Players to watch at the World Junior A Challenge
Penticton Vees defenceman Dante Fabbro, a member of Team Canada West, will be a player to watch at the World Junior A Challenge in Cobourg and Whitby. International Scouting Services considers him to be a top prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft. ROBERT MURRAY/Postmedia Network
Not only is the World Junior A Challenge exciting for the players and staff involved as well as for the fans in attendance, it's also a big tournament on the calendar for hockey scouts.
Dennis MacInnis, director of scouting for the Waterloo-based International Scouting Services (ISS), attends every year. This year, it's just a bonus that the Challenge will be hosted in Ontario for the first time in its 10 years.
“It just gets better and better every year,” MacInnis says of the World Junior A Challenge, which gets underway Sunday in Cobourg and Whitby.
ISS compiles a monthly top-30 ranking list for the 2016 NHL draft in June. MacInnis said they also do a lot of scouting for the Canadian Hockey League import draft.
“This is one of those tournaments that's always on our list as a must attend, mainly for European teams,” MacInnis said.
Russian team players are always in high demand for the CHL (includes teams from the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League) import draft, he noted, though at this kind of a tournament the players from the Czech Republic and Switzerland will also have the chance to impress scouts in attendance.
“I've found over the last few years that the calibre of the European teams seems to be getting better every year,” MacInnis remarked. “A lot of the Canadian kids are looking at the school route where a lot of the European kids are just looking for exposure.”
The United States will once again be a top contender, having won six World Junior A Challenge titles including three straight.
Along with strong prospects for the 2016 NHL draft, the U.S. squad also includes several players chosen in 2015 draft this past June. They are forward Chase Pearson (5th round, 140th overall to Detroit), defencemen Ryan Zuhldorf (5th round, 150th overall to Tampa Bay) and John Marino (6th round, 154th overall to Edmonton) and goaltenders Kris Oldham (6th round, 153rd overall to Tampa Bay) and Ryan Bednard (7th round, 206th overall to Florida).
Numerous NHL team scouts are expected in Cobourg and Whitby to watch previously drafted players as well as those eligible next year.
“Especially with the location here in Ontario, certainly the NHL guys will be out to look at their guys that they've already selected to see how they're progressing and if they have taken that next step in their development,” MacInnis said.
MacInnis said the World Junior A Challenge provides scouts with a good cross section of talent and age groups.
In speaking with Northumberland Today, MacInnis provided a sample list of players to watch at this year's tournament. Spectators will witness a lot of talent on the ice, so this list is just a starting point.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tyson Jost – Canada West, currently ranked #13 by ISS for the 2016 NHL Draft
“Great playmaker who can score as well. Has that special hockey IQ where pucks seem to follow him all over the ice. Positioning and understanding of the game is excellent. Very good skater with great lateral movement.”
Dante Fabbro – Canada West, currently ranked #15 by ISS for the 2016 NHL Draft
“Good two-way defender with high offensive upside. Has an elite two-way game with the ability to eat up big minutes in all situations. Has that extra gear or jump in his stride to be a threat every time on the offensive rush.”
William Knierim – United States, currently ranked #23 by ISS for the 2016 NHL Draft
“He has the total package. He's a big, strong kid with quick hands and tremendous protection ability. Sees the ice well, can dominate the middle lanes and really knows how to get the puck to dangerous areas of the ice.”
German Rubtsov – Russia, currently ranked #28 by ISS for 2016 NHL Draft
“Big kid with good offensive potential. Doesn't play the typical Russian style. There isn't a situation in the game he can't excel in. Good grit, strong goal scorer. He can push the pace of play. Very good prospect for the 2016 CHL Import draft.”
Kristian Reichel – Czech Republic, currently ranked #56 by ISS for 2016 NHL Draft
“He's a fluid skater with good puck skills. Stands out with his hockey sense, skating and hands. Has good puck skills - controls the puck with confidence. Can give good offensive passes. Makes smart plays. One of the most talented players on this Czech team. Very good prospect for the 2016 CHL Import draft.”
Reichel is also the son of former NHLer Robert Reichel, who is the coach of this Czech Republic team.
Nico Hischier – Switzerland, currently ranked #27 by ISS for 2017 NHL Draft
“Smart offensive forward with tremendous hockey sense. Can play with anyone and makes his teammates better. Despite his height he has no issues with facing bigger opponents and thanks to his speed and good skating ability he is very skilful at 1-on-1 situations. Very good prospect for the 2016 CHL Import draft.”
Canada East was still completing its selection camp on Wednesday, but MacInnis said one player to watch should he make the team is big forward Brett Murray from the Carleton Place Canadians. Murray stands 6-foot-5, 211 pounds and has 13 goals and 24 assists with Carleton Place so far this season. Perhaps familiarity won't hurt either as Murray's coach and general manager in Carleton Place – Jason Clarke – is also head coach for Canada East.
Brett Murray – (projected for) Canada East, currently ranked in 4th round by ISS for the 2016 NHL Draft
“Big frame with plenty of room to fill out. Good skater for a player of his size, and demonstrates good hockey sense. Consistently able to find holes in the defence and get open to create scoring chances. Good stick when attacking the puck carrier. A longer-term developmental curve, but projects as a solid two-way power forward.”
WORLD JUNIOR A CHALLENGE
Sunday, Dec. 13
1 p.m. Canada West vs Czech Republic, at Cobourg Community Centre
5 p.m. Canada East vs Switzerland, at Whitby Iroquois Park
Monday, Dec. 14
7 p.m. United States for Czech Republic, at Cobourg Community Centre
7 p.m. Canada East vs Russia, at Whitby Iroquois Park
Tuesday, Dec. 15
7 p.m. Canada West vs United States, at Cobourg Community Centre
7 p.m. Russia vs Switzerland, at Whitby Iroquois Park
Wednesday, Dec. 16
7 p.m. Quarterfinals at Cobourg Community Centre
7 p.m. Quarterfinals at Whitby Iroquois Park
Thursday, Dec. 17
7 p.m. Semifinals at Cobourg Community Centre
7 p.m. Semifinals at Whitby Iroquois Park
Friday, Dec. 18
7 p.m. 5th place game, at Cobourg Community Centre
7 p.m. Bronze Medal Game, at Whitby Iroquois Park
Saturday, Dec. 19
4 p.m. Gold Medal Game, at Cobourg Community Centre
Individual game tickets are now on sale for World Junior A Challenge games.
Prices listed online are: $20 for preliminary games not involving a Canadian team; $25 for games including a Canadian team; $25 for the quarterfinals and semifinals in Cobourg and Whitby; $25 for the bronze medal game in Whitby; and $30 for the gold medal game in Cobourg.
Ticket packages are still available as well. The cost in Cobourg is $125 for all games played at the CCC or $99 with all games except the gold medal. The ticket costs are the same in Whitby and the $125 package also includes the gold medal game in Cobourg.
Tickets can be purchased in person at the Cobourg Community Centre or Iroquois Park Sports Centre in Whitby as well as online at: