Seven players with plenty to prove; Tavares, Cherepanov
24.12.2007. Panzeri, Allen. National Post
PRAGUE - It is a mug's game to point your finger at one player in this
world junior hockey championship and say: "He's going to be the guy."
With so many unknown qualities among the players on the 10 teams,
several of which have not even set their official rosters, that is a
guarantee for surprise.
That said, there are some players who will be watched closely, players
who come into this tournament with reputations that demand attention.
Here is a look at a handful you can watch for as they race across your TV screen for the next two weeks:
JOHN TAVARES, CANADA
Nothing much is expected of 17-year-old players, not unless your name
is Eric Lindros (1991), Wayne Gretzky (1978) or Sidney Crosby (2005).
They contribute, but do not dominate.
But let us face it: the centre with the Ontario Hockey League's Oshawa
Generals is the player of his generation, the consensus No. 1 pick in
the 2009 NHL draft.
He played in last summer's Super Series, has been gathering
international experience and could be poised to break through, which
would be welcome, since it is widely thought that Canada will have
trouble scoring goals this year.
In 30 games before the OHL's holiday break, the six-foot, 196- pound Tavares has 24 goals and 44 assists.
He will be worth watching simply because he is only 16 years old. He is
an anomaly, but so far in his career, nothing has slowed him down. He
is supposed to be a dynamic talent.
The left-winger will not turn 17 until April, but he was playing at
Sweden's junior-18 level when he was only 14 and had four goals and six
points in 20 games at the junior-20 level last year.
This year, he made his debut in the Swedish Elite League for Timra IK.
JAMES VANRIEMSDYK, UNITED STATES
At 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds, vanRiemsdyk is the prototypical NHL power
forward. He played last year, when the U.S. won the bronze and is
expected to be a force in this championship.
He is not lacking in confidence, either, nor an us-against-the- world
attitude that is increasingly common these days in the U.S.
"Any time you get to pull on the jersey of your country there's nothing like it," he said in a recent interview.
" It's really thrilling, especially at the end of the game when you're
on the blue line and they're playing your anthem after you win. There's
nothing quite like that."
ROMAN JOSI AND LUKAS STOOP, SWITZERLAND
Josi and Stoop are the top two players in Switzerland.
They are included in this list because the Swiss would like to do more than scrape by and finish in the top eight.
These defenceman will play a key roll as Switzerland's aims to finish among the top four.
It will be a tough task, though, especially since the Swiss open
against the Finns before playing the United States. By then, it might
Josi , six-foot and 180 pounds, was the youngest player at the under-20
championship last year. He is an offensive defenceman with what is
called "deceptively fast speed." He has soft "Palmolive" hands, said
one Swiss commentator, and the ability to make tape-to- tape passes.
Stoop is only 17, so perhaps not a lot should be expected of him, but he is a highly ranked player.
ALEXEI CHEREPANOV, RUSSIA
Fans will remember the Siberian Express from last year, when he led the
tournament in scoring, was named to the all-star team and helped Russia
to the silver medal.
He is currently with Avangard Omsk of the Russian Super League. While
the Russian team has not been officially named, it will be a surprise
if he is not manning the wing.
If not for the NHL's reluctance to draft Russians last year, he would
have been picked higher than 17th overall by the New York Rangers.
He was knocked out of the Super Series in the second game, when he
collided with Canadian forward Brandon Sutter and suffered a concussion.
His work habits can be suspect, but he can play.
MICHAEL FROLIK, CZECH REPUBLIC
He is called the "Baby Jagr" in his homeland for his capacity to shake-and-bake.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound centre had 31 goals and 42 assists for 73
points with Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last
year, and has 10 goals and 21 assists in 20 games at the break this
He is the Florida Panthers' No. 1 prospect. The Panthers selected him 10th overall in the 2006 draft.
With four goals and two assists, he was one of few Czech players who
performed last year, but he and his teammates will be under pressure
from the hometown fans. He is acutely aware of that.
"There is always bigger pressure on the home team. We will see. It will be good for us when there will be a big audience."