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Northeast: Future players on the ice today at WJC

by James Murphy

Center Brad Marchand, drafted by Boston in 2006, is one of seven top prospects of Northeast Division teams competing at the 2008 World Junior Championships.
The IIHF 2008 Under-20 World Junior Championships got under way Wednesday in the Czech Republic. This tournament serves as a great chance for NHL pro scouts to check up on some of their current prospects and also search for players to select at the NHL Entry Draft in June. Below is a look at the seven Northeast Division prospects at this year’s tournament and what those familiar with these players had to say about the development of each player.

Boston Bruins

Brad Marchand -- Was selected by the Bruins in the third round, 71st overall, at the 2006 Entry Draft. The 19-year-old Halifax, Nova Scotia native may be small at 5-foot-9, but there is no shortage of heart, grit and skill in Marchand. He had 175 points and 243 penalty minutes in his first three seasons playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for Moncton and the Val-d’Or Foreurs. His burgeoning leadership skills and work ethic prompted Canadian coach Craig Hartsburg to name Marchand as an alternate captain on this year’s squad.

With 44 points this season, Marchand left for Canada’s training camp tied for 10th in scoring overall in the QMJHL, and with the potential to play with the Czech Republic’s Jakub Voracek (2007 Columbus first-round pick, seventh overall) as a linemate in Halifax, that point total most likely will take a rapid rise.

Bruins Director of Hockey Operations and Player Development Don Sweeney has been extremely pleased with Marchand’s development and is impressed with his leadership skills.

“We’re thrilled for Brad to see him named as an alternate captain for Team Canada,” Sweeney said. “This is just a testament to his consistent growth as a leader and his maturity on and off the ice. Each season he has played a more prominent role on his team and we saw this season, with Val d’Or struggling how he still worked hard and helped that team.”

Sweeney noted Marchand’s willingness to sacrifice in going to the net and in the corners as an example of how Marchand plays bigger than his size.

“Despite being a smaller player, he still goes into the traffic areas and the corners,” Sweeney said. “He’s always willing to pay the price for his team, and to see that competitiveness at an early age is a great sign. He also has a lot of patience, doesn’t get frustrated and learns from his mistakes, which is also promising. We’re very excited to have him in our organization.”

Yuri Alexandrov -- This defenseman was selected 37th overall in 2006, one of two second-round picks by the Bruins. According to the Red Line Report, the 6-foot-1, 187-pound Alexandrov has the potential to some day become a “No. 3 defenseman on an NHL team with his puck-moving skills and could be a solid power-play quarterback, but needs to put on size.”

Alexandrov, 19, currently is playing for Cheropovets Severstal in the Russian Super League.

Montreal Canadiens

Max Pacioretty -- This University of Michigan freshman appears to have all the makings of an NHL power forward. His monster 63-point season at Sioux City (USHL) in 2006-07 prompted the Canadiens to draft this New Canaan, Conn., native with the 22nd overall pick in the 2007 draft. According to Canadiens Director of Player Recruitment and Development Trevor Timmins, Pacioretty has burst on to the scene and could be arriving at your local pro rink a lot sooner than expected.

“This kid has really had one hell of a year,” Timmins said. “He was on our radar, but after that season he had at Sioux City, he really moved up the rankings, and then you look at what he’s doing at Michigan this season and this kid is really on the rise. He has the ability to be a power forward in the NHL and he’s showing that now at Michigan.”

Pacioretty is playing on the highest scoring line in NCAA hockey right now, with the nation’s leading scorer, senior Kevin Porter, and another senior, Chad Kolarik. Michigan coach Red Berenson, a former Canadien himself, also alluded to Pacioretty’s sudden emergence, as well as his pure talent and the maturity he has displayed playing with two seniors.

“Max is really one of these players that has come out of nowhere,” Berenson said. “He was an impact player last year in the USHL and his stock just went way up. But you can see why when you watch him play in person. His physical power and strength is exceptional and he has that natural quick release that can’t be taught. Then you look at how he has fit right in with Porter and Kolarik, and he has really shown a lot of maturity for a young player.”

