The Red Wings have six prospects taking part in the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan this week–Eemil Viro (Finland), William Wallinder, Theodor Niederbach (Sweden), Shai Buium, Carter Mazur and Cross Hanas (Team USA)–and a seventh (Red Savage) is skating with Team USA as he rehabilitates an injury.
I spoke with Viro, Wallinder, Buium, Mazur and Hanas on Sunday during the post-game availabilities; Viro’s Finns won a 2-1 decision over Team USA White, and Mazur scored the game-winner in Team USA Blue’s 4-2 win over Sweden.
It’s hockey in July, and some of these players haven’t hit the ice since March or April, but I do have a few observations about said players:
Eemil Viro, Defense, Finland: Viro, who’s 19, is listed at 6′ and 176 pounds, and that’s accurate. He’s played in the Finnish Liiga with TPS Turku, and Viro is very mobile, maneuverable, he plays a heads-up game, he doesn’t chase pucks into the corners or behind the net, and as such, his positioning and “reads” are very good.
He lacks upper-body strength, and it’s hard to estimate his offensive potential at this point, but Viro could be, at the very least, a steady second-pair defenseman who does most things well. He got bumped off the puck a few times today, but I really like his gaps and his ability to switch from forward to lateral or backward skating.
William Wallinder, Defense, Sweden: Wallinder sat out Sunday’s game as the “odd man out” on coach Tomas Monten’s defensive rotation. The 19-year-old played the majority of last season with MODO of the Swedish Allsvenskan, and he’s massive size-wise at 6’4,” but he’s also liberally listed at 190 pounds.
From what I understand of Wallinder’s game, he’s a step above Viro skill-wise, and is more of a puck-lugger than a puck distributor. His skating is supposed to be excellent, and I hope to see him play this week.
Theodor Niederbach, Center, Sweden: You and I have both heard a lot about the 5’11,” 172-pound center because he posted a dominant 35 points in only 19 games played for the Frolunda Indians’ under-20 team. Watching Niederbach on Sunday, there’s no doubt that he possesses high-end skill, whether he’s making astute passes or lurking in dead areas on the ice, seeking goal-scoring passes. His skating is very good and he’s one of those players who’s not very tall, but very lanky for his size, so there’s room to grow outward.
What I didn’t like seeing on Sunday was the way he struggled in traffic, the way he struggled with a bouncing puck on hot late July ice, and, playing against a team consisting of 18-to-20-year-olds who were all NHL draft picks, his skill level would sometimes hit a wall when he battled against players who were bigger, stronger, and especially more tenacious. At first glance, Wallinder has all the tools to impress, but there is work to be done to flesh out his body and his game.
Shai Buium, Defense, Team USA Blue: The Red Wings traded up to draft the 6’3,” 214-pound defenseman yesterday, and there were moments that I could see why the Wings like the University of Denver commit so very much. There were also moments that I thought I was watching a gazelle on skates, despite his strong season split between the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary’s preparatory school and the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers.
The University of Denver commit is big, hulking, and mobile, he’s a heads-up defenseman, and he just looked like an 18-year-old kid trying to find his sea legs on the third pair of the Team USA Blue defense. There were moments when he mis-read plays, chased the puck down, or plain old stood pat and watched play develop around him; there were other moments that he was demonstrative, if not “heavy.”
I could see where the Wings believe that they may have somebody that bulks up into a 6’3,” 230-pound defenseman after a couple of years playing at the excellent University of Denver program, and I could see why some people wondered why the hell the Wings traded up to the 36th overall pick to pick Buium ahead of, say, Aatu Raty.
Carter Mazur, Right Wing, Team USA Blue: The Wings picked the 6,’ 180-pound Little Caesars 02 alumnus (he’s 19, not 18) in the 3rd round of yesterday’s draft, and he’s headed to the University of Denver, just like Buium, after a strong, nearly point-per-game season for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm.
Mazur told the media today that he’s gained 30 pounds “on mom’s food” over the past year, and the Jackson, MI native really projects to be one of those “heart-and-soul” players that solidifies your middle six with grit, compete level, and a dash of skating and scoring from time to time.
In a mid-July game, every time there was an opportunity for Mazur to mix things up in a puck scrum, he stirred the shit, and every time there was an opportunity to lay on a hostile hand or an unpleasant shove, he did that, too.
Mazur scored an incredibly greasy game-winning goal, which he said was probably the biggest goal of his career (the Team USA kids take this week very, very seriously in terms of attempting to make the World Junior team), but I don’t think that goals and assists are where his game will be measured. Not yet, anyway.
Cross Hanas, left wing, Team USA Blue: Hanas is a more intriguing offensive player than Mazur, despite his relatively middling stats split between the USHL’s Lincoln Stars (where he had 99 penalty minutes) and the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, the team he usually plays for. The 19-year-old stands at 6’1″ and a gangly 176 pounds, but he’s strong on his feet, and, this week, he’s being asked to do something other than snipe goals or launch passes.
Instead, coach Nate Leaman wants Hanas to focus on two-way play, and Cross may lack some foot speed, but he busted his ass on Sunday trying to play responsible defensive hockey while continuing to get open for passes and shots.
I liked Hanas’s hustle, I liked his vision, and I like his offensive potential, especially his poise with the puck, but that may not be his mission this week.