The World Championships have an important sounding title for a tourney that most people ignore outside of a handful of European countries. It gets a bad rap because it goes head to head with the Stanley Cup playoffs and intensity and talent are pretty uneven but it’s not without it’s charm. For me it’s an interesting look at Avs players in different context. Usage and roles differ, chemistry changes the way guys play and the range of competition make each game like playing in alternate leagues.
Colorado sent 3 players to Denmark after they were eliminated by the Preds and were joined by new addition to the org in Czech goalie Pavel Francouz. I caught a couple games from each, here’s what they did and how:
Probably the main draw for me was getting a look at the Avs new goalie. He’s coming off a couple of gaudy save percentage years in the KHL. I will admit to having very little proficiency when it comes to scouting goalies and due to the varying competition levels at Worlds you take everything with a grain of salt. To me he looked quick and positionally sound, his puck handling was frightening at times so he’ll fit right in to the org. Here’s his body of work over the past couple weeks:
Slovakia: 3-2 OTW, both goals on PK, 15/17 overall
Switzerland: 5-4 SHW, 3 goals on PK, 25/29 overall, saved all 5 in shootout
Belarus: 3-0 W, 21/21 overall
Austria: 4-3 W, 24/27 overall
USA QF Game: 3-2 L, 28/31 overall
Overall: 2-2-0-1 record, .904 Sv%, 12 goals against on 125 shots
The first two games he played well but got dragged down by the tragic CZE penalty kill and bad defense in general. I didn’t see the Austria game but I’m guessing that’s the one he’d like another crack at. He played a really good game against the US in the quarterfinals but Patrick Kane schooled him twice so you’ll have that. The Czech staff didn’t play him against the two strongest teams in Group A, Sweden & Russia. There’s two ways to look at that, either they knew they were going to lose and didn’t want him shelled or they thought Rittich was the better goalie. Since he got the start in the Quarters I’m leaning towards the former.
Francouz said all the right things after the tourney like he has to work harder and there’s a lot to do before stepping up to the NHL level. The word is that he’s going to head to Colorado in about a month and get to work with Jussi Parkkila in preparation for next season. Right now he looks like he’ll be a solid AHL goalie out of the box and the rest depends on his acclimatization to small ice and the speed of the NHL.
Mikko’s Finnish team won Group B on a tiebreak with the US but were upset in the Quarters by the Swiss. He was an alternate captain and played his familiar role in top 6 and 1st unit PP. Ended up tied for 6th in scoring, of the 5 guys ahead of him 3 played more games and 2 were teammates. Final tally was 5 goals on 20 shots and 6 assists, 3 goals were on the PP. In the 3-2 QF loss to the Swiss he scored one goal and assisted on the other.
It was good to see Mikko bounce back from a lackluster playoff series. Whether he was injured there is still up for debate but he still showed signs of not being 100%. For a guy his age any experience is a benefit so the extra 8 games should help him kick off summer training.
Tyson Jost missed the 1st game for unknown reasons, probably travel, but was in the lineup for the other 9. He finished with 4 goals, all at even strength, on 12 shots and had a pair of assists. His usage and minutes put him as the 11th or 12th forward although at times he played higher in the lineup. Bill Peters and the Team Canada staff predictably went with top-heavy usage in the elimination rounds and were rewarded with 2 straight losses in the Semifinal and Bronze medal games.
Jost had the same depth scoring wing role he had for most of the season in Colorado and looked very similar. Seeing the production is nice even if all his goals were in blowouts. Even more than Mikko, any experience at his age is a plus.
Sven had the top outcome for the Avs contingent with the Swiss picking up Silver Medals with a shootout loss to Sweden in the Finals. He finished at a point per game, 2G/7A, which was a tie for 13th in the tournament. He had a beauty of a goal in the finals shootout which unfortunately turned out to be the only one for Switzerland. The only black mark was a 1-game suspension for an egregious kneeing foul in game 1 against Austria. Lots of folks don’t like the fact that teams can add players as the round robin goes on but it really benefited the Swiss as they added Kevin Fiala and Roman Josi from the Preds and Timo Meier from the Sharks. That gave them two scoring lines and Andrighetto settled in on a solid trio with Joel Vermin and Meier.
Sven’s game was very similar to what he looks like in top form with the Avs. He generated lots of shots and was adept at zone entries as usual, adding the usual snarl for fun. Watching him put together a consistent run through Worlds gives me confidence that he can do that for the Avs on a scoring line with the right guys.
The Avs players each got something positive out of this tournament. Francouz continued his record of solid international play for the Czechs in preparation for moving to the AHL/NHL next year. Mikko is now solidly in the leadership group for years to come in Finnish world play. Tyson Jost, along with Pierre-Luc Dubois, showed value to Team Canada as the youngest players in their lineup. Sven got a Silver Medal and is part of the continued growth of the Swiss Hockey program that’s knocking on the door of the Big 5. However you may view the meaning of the event itself, it’s going to help them be better next fall and beyond.