Vadim Shipachyov was one of the brightest stars on the Russian national team and got a contact with new NHL team Vegas Golden Knights. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Six players to follow after World Championship
World Championships are much more than a tournament dedicated to crowning top hockey country in the world.
In many ways it’s a showcase for players and a massive talent pool ripe for scouts and general managers to pick.
The 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship was no exception. Here are a few of the players who distinguished themselves at this year’s contest and are worth following into the upcoming season.
Vadim Shipachyov (F – Russia)
Old Team: SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
New Team: Vegas Golden Knights (NHL)
At the Worlds:
Each iteration of the World Championship seems to have its breakout star and this year Shipachyov took the crown. The 30-year-old centre banked 13 points in Russia’s bronze medal run. He joined Artemi Panarin (17), Nikita Kucherov (15) and Nikita Gusev (14) to put four Russians in the top-six of scoring.
Shipachyov’s strong World Championship followed-up a fantastic KHL season in which he finished third in league scoring while winning the title with SKA St. Petersburg. It was SKA’s second title in three years.
The performance earned Shipachyov at two-year, $9 million deal with the NHL’s expansion team Vegas Golden Knight, making him the first big name signing in team history. Until the NHL expansion draft occurs, it’s hard to gauge the look and feel of the Vegas team, but one thing is for sure, general manager George McPhee likes his Russian forwards. McPhee was the GM in Washington with the likes of Alexander Ovechkin and Yevgeni Kuznetsov.
McPhee said in a statement, "Vadim is a highly skilled playmaker who has had an impressive career in the Kontinental Hockey League." McPhee went on to say, "Shipachyov has won two KHL championships, has been among the league leaders in scoring the last two seasons and has enjoyed success at the international level for Team Russia. We believe he can be an impact player in the NHL."
Jakub Jerabek (D – Czech Republic)
Old Team: Vityaz Podolsk (KHL)
New Team: Montreal Canadiens (NHL)
At the Worlds:
Jerabek played in all eight games for the Czech Republic and contributed two points and a plus-two rating prior to being ousted by Russia in quarter-finals.
Inking Jerabek to a one-year deal might seem like a bit of curious decision when you consider just how loaded the Canadiens are on defence. Led by Shea Weber, the Canadiens finished fourth in the NHL giving up just 2.41 goals per game.
Yet, there’s an old adage in the hockey, especially in the NHL Playoffs, that you simply can’t have too much depth on defence. With that in mind, the Canadiens signed the 25-year-old Jerabek who finished fifth in scoring (34 pts) amongst KHL defencemen last season. Montreal received meaningful offensive contribution from four main defenders last season, Weber, Nathan Beaulieu, Andre Markov and Jeff Petry. This off-season, Markov, Beaulieu and another defender Nikita Nesterov, are all free agents. Jerabek seems to be a bit of an insurance play for a team looking to sure up its blue line for next year.
Sebastian Aho (F – Finland)
Current Team: Carolina Hurricanes (NHL)
At the Worlds:
Aho led the Finns in points (11) and assists (9) as the Lions earned a berth in the bronze medal match. Aho led the Finns with 20:13 of playing time in the bronze medal game and added two assists. For his efforts, he earned Top Three player honours for Finland.
Toronto’s wunderkind trio (Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner) stole the show last year alongside Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets. It was a tough year to stand out as a rookie, but hockey people know that Carolina’s Sebastian Aho is something special despite operating in the shadows last year.
Aho finished fifth in rookie scoring (49 pts) behind the four aforementioned studs, but finished third in goals (24). Aho had four game-winning goals and six power-play goals, so he clearly knows how to excel in big moments. Most importantly, the 19-year-old was just minus-one on the entire season on a team that struggled defensively to put lightly.
Carolina is another team looking to establish a young core moving forward and Sebastian Aho looks to be an anchor player. The 2017/18 season could mean 30 goals for Aho and increased notoriety as one of the league’s rising stars.
Andrei Mironov (D – Russia)
Old Team: Dynamo Moscow (KHL)
New Team: Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
At the Worlds:
Mironov scored one goal and was a minus-two playing in six games en route to winning bronze with the Russians.
Nothing, absolutely nothing could’ve gone worse for the Colorado Avalanche last season. Statistically they were the worst defence in the NHL, allowing 276 goals (3.37/G), and the penalty kill was second worst behind Dallas, stopping just 76.6% of opponents’ power play opportunities. Add swirling trade rumours about their superstars and 2016/17 was a brutal campaign for Colorado. Just to cap off the misery, Colorado finished dead last in the NHL with just 48 points (22W-56L-4OTL).
Defence is obviously a huge priority for Colorado, so the signing of Mironov to a two-year deal in early May makes a lot of sense. After playing five years for Dynamo Moscow, the 2015 fourth-round draft pick of the Avalanche will finally try to establish himself in the NHL. Don’t mistake Mironov for anything but a stay-at-home defenceman – he registered just 40 points in five KHL campaigns with Dynamo Moscow. But this is what Colorado needs – a big-bodied stalwart to bolster the defence corps. His age, 22, and price tag, $925,000, are also important to an Avalanche team trying to rebuild for the future, while having to make tough decisions over high-price superstars.
Cal Petersen (G – USA) & Anders Bjork (F – USA)
Current Team: Notre Dame (NCAA)
At the Worlds:
Neither youngster contributed much en route to an early knockout in the quarter-final round. Bjork was held scoreless in five appearances while Petersen was not included in the starting line-up at any point during the tournament. In reality, not much was expected from either collegian as Team USA included both on the roster for exposure purposes.
While Petersen and Bjork played a very, very limited role for the United States at the tournament, their inclusion is worth noting. With Gary Bettman’s announcement stating the NHL will not participate in the 2018 Olympic Games, Team USA will need to decide what crop of players will make up its roster.
They might have tipped their hand by including Bjork and Petersen – the only two college players – on the World Championship roster. General Manager Jim Johansson might be signalling that elite-level college players (which brings back memories of 1980) might be part of Team USA in PyeongChang.