Sunday, 19 August 2012

Make It Five-Straight Wins

I dont usually talk much about the high-level competitions for the younger junior players, but Canada is really making a mark at the Ivan Hlinka annual tournament. This year's Canadian squad made it five-straight gold medals yesterday in the tournament as they took the championship over Finland in Piestany, Slovakia. And no, there were no punch-ups or bench-clearing brawls for the Canadian team in Piestany in this tournament like there was back in 1987.

If you needed any reason to tune in, it was to see Nathan MacKinnon play the game. MacKinnon looks like he could be a great player as he matures, and his performance at the Ivan Hlinka tournament did nothing to sway that opinion. He scored a hat trick in the championship game, and finished the tournament with five goals and six assists in five games. If he's not the consensus first-overall pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, he'll be in the top-five picks for sure.

Zachary Fucale recorded the shutout in the 4-0 win over Finland, but his play was solid all tournament. The Halifax Moosehead goaltender appears to be another solid player on the rise in the QMJHL, and he could be a candidate for a World Junior squad in the coming years if he continues to play as well as he did in this tournament.

Eric Comrie, the second Canadian goalie, also played well, and he looks like he'll be a quality stopper for the WHL's Tri-City Americans. Comrie was sharp in his games, and played especially well in a "mean-nothing" game against Slovakia late in the tournament in which the Canadians won 3-2. Comrie still needs some time to develop his game a little more, but the young goalie looks strong fundamentally.

Captain Sam Reinhart was a force all tournament long, and the WHL's Kootenay Ice will benefit from his exposure in this tournament. Reinhart isn't eligible until the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but his younger age didn't slow him down in this tournament. Reinhart had a goal and three assists in a 5-2 win over the Czech Republic in the semi-final, and really played well all tournament long. For teams that are building towards the future in the NHL, Sam Reinhart is a player to keep on the radar.

Overall, the tournament saw Canada win, but there were some solid performances from other teams. Finland played very well in its win over Sweden in the semi-final, and they look like they are developing some solid players. The final standings of the tournament were as follows:
  1. Canada
  2. Finland
  3. Sweden
  4. Czech Republic
  5. Russia
  6. Switzerland
  7. USA
  8. Slovakia
The Ivan Hlinka Tournament is always a great glimpse into the future to see which players may become impact players in junior hockey and/or professional hockey. While some players may fall off the radar in the long run, there are usually a handful of players that will be high draft picks in the coming years. That's an encouraging sign for all of the participating players.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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