Tournament in Review: How did Leafs prospects fare at the World Juniors?

Well, folks, it’s over. The 2017 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship came to a close last night after the USA beat Canada in the shootout to claim the tournament’s top spot. 2 Leafs prospects were awarded gold medals in Jeremy Bracco and Joseph Woll.  Carl Grundstrom and Team Sweden had a disappointing 4th place finish after a 2-1 loss to Russia in the bronze medal game, and Team Latvia, along with Martins Dzierkals, finished in 10th place. 

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Leafs prospects at this year’s World Juniors. From Carl Grundstom’s 5 game point streak to open the tournament, to Joseph Woll’s incredible performance against Canada in the NYE classic game, to Jeremy Bracco’s crazy offensive abilities, there has certainly been no lack of entertainment over the past 10 days. Though there have also been a few disappointments, the Leafs future seems secure in the hands of their up-and-coming prospects.

I decided to change up the format for my last recap of the tournament.  I’ve included the highlights from today’s games, as always, but I’ve also included a brief scouting report for each player based on observations made over the course of the tournament, as well as a highlight reel that includes all of their top moments (goals, assists, big saves, etc.). I hope you enjoy.  

TODAY’S RECAP

Here are the highlights from yesterday afternoon’s bronze medal game between Sweden and Russia:

Carl Grundstrom didn’t have a good game against the Russians yesterday, but neither did any of the players on his team, for that matter.  Sweden always seems to choke in the medal rounds of the WJC, and this disappointing, 4th place finish was hardly reflective of Sweden’s dominance during tournament’s preliminary rounds.  

Here are the highlights from the gold medal matchup between Canada and the USA:

Jeremy Bracco was a stand-out player for the United States in this tournament, and no such thing was different tonight.  Bracco had another great game for the Americans, creating many offensive chances for both his linemates and for himself.  

I’m sure many of you caught the games live on television, so I won’t get too deep into the game summaries. Instead, I’ll dive right into the scouting reports, starting with Latvia’s very own, Martins Dzierkals.  

DZIERKALS IN REVIEW

GP G A P PIM SOG SH%
6 1 2 3 12 21 4.76%

Here is a short highlight reel of Dzierkals’ play through 6 games at the WJC:

Dzierkals was a bright spot on a bad Latvian team this year. He played with tenacity and power throughout the tournament, demonstrating both his skill and work ethic. I really enjoyed watching Dzierkals play; he is very talented offensively. He has above average puck skills, as well as great hands and quick feet. He looked good on North American ice, and I believe he will be able to play a role within the Leafs organization in the near future. 

I see Dzierkals best fitting in best Marlies, for now. I would love to get a more in-depth look at Dzierkals defensive game, as the brief glimpses we got at the WJC were not too impressive. Keeping in mind he played on the worst defensive team in the tournament, Dzierkals will need to improve upon his ability to defend in his own zone before he can be looked upon as a difference maker. 

I also wrote a little bit more about Dzierkals in my day 8 WJC recap.  

GRUNDSTROM IN REVIEW

GP G A P PIM SOG SH%
7 3 4 7 12 15 20.00%

Up next is Carl Grundstrom’s highlight reel through 7 games at the 2017 WJC:

Grundstrom was easily the biggest surprise for me this year.  He played a significant role on the ever-so-talented Swedish team, finishing the tournament scoring at a point-per-game pace and shooting at 20.00 percent.  His style of play complemented the team this year, specifically; Grundstrom is a very well-rounded player who can perform on all ends of the ice.  He is skilled offensively, and his aggressive style allows him to create chances out of virtually dead plays.  He is relentless and plays a tough physical game as well, making him ideal for special teams minutes.

I think Grundstrom is ready to play in North America.  There are no major holes in his game, and I believe he is both ready and able to perform in the AHL.  He is still young, but he has a lot of talent and will likely be a key asset in the Maple Leafs prospect system moving forward.

WOLL IN REVIEW

GP SA GA SV% GAA
2 46 3 0.935%  1.50

Here’s a short highlight pack of Joseph Woll’s play through 2 games for the USA:

Though he only played 2 games, Joseph Woll had a great tournament for the Americans. With a 0.935 save percentage through 120 minutes of play, Woll demonstrated that he was up to the task of competing at the World Juniors.  It would have been nice to see Woll take to the net in one or two additional games, but the USA threw their trust behind Tyler Parsons after the preliminary round (and debatably won the gold because of Parsons, so I won’t criticize the USA for that decision).  

Woll is the only Leafs prospect that attended the tournament this year who is also eligible to return in 2018. The 18-year-old gained 2 games of valuable WJC experience this year, winning a gold medal with his team and proving that he is capable of playing at a high level. 

I would like to see Woll finish his career in the NCAA before looking to play within the Leafs organization. He is still very young, and the NCAA is a great place for goaltenders to develop. He has impressed me so far, and it will definitely benefit him to continue improving his game playing college hockey.

BRACCO IN REVIEW

GP G A P PIM SOG SH%
7 3 2 5 0 17 17.65

Here are Jeremy Bracco’s highlights through 7 games at the World Juniors:

Jeremy Bracco was an outstanding player for the United States this year at the World Juniors. He scored some crucial goals for the Americans, coming up big in several different games for his team. Though he didn’t score at a point-per-game pace, Bracco showed off his offensive skills throughout the tournament, playing on one of the USA’s top lines with Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway. Bracco saw some powerplay time with the USA as well, most notably anchoring the point in the gold medal game against Canada. Bracco’s elite offensive skill is what truly made him a standout player, in my opinion, this year – it is obvious to anyone who watched him play that he is a very talented and very skilled forward.  

I think Bracco will benefit from time spent in the OHL upon his return. I would like to see him work on his shift-to-shift consistency, as well as his puck-handling abilities in the offensive zone. Bracco has the potential to be a fantastic playmaker – he has incredible vision and can make great passes at times. If he can improve upon his ability to control the play in the offensive zone, Bracco has the potential to become a lethal offensive weapon for the Leafs.

THAT’S A WRAP

The Toronto Maple Leafs have quite the crop of up-and-comers, as demonstrated by this year’s WJC. The Leafs lack of defensive prospects leaves something to be desired, and may be an issue the team will have to address moving forward. Despite this, all 4 of Toronto’s prospects played great at this year’s World Juniors. Some may have performed slightly below expectations, and others far above, but in the end, the Leafs management should consider the 2017 World Juniors a success for their very own. 

Day 9 Leafs Prospect Update

  • Harte of a Lion

    I have been a HUGE proponent of Carl Grundström from the moment I first saw him play in the 2015 World Juniors under 18’s and was thrilled when the Leafs selected him. I want to suggest a nickname for him and hope it catches on as it reflects his style of play.
    ‘Carl Chaos Grundström’
    Every time he is on the ice in every zone, he creates chaos against the other team. This kid will become a fan favourite from his first shift in the Blue and White. Imagine Gauthier cetering Soshnikov and Grundström. That’s a 4th line that can do some serious damage. If they play against any other 4th line in the league, they will be dominant and could eventually play a shutdown role while still putting up points.

  • joekool

    Nice summary, thanks! Thinking that Grundstrom will make the Leafs before the others, seems to be an edge to his game that suits pro hockey, excellent skater, good size at 195, 6′.