Pacioretty’s size and tenacity are what attracted Team USA coach John Hynes to put him on the roster for this tournament.

“Max is just like a big bull around the net and in the corners,” Hynes said. “He has learned how to utilize his size and skill and we’re excited to have him on the team.”

Defenseman P.K. Subban, a 2007 draft pick of
the Canadiens, is in his third season with the
Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League.

P.K. Subban -- P.K. Subban left a lasting impression with the Montreal media and fans at the Canadiens’ prospects camp over the summer thanks to his jolly personality and colorful quotes. While that left many to believe Subban has the makings to be great for public relations, the Canadiens are more focused on his on-ice potential, and his selection to Team Canada for this tournament has turned a corner as far as their perception of him goes.

“Kudos to him for cracking a roster deep in defense,” Timmins said of the 5-foot-10, 200-pound defenseman. “After not making the Super Series over the summer, he really showed a lot of hard work and discipline. He’s obviously eager to learn and improve his game and we’re glad to see that. He has a very hard shot, but we felt he needed to clean up his game a bit in the defensive end and he’s doing that.

”His enthusiasm for life and the game was never in question, but it’s great to see that he took the time to improve and it paid off.”

Subban was selected in the second round (43rd overall) in 2007. He currently plays in the Ontario Hockey League for the Belleville Bulls, and this season he has 28 points thus far.

Yannick Weber -- Swiss defenseman Yannick Weber has been making a name for himself in North America the past two seasons. After a 41-point season with Kitchener in the OHL last season, Weber has 36 points for the Rangers this season, and the Canadiens are happy with their 2007 third-round pick (73rd overall).

“This kid is a heck of a defenseman,” Timmins said. “He’s one of the better defensemen in the OHL and logs 30-35 minutes of ice time a night, playing on the penalty kill, power play and even strength. We really like his skating ability and intelligence on the ice.”

Weber, 19, is making his second appearance at the World Junior Championships and is the captain for the Swiss team this year.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Tyler Ruegsegger -- Ask anyone about University of Denver sophomore forward Tyler Ruegsegger and there is one common theme: Hard work.

“This is a very skilled and smart player here,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said of the 5-foot-11, 195-pound forward. “But I think when you talk about Tyler, the first things that come to mind are dedication and hard work. He consistently brings his ‘A’ game to the rink and that’s how he is off the ice, as well. There aren’t distractions in Tyler’s world. Beyond his family, hockey and his education are his top priority. There’s no fluff with this kid. When he says he is going to do something, you know it’s going to happen.”

Maple Leafs Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel Mike Penny agreed, pointing to Ruegsegger’s strong work ethic as one of the main reasons the Leafs drafted him.

“We’re very impressed with his steady improvement on the ice, but what’s even more impressive is the hard work and determination that has spurred that on,” Penny said. “This kid is a self-motivator, and from everything we’ve seen and heard he’s a joy to coach. So that’s good, to see a skilled player that knows what to do with his skills and works hard to utilize them.”

Center Tyler Ruegsegger was drafted in the
6th round by theToronto Maple Leafs in 2006.

Ruegsegger’s attitude and competitiveness led to his spot on the USA roster.

“Tyler is an extreme competitor and is just the kind of player we need to succeed in this tournament,” Hynes said. “You don’t need just skill, you need character and Tyler brings both.”

Juraj Mikus -- Drafted by Toronto in the fifth round, 134th overall, in 2007, Mikus, according to, has “all-around potential from the back end. He has impressive length at 6-foot-4, but the big Slovakian has a lot of filling out to do as he is listed at 185 pounds.”

The folks at go onto say this about Mikus: “He has above-average skill in every facet of the game. He can move the puck, has a decent set of hands, good vision, a good point shot and can mix it up when need be. He was ranked as the 27th European skater by Central Scouting and is another project to keep an eye on with a tremendous upside.”

