The World Junior Championships have wrapped up the prelims and we look forward to the elimation round beginning tomorrow morning Edmonton time. For the 5 Edmonton Oiler prospects this WJ has been a mostly positive experience and a week of fun for the Nuge.


  • #1 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 4, 3-8-11 +6 2pims 13 shots
  • #13 (tie) Nail Yakupov 4, 1-3-4 +1 0pims 8shots
  • Tobias Rieder 4, 2-0-2 -7 2ppg 0pims 17 shots
  • Daniil Zharkov 4, 1-0-1 2pims 5 shots
  • David Musil 4, 0-0-0 +1 8pims 4 shots

Nugent-Hopkins has been splendid–beyond splendid–for the Canadians, leading the tournament in points (2nd place–7 points) and playing a vital role on a team that has scored 21 goals in 4 games. The Nuge has come up big in the close games, boasting one of 2 goals against the Americans and 3 assists among the 4 goals scored on the Russians.

Much has been made of Nail Yakupov’s struggles, but he did get an assist in the game against the USA and had a few moments against the Canadians. I think there’s a lot of try–too much try–but its clear he’s an elite talent and the tournament of small sample sizes should not change your opinion about this player. Of some concern is the system he’s playing under–he’s cheating for offense always and the coach hasn’t altered the decision–but Yakupov has done some nice things while without the puck as well. I think its best to remember his age and acknowledge there’s some ways to go in terms of structure.

Tobias Rieder has become a favorite of Oiler fans at the WJ’s because he’s skilled and a hard worker. Although still suffering some of the effects of a recent injury, Rieder has been a strong player for the German team. It’ll be interesting to see where the club slots Rieder when he turns pro–he might be the best in-house candidate for that 2-way forward we’re always talking about these days.

Daniil Zharkov has impressed me with how often he’s in the play and doing something useful. He doesn’t appear to have the hands we’d hoped for, but there are all kinds of tools and he’s miles from being the sum of his parts.

David Musil has been playing in the other pool, I asked Corey Pronman about him this week and he suggested Musil has been less impressive on the big ice this Christmas than he was in Canada one year ago. Foot speed remains the issue with this player.




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  1. sliderule says:

    Nuge :I lost count on the number of saucer passes he completed ..Sublime

    Yak:not as impressive as I thought he would be.The whole Russian team doesn’t seem to pass the puck.It’s like if you give it up they know they won’t get it back.I think that has affected his play.

    Zharcov:played better than expected but if he can make soviets and play with Yak it show how weak they are.

    Rieder:I thought he played great.Showed good work behind the net outworking defenders and making some nice plays to front of net.None converted but that’s not on him.Plays and looks bigger than I thought.Definitely a prospect to watch in AHL next year

  2. Lucinius says:

    Zharkov played on Yakupov’s line primarily because the normal winger got injured (puck to the face). Oddly enough, Yakupov’s line got better with Zharkov on it; he and Yakupov actually found chemistry and were willing to pass the puck back and forth.

    Then the Russian coach took Zharkov off the line and neither line produced much outside of the few times Yakupov was dangerous.

    The entire Russian system is suspect. I don’t mind the cheating for offense aspect, honestly, as it hasn’t actually cost the Russians anything. What bothers me is the system play within the neutral zone and the coach seems unable, or unwilling to alter it.

    The powerplay is another odd thing. Canada figured out that all you have to do is put pressure on Yakupov, the one defenseman and it utterly neutralizes the entire thing because no other Russian creates space for himself. This actually allows teams to put one to two players in a set where one pressures Yakupov, one pressures the key D waiting for the one-timer, and a third who can float between the two. What do the other three Russians do? Nothing. They wait in their assigned areas and do no help in any puck battles or move to assist the pressured puck holder.

    Throw in the fact that the coach has to be speaking Chinese or something similarly foreign as no Russian player seems to be able to understand wtf he wants even after time-outs.

    The Russian team, and this was evident during the series earlier this year, is in dire need of new coaching and a system over-haul.

  3. Lucinius says:

    IN short; basically until they put Zharkov on Yakupov’s line the line was filled with three players who generate offense by carrying the puck into the zone. The center and Yakupov even enter the zone in the same area, which led to a number of crossed signals.

    Its just a train wreck.

    Only bright spot for the Russians, really, has been the goaltending.

  4. Thinker says:

    How bout yak’s hit at the beginning of the second yesterday. Monstrous. This is why size concerns about him are irrelevant. He was able to fire off some good shots despite canada keying in on him on the powerplay, and playing stingy all night.

  5. Marc says:

    Yakupov at this stage doesn’t seem to know how to use the space the attention on him creates for his teammates (or his Russian teammates don’t know how to use that space to get open, or both), so defences are keying in on him and shutting him down.

