The Athletic’s Max Bultman attended the World Junior Summer Showcase this past week, and Bultman offers a list of ten observations from the WJSS this morning.
Both Bultman and I were impressed with the raw attributes of defenseman Shai Buium, a 6’3,” 214-pound defender with room to grow literally and figuratively after being drafted 36th overall by the Wings some nine days ago:
Buium will play next season at the University of Denver, so before the showcase started, I reached out to Pioneers coach David Carle to ask what stood out about the big blueliner’s game.
“I think it’s his brain, his vision, his deception with the puck,” Carle said. “He breaks pucks out well, he transitions pucks (through) neutral ice well, and he’s really dynamic on the offensive blue line. He asserts himself in his transition and offensive game very well, and I think for that it makes him really hard to play against.”
All of that showed up in Plymouth. His hands were better than I realized, too, and he certainly showed a real inclination to activate offensively. There’s a nice prospect here.
For me, his skating played up when he had the puck — perhaps because of his size, perhaps because of his hands and smarts, but either way, he just looked dangerous with possession. There’s still room for improvement in his skating overall, though, particularly in order to defend speed in transition. I saw at least two instances where a player got by him by chipping the puck off the wall and beating him to it for a chance off the rush. Certainly, that’s understandable for a player who stands 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, and adding more strength will help Buium there — as he gains more muscle in his legs, his stride should get more powerful.
Team USA coach Nate Leman suggested that Buium’s greatest attribute is his skating, which covers a tremendous amount of rink room with a single stride.
Buium’s hands and feet look to be doing different things at the same time, which doesn’t yield an impression that he’s the smoothest defenseman out there, but his slightly awkward stride belies an impressive amount of poise and maturity.
After watching Finland center Aatu Raty dominate the tournament with the 52nd overall pick that the Wings sacrificed to trade up and draft Buium, I’m not sure that I would have traded up from all of 38th overall to select Buium 5 picks earlier, but Kris Draper and the Wings’ amateur scouts saw a lot more of the Red Wings’ newest prospects participating in hockey games this past season than I did.
That was really my take on the week’s worth of 2021 draft picks (all three of them):
Carter Mazur (70th, also headed to the University of Denver with Buium and Antti Tuomisto) and Redmond “Red” Savage (114th; headed to Miami of Ohio) felt a little “early” for heart-and-soul prospects who may translate into a pair of 3rd line centers, but those two 2021 draft picks displayed fine leadership qualities, and truckloads of grit and jam.
Mazur was utilized as a power winger with Kirk Maltby-esque tendencies to hack, whack, battle for every puck and play a nasty, gritty game;
Redmond reminded me of an in-his-prime Darren Helm, though without that sixth gear of skating stride, ever-willing to out-compete his opponents on faceoffs, in forechecking and backchecking, and in winning every detailed battle for the puck;
From the 2020 draft, Cross Hanas had a quieter week on Team USA, with the winger focusing on his penalty-killing instead of displaying his goal-scoring aplomb that’s been on display with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds over the past couple of seasons;
Eemil Viro looked like somebody who needed to spend more time in the gym in terms of his upper-body strength, but his pro polish as someone who’s already been playing in the men’s Liiiga with TPS Turku was evident, as was a stride that reminded me of Brad Stuart’s two-way game. Missing the last two games with a minor injury limited his impact, but it’s important that Viro heads into the 2021-2022 season healthy;
On Sweden, Theodor Niederbach, undersized but lanky, needed more work to finish among the men after dominating his Under-20 peers as a playmaking center with Frolunda’s junior team, but he also displayed the potential to serve as a second-line deke-and-dangle machine;
While defenseman William Wallinder displayed poise but lacked some of the high-end promise that he’s put on display with MODO of the Swedish AHL, the Allsvenskan; Wallinder will be playing a pivotal season on the blueline of Rogle BK of the SHL. His skating, like Buium’s, is plain old “superior” in its fit and finish, but he needs to be more demonstrative with the puck and in his decision-making to really develop into the top-3 defenseman who the Wings envision manning the blueline in the top half of their roster, alongside Simon Edvinsson or even Mo Seider.
Everybody displayed oodles of potential; the American forwards were willing to step up and lead with grit and jam; Buium, Viro and Wallinder all offered different aspects of potential top-4 defensemen’s attributes, and Wallinder’s “dark horse” potential was evident, but each and every one of the Wings’ seven participants at the WJSS have to take steps forward–on the gym and on the ice–to truly qualify as top Red Wings prospects.
In the cases of Buium, Mazur (both headed to the University of Denver) and Savage (headed to Miami of Ohio), that means putting in two or three strong seasons at the NCAA level; for Viro, Niederbach and Wallinder, they need to step up as they transition to full-time play in men’s league hockey, and, for Hanas, a monster season at the WHL level is in order to reestablish himself on the Wings’ radar.