament. A word of warning: This is a short tournament, and since defensemen don’t impact the game as much as the forwards offensively, expecting huge boxcars is not reasonable.
- R Gabriel Landeskog, Sweden. He’s a fun player to watch. Good size and speed, he can stickhandle in a phone booth and pursues the physical aspects of the game. A certified "end-to-end" rusher, he’ll need to learn to use his linemates more as he progresses. An exceptional prospect, he’s delivering (25 goals already) in the OHL. Oiler fans badly want a stud D or a true #1 C, but Landeskog would be a quality selection if he’s available to Edmonton.
- R Joel Armia, Finland. He’s going to be an interesting prospect to follow. Good size (6.03, 187), Armia offers impressive scoring ability (12 goals in the SM-Liiga so far this season) while being one of the latest birthdays at the top of the draft. Fascinating numbers, can’t wait to see what he’ll do in the competition.
- D David Musil, Czech: A broken foot threatens his ability to play for the Czechs, but at last report he was hopeful. Musil has had a subpar year with Vancouver (WHL) and despite scouts telling us he has an offensive game I don’t think that’s going to be a calling card. He projects as a solid shutdown (we used to call them "stay-at-home" D) defender and any Oiler fan can tell you that has value. Things to look for are mobility and how well he can cover off the rush.
- C Tomas Filippi, Czech: Quality offensive skills married to some indifference away from the puck, but no scouting report denies his talent.
- L Sven Bartschi, Switzerland. 5.10, 175 but an outstanding WHL player (36gp, 21-26-47 with Portland) who turned 18 in October. Described as "shifty."
- R Lino Martschini, Switzerland. He’s so small (5.05, 126) I’m actually worried about him, but he’s been able to avoid the OHL beasts so here’s hoping. High skill level.
- D Peter Ceresnak, Slovakia: He’s a player to watch for Oiler fans because he’s from the same part of the world as Martin Marincin. He’s more of a defensive player, slightly smaller and less offense. Still, several scouting reports are high on him and the Oilers drafted quality in Marincin based partly on a strong WJ’s.
- R Tomas Rieder, Germany. Speed and skill, many are saying he’s the most talented player to come ouf of Germany during the draft era.
A couple of notes: the rosters for the World Juniors are still up in the air (Roy starts tonight btw) so we’re trying to fix on a moving target here. The 10 names above are my suggested hit list to observe at the World Juniors. It is not meant to be a ranking, we’ll have a better idea about that as we exit the WJ’s. Oiler Draft experts (and I know they exist) please point out errors or omissions. I know this is not a complete list (Sweden could fill a top 5) but these are the names I’m watching for going into the tournament.
I remember a time when Boxing Day meant snowmobiling (which usually meant fixing the snowmobile out on the prairie); thanks to tsn and these gifted teenagers for giving us a reason to stay inside. Go Canada!