    This shouldn’t be a problem when he joins the Oilers though. He’ll either be on a line with Gagner and Hemsky, or Eberle and RNH and defences will not be able to focus on him in the same way. I think he’s going to put up a ton of points his rookie year.

  6. Tagger2013 says:

    What about Biggs? Is he on the US team?

  7. jonrmcleod says:


    Tyler Biggs, the Leafs’ prospect? Yes, he’s on the USA team.

  8. Tagger2013 says:


    Ok was thinking of the Defenseman Bigos

  9. jonrmcleod says:


    He’s too old to play in the tournament.

  10. Radman says:

    Big time CBA silver lining giving RNH the opportunity to captain the WJ team. Has shown poise in that role to go with the points and slick passes. Can’t imagine how this isn’t a big stepping stone for him, win or lose.

    I’m not worried about Yaks . Jaw dropping skill set. Russian squad seems more like a group of skilled players than a cohesive team. As others have said, as the de facto leader he is guilty of trying to do too much himself. Extra pressure playing in Russia. A bit too quotable perhaps.

    Too bad we don’t have Klefbom to follow. Any recent updates on how he is recovering?

  11. murphy says:

    Long time reader- first time poster… One of those silly new years resolutions!

    I have the same thoughts as most on yak but one thing i haven’t seen mentioned to this point is his effective pk work. He seems to have some skill at this and has sometimes looked more dangerous on the pk than at evens. Seems to me this is a nice additional skill to have since at this point our other skilled F’s don’t Pk (which i’m not sure i agree with either).

  12. Lowetide says:

    Murphy: Excellent point. I noticed Zharkov do a few nice things on the PK too, aggressive stuff the old timey Oilers used to do.Point well taken, and thanks for making it.

  13. murphy says:

    Thanks. It’s a small sample size but Zharkov looks like a potential match to be paired with yak a bit down the line. He’s going to need more time and he doesn’t bring as much offense as you’d like but sooner or later the caps going to come into play for this team and a winger or two is going to have to go. We will be looking within for cheap top 9 wingers and he may fit the bill (size, can take a pass, may develop chemistry with yak, etc).

    I have to say it’s great to finally post here, i’ve been hanging around for so many years I can’t even remember enjoying the posts and all the comments!

  14. Rocknrolla says:


    Welcome Murphy!

    I like the idea of Yak on the PK too…ala Kovalchuck. One thing we really used to be great at and prose ourselves on back in the glory days and even the Marchant/Buchberger days was a hardworking PK and the dangerous couple forwards who could score a shorty and change the complexion of a game. Would be great to add that to our arsenal.

    About Zharkov, would be great if he works out. Big body and a bit of a Russian connection…wishful thinking though as its still too early on him IMO.

  15. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    I sadly missed all the Musil games… were they even broadcast on TSN? I would have liked another look… and though the foot-speed is an issue… at least in the AHL and maybe (hope) NHL the rink will be smaller…

    Yak… has been self-inspired and that rarely, even with sublime talent, goes very far in a team sport. Russia has looked like Brazil vs. France in the 1998 world cup… one strong team/system vs. a bunch of TOO talented and completely aimless individuals.

    So, while I’m completely ready to blame Yak for his own downfall… to quote Walter Mathau in “Grumpy Old Men”: “It’s criminal the way they coach that team!”


    good point on the PK. I noticed that too and was left wondering… how many different lines are working this PK, or the PP for that matter… is he running his usual rotation?

    At times I wasn’t sure if they were cheating for offence on the PK, not paying attn. to the general wisdom of specialty teams, or what…

    long story short… I don’t have a problem with Yak (or anyone else say) playing on the PK… but I remain skeptical that he was playing on the PK because of some reason other than the whim of the coach. It is simply hard to give an account of the rationale they are using, even if you or I might be able to offer one of our own.

    BTW, Russia has the 7th best PP and 6th best PK in the tourney… so they aren’t exactly killing it:



    I think you are thinking of Yarullin… the D on the Russian point.

    What about Biggs? Is he on the US team?

    not that it matters much to the oil… but he seemed to play (in the US games I saw… all of them I think) as advertised and as Burke wanted him… like a coke machine…

  16. Lowetide says:

    I remember one year in the 80s the Oilers had something like 40 SH goals. Crazy days. Miss them. PLus youth, miss youth. 🙂

  17. murphy says:

    Yeah Zharkov is obviously going to take some time but that’s good, we need some decent prospects bubbling under especially wingers so when we need to ditch a couple for cap space someone can walk right in. The luxury of having all of hall, eberle, yak and hemsky on the wing won’t last forever.

    With paajarvi, zharkov, rieder, and kharia hopefully we get 2-3 quality 2 way wingers for the 3rd and 4th lines.

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