This year, there are three prospects from the Flames going to their country's evaluation camp for the world juniors; Sam Bennett and Morgan Klimchuk for Canada and Rushan Rafikov for Russia. Russia plays four games, two against Canada, one against the Czech Republic, and one against Sweden, while Canada will face both the Russians and the Czechs twice. I apologize for the timing of this post considering some of the games have already been played.
Well, it's pretty easy to say that Bennett didn't have the best night on Tuesday against the Czechs. For a player who possesses such amazing offensive talent, it's pretty unusual that he would be held off the score sheet and not make too much of an impact during the game. And when Sam was asked about his performance, he wasn't shy about telling reporters what he thought:
"I don’t think I played my best. It was my first game in a while. I had some chances, but I’d say I was a little rusty. I’m really looking to improve my performance next game. A lot is playing away from the puck and competing hard, it’s making sure you’re not focused on the puck the whole time, knowing your responsibilities away from the puck. I’m going to take those (tips) and try to add them to my game"
-Sam Bennett on his performance against the Czechs
On the bright side, he was really dominant when it came to faceoffs... yay?
You can watch Bennett play his second game and hopefully bounce back against the Russians at 7:00 p.m. EST. Link for the game can be found here. (courtesy of Hockey Canada)
Unlike Bennett, Klimchuk came into the camp without a high profile, but boy was he killing it last night. Almost every shift he was on the ice he was moving the puck, getting scoring chances, and despite only having one assist he was easily one the best players for Canada against the Russians.
He started off the game on the third line with Perlini and Fabbri I believe, but after the second period he was awarded chances to play with other guys. It paid off as he set up Horvat and that so far is his only point. Hopefully he can keep this up and surprise everyone by making the team and play on the second or third line.
Rushan Rafikov played both games for Russia, against Canada and the Czech Republic and he has one assist as well. For those who don't know much about him, he's a defenseman with a good two-way game and like Bennett, he is getting sheltered minutes, being on the second and third pair for Russia.
He could be an asset to Russia, despite not being an elite prospect, he can defend and read plays very well. Rafikov didn't make the team last year and chances are slim this year as well because he does not have experience playing against North American players.
No that's not a typo, Miikka Kiprusoff is participating in the World Juniors! Well, he won't be playing but he will be Team Finland's goaltending coach for the upcoming tournament. He will be working with Juuse Saros (NSH) who was phenomenal in last year's tournament and Kevin Lankinen who is draft eligible in 2015.
Miikka Kiprusoff's interview with NHL.com:
"It's been fun, head coach [Hannu Jortika] called me a couple months ago and he asked if I was interested to take a job and I was in right away. It was pretty cool to see these young, talented goalies and help them out a little bit. They're some of the top talents in this age group in Finland, it's pretty easy to work with them. They do most of the work they do with their own teams and their own goalie coaches; my job here is to make sure they're feeling good and ready to go. It's a little different, but fun."
-Miikka Kiprusoff on being Finland's goaltending coach
They also asked him if he would follow Patrick Roy and try to get a job as a head coach in the NHL and this is what he said:
"I think I'm more goalie coach type of guy, but it's a good way to start feeling it. It's not full time, but I work the tournaments and I'm going to go watch guys in Finland and I have to keep tabs with their goalie coaches and do everything I can to help them be better goalies."
Pretty cool to see how Kipper's doing after his retirement huh?
Be sure to come back to Matchsticks and Gasoline for more on this evaluation camp. Feel free to leave a comment!