U20 WJC Game Night: 1/5/11

Canada 3 @ Russia 5
Carter Ashton, Canada, 1-0-1, +1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 7 GP, 1-2-3, +1, 6 PIM

Brett Connolly, Canada, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Tournament totals: 7 GP, 0-3-3, +2, 0 PIM

Russia scored five unanswered third period goals to shock Canada and take U20 WJC gold 5-3. Lightning prospect Carter Ashton scored a goal with 14 seconds left in the first period for the Canadians in the loss. Blues prospect Vladimir Tarasenko had 1 goal and 1 assist in the win for the Russians.

Team USA won the bronze, defeating Sweden 4-2 in tonight's bronze medal match. Slovakia finished 8th in the 10 team tournament, with Lightning prospect Richard Panik being named one of Slovakia's best players by the tournament's coaches.

What did Lightning fans learn about their prospects? Carter Ashton played pretty well in a complimentary role on Canada's second line. It's questionable whether he'll ever be the featured sniper on any given line with the Lightning in the pros, but with so many good snipers in this organization he's got a great chance to fit in by being strong in the corners and in the high traffic areas. Fellow Team Canada member Brett Connolly entered the tournament coming off a concussion and therefore didn't have a regular line, so it's hard to draw any conclusions. The only common critique from BoltProspects' staff was that Connolly could be better along the wall than he is. Advantage Ashton, perhaps, if the Lightning are pushed to choose between which of these two players is more NHL ready for next season.

For Team Slovakia, Richard Panik lived up to the hype. With two years of experience already to his credit, Panik led his team by a wide margin in scoring, confirming his reputation that Panik plays his best on a big stage. The young Slovakian winger is so much stronger than many of the players he faced in this tournament, anything less would have been a disappointment, and he remains a darkhorse to make the NHL next season because he already has an NHL body. The more eye opening performance was put forward by teammate Adam Janosik, who gets lost in the shuffle in the QMJHL but rose to the occassion on Slovakia's top pair. Known mostly as a power play specialist, Janosik showed himself to be a competent two-way defender en route to also finishing second on the team in scoring.

Ashton already holds an NHL contract and nearly made the Lightning out of camp each of the past two years, and should have a very good shot at making the team next year. His game is very well suited for the NHL and his talents will compliment the Lightning's top players well. Brett Connolly has had a fantastic junior season and should receive an NHL contract before too long, but it'll be up to his camp performance next Fall to determine if he plays one more season of junior or jumps to the NHL. Panik has likely done what he needed to do to earn an NHL contract, and his camp performance in the Fall will determine whether he is Norfolk or Tampa bound. Janosik will likely play one more season of junior before the Lightning decide whether to offer him an entry-level contract, but things are looking good at this point in time.