Your Jets Guide to the World Juniors Championship

The U-20 World Juniors Championship start today and the Jets have four players to watch. Matt Eichel wrote about them already here. Inside this article, we’ll review some of the scouting reports written on this blog and elsewhere about those four and what to watch for. 

Nic Petan, C, CAN

This young man stole my (hockey) heart back in September. His 120 points in his draft year are more than former 1st overall Ryan Nugent Hopkins, and I made an argument some time ago that his NHL equivalent season would go 17-27-44. His 1.7 point per game pace in his draft year has only improved to a rate of 2.1 this year. 

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After the Young Stars Tournament, I wrote:

His first game against San Jose was the best single-game performance of the tournament among skaters, but he was a force throughout. Controlled play in both ends, with and without the puck. Outrageously quick hands, elite anticipation for this level, and a scorer’s instinct. Backs off defenders with his skating and puck control. Distributes expertly from the middle lane to break traps. His two-way play was impeccable and his puck-support exceptional. A coach’s dream at an extremely young age.

What to Watch

Nic Petan doesn’t do the Jonathan Drouin dangling (though he has terrific hands and is creative with the puck), and while I expect to see some slick passes, he’s not a high risk, high reward player that’s going to create a Tournament highlight reel. 

The thing to watch about Petan’s game is how he controls the flow of play and supports the puck. Watch for opposing teams to struggle to gain the offensive zone with control while he’s on, and for Petan to move the puck with purpose and then support it again. It’s very hard to see on TV, but his anticipation is elite for this level. Take a few shifts and stay fixated on Petan to see him make decisions about plays that he hasn’t yet created. Terrific hockey brain.

Josh Morrissey, D, CAN

He’s over a point per game in Prince Albert, and the Raiders aren’t a very good team. His training camp gave us a long look at a player that was much closer to NHL capable than we expected for what many considered a reach pick at 13th overall. He plays the game with simplicity, even though his physical skills are extraordinary for his level.

My first viewing of him came on day two of the Young Stars Tournament, in the Jets 5-3 win over the Sharks. I had this to say:

#36 Josh Morrissey: The adjective ‘smooth’ doesn’t begin to describe Morrissey’s complete control on skates. Faking a pass to a hollaring Trouba, Morrissey spun around a defender in the first to deliver a butter-soft pass to the low-slot. But more than simply finesse, Morrissey used leverage and positioning to close out lanes physically and separate his man from the puck. On a bouncing puck in the first, he used his body to knock it down but then immediately took the body on the San Jose forward who challenged him rather than trying the win the puck with his stick. His lead passes were excellent, he walked the line with confidence and control, and he distributed well on the powerplay. His size was hardly a problem as he used his skating to avoid contact and move the puck before getting trapped in a melee. A very impressive game in every respect.

What to Watch

Having seen some of his game already, Jets fans are familiar with his skating and calm puck control. 

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What we should be watching for in this tournament is his progress is controlling play with his foot work and positioning. We know he can control the play going from his own goal line to the blue line, and the question is whether he can control the play coming the other way – from blue line to goal line. That starts with his gapping out of the offensive zone, where the ice water in his veins is a real asset. 

When you watch a few shifts with your eyes focused on Morrissey, enjoy how he control the play with the puck, and watch to see how well he manages it without.

Jan Kostalek, D, CZE

One of my personal favourites among Jets prospects, Kostalek has already tied his scoring from last season. He reminds me of Niklas Kronwall at a young age. He can play a defensively minded game, or an offensively oriented one and seems to adapt to his partner and expectations. He can be high-risk at times, but just as often to throw an open ice check as to make a play on the puck. He’s been described as a ‘bunker-buster’ with his hitting. He doesn’t have the size (6’0) or strength yet to wrestle with adults, but his excellent skating lets him blow them up when they’re vulnerable.

Maybe the most complete description I wrote of him came in my second viewing at the Young Stars.

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#53 Jan Kostalek: Fewer risks taken by Kostalek while playing with Kichton. Adjusted his game well to a more roaming partner. Threw some good hits, but was mostly out-muscled in that area of the game by the Oiler hit squad. Maintained the best gaps on the team consistently. Puck movement strong again this game. Great awareness in the offensive zone – at one point making a fake shot / slap pass to Kosmachuk in the slot for a tip on. It’s a common enough play, but not in a shot tournament without much practice time. Played in all three disciplines. Struggled with Funnel powerplay by Oilers at end – couldn’t move bodies from in front – but did have a big open ice check and blocked shot on one PK shift in the 3rd. The most impressive part of Jan Kostalek is how complete his game is already. The biggest concern is his high-risk, high-reward mentality, especially at the offensive blue line.

What to Watch

There is a mystery to Kostalek’s game. He scored 11 points in 5 games in November, and hasn’t scored in 9 games since. The question is whether he’s in control of that, or it’s a matter of luck and circumstance. 

The further question is just how calculated his risk taking is.

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Ultimately, we can enjoy watching a few aspects of his game – his skating, his open ice hitting, and his general awareness for the game. If you can examine his game closely while watching the Czechs, pay attention to how the coach is using him. His versatility means that he can be a victim of game contexts and how his coach uses him. 

Andrew Copp, C, USA

I haven’t seen Copp play life hockey yet, and taken at 104th, he wasn’t expected to be a difference maker so soon after draft day. Fourteen games in the Michigan season, Copp is the team’s leading scorer with 9 goals and 14 points and is drawing rave reviews as a natural athlete who will go to every area of the ice. He’s also an Assistant Captain and centres the top line of a resurgent Wolverines club. 

In late November, Charlie Beattie wrote a pretty common scouting report about the player:

Already blessed with good size (6’0 and 203 pounds), perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Copp is that he has only recently begun to solely focus on hockey, having split time between quarterbacking an Ann Arbor high school in football while suiting up for the U.S. National Development Program. Passed over in his first draft year, Copp became the rare player to be drafted after playing a full collegiate season. A fourth round pick, Copp is a natural athlete whose game and stock have risen tremendously in 2013.

Right now he’s tracking along the undrafted Andrew Miller, who fell a bit flat in his pro debut for Edmonton. That said, his size better suits a pro game, and his pedigree is better. But the story of this kid is ‘potential’ related to his athleticism. 

What to Watch

I can only find one mention of his mental abilities as a hockey player. It comes from Michigan Associate Coach Billy Powers, saying Copp has vision and puck sense in the same sentence as noting he goes to the dirty areas. The Wolverines are known for playing without much structure, and these short tournaments suit individual efforts. His scouting reports suggest we’re going to be watching Jacob Trouba at forward – a player with good straight ahead speed and strong balance who liked to bully his way around the ice. 

What I’m excited to watch is how Copp thinks the game. I want to see how he supports the puck, if he reads developing plays, and if he can adapt to what defences give him. Typically, the line between power forward and grinder is in that area. We expect him to create space for his linemates by crashing to the net. We expect some big hits in the corners, and probably some power moves with the puck. What I want to know is if he has other tools in his tool box. 

Sum It Up

This is the highest level of U-20 competition, and the Jets are forunate to have 4 players in the tournament. Interestingly, all four players are of different types and we can expect different results from each of them. Enjoy watching, Jets fans, and hit us up on twitter @nhljetsnation to chat about what you see!