The next best thing is upon the hockey world – The 2013 U20 World Junior Hockey Championship. We are days away, perhaps from the most competitive hockey we may see this year. It’s a battle of the draft picks. The best players under 20 will square off for gold and perhaps more on Russian soil. Players may not even be thinking of the big leagues yet but General Managers will be watching and they alone can bring dreams into reality.
Thus far, NJ Devils Prospects Stephan Matteau and Blake Pietila have been selected for the U.S. preliminary roster; no other Devils have been announced. I do believe we will be seeing Matteau on the final roster; his size and strength alone deem him worthy. Prior to the 2012 NHL Draft he was ranked #17 among all North American skaters; that he fell to #29 may be a blessing for the New Jersey Devils and certainly cause for following him throughout the tournament. In the Center position (6’1″ 210lbs), Matteau should be priming for the Power Forward position comparable to NJ Devil Dainus Zubrus. Conveniently, Dainus Zubrus had been performing his off-season training regiment with Matteau prior to his drafting. This excites me as a Devils fan because I love Zubrus’ game and I would have 11 more just like him if I could.
Blake Pietila is playing Left Wing for Michigan Tech and rumblings have it he’s turning heads delightfully. Apparently, he is drastically improving some of his weaknesses so far as to say they are now strengths, hence why he has been invited to the U.S. camp. Good Luck to you Blake!
One thing I can enjoy about this kind of media attention is the suspense. Having watched players develop over the years – transitioning from scrub, to rookie, to veteran, to Hero – I am intrigued to see our draft pick’s next big performance on a very big stage. I had the pleasure of watching Patrik Elias, Marty Brodeur, and John Madden for their entire careers and when I think of how far they’ve come and gone, the joy of being a Devils Fan dawns heavily on me.
Let us now turn the lights on and recognize the elephant! There is much irony in the Matteau selection and it adds so much hype along with being 29th overall. Every Devils Fan wants to see him become a Ranger “Exterminator” and put any memories of a lousy wrap-around behind them.
An interesting topic outside of the NJ Devils circles has been the NHL presence on Team Canada’s roster. I don’t like this one bit. I think it should be left for the people who are playing for pride and respect; it should not be spoiled by those who are currently paid to play professionally.
For television coverage, TSN/TSN2 will be airing the entire event. You can see the full schedule here.