Hockey Prospects of Local Teams Make Mark on WJCs

With its exciting 5-4 shootout win in Montreal last night, the United States has won the gold medal. It was Anaheim Duck’s prospect, Troy Terry, who won it for the Americans after eighty minutes of very exciting play had resulted in a 4-4 tie.

In our preview of this premiere junior tournament, we gave you a run down of the nine New York/New Jersey team prospects who were participating. Now that the tournament is over, we can review their performances and give you an estimated timetable of when we may see them in local arenas.

Joey Anderson (USA), RW, University of Minnesota–Duluth (NCAA)

Drafted: 2016, 3rd round, # 73, New Jersey Devils; Age: 18

At 18, Anderson was one of the younger players on the United States team. After a spectacularly offensively productive U18 WJCs last season, Anderson was not a big producer in the 2017 U20 event (0 g, 2 a). But he was very good on the ice in combination with first line teammates Colin White and Clayton Keller. Currently a freshman at UMD, where he is posting big offensive numbers, Anderson is on a Bulldog team now ranked the best in college hockey. Anderson is expected to spend at least one more year in college, and then may need a year or two in the minors to become NHL-ready. Estimated NHL arrival: Fall 2020.


Mathew Barzal (Canada), C, Seattle (WHL)

Drafted: 2015, 1st round, #16, New York Islanders; Age: 19

With eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) in seven tournament games, the alternate captain of the Canadian team had an excellent tournament. Playing on the second line, Barzal did what he always does well, ie, makes plays happen. He played in all situations (in the gold medal game, Barzal played the most minutes of all Canadian players), even adding a short handed goal in an earlier game to his career WJC statistics. Barzal started the season with the Islanders and there were questions whether or not to return him to junior hockey. Eventually, he was sent back to Seattle to get him playing time, but expect Barzal to be an Islanders regular next season. Estimated NHL arrival: Fall 2017.


Kieffer Bellows (United States), LW, Boston University (NCAA)

Drafted: 2016, 1st round, #19, New York Islanders; Age: 18

A big game player, Bellows only posted three points in this tournament (2 goals, 1 assist), but two of them were goals in the gold medal game last night. Yes, it is true that one of them just bounced off him, but Bellows is a man usually in the right place, at the right time. Last night was no different. At Boston University, Bellows (a true freshman) has had a slow start, but expect his production to increase as the Terriers move into the NCAA Championships. Expected to spend at least one more year in college, Bellows may be a roster player in Brooklyn by the following fall. Estimated NHL arrival: Fall 2018.


Adam Huska (Slovakia), G, University of Connecticut (NCAA)

Drafted: 2015, 7th round, #184, New York Rangers, Age: 19

Slovakia was defeated by Sweden in the quarterfinal round of this year’s U20 WJCs. It was Huska’s third game between the pipes for his country and his second defeat. Not that he did not play well; Huska faced 50 shots in that quarterfinal and the defense in front of him could not stop the likes of Alexander Nylander and Rasmus Asplund. Huska’s team just did not have enough talent to compete with the bigger name countries throughout the tournament, with the team’s only win coming against Latvia–the team that eventually got relegated from next year’s tournament. Huska returns to UCONN, where tomorrow the Huskies will play against Yale at the Hartford Civic Center.  Expect Huska, a freshman, to complete all four years at UCONN and then move on to the AHL. That should put him in the mix for either a backup or number one position in New York. Estimated NHL arrival: Fall 2021.


Otto Koivula (Finland), LW, Ilves (Liiga)

Drafted: 2016, 4th round, #120, New York Islanders, Age: 18

To say that Finland had a horrible tournament would be putting it mildly. The team avoided relegation only by a 4-1 victory over Latvia on Tuesday. Koivula played in all six games, and posted no points. He mostly played on the second line and was, like most of the Finns, disappointing. Koivula has a contract with Ilves until the end of the 2017-18 season and is not expected to come to North America until it has expired. He will likely need at least one year of adjustment to the smaller rink. Estimated NHL arrival: Fall 2019.


Michael McLeod (Canada), C, Mississauga (OHL)

Drafted: 2016, 1st round, # 12, New Jersey Devils, Age: 18

Needless to say, for most of the WJCs, McLeod was invisible (2 goals, 1 assist). The 13th forward on the team to start the tournament, McLeod got a chance when Mitchell Stephens was out due to an injury. But, McLeod played on the fourth line in the medal round games and got almost no ice time. He returns to Mississauga, where he plays on the Steelhead’s top line. McLeod has one more year of junior hockey ahead of him before turning pro in the Fall of 2018. At that point, he will likely get a look in New Jersey, but is expected to need a year of AHL seasoning. Estimated NHL arrival: Fall 2019.


Yegor Rykov (Russia), D, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

Drafted: 2016, 5th round, # 132, New Jersey Devils, Age: 19

An alternate captain on the bronze medal Russian team, Rykov was a second year U20 player. Of all the prospects that are reviewed here, Rykov had the best tournament. Playing on Russia’s defensive first pair, Rykov recorded one goal and six assists during the tournament. He also had a +7 plus/minus rating. Only Thomas Chabot, the MVP of the tournament, had better numbers among defensemen. But, it was not just his numbers that set Rykov apart. He was very good positionally and could move the puck with ease. Unfortunately, however, Rykov is under contract for at least two more (and maybe three ) years in Russia. It might be why he fell to the fifth round in the NHL draft last summer (and why he was not taken in his first year of eligibility). Estimate NHL arrival: Fall 2019. 


Blake Speers (Canada), LW, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Drafted: 2015, 3rd round, # 67, New Jersey Devils, Age: 20

Speers played on Canada’s first line in this tournament, as a winger who tried to make things happen. Speers was not always successful, and in our estimation had a very mediocre tournament. It is hard to put that in perspective though, as he is just returning form injury and has not had much playing time this season. The Devils will be watching closely as he returns to the Soo. Speers was signed to an ELC this fall, that is not in question. What is in question is whether or not Speers will be ready to make the jump to the pros next season (which would be the natural progression). Assuming he is, expect Speers to play one year in the AHL prior to becoming a roster player in New Jersey. Estimated NHL arrival: Fall 2018.


Sergei Zborovsky (Russia), D, Regina (WHL)

Drafted: 2015, 3rd round, # 79, New York Rangers, Age: 19

 Playing on the defensive third pairing in this tournament, Zborovsky served in a completely stay- at-home role in the 2017 WJCs. He did post one assist in the tournament, but his primary function was to maintain good positioning and make sure opponents did not get by him. Zborovsky did a good job of this, and New York is looking for more of this as he adjusts to the pros. Thus far in what will be his final year of junior hockey, Zborovsky has put up impressive offensive numbers too (32 points in 28 games), but look for the big, blueliner to be a right side stay at home guy when he arrives in New York. Expect Zborovsky to join the pro ranks next fall and spend one to two years honing his game. Estimated NHL arrival: Fall 2019.

About the Author

Leslie Treff

Leslie Treff is a contributor for NY Sports Day, covering NY NHL teams. She has been covering the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils for more than 15 seasons. Leslie is a recognized expert in hockey prospects and has served as a scout for several independent agencies. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, in her former life, Leslie was an attorney in the judiciary in New York City.

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