The Phoenix Coyotes had three prospects participating in this year's IIHF U-20 World Junior Championships. Defensemen Brandon Gormley, forward Alexander Ruuttu, and goalie Mark Visentin all played important roles for their respective squads. Below, draft expert Corey Pronman from Hockey Prospectus, goalie scout and writer Justin Goldman from The Goalie Guild, and yours truly give our brief thoughts on the player's performances. When reading the comments below please keep in mind these are comments about a player's performance in a handful of games at one point in time and in part are based on the expectations based on each player's projected ceilings.
Brandon Gormley - First round pick (#13) in 2010 NHL Entry Draft
WJC stats: The Canadian defender and assistant captain played in 6 games scoring 3 goals with 3 assists as well. Named best defensemen of the tournament and voted to the Media All-Star Team
Corey - Ended up getting top defenseman of the tournament, albeit I don't think he played at an unbelievably high level, it was just that there weren't a lot of standout defenders. Gormley played very effective defense and was one of Canada's only defenders who could do that and move the puck at an above-average level. He's not a flashy player with high upside, but just does good things on every shift.
Carl - When he's on the ice everything looks so natural. The word 'smooth' came to my mind constantly when watching him. He's got a nice combo of skating, decent skill and physicality for sure. He didn't get drafted as high as he did because he didn't possess great physical attributes. However, it was the mental things I saw that impressed me the most. His decision making with the puck was excellent. He knew when to pass and when to lead the rush himself. He also never got rattled by opposing player's checks or sticks. The moment that illustrated this the most to me was in the bronze medal game. A stick on the ice was in his way when he had the puck just inside the offensive zone blueline. He calmly used his own stick to push it away in one quick motion and had his stick back on the puck in no time.
Alexander Ruuttu - Second round pick (#51) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
WJC stats: The Finnish forward played in 7 games and scored 3 goals.
Corey - Was a nice surprise on Finland's third line coming in as a lesser known prospect. He displayed above-average skating and a solid physical game with a good frame. I don't think he's more than an average prospect at best, but for seeing him for the first time I'm higher on him than I was previously.
Carl - After watching him at development camp last summer I was eager to see him on the ice in a competitive situation. Nothing I saw at WJC changed my mind about him which is a good thing. He still looks like he could turn into a two way NHL forward. Nothing flashy just smart at knowing how to put himself in good positions in both ends. The offense the Fins received from him was a bit of a surprise given that he was on their 3rd line. As he physically matures I believe there is a chance he'll look even better. Therefore I wasn't surprised when I read Coyotes GM Don Maloney's comments about the performance of the youngsters on Thursday that he said Ruuttu needed to"get physically stronger".
Mark Visentin - First round pick (#27) in the NHL 2010 NHL Entry Draft
WJC stats: The Canadian goaltender had a record of 3-1 with a .944 save percentage and a 1.43 goals against average in the 4 games he played in. Named the M.V.P. of the bronze medal game.
Corey - It's hard to really get anything from a goalie in a short sample on a scouting scale unless it's on an athletic scale, especially considering Visentin split time with Scott Wedgewood. There were flashes of his good competitiveness and nice athleticism considering his size. He's an average goalie prospect.
Justin - I thought Mark Visentin improved as the tournament went along, and when his team needed him the most, he stepped up and played his best in the Bronze Medal match. I like his overall progression and development over the past year. His movements are a little more controlled, his footwork is slightly better, and his situational awareness has improved as well. I wouldn't consider these improvements to be significant, but still noticeable.
Winning the game by making 27 saves in a 4-0 shutout was a very important moment in terms of exorcising some demons from the past. I could tell he had a higher level of focus than any other player on the ice, and that ability to hit another gear with the intensity and attentiveness is important in terms of his potential in a Coyotes uniform.
The cherry on top was his no-look, behind-the-back glove save, one that will go a long way in boosting his confidence in high-pressure moments, and one that will always remind him (and the world) that he's capable of making the highlight reel save in a key moment. It added an element of "clutch" goaltending to his repertoire, and that's all you can really ask for as a young goaltender.
Carl - Visentin came into the tournament with more pressure on him than anyone else in the tournament. Many people in Canada (and my Twitter feed) were upset he even made the team because of his performance against Russia in last year's tournament coupled with his mediocre numbers playing for Niagara in the OHL this season. He had built in excuse to fail. Goaltending is the most mentally challenging position in the sport and it takes the ability to be able to forgot about the past and focus on the present. With the eyes of the hockey media and his country squarely upon him Mark Visentin was able to do just that.