Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On the Heels of the World Junior Championship

Here is my current Prospects Report in case you missed it at rotoworld.com

John Tavares – 2009 Draft Eligible

The top-ranked North American for the 2009 draft, John Tavares left the recent World Junior Championship with more than a gold medal. He walked away sporting more honours than any other player in the tournament - Best Forward, Most Valuable Player, goal scoring leader, and two-time Player of the Game. Only Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Cody Hodgson topped him in total points. Tavares also ended up with a new OHL team, being traded from the Oshawa Generals to the London Knights. The move didn’t slow down Tavares, who potted two goals and an assist in his first game as a Knight last Sunday. Tavares was the brightest star in the Generals’ offensive sky but he’ll be sharing the London limelight with Nazem Kadri and Philip McRae. If anything that should add another 10-15 points to his final OHL season total. An impressive playoff run could cement him as the top pick ahead of Victor Hedman once and for all.

Mikael Backlund – Calgary’s 2007 pick, #24 overall

Hot on the heels of an impressive showing at the World Junior Championship in Ottawa, Swedish native Mikael Backlund is staying put in North America. The Calgary Flames assigned him to the CHL’s Kelowna Rockets. There were rumours Backlund would not return to Vasteras of the Swedish Elite League because Calgary management were not pleased with his third line duties overseas. Backlund’s SEL stats don’t accurately reflect his offensive skills – 9 goals, 4 assists in 37 games. His performance at the World Juniors is more indicative of his skill set – tied for seventh in scoring, two-time Player of the Game, voted by coaches as one of Sweden’s top-3, and 57.81% on faceoffs. Backlund will likely center Colin Long and Jamie Benn, giving Kelowna one of the best lines in junior hockey. Kelowna is primed to make a run for the WHL championship and that experience only serves to boost Backlund’s already high fantasy value.

Nikita Filatov – Columbus’ 2008 pick, #6 overall

In his first game with Columbus after a solid showing at the World Juniors, Nikita Filatov scored his first NHL hat trick January 10. The wily winger led Russia with 8 goals and 11 points, was fourth in tournament points, two-time Player of the Game, and voted an all-star. Though tied with John Tavares in goals, Filatov placed second because Tavares did it in fewer games. In addition to raw talent, Filatov is a quick learner and has an intense desire to master the NHL game. He’s picked up a lot from his time with the Syracuse Crunch, where he’ll likely return despite the hat trick. Expect to see him back and forth between the two teams as they fight for playoff spots.

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