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Ducks Prospects at World Juniors

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
Ducks prospects Kyle Palmieri (Notre Dame, CCHA) and Jake Gardiner (U. of Wisconsin/WCHA) helped Team USA win gold at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Tuesday. Team USA clinched gold with a 6-5 overtime victory over Canada, which featured another Anaheim prospect in Brandon McMillan (Kelowna, WHL). In all, the tournament featured seven players from the Ducks system, the most prospects in one single World Junior tournament in the history of the franchise.    

Below is how each performed at the World Juniors and comments on each from Ducks Director of Professional Scouting Rick Paterson.

Kyle Palmieri (U.S.A.) – 1st round pick (26th overall) in 2009 NHL Entry Draft
- Won the Gold Medal with Team U.S.A…recorded an assist and three shots on net versus Canada in the championship game
- Ranked third overall in the tournament and led his team with eight assists
- Recorded four assists and earned a +5 rating in a 12-1 win over Latvia, Dec. 29

Paterson on Palmieri: He’s had an interesting story. The first time I saw him play in Lake Placid a couple of years ago, I thought he was more of a gritty, third line, in-your-face type of player. He still might have that quality to him, but lately he has become a very highly-skilled top-six forward. He’s blessed with great hands and offensive instincts. He can be the guy one-one-one around the net. It’s going to be interesting to see what type of player he turns out to be. The good thing, from my perspective, he doesn’t have to score in order to help a hockey team. He has that ability. One thing he has to learn is to move his feet. He has a tendency sometimes to stand around a bit and let things develop. We’ve seen the other side where he goes and can make things happen. We want him to start moving his feet and skate. He gets into a little problem when he stands around and watches things. He’s young. He’ll get stronger and his skating will improve, so I think there is a lot to look forward to with his development.

Jake Gardiner (U.S.A.) – 1st round pick (17th overall) in 2008 NHL Entry Draft
- Won the Gold Medal with Team U.S.A…went scoreless and earned a +2 rating versus Canada in the championship game
- Finished the tournament tied for third overall and tied for the lead on his team in plus/minus rating (+9)
- Recorded an assist and earned a +3 rating in a 5-2 win in the semi finals versus Sweden, Jan. 3

Paterson on Gardiner: He’s only been playing defense for a few years. Within those few years, he has made tremendous strides as a defenseman. We’re blessed that in a pinch, if we had to move him up front, he could do that. We view him as a defenseman in the future. Of all the World Junior Hockey Tournament, he was one of the best skaters. He flat out can fly. That is a tremendous asset to have. It’s tough to teach that. He’s a great skater. What he will end up being, as far as we’re concerned is a shutdown type of defenseman, who will join the rush, be able to carry the puck into the zone and move it to the winger. He will be a dependable defensive guy, who we can use against the opposition’s best forwards. As with every young kid, he has to get stronger and become more confident in his own zone. He tends sometimes to run around a little bit and try to do too much. With that skating ability, we’re pretty optimistic that his development is going to continue and he’s going to play for us.

Brandon McMillan (CAN) – 3rd round pick (85th overall) in 2009 NHL Entry Draft
- Won the Silver Medal with Team Canada
- Played on Canada’s top line with Jordan Eberle and Brayden Schenn for the majority of the tournament
- Recorded a hat-trick (3-0=3) in a 6-0 win over Switzerland, Dec. 28

Paterson on McMillan: He’s a good all-around player. He was in our training camp last year. It’s unbelievable how far he has come along since training camp to the player we just watched in Saskatoon. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He protects the puck well along the boards, is a difficult player for the opposition’s defensemen to contain, has a great set of hands and is creative in the offensive zone with vision. In the gold medal game, Canada had a couple of injuries on defense, so they used him back there a little bit, as well as up front. He’s a very versatile player. He’ll play with an edge too. He won’t take any harsh treatment from the opposition before he goes right back at them. He’s a good skater, especially on a straight line. He’ll get in on the forecheck, rough up the opposition’s defensemen and create turnovers. He’s strong on the puck and on the skates. We are extremely pleased about how far this kid has come in such amount of time. I don’t think he’s quite ready yet, but perhaps next year and a year in the American Hockey League, who knows? But I’m very optimistic about Brandon.

