Nashvillepredators.com sat down with Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton to discuss the Preds prospects participating in the 2013 World Junior Championships.
What are your thoughts on Jimmy Vesey’s play during the tournament?
I went over and watched Team USA play in their exhibition games against Sweden and Finland on Dec 20 and 22. In my opinion, he was one of the better players on the ice in the first game against Sweden. He generated a lot of scoring chances and was named Player of the Game for the U.S. I was able to talk to him during the second game, when he was a healthy scratch, and I thought he was going to make the team, but I didn’t know to what capacity. He ended up making the team as the 13th forward and he worked his way into a top-six role within the first three games of the tournament. As soon as he was paired up with his current line mates, Johnny Gaudreau and J.T. Miller, he really ignited them and they’ve been one of the team’s best lines. He’s been instrumental in carrying a lot of offense for Team USA as of late.
Why Vesey is so invaluable to his team’s success?
There has never been a question about Jimmy’s compete level on both ends of the ice. He is a very solid player in both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. When he has the puck, he is a threat to score but he can also make plays. He draws a lot of attention to himself, but he still has the slinky ability to slide by guys and keep the puck available to make plays. We saw a perfect example of that in the semifinal game against Canada. He slid by their defenseman, got a little opening and then with his quick shot he was able to beat the goaltender blocker side.
Miikka Salomaki, a 2011 second-round pick, is playing in his third consecutive World Juniors for Finland. How do you think he has played during this year's tournament?
Miikka has been great. I would classify him as an all-around player that is absolutely horrible to play against – he goes through you as opposed to around you. He has power, strength and an incredible stickhandling ability. He is gritty around the net and can create offensive opportunities. He did that for Finland in this tournament, even though they weren’t able to make it to the medal round.
He is going to be a player that the fans here in Nashville are going to love. He has the tenacity and drive that we love to see in our prospects.
Why is it important for young players to have success at the International level?
Whenever you can expose guys to the highest level of play, especially if they are fortunate enough to play in the medal round, it is something that you are trying engrain in your young players. We want them to have the ultimate goal of winning championships at every level. The more experience they have winning at a younger age, the higher their expectations become when they make it to the professional level. It’s that type of winning mentality that will lead us to a Stanley Cup.