Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Doubting Dustin...and what's wrong with a dynasty?

As time ticked down World Junior Championship play by play man on the FAN radio network Dan Dunleavy put it as good as I've heard it....

"Turn around and give me 5" Dunleavy shouted across the airwaves heard across Canada including on the TEAM 1260 in Edmonton. It was indeed a round of 5 Alive for every Canadian hockey fan, and here are some observations from a fantastic tournament.

When will that bozo who hosts The Pipeline Show stop doubting Dustin Tokarski? That bozo would be me by the way. I didn't pick Tokarski (pictured courtesy Sportsnet.ca) to make the team, thought he struggled against the U.S.A and Russia and would have started Chet Pickard in the gold medal game. But really this kind of stuff isn't new for the Watson, Saskatchewan netminder. He wasn't drafted by a WHL team, yet has a AAA midget national championship, a Memorial Cup (for which he was named MVP) and now a WJC gold medal to his credit. He's a 5th round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008 who just signed a contract with the Bolts over the Christmas season and will head back to Spokane of the WHL with a little more jump in his step.

Cody Hodgson and Jordan Eberle were drafted 12 spots apart last June, but both the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers appear to have a lot to look forward to with both players. Hodgson was Canada's best all around player, and seems to have few flaws in his game. Eberle has the nose for the net that the Oilers have been craving for years. The question is will both players be able to continue their brilliance at the next level? I'm betting yes, especially after Hodgson came close to making the Canucks this year.

John Tavares has pulled ahead of Victor Hedman in the race to the podium in Montreal this June, but Hedman was obviously not 100 per cent health wise, and could still edge Tavares as the #1 pick this summer, it all depends who's drafting. The kid I'm really excited about is the other Swede, Magnus Svensson Paajarvi. Speed to burn, a big body (who wears Peter Forsberg's #21) and the confidence to go with it. Jordan Schroeder of the United States, Evander Kane and Ryan Ellis of Canada also upped their draft stock big time with great tournaments. And if any team is in the market for a 19 year old undrafted goaltender who never gives up, Slovakian pipeman Jaroslav Janus is your man. Back to back 46 save outings led to a massive upset of the States and almost beating Sweden in the semi-final. Janus plays for Erie of the OHL and was the Otters MVP last season.

Will James Van Reimsdyk pull a Kyle Okposo and leave the University of New Hampshire for the NHL after this tournement? Okposo said good bye to the Minnesota Golden Gophers after last year's touranment and joined the New York Islanders. The 2nd overall pick from 2007 certainly looks ready to turn pro and after 3 WJC tournaments the Flyers might be tempted to throw them in their line up with all the injury problems they're having right now. He has spent the same amount of time in college that Okposo did before bolting.

For all those dynasty haters out there who think it would have been better for the tournament if Canada hadn't won a 5th in a row. Give your head a shake. Yes Canada has won 5 straight for a 2nd time in tournament history, but it's not like it's been a cakewalk. 2 years ago they needed a shoot out win just to make the gold medal game, last year it was a golden goal from Matt Halischuk in overtime against Sweden, and of course we would be wrapping up this year's tournament very differently had Jordan Eberle waited 5.4 seconds before tying things against Russia in the semi-final this year. Let's not forget about the 7 year gold medal drought that Canada went through from 1998-2004.

Lastly, just a tip of the cap to Peter Loubardias of Rogers Sportsnet for making back to back impressive predictions. Last year the voice of the Flames on Sportsnet told TPS that Matt Halischuk would score a big goal for Canada. This year when pressed for another gaze into the future, Peter told us that Cody Hodgson would lead Canada in scoring. With Hodgson's empty net goal against Sweden, he ended up leading the entire Tournament in scoring. You can hear both predictions at our website here.

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