The World Junior Summer Showcase is a tournament that took place from July 28th through August 5th, giving countries a chance to evaluate a number of players in preparation for the U20 World Junior Championship that begins in December. The Rangers had three prospects participate in the tournament: Sean Day and Tim Gettinger with the USA, and Lias Andersson with Sweden.
Now two weeks later, this would technically qualify as old news. However, it’s the middle of NHL’s dead period. I’ve spent the last few weeks meticulously watching most of the tournament, taking notes, and capturing highlights. With little else going on, now is a great time to finally discuss what I saw.
Lias Andersson had the kind of tournament one would have expected from him. In every game, he played top-six minutes for Sweden, also featuring heavily on special teams and taking defensive-zone draws. True to form, he wasn’t a dominant player but made a positive impact in every game. In particular, he displayed nice chemistry with Canucks’ fifth-overall pick Elias Pettersson. He has a knack for finding himself in the right spots at the right times everywhere on the ice. Something I did notice is his shot selection. He doesn’t shoot junk and instead prefers to engage in a cycle below the net.
One notable weakness in his game that I think he can improve on is carrying the puck through the neutral zone. He did have some nice zone entries, but too often he would skate himself into a proverbial corner, would be closed down by a defender, and the play would be over before it began.
Here is some video I collected on Andersson’s tournament. He is wearing #24 for Sweden.
Tim Gettinger had the most notable tournament, relative to expectations. He was a fringe candidate for the December squad in USA’s eyes going into the tournament and he mostly received 4th-line minutes during split-squad games. However, he made the most of that playing time and showed off the strengths of his game. He played top PK minutes and did well, taking away passing lanes, blocking shots, and killing time with the transition. Offensively, he did a phenomenal job forechecking; better than I have seen him do even in the OHL. He created plenty of sustained zone time for the USA by forechecking and using his size to win puck battles. He scored a couple of goals as well.
When the USA combined their two squads and trimmed the roster, Gettinger survived the cuts. I would guess he’s still on the outside looking in for the World Junior Championship in December, but he definitely improved his odds. A big few months in the OHL could push him onto the roster. Here is the video I have for him, wearing 12 for the USA.
Finally, Sean Day had the most to prove in this camp, and he performed just okay. He looked better this summer than he did last. Though not with the same frequency as in the OHL, he showed confidence carrying the puck through the neutral zone and cut down on his big errors with the puck. He activated frequently and often became the third man into the offensive zone, generating a few scoring chances that weren’t finished off, unfortunately.
I’m not sure Day did enough to push himself into frontrunner position for a WJC spot. The USA had a glut of left-handed defensemen in the tournament and Day was forced to his off-side, which definitely handicapped him. Furthermore, the USA gave a bigger opportunity to other defensemen who didn’t impress, in my opinion. Like Gettinger, Day survived initial cuts and will be in the running for a roster spot, but will need a productive autumn to boost his standing.
Here is the video I collected of Day, who wore 28 for the USA.
This tournament was also a good first look at some players eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft. In my opinion, Quinton (Quinn) Hughes, a defenseman for the USA, was the best player in the entire tournament. You might have to go back to the Oliver Ekman-Larsson in 2008 to find the last pre-draft defenseman who could carry the puck like Hughes can. He has incredible vision, great agility, elite stickhandling ability, and disguises his intended next move unbelievably well. He lacks size, but he completely neutralized the opposition forecheck by winning puck races and eluding forecheckers with ease. It was incredible watching how quickly he could get the puck from behind his own goal line and turn it into a zone entry for the USA. Here is all video I collected of Hughes, wearing #2, carrying the puck. Incredibly, all of these clips are from only three games.
Finally, Casey Mittlestadt, drafted eighth overall by the Sabres last June, had a strong showing. He impressed with his ability to explode through the neutral zone, dangle with the puck, and create scoring chances. Here is the video I collected of him, wearing 16 for the USA.
Mittlestadt has his share of weak spots, and at this point Andersson is miles ahead of him in terms of NHL-readiness. However, the Rangers lack a forward in the system with the realistic potential of developing into a game-changing offensive player. The Rangers could have taken a number of players seventh overall, but Mittlestadt might be the one who will carry the most contextual weight over the next five years as we evaluate whether the Rangers made the right call in drafting Andersson.