It’s only early August, but signs of the upcoming hockey season’s arrival already exist. Countries are holding U20 summer camps in order to get in some early evaluations of players who could potentially suit up at the World Junior Championships in December, and the Rangers own the rights to a handful of prospects who have been involved one way or another.
I’ll discuss the situations surrounding all of them, but the primary focus here has to be on Anthony Duclair and this insane goal he scored last night in a game against the Czech Republic (the audio cut out for part of it. There’s nothing wrong with your computer).
Duclair finished the game with a goal and assist. He also hit the post late in the second period on another nice move. I was unable to watch the third period, but through the 40 minutes I did see Duclair was probably the best player on the ice. We’ll qualify it with the fact that it’s an exhibition game in August against a mediocre opponent, but it’s still good to see. Especially when considering that it was the first remotely competitive game that Duclair has participated in since his season-ending concussion on February 28th. Duclair was put on Canada’s top line with 2014 second overall pick Sam Reinhart as well as tenth overall pick Nick Ritchie, so it appears that Canada’s management is very high on Duclair. After (perhaps wrongly) missing the cut for a Canada team that failed to medal during the 2014 World Junior Championships, Duclair is a strong candidate to make the squad in a prominent role this time around. Keep reading for some updates on the other Rangers’ prospects who are on the WJC radar.
2014 second-round pick Brandon Halverson has stopped 31 of 36 shots in parts of three games and survived the first round of cuts, though that’s rather irrelevant given that none of the four goaltenders were sent home. Halverson is certainly a candidate to make the team, but it remains to be seen in what role. The starting job is likely Boston College goaltender and Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Thatcher Demko’s to lose, with the same to be said for Hurricanes’ prospect Alex Nedeljkovic (h/t Chris Peters, who saved me from forgetting about him) in the backup role. Three goaltenders will likely make the squad, but Halverson has some work to do if he’s going to beat out 19-year-old Brendan Burke, the son of former NHL goaltender Sean Burke.
Keegan Iverson, the other Rangers’ prospect invited to USA’s camp, played fourth line minutes in a few nondescript games before being one of USA’s 15 cuts yesterday. It’s not uncommon for players who weren’t even invited to the summer camp to make the roster in December, much less merely be an early cut in the summer camp. So this isn’t necessarily the end for Iverson. His ability to play a checking role helps his case for making the team in a fourth-line spot. Still, he’s clearly on the outside looking in and will need to play at a high level in the WHL this Fall to seriously put himself on the radar. The 2015-2016 WJC might be a more realistic opportunity for Iverson, but he’s not out yet.
Pavel Buchnevich tallied two assists in Russia’s 5-0 win over the Czech Republic on Monday. Buchnevich participated in the WJC for Russia last year and, barring injury or something bizarre, will do so again this time around. Almost certainly on Russia’s first line.
Goaltender and Rangers’ 2014 fourth-round pick Igor Shesterkin was also invited to Russia’s camp but was unable to make the trip to Canada due to visa problems. I’m not exactly the go-to guy for Russian hockey information, but I have to believe that a roster spot and perhaps even the starting job is there for Shesterkin to grab. Both of last year’s goaltenders, Andrei Vasilevsky and Ivan Nalimov, are too old to participate, but Islanders 2013 third-round pick Ilya Sorokin will be solid competition.
Canada and Russia face each other tonight at 7pm EST, and I would think there’s a good chance that both Buchnevich and Duclair will participate (UPDATE: Duclair not in the lineup tonight but will almost certainly play in the rematch tomorrow). The game will be broadcasted live here. The US also faces Sweden at 4pm, but it remains to be seen whether Halverson will participate.
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