Every team participating in the 2006 World Junior A Challenge has at least one member on International Scouting Services’ latest rankings for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, led by one Russian and one member of Canada West, both projected as first-round picks.
"Obviously this is a pretty good event as far as the talent goes,” says Michael Oke, chief scout for ISS. “Pretty much every NHL team is represented here, and most teams have more than one guy. There’s another international tournament going on (in Europe), and to have teams dedicate these guys to this event, it’s impressive.”
Russian captain Vitaly Karamnov is the highest rated player to be taking part in the WJAC, coming in at #22. The 6-foot-1 centre, who plays for Dynamo Moscow, is noted for his versatility – he excels at 5-on-5, on the powerplay and on the penalty kill – and his ability to create space for both himself and his linemates.
“He’s a guy who has fantastic puck skills,” Oke says. “He’s an opportunist around the net – the puck always seems to get to him, and he buries the chances he gets. He’s a physical player too – he can take a hit, and he finishes his forechecking with contact.”
One spot behind Karamnov at #23 is Canada West star Kyle Turris. The Burnaby Express (BCHL) centre is coming off a year in which he put up 72 points in 60 games as a 16-year-old for the RBC Royal Bank Cup-champion Express, and already has 36 points (21G 15A) in just 16 games this season. He got his WJAC off on the right foot, scoring the first four Canadian goals in a 6-2 win over Karamnov and Russia on Monday night. He has already committed to the University of Wisconsin, beginning next September.
“The puck finds a way to his stick,” Oke says. “Whether it’s off his foot, off the boards, he just has this knack of picking up the puck. His skating is strong – very fluid and very smooth. He’s not the biggest guy on the ice, but he’s not afraid to go into traffic, and more often than not he comes out with the puck.”
Canada East defenseman Brendan Smith comes in at #34 in the latest rankings. The St. Michael’s Buzzers (OPJHL) blueliner, who will join Turris at Wisconsin in the fall, is a big (6-foot-1), mobile defender who knows when to jump into the play offensively, and always finishes his checks.
“He played both forward and defense when he was in Midget (with the Toronto Marlboros),” Oke says. “That’s a pretty good indication of his offensive capabilities. You’ve got to be a skilled player to be a top-10 pick in the OHL Draft (Smith was chosen 7th overall by the St. Michael’s Majors in 2005).”
While those are the three WJAC participants who cracked ISS’ top-50, another nine were able to crack the top-100:
55. Ben Winnett – Canada West
- The Salmon Arm (BCHL) sniper has a quick release and can pick his spot on the net, as evidenced by his 20 goals in 18 games with the Silverbacks.
59. Casey Pierro-Zabotel – Canada West
- The Merritt Centennials (BCHL) star led his league in scoring (47 points in 20 games) before leaving to attend Canada West’s training camp.
65. Milan Kytnar – Slovakia
- Slovakia’s top forward, Kytnar likes to create offense for both himself and the players around him with his quick feet, good acceleration and strong one-on-one skills.
70. Egor Averin – Russia
- While not the biggest player (5-foot-10, 165 lbs.), Averin is a quick right winger who has intrigued scouts with his offensive abilities.
75. Yakov Seleznev – Russia
- A reliable two-way defenseman, Seleznev was named Russia’s Player of the Game in their tournament-opening 6-2 loss to Canada West after a two-point (1G 1A) night.
77. Sergey Korostin – Russia
- Korostin is one of the tournament’s best playmakers, as evidenced by his three-assist performance in Tuesday night’s 7-1 win over Belarus.
89. Riley Nash – Canada West
- The last player to be named to the Canada West roster, Nash has impressed in his rookie season with Salmon Arm (BCHL), putting up 27 points (10G 17A) in just 17 games.
90. Louie Caporusso – Canada East
- After scoring 30 goals and adding 44 assists last year for the St. Michael’s Buzzers (OPJHL), Caporusso has 35 points (15G 20A) in just 22 games for the Buzzers so far this year.
95. Andre Huebscher – Germany
- Arguably the best playmaker in the tournament, the German captain sees the ice well and rarely makes a bad pass.
The following players also made ISS’ top-200:
125. Andrei Kolasau – Belarus
127. Alexander Vasiliev – Russia
133. Nikolay Lukyanchinkov – Russia
145. Dmitry Tsyganov – Russia
161. Alexander Oblinger – Germany
165. Vladimir Bakika – Russia
Oke notes that many of the European players have never played against North American teams, and their rankings will most likely change by the time the next list is released.
“This tournament will be a better evaluation of their abilities, to see their talents against North American teams in a North American game,” he says. “It will be interesting to see how they do.”