It only took two days at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation camp for Islanders prospect Johan Sundstrom
to leave two of the club’s top talent evaluators buzzing about their 2011 draft pick. Kerry Gwydir, the Assistant to the General Manager, and Eric Cairns, a member of the team’s Player Development staff, returned from the four-team tournament in Lake Placid, gushing over the Swedish forward whom the Islanders snagged with the 50th pick.
“He did everything,” Gwydir said. “He showed he could shoot the puck; he showed he could generate offense with his speed; he showed he could kill penalties. He was an assistant captain for Sweden and he was used in every important situation.”
The Islanders Hockey-Ops duo became enamored with their new 6’1, 196-pound prospect after watching Sweden’s first two games of the tournament, which began August 6th and runs through the 13th.
Sundstrom scored a goal and added two assists in Sweden’s opener against the United States Blue squad, spurring Sweden’s come-from-behind effort in a 4-3 overtime loss. The 18-year-old then added two assists in Sweden’s second match, a lopsided 7-1 victory over Finland.
“He was one of the best players on the ice,” Cairns said. “He was on the ice for practically every point that Sweden scored. He tied the first game up with just a few minutes to go and the second game was more of the same. He’s an outstanding player and the spotlight was directly on him. He should have had 10 points in those two games.”
The tournament serves as a tryout, as National Junior teams begin forming their rosters for the 2012 World Junior Championships in Edmonton. USA Hockey fielded two teams, which competed with clubs from Sweden and Finland.
“He was playing against a lot of first round players, like JT Miller (selected 15th overall in 2011 by the Rangers) and Tyler Biggs (selected 22nd overall in 2011 by Toronto),” said Gwydir.
Cairns added, “They were all very high draft picks, and Johan excelled both with points and on the other side of the puck. He was winning puck battles, using his great speed to get in on the forececk, creating turnovers and turning them into offensive chances for team Sweden. Throughout each game, he must have created 12 scoring chances. He’s physical, was their top faceoff guy and was their top penalty killer.”
Sundstrom, who will turn 19 in September, will return to Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League for the 2011-12 season.
“We’re going to be patient with Johan, but he is doing everything that we’ve asked to help the process along to see him in a New York Islanders jersey in the near future,” said Cairns. “This is a very important year for him and we’ll be keeping an eye on him.”
Mayfield and Russo
A pair of Islanders defensive prospects also attended the evaluation camp, each vying for a spot on the United States National Junior Team.Scott Mayfield
, the Islanders’ second selection (34th overall) in the 2011 draft and Robbie Russo
, the Isles’ fourth round choice (95th overall), each saw action in three games during the tournament.
Mayfield, playing for the U.S. White squad, recorded two assists and eight penalty minutes during his tryout.
“He made a strong appearance there,” Cairns said. “He played physically – he used his size and mobility, moved the puck well, and picked up two assists in the game against Finland.”
Russo skated on the U.S. Blue team and played his signature brand of shut-down defense.
is basically your steady defenseman,” Cairns said. “He’s a two-way guy that can move the puck out of his own end and pick up the ‘fourth assist,’ which is to say he can create offense from his own end, even if it doesn’t show in the stats column. He can shut you down defensively as well. He doesn’t have a panic button at all; he’s just steady and smooth and he gets the job done.”
Both players left camp after three games, though they could still make the final U.S. roster for this winter’s World Championship.
“There’s a lot of returning defensemen on the U.S. Junior squad so it was hard for them to crack that,” Gwydir said.
Cairns added, “They can still make the team based on their NCAA seasons. I’m sure that most of the Team U.S.A. scouts will be watching them all year.”