Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday was Nice but Wednesday was Better

Tonight's Star Tomas Kundratek

No this is not a repeat of the Wednesday Prospect Park as Tomas Kundratek (2008 3rd) followed up his 2 assist performance with a 3 assist one as the Czech Republic joined in on the "Beat up On" Kazakhstan party with a 10-2 win.

Back to Back First Stars as we can hear Dave Andjelic going "see I told you so" up in Medicine Hat and we can not blame him. It does not matter who was the opposition as Kundratek's offense has awaken.

Kundratek did all of his work in the 2nd period as he fed teammate Jan Kan 3 times for 3 straight Czech power play goals to finish up the scoring for the Czech Republic. Right now we bet the folks with the Prince Edward Island Rocket are wondering why Kana (6-2-8 4th overall) did not come back over from Europe this season.

For Kundratek, 6 assists is what he put out for Medicine Hat in 21 games but here at the WJC, 6 points in 4 games with at least 2 more games for the young defenseman tells us to make a second trip to go see him as soon as we can.


Evgeny Grachev (2008 3rd) and his Russian teammates right now are still wondering what the heck hit them. We warned last night that Grachev needed to be a factor against Sweden and he was not as Sweden gave Russia a 5-0 black eye.

Grachev had a great chance to score in the second period when he and Sergei Korostin broke in 2 on none but Grachev could not convert. This was the worst loss that Russia has ever suffered at the hands of Sweden at the WJC.

Again we will repeat this is not a knock on Grachev because he is not to blame for the way the Swedes just ran over the Russians. If you got a chance to see this game then you know exactly why we believe that Sweden is going to win the gold medal in this game.

Nothing the Russians tried could stop the Swedes as they were out worked, out hustled and sorry to say this out gunned. Grachev now gets to face his fellow Ranger 3rd round pick Tomas Kundratek for the right to lose to Canada in the semi finals.


World Under-20 Thoughts

USA/Canada brought out the best of junior hockey and the worst in North American hockey in the same game. There is no question that the NHL is going to get some very talented players over the next few years but in blunt honesty some lousy sportsman too.

Spare us the "heated rivals" nonsense because if you remove some of the stupid runs and hits then they would have been a classic fun game to watch. Do we need to insist that Team Canada and USA Hockey need to include classes on how to be good sports?

We are used to the brain dead cheapshots from the NHL but not at this level of world play. Even more disappointing is that the refs in that game showed that they were NHL ready by not kicking people out for the cheap stuff.

You Can't Beat Them

And USA Hockey is never going to learn that as talented as they think their program is; they will not defeat Canada by trying to toe to toe with them. The Canadian program is what they should be using as a model of as Canada holds 2 camps as well as the ADT Challenge which gives Canada a huge advantage in picking their team.

One evaluation camp is not going to cut it as what someone does in the summer does not always mean come December that player will be the right pick. The biggest omission from Team USA was Colin Long of the Kelowna Rockets as there was zero logic in leaving off the 6th leading scorer in the WHL.

We are used to this from Team USA as they make this mistake every year as a player who can elevate his game in the biggest games winds up not being selected (can you say Brandon Dubinsky).

Try if they like but Canada owns the USA Hockey program and until USA Hockey comes up with a better way at developing 18-20 years, it will only be a fluke when USA defeats Canada not an real rivalry sorry.

The Need For a Change

We love the WJC tournament as it is a chance to see the very best of the prospects both drafted and undrafted in the world. However we also think they need to change the setup because every year you run into 3 groups, the powers like Canada, Russia, Sweden, USA.

Then there is "should be betters" like Finland, Czech Republic and Slovakia and then the "cannon fodder" like Germany, Latvia and Kazakhstan who the upper level teams use to pad their numbers with. Cannon Fodder is an infantry term for those who's role is simply to be led to slaughter.

The IIHF will try to sell us that simply just changing the format will not improve the level of those "cannon fodder" teams because they need to play against the better teams to improve. Sorry but if your best goalie is a 16 year then you are not ready to be playing at this level.

The article (which is supposed to be just the POV of the writer) offers that there is a competition committee exploring possible changes but we have our own:

1- Copy from the NCAAs and have a play in for the Under-20 championships. Currently if you win or lose then where your team the next season is determined. Instead take the 4 teams that do not make the medal round and the top 4 finishers from Division one and have a tournament to decide who earns the 4 spots in the Elite Division.

2- Go ahead and drop to 8 teams which does mean if you finish last then you do get "relegated" to a lower division for the next year. Just because you are Canada or USA or anyone else should mean if you fail to play well that you deserve to remain in the elite division.

If you make it where hockey programs have to work harder to improve in order to remain at the top level then you get better hockey all over the world.

3- Stop blaming the Canadian juniors for the demise of junior hockey over the world as this article also on the IIHF hints at. That "study" which is cited in their article does not mention that more and more teams in the CHL are not carrying import players anymore.

The Czechs and Slovak programs are hurting because of the break up of two countries not because their players came over to North America. Neither country has recovered fully from the breakup (but Slovakia is doing a better job trying to fix their problems).

Grachev and Kundratek came over from Europe not because their agents talked them into it but because they felt it was the best thing for their development. They were not talked into it by North American agents as I can make a case for David Kveton who bounced back and forth between Europe and North America because he was promised more ice time in Europe.

His development has not gotten any better since returning to Europe. Instead of finger pointing at Canada look at why players are actually leaving which is the lack of a serious developmental program.

(Kundratek courtesy of Tim Machan/Medicine Hat Tigers)


Amos said...

jess, i love the blog but I don't like that I can't access your archives, mainly to go back and get your responses to comments i'd previously made, like whether tysen dowzak is learning how to properly be a big man from teammate tyler myers, or what's the news from charlotte regarding recently graduated/demoted prospects tomas zaborsky and ryan hillier... not sure what you could do about it, but being able to view previous entries would sure be nice! thanks again for providing us such in depth prospect coverage jess!

Jess Rubenstein said...


You can access the archives at the bottom of the page as I leave a year's worth open.

If you like you can also leave me an email address (since I moderate comments nobody could see it) and I will answer questions for year.

Myers is actually younger than Dowzak and both are learning from Jeff Finley

As for Zaborsky and Hillier, Mitch Beck and his Howlings is the better source of info regarding them since he covers both closer than I can