This was an interesting week for junior hockey, as there were a few teams playing without some of their top players with the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. You could consider this a time for some of the "secondary" players on their teams to step up while the stars are out, which it is for some teams like the Niagara Ice Dogs who were missing at least three of their best players this week. Another team missing two of their key players was the Edmonton Oil Kings, who had to spend the last few weeks without defensemen Griffin Reinhart and David Musil due to the WJC. This presented an opportunity for Carolina prospect Keegan Lowe to step up a little bit. Being the captain of the squad, Lowe is already playing a major role on the Oil Kings, but no Reinhart or Musil gave him a chance to play more minutes than usual and he certainly rose to the occasion with two goals in three games, giving him eight total on the season.
A couple of the Hurricanes' prospects also had to spent time away from their junior clubs to particpate in the WJC this past month as Victor Rask and Ryan Murphy both made significant impacts for their home country's teams in both positive and negative fashion. After the jump, we'll take a closer look at what went down in Ufa and across the CHL for Carolina's prospects.
Ryan Murphy - Team Canada: 6 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts, 2 PIM, 19 SOG
Murphy was initially going to be used as a 7D and powerplay quarterback for Team Canada in this tournament but injuries and suspensions put him into a bigger role. Murphy looked a bit over his head in this role and was frequently exposed during even strength play. He didn't make too many baffling turnovers from my viewpoint, but his play and awareness in the defensive zone was something that concerned me a lot. Murphy made a few pretty bad reads against opposing forwards and he was also frequently overpowered by bigger players and ineffective physically. He also had a couple of issues with handling the puck, which is supposed to be one of his strengths. Murphy is still just a kid and I believe that he is going to get better, but watching him play in this tournament made me feel like he has a bit of a ways to go before being ready for the NHL. Some say that a change of scenery would help him, but it might be tough for him to be anything more than a bottom-pairing defenseman in the NHL right now and the Canes have enough of those right now. Spending more time in Kitchener is probably best for him right now but he did receive an invite to training camp so he'll have another chance with the Hurricanes in another week. Let's see what happens.
Brock McGinn - Guelph Storm: 4 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 Pts
Another solid week for McGinn, who recorded a pair of assists this week. One of which was the primary helper in Patrick Walling's game-winning goal against the Oshawa Generals. Unfortunately, that was Guelph's only win of the week as they dropped both games of a home-and-home against Plymouth and another game against Saginaw the next night. Guelph, Owen Sound and Kitchener have all but faded out of competition for the top spot in the Midwest Division now with the London Knights having an 18 point lead now. The playoffs are still not out of the question, though.
Trevor Carrick - Mississauga Steelheads: 3 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 Pts
Two assists on the week for Carrick and he didn't do anything too notable aside from that in the three games judging from the highlights. Although, I thought it was interesting that he wasn't on ice for any goals against in Mississauga's 5-4 loss to the Sudbury Wolves where they fell behind 4-0 early. Carrick's scoring line is now up to 24 points in 35 games, not too shabby.
Keegan Lowe - Edmonton Oil Kings: 3 GP, 2 G, 0 A, 2 Pts, 4 PIM
Lowe stepped up offensively this past week with a pair of goals, both of which came off big slapshots from long-range. That's typically how Lowe gets most of his goals and points, but I've seen the Oil Kings use him differently this year where they allow him to pinch down low on the powerplay and have him work around the front of the net. Not sure if that was the case this week but I'm happy with the two goals regardless.
Tyler Stahl - Victoria Royals: 3 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 Pts, 11 PIM
Eventful week for Stahl who put two assists on the board and had yet another fighting major along with three minor penalties. I think the good outweighed the bad, though as Stahl at least managed to get on the scoresheet and he also had a huge hit on Victoria's overtime loss to Tri-City on Thursday. He also had a big slapshot tipped into the net to get one of his assists, so it's good to see him directly involved with Victoria's offense. Victoria has also earned points in eight of their last 10 games but they are still in the bottom half of the Western Conference, unfortunately.
Austin Levi - Plymouth Whalers: 4 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 Pts, 6 PIM
Not much to point out here aside from the three minor penalties. Plymouth has won four in a row, at least.
Victor Rask - Team Sweden: 6 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 Pts, 4 PIM, 16 SOG
Team Sweden made it all the way to the final round but ended up taking a 3-1 loss to Team USA. I'm sure they are upset with not winning back-to-back gold medals but they should be happy with how they performed in the tournament, especially considering the number of injuries they sustained. As for Rask, his showing didn't quite match those of Sebastian Collberg or Filip Forsberg but four points in six games isn't anything to sneeze at. He was used as a 3rd line center for most of the tournament and he managed to play this role very effectively. From what I saw out of him, Rask sees the ice very well and his skaing looked a lot better than it did before. His passing skills were also very evident in this tournament.
Daniel Altshuller - Oshawa Generals: 3 GP, 8 GA on 68 Shots, .882 Sv%
Altshuller had two solid performances bookended by an ugly outing against Kingston where he gave up five goals on 22 shots. Oshawa also lost two of their three games this week but I'd be hard pressed to put the first lost on Altshuller, seeing how the Generals offense could only muster up one goal for him in support. Getting Booner Jenner back from the WJC will help them a bit. I'd expect Altshuller to be back in net for the next Generals game.
Matt Mahalak - Plymouth Whalers: 0 GP
Mahalak's last few rough outings and the good play from Alex Nedeljkovic has led to him riding the pine these last week. Hope he can get another look soon but with Plymouth winning four in a row, they may just ride the hot hand until Nedeljkovic has a bad outing.
Levi's been playing great.. He's shutting down just about everyone who comes at him. I can't remember the last time a team scored because of a mistake or misread by him. He's not putting up offensive numbers, but he's never been used in that role and he's doing all the right things. With Mitchell Heard reassigned from Colorado via Lake Erie, the Whalers had to drop one overager this week. It was not Levi....he's needed for the playoff run.