Luca Sbisa (SUI) - Acquired from Philadelphia with Joffrey Lupul and draft picks in a trade for Chris Pronger
- Served as Captain of Team Switzerland; played in only three of Switzerland’s seven games after suffering an abdominal injury Dec. 30 versus Latvia
- Finished the tournament scoreless with six shots on net

Paterson on Sbisa: The Canadian press was raving about Luca and how he handles himself. Defensively, he’s extremely dependable. When he went out, they didn’t give the Swiss much chance of advancing. They are talking about what a good player he is and many people said he is ready to play in the NHL now. We don’t know about that. We want to be careful with a defenseman because you can sometimes hurt their progress if you bring them along too far. That is why Bob Murray sent him back down to junior, to continue to work on his skills. I had a chance to talk to Luca up in Saskatoon. He has put on a lot of weight, good weight – muscle. He’s a big kid and he’s stronger. He’s going to get stronger. With him and Gardiner on defense, it’s good to have kids like that coming along. He has a chance again next year to be with the big club.

Sami Vatanen (FIN) – 4th round pick (106th overall) in 2009 NHL Entry Draft
- Led all defenseman in the tournament and finished second on his team in shots on net (25)…also finished tied for second on his team in scoring (2-3=5)
- Scored two “highlight-reel” goals (2-0=2), the second being the game-tying goal, in a 4-3 win versus the Czech Republic, Dec. 27

Paterson on Vatanen: He’s an unbelievable skater. The guys have done a great job in regard to skating and increasing our team speed down the line. He can just fly. The only drawback is he’s a small guy. Defensively, he has to depend on his skating ability, use of his stick and positioning in order to stop the opposition. He’s been able to do that and was not certainly inept in his defensive zone. He’s a smart player and in the right areas defensively. Everyone doesn’t have to be a big, physical player and that is not going to be his calling card. He will get stronger and improve in his end. Offensively, if the fans have a chance to see his goal against the Czech Republic, he just decided in the third period to take over the game. The Finns were behind. He scored two goals and was dominant in the third period. I know that on TSN, they were talking about him and he might be the steal of the draft. We’ll wait and see on that. He certainly is an interesting player, who is going to get stronger and improve. He’s a very confident young man, who can absolutely flat out fly. That is a great asset to have.

Igor Bobkov (RUS) – 3rd round pick (76th overall) in 2009 NHL Entry Draft
- Served as Team Russia’s starting goaltender
- Led all goaltenders in the tournament in save percentage (.925 SV%) and finished third among starting goaltenders with a 2.45 GAA
- Stopped all 46 shots in a 2-0 shutout against Finland, Dec. 28
- Stopped 39-of-41 shots and earned a .951 SV% in a 5-2 win over the Czech Republic, Dec. 31

Paterson on Bobkov: This actually was the first opportunity that I have had to see him play. He is huge. He is 6-4, if not 6-5 and extremely quick for a guy that size. The Russian team, I’ll tell you what if wasn’t for him, I don’t know if they would have won a game. I saw him play four times. The first two games that I saw they were outshot badly. They allowed 40-plus shots against. He was outstanding and made huge saves with the game on the line. This is a kid that has hardly any coaching at his position. He is very raw, but stops the puck. I was talking to Tim Bernhardt, who is the Director of Player Personnel with Dallas and an ex-goaltender. They were high on him too and wanted to draft him. We beat them to the punch. He said he’s not a tactically sound goalie, but the bottom line is he stops the puck. That is what you want in a goalie. He can be taught the other stuff. He has a great glove hand and doesn’t leave much net for the opposition to shoot at. He anticipates where the puck is going to go very well. It was an eye-opening experience for me to see him. I hope he continues to develop. When we get him some coaching, who knows, this kid could end up being a real legitimate NHL starter.

Radoslav Illo (SVK) – 5th round pick (136th overall) in 2009 NHL Entry Draft
- Served as one of Team Slovakia’s alternate captains
- Finished the tournament ranked second on his team in scoring (2-3=5) and shots on net (20)

Paterson on Illo: He played mostly the wing there, but was moving back and forth. He’s a very skilled player with the ability to beat the opposition one-on-one. He has good vision, so he uses his teammates well. He also competed without the puck and played hard without the puck, which is so extremely important. There was some young kids there that have a lot of talent and they don’t play hard away from the puck. They are all one-way. Illo works when he doesn’t have the puck. He backchecks, digs in the corners and will take the puck to the net. This is the first time I’ve seen him play. He is a competitive young guy and a type of player that I know Randy Carlyle would like down the line. He competes and wants to win. He’ll do what it takes for his team. It’s just not all offense. He doesn’t have to score in order to contribute to his team. All in all, he is an interesting player.

Paterson on who is closest to being an NHL player: There is no doubt it’s Sbisa from the Swiss team. He’s the closest. The others guys need some time, but that is fine. That is why they are all 18,19 and 20 years old. There is a possibility that we’ll be seeing three or four of these players down the line. That is how you develop a hockey team. You have to draft well and develop from within. That is the quickest way to success and I think our guys have done a good job.
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