Dmitrij Jaskin/Vladimir Sobotka (he’s allegedly going to play for the Blues again), Team Czech Republic
With all due respect to the Czech Republic, it’s quite apparent–both by realizing the caliber of player that they selected from the Blues’ roster, and by looking at their roster as a whole–that they have the least star power of any team in the tournament. They’re the only team that lacks a goaltender with a track record of NHL dominance, and Jakub Voracek is their only skater that most would consider to be a true “star” in the NHL.
With that said, this is a great opportunity for two guys who could end up being parts of the Blues’ plans in 2016-17, Dmitrij Jaskin and Vladimir Sobotka, to build up some good momentum heading into the preseason. After fizzling out in his second full season, Jaskin will be battling for a regular role this fall– specifically one on the third line, where he’ll have regular opportunities to put the puck on the net. While playing for an All-Star team on a bigger ice surface isn’t going to do much of anything to boost his role with the Blues, Jaskin has a good shot to develop some confidence as a scorer during this tournament. We saw that he could do it when he scored 13 goals in 54 games during the 2014-15 season; now he just needs to show that he can be reliable.
While there have been rumors all offseason that he’ll ultimately return to the KHL for 2016-17, there’s optimism that Sobotka is going to rejoin the Blues this fall after a two-season absence. In his case, the World Cup is a bit of a bother for the Blues. First of all, it prevents him from being able to get into camp on time and start re-acclimating to the Blues’ system; secondly, since he still hasn’t actually signed a contract with the Blues, there’s no way to know for sure whether he’ll return until the Czech Republic is eliminated and he reports to camp. On the positive side, though, it would be nice to see Sobotka put up some solid offensive numbers during the World Cup, further proving that his career-best production in the KHL hasn’t been a fluke.
Next: Jori Lehtera