On behalf of everyone here at Blueshirt Banter, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! To those who celebrated Hanukkah, we hope you enjoyed the time with your family and friends. If you happen to be celebrating Kwanzaa tomorrow, best wishes to you and your family.
The 2019 World Junior Championships get underway on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. with the Czech Republic taking on Sweden, and will end with the Gold-medal game on Saturday January 5. The just over a week tournament features the best of the best of all players who are under the age of 20.
The Rangers have four prospects participating in the tournament this year, and that is the most prospects New York has had in a single tournament since 2010.
The four players include 2018 No. 9 overall pick Vitali Kravtsov representing Russia, 2018 No. 22 overall pick K’Andre Miller representing the United States, 2018 No. 28 overall pick Nils Lundqvist representing Sweden, and 2018 No. 101 overall pick Nico Gross representing Switzerland.
Vitali Kravtsov, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Year to Date: 6-11-17 in 33 GP
Kravtsov has had an impressive year to date in the KHL, and you can read more about that here.
He is the prospect the Rangers will likely be most interested in this tournament, as he is the closest to being ready for the NHL. If all goes to plan, Kravtsov could join the Hartford Wolf Pack at the end of his KHL season, and it would give him an opportunity to do on North American ice. Kravtsov has recently seen some time playing at center, and will be interesting to see how he’s utilized in the WJC tournament.
K’Andre Miller, University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
Year to Date: 4-13-17 in 18 GP
Miller is having a phenomenal rookie season, and currently sits 10th in total scoring among defensemen, three points behind No. 7 overall pick Quinn Hughes.
Not sure if this is out there already, but here is K'Andre Miller's goal from last night. pic.twitter.com/oULGHUkH7d— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) December 9, 2018
Miller is also leads all U-19 players in scoring, with Oliver Wahlstrom 15th on the list with just four goals and an assist in 14 games played.
These results are very promising for a player that is still very new to the position, and the Rangers seem to have found amazing value at pick No. 22 overall. This tournament will give Miller an opportunity to make even more of a name for himself, and thus far he’s shown that his capable of holding his own.
Nils Lundkvist, Luleå HF (SHL)
Year to Date: 1-5-6 in 24 GP
Nils Lundkvist was the Rangers’ third first rounder in 2018, and he quietly is having a decent season as an 18-year-old in the SHL. Last season he tallied five points in 28 games, and is up to six (1 goal and 5 assists) in 24 games played.
Both Adam, Alex and Tobias spoke about him at length here, and he was originally ranked No. 22 in the Blueshirt Banter draft rankings.
The consensus was the the Rangers got a steal of a pick in Lundkvist, and not much has changed. His skill set is something that will benefit the Rangers once he decides to make the jump to North America, and there reason to be just as excited about him as Miller.
Nico Gross, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Year to Date: 3-9-12 in 30 GP
The pick of Gross remains a curious one, as there wasn’t anything of note that stood out about him. At the time of his selection the reaction was simply, yikes.
This season his offensive numbers are low with 12 points in 30 games, and it could be that he’s still adjusting.
Here’s what Adam said about Gross when he ranked him No. 38 among Blueshirt prospects this summer.
If there’s reason for optimism with Gross, it’s that he is a Swiss defenseman who was playing in his first OHL season. The transition from the second Swiss division the OHL isn’t an easy one; both in terms of the level of play and adjustment to a smaller ice surface as well as the culture shock that must come with moving to a different continent as a 17-year-old. He also played pretty well at the U18 World Championship.
Still, the outlook for Gross is as a potential third-pairing defenseman, and with not particularly great odds. Those are the kinds of players a team should be looking to sign as free agents; the Rangers did well with John GIlmour, as an example. There is simply too much value left on the board early in the fourth round to justify selecting a player like Gross, though that is what the Rangers did.
Here is the full schedule of games via NHL.com
Wednesday, Dec. 26
Czech Republic vs. Switzerland (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
United States vs. Slovakia (6:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Canada vs. Denmark (8 p.m. ET; TSN, NHLN [joined in progress])
Finland vs. Sweden (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Thursday, Dec. 27
Russia vs. Denmark (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Slovakia vs. Sweden (6:30 p.m. ET; TSN [Dec. 28, 8 a.m. ET; NHLN])
Switzerland vs. Canada (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Finland vs. Kazakhstan (10:30 p.m. ET, NHLN, TSN)
Friday, Dec. 28
Czech Republic vs. Russia (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Kazakhstan vs. United States (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Saturday, Dec. 29
Denmark vs. Switzerland (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Slovakia vs. Finland (6:30 p.m. ET [Dec. 30, 2 p.m. ET; NHLN])
Canada vs. Czech Republic (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Sweden vs. United States (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Sunday, Dec. 30
Switzerland vs. Russia (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Kazakhstan vs. Slovakia (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Monday, Dec. 31
Denmark vs. Czech Republic (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Sweden vs. Kazakhstan (6:30 p.m. ET [Jan. 1, 6 a.m. ET; NHLN])
Russia vs. Canada (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
United States vs. Finland (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Wednesday, Jan. 2
Relegation Game 1 (2 p.m. ET)
Quarterfinal 1 (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Quarterfinal 2 (6:30 p.m. ET, TSN)
Quarterfinal 3 (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Quarterfinal 4 (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Friday, Jan. 4
Relegation Game 2 (12 p.m. ET)
Semifinal 1 (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Semifinal 2 (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Saturday, Jan. 5
Relegation Game 3, if needed (12 p.m. ET)
Bronze-medal game (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Gold-medal game (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)