Edmonton Oiler fans have to be pleased with the performances of their "blue" at the World Juniors. By eye ("saw him good!") and by numbers these kids are delivering.
Going into the tournament we had a good idea that Oscar Klefbom would be the marquee story for Oiler fans. His draft pedigree (he’s a first rounder, part of the return for Dustin Penner) added to the fact that Klefbom plays in a very good league (Swedish Elite League, one of the best Euro leagues) suggest that he would be the best available Oiler on display at the WJ’s.
Klefbom has more than delivered. He began the tournament outside the PP and in fact played less in G1 than some of the older defenders with the game on the line. His first couple of games were solid and I think that may have contributed to the increase in playing time and some added PP opportunities (Klefbom was part of the PK rotation from the start).
Klefbom is 5, 1-1-2 +8 with 18 shots on goal in this tournament, and among the leaders in plus minus. My own feeling about him is that he’s very mobile and can carry the puck out of harm’s way or make fine passes, along with good defensive ability. He is the most complete defenseman drafted by Edmonton in many years based on draft profile and performace. He does not have an outstanding shot from the point, which may limit his PP time in pro hockey.
Sweden will play in the gold medal game this week, and Oscar Klefbom contributed to his team’s success.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER GUYS?
David Musil has impressed with his shot blocking, penalty-killing and endurance. Musil is perhaps the most savvy of the group in terms of hockey sense, with footspeed and puck moving ability getting a minus on his report card. Martin Marincin is a rangy Slovak defender (5, 1-2-3 E) who displayed a nice range of skills somewhat similar to Klefbom. The one area Marincin appears to have an edge on the Swede is edgy play–he’s a little bit filthy as a defensive player. He reads plays well, has an impressive wingspan and appears to be adding some bulk to his frame.
Martin Gernat (5, 1-1-2 -1) is a bit of a riverboat gambler and oozes confidence. He’s something of a bull in a china shop and you can see where his aggression can be both good and bad for a team. Gernat is raw compared to the other three, but my guess is he’s also the most offensively gifted of the group.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
You never know with any group of prospects and defensemen are even more difficult to project. The one thing we do know is that these four young defenders are on track and among the best in the world in their age group. For an NHL team that is dying for help on the blueline, these World Junior championships have been very welcome.
Stu MacGregor and his scouting staff are tracking very well with their defensemen, especially considering they’ve had one first round pick. I expect that changes come June.