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Traverse City Tournament Musings

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Sweden v United States - 2013 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp

Here’s a recap-like post of some of things I’ve noticed from the Traverse City Tournament so far.

  • Jimmy Vesey is having himself a first two games, showing off all the attributes that made him such a commodity in the first place. He’s scored some goals, set up a bunch (I think he has four assists) and has been noticeable all over the ice. These tournaments aren’t always a perfect barometer for success (I remember Anthony Duclair being mostly invisible in his stint here two years ago) but seeing him succeed is a good thing.
  • Pavel Buchnevich has looked really good, although the stats haven’t been there to back it up. Sometimes I think Buchnevich is a step ahead of his own teammates in terms of hockey IQ, and that hurts him. For example: I’ve seen a few instances where Buchnevich is trying to lead the play a bit, but his teammates aren’t where he expected them to be or aren’t set up after he’s protected the puck to create space. That said; a knock on Buchnevich is that he doesn’t use his shot a lot, and when those moments aren’t there he needs to switch gears and try to make the offense happen himself. To clarify, though, this is his first real taste of North American hockey, so a little bump in transition is to be expected.
  • Robin Kovacs might be the Rangers most explosive forward so far. In terms of noticeably, him and Vesey have been neck and neck, but Kovacs is just a ball of offensive opportunities. Kovacs is a goal scorer, plain and simple, but the way he scores is what’s so impressive. When he can’t pick his corners, he uses his speed to knife through the defense and create space. Like a soccer player, Kovacs is really good at making runs. This goal from Game 2 is a perfect example, as Kovacs timed his rush perfect to wait for Sean Day’s pass, and then he broke in for a breakaway.
  • Also, Kovacs is money when he’s in alone. His hands are ridiculous.
  • Speaking of Day: Day was supposed to be a scratch the first game of the tournament, but he ended up playing as a last-second addition. In that first game Day looked like the steal he can be for flashes, but was mostly invisible or a disappointment. In fact, in overtime he was the defenseman who was turned inside out for the game winner. After the game The Post reported that Day had an undisclosed injury that was bugging him and he was supposed to take the day off to recuperate. His Game 2 performance was much better, though, which supports the theory. He’s great at joining the rush, hit Kovacs with that perfect pass (showing off his vision), and is an unreal skater. His ability to join the rush, have things go sour and still be able to get back in time to defense is invaluable. I’m really excited for him. Can’t overtstate that.
  • Malte Stromwall was a surprise signing by Jeff Gorton this summer, and he’s already making the new general manager look like the smartest man in the room. Stromwall played with Kovacs in Sweden (AIK) and is your prototypical sniper. He’s been a stud in both games. If you need an example of his hands see this:
  • Brandon Halverson has been something of a disappointment. Last year was a rough year for him in the OHL, and the hope was that it was just a fluke — especially since he was lights out the year after he was drafted. Thus far he’s been beaten on some easy shots, hasn’t been reading the play that well and has been going down too quickly. He’s made some big saves in the clutch, but overall this has been a tough tournament for him.
  • Boo Nieves isn’t just wearing the “C,” he’s showing that he’s ready to take the next step in his career. Nieves showed real flashes in college, but never put everything together at Michigan. His stint in the AHL after signing his pro deal was fantastic, but looked like it could have been a flash in the pan. His play in this tournament has been an example of why that might not be the case. He’s grown physically, which has helped his game in the tougher areas of the ice, and he’s apparently shown some real leadership in the room. Here’s to him continuing this run.

Thoughts on this?