At the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan today:
- Carter Mazur had a goal as Team USA White defeated an Eemil Viro-less Finland (assistant coach Mikko Koivu said that Viro’s injury was minor in nature) 5-4 in overtime. Mazur scored USA White’s 2-2 goal at the 8:56 mark of the 2nd period:
Mazur spoke with myself and The Athletic’s Max Bultman after the game:
Mazur, a University of Denver committed-freshman, stands at all of 6′ and 180 pounds, and he was slotted into the lineup as a grinding forward. He’s certainly brought grit, jam, and a bit of nastiness to the Americans’ roster, but he’s also received a promotion to their second line.
Mazur projects as a heart-and-soul type of player, but he’s been damn efficient as a sneaky secondary scorer in the Doug Brown mold. He skates well, he’s got an edge to his play, and the right-shooting forward is very aggressive, using his physical strength to bump and grind whenever possible.
As far as Viro is concerned, Mikko Koivu, the former Minnesota Wild forward, is from Turku, where Viro plays for TPS, so Koivu told Bultman and myself that he’s skated with Eemil in Finland, and is impressed by the way that Viro “plays for his teammates.” Whatever is hampering Viro is not major, but Koivu pointed out that Viro’s Liiga season starts in September, so the Finnish National Team has something of an obligation to not push injured players to the point that they can’t play for their rights-holders…And Viro would be best-served to have an excellent season with TPS Turku this upcoming year before coming over to North America, so why risk that promise on “summer hockey?”
2. In the second game, Red Savage made quite the return from an injury, scoring the 2-0 goal en route to Team USA Blue’s 3-1 victory over Sweden.
Red Savage (#10) scores for Team USA at the summer showcase.
Savage was drafted 4th round in the 2021 NHL Draft by the Red Wings. #LGRW pic.twitter.com/3CncGnp0tL— IcehockeyGifs (@IcehockeyG) July 30, 2021
Savage, a 5’11,” 181-pound center, was eased back into the game with some short shifts early, but he played more and more regularly as the game went on, even earning some power play time. He’s an “up the middle” center who goes to the front of the net and stays there, and he’s more than willing to hack and whack and battle to gain body position on his opponents.
From what I saw on Friday, he’s got good speed, which he uses to transition from offense to defense (and back) as necessary, but he really seemed to have a flourish for physical play and checking his opponents tightly as much as he displayed offensive aplomb–and his goal and shorthanded assist weren’t shabby at all.
Savage is headed to Miami of Ohio as an incoming freshman, and he’ll have a few years to develop physically to add some bulk to his frame. He already has more than enough jam and pizzazz…
And you’ll hear his outgoing nature in the 9 and-a-half minutes’ worth of interview that he gave to the assembled media post-game. Savage is out-going, excited about coming back from a virus that had sidelined him, excited about making an impact on the U.S. World Junior team this fall after captaining the U.S. Under-18 team in the spring, he’s excited about going to Miami of Ohio to play with his older brother, he’s excited about having been drafted by the Red Wings as his adopted hometown is Northville, he’s excited about a lot of things!
Red Savage (DET) says he was sidelined with a virus two weeks before camp, which is why he was held out. But has been healthy and was getting conditioning back up. Confirms he sustained a groin injury at U18 Worlds which knocked his ice time down. He’s recovered from that.— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) July 30, 2021
At times, Savage was paired with Cross Hanas, and Hanas has a tendency to “poke and hope” a bit too much defensively, but that’s because the 6’1,” 176-pound winger is still learning how to establish himself as a two-way forward. He’s generally been a sniper for the bulk of his Major Junior playing career, and he’s attempting to add a defensive aspect to his game to add to his professional credentials.
It’s been a bit of a bumpy road for him at times, but credit to Hanas for understanding that he needs to play a more complete game to take the next step as he prepares to play his overage season with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
Shai Buium can be incredibly impressive and downright raw on the same shift. The 6’3,” 214-pound defenseman doesn’t look like he’s done growing upward or outward, and Team USA coach Nate Leaman duly noted that Buium has an effortless stride, so he only needs to skate one or two strides to get from point A to point B…But he holds his hands so tightly and so high up against his body that he has issues with poke checking, setting up for shots and passes (though he can do both just fine), and he looks like a gazelle out there because he’s so bloody lanky.
Now all of that could encourage you to think that Buium is merely a raw defensive prospect who could fill out to a massive 230 pounds’ worth of muscle, elegant skating and better overall skill (as the Wings believe), or the holes in the incoming University of Denver freshman’s game could leave you concerned. Pick your side as you wish.
For the Swedes, Theodor Niederbach looks like what he is–a 5’10,” 172-pound center who absolutely dominated playing in the Junior-20 league for Frolunda. He’s a fast skater, he’s smart, headsy with the puck, and he makes good plays, but not everything connects for him when he faces physical intimidation.
Niederbach needs a good season or two to fill out physically, and, mostly, to play among men on the Frolunda SHL team. He’s got all the tools, but this week, like the rest of the Swedish team, he’s had none of the…Finnish…
And William Wallinder had an up-and-down game for Sweden, playing tons of ice time on what was effectively the first defensive pairing. He set up the Swedes’ 3-1 goal via a secondary assist…
But Wallinder also took a needless penalty 11:06 into the 3rd, stifling Sweden’s comeback hopes by putting his team on a 5-on-3 disadvantage.
Wallinder is another absolutely effortless, mobile and aggressive skater, and he uses his heads-up play to anticipate instead of just react to what’s happening on the ice. He’s a good passer, a good shooter, and is strong on special teams because his hockey IQ is high…
But he’s also quite lanky at 6’4″ and 190 pounds, so Wallinder needs to both fill out and to play at least this upcoming season establishing himself in the SHL with Rogle to really gain the necessary experience with which to come over to North American professional hockey.
He looked like a leader on a struggling Swedish team on Friday, though, and that was encouraging to see.
I think that’s what I’d suggest about each and every one of the Red Wings’ prospects taking part in the WJSS–they’re all works in progress, all players who display both promise and the need to play more hockey before they attempt to convert their potential into professional aspirations. It’s hard not to