January 12, 2017, 1:28 PM ET [1 Comments]
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It’s been a week since the World Juniors ended with that tremendous game between Canada and the USA. The Jackets had two prospects playing on the last day of the tournament with Gabriel Carlsson in the Bronze Medal Game and Pierre-Luc Dubois in the Gold Medal Game. The performance of the Jackets prospects varied from disappointing to surprising.
No player benefitted more from the World Juniors than Calvin Thurauf. He was named Captain of Team Switzerland and was one of the go to players for one of the more surprising teams in the tournament. He didn’t have the star studded performance that his teammate Nico Hischier did, but that isn’t Thurkauf’s game. Thurkauf is strong down low and in front of the net where he uses his strength to bully opponents. He was an all situations player for Switzerland, playing big roles on both special teams and at even strength.
He took on a lot of the defensive responsibilities for the club, a reason why his possession numbers were down. In four games he had a 32% Corsi (+39/-82). One thing that did impress me was how reluctant Switzerland was to give up the puck. Once they had it they did not like to dump it in and elected to take into the zone with control. Thurkauf had four dump-ins versus 10 carry-ins in the tournament. He’s best suited however as a crash and bang player, as on top of his 10 controlled entries he also had nine failed entries. Thurkauf and Switzerland as a whole did most of their damage on the power play. Thurkauf had two goals and two assists in four games, all of which came on the PP.
Thurkauf played well but he was far from perfect. He had some problems staying out the penalty box and twice went too far over the edge. He was suspended one game for a slew foot against Sweden forcing him to miss a critical game against Denmark. If that wasn’t bad enough in his return from suspension he took a hitting from behind penalty which got him a two minute penalty and 10 minute misconduct. When you play that hard-nosed game that Thurkauf does, penalties are going to come and you accept that. What he needs to do is tone down on those major penalties which significantly hurt his team.
The Blue Jackets took notice of Thurkauf’s strong performance and signed him to an entry-level deal. Look for Thurkauf to have a strong finish with the Kelowna Rockets and possibly a deep playoff run, before making the jump to pro hockey next season.
If Thurkauf was the most surprising prospect than Dubois was easily the most disappointing. Dubois finished with five points in seven games, which isn’t bad, but is so far below expectations. As a third overall pick Dubois was expected to be a star for this team, and was given every opportunity to do so. He played on the top line at even strength and on the top power play. He failed to have the impact many hoped he would.
His overall possession numbers looks incredible with a 68% Corsi (+88/-41) but that is skewed by putting up big numbers against Latvia and Slovakia. In two games against the US he had just a 40% Corsi (+16/-24). What really hurt Dubois from making an impact were his still developing puck skills. He carried the puck into the zone 20 times against just seven dump-ins and seven failed entries. Dubois is similar to that of Thurkauf in he would be better off with someone else carrying the puck for him. Dubois is at his best down low where he can make quick short passes to the front of the net. He struggled at making those longer passes off the rush. He needed to be much more aggressive by just putting his shoulder down and driving the lane right to the net. He showed flashes of making plays like that, but it wasn’t consistent, and rarely if ever did that against one of the stronger teams.
Dubois’ struggles got him demoted from the top line down to the third line. There he played alongside Julien Gauthier and Nicolas Roy. They are both north south type of players like Dubois and once that trio got into the offensive zone they were great at using their size to cycle the puck and create offense. However getting to the offensive zone proved to be an issue. Dubois really had issues in his own zone. He looked lost at times and couldn’t keep up with who he was to be covering. Once the puck did clear the defensive zone this line then had further issues gaining the offensive blue line. I don’t know if it was an unfamiliarity with these players or not but Dubois was constantly offside when someone tried to carry the puck in.
Dubois returns to the QMJHL to a new team having been traded to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. In his first game with his new club he had a goal and two assists, so things appear to be headed in the right direction. He needs a big second half because as things currently stand he will not be making the Blue Jackets next season and will be back in the QMJHL for another year.
Finally there is Carlsson who fits right between Dubois and Thurkauf and met his expectations. Carlsson is billed as a big defensive defencemen and he played that role well for Sweden. He played on the team’s top pair and was tasked with shutting down the oppositions best players. He had a 70% Corsi (+96/-40) in the five games tracked, including a very good 56% Corsi in two medal round games against Canada and Russia.
His skating is improved to the point where it’s fine against junior players. He still has a way to go before its NHL ready though. He was targeted 13 times with control and prevented a shot attempt on 62% of them. He used his reach to knock the puck away from opponents, and if he couldn’t do that he was able to keep them to the outside. He was able to keep them along the boards and used his size to separate the player from the puck. He was targeted with 11 dump-ins and prevented nine of them from leading to shot attempts. He skated well enough to get back, and was able to make a good first pass to his d-partner who could clear the puck out of the zone.
Carlsson had two points in six games, which was good for the role he was in. He didn’t play on the power play, spending all of his special teams time on the PK. In the offensive zone he looked more aggressive than in the past. He was shooting more, though only when he had a lane. He isn’t good at getting his shot through traffic. He was more aggressive on his pinches, last year he was very tentative and quick to be back on defence. He even rushed the puck once in a while and took it in below the goal line, very uncharacteristic of him but very good to see.
Carlsson returns to the SHL where he has three points in 21 games this season. He has yet to dominate in Sweden so it seems unlikely he will be coming over. I would guess he spends at least one more season in the SHL before he comes over to North America.