Mikus had 24 points and nine goals, with a plus-32 rating, in the Czech Junior League last season.

Shootout Summary -- Last Thursday, the Bruins erased a 4-0 deficit in regulation, but couldn’t convert in the shootout as they lost 5-4 to the Penguins. Erik Christensen and Kris Letang scored for the Penguins in the shootout.

The Sabres swept a home-and-home with the Flyers over the weekend with a 6-5 shootout win at Philadelphia Saturday. Ales Kotalik had the lone goal in the shootout.

Montreal suffered a 3-2 shootout loss at Atlanta Saturday as they were unable to beat Thrashers goaltender Kari Lehtonen in the shootout. Marian Hossa and Slava Kozlov scored on Cristobal Huet for the Thrashers.

Who’s hot? -- Senators forward Jason Spezza continues to be a constant on the score sheet. With two goals and a pair of assists in his last three games, Spezza now has 44 points this season.

Sabres forward Jason Pominville has a goal and four assists in his last three games, including a four-point effort in the 6-5 shootout win over Philadelphia. But the Sabres wouldn’t be in the midst of a season-high six-game win streak if not for the goaltending of Ryan Miller, who was 3-0 over the past week with a 2.61 goals-against average and .921 save-percentage.

Black and Blue

Boston -- With a lengthy injury list already, the Bruins lost two more key players this past week. Forward Glen Murray suffered a hip flexor injury in the loss to Pittsburgh Thursday and has missed the last two games. Then the following day in practice, defenseman Aaron Ward broke his left foot when he was hit by a slap shot from teammate Chuck Kobasew. Murray is expected to be out another week, while Ward could miss up to four weeks.

Defenseman Andrew Alberts remains day-to-day with post-concussion syndrome-like symptoms. Center Patrice Bergeron remains on injured reserve, but continued light workouts this past week as he recovers from a concussion he suffered Oct. 27. Bergeron experienced nausea, however, after his last workout. Goaltender Manny Fernandez is out for the season after successful knee surgery.

Buffalo -- Defenseman Teppo Numminen remains on injured reserve recovering from heart surgery.

Montreal -- The Canadiens remain without forwards Steve Begin, who is out indefinitely with a separated shoulder, and Bryan Smolinski, who is on injured reserve with a knee injury. Defenseman Patrice Brisebois is day-to-day with a shoulder injury.

Ottawa -- Forward Patrick Eaves (shoulder) and defenseman Anton Volchenkov (broken finger) remain on injured reserve.

Toronto -- Defenseman Bryan McCabe is on injured reserve with a broken hand and is expected to miss another 5-7 weeks.

The Week Ahead -- The Senators and Sabres hook up in Buffalo tonight in a matchup of the Northeast Division’s hottest teams. The Maple Leafs are on Long Island to face the Islanders.

On Thursday, the Leafs travel to Philadelphia, Montreal is at Tampa Bay and the Senators host the Islanders.

On Friday the Canadiens continue their tour through the Sunshine State when they play the Panthers. The Sabres travel to Newark to face Martin Brodeur and the Devils, while the Bruins are in Carolina to play the Hurricanes.

Saturday, the Leafs and Rangers play at the Air Canada Centre, the Senators host the Capitals, the Bruins are in Atlanta for the first game of a home-and-home, and the Sabres are in Pittsburgh.

Sunday, the Canadiens are at MSG to face the Rangers.

The Bruins welcome the Thrashers to Boston for a New Year’s Eve matinee at 1 p.m. on Monday.

The Sabres and Penguins play the second half of their home-and-home on New Year’s Day in the AMP Energy Winter Classic, the NHL outdoor game in the United States. The game takes place at 1 p.m., and will be telecast on NBC in the United States and CBC and RDS in Canada. Also that day, the Senators host the Capitals in a 4 p.m. matinee and the Lightning are in Toronto to play the Maple Leafs. 

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