With the 2014 World Junior Championship now complete, thanks to Finland's stunning 3-2 overtime upset victory over the powerhouse Swedish team, there is now time to reflect upon what transpired over a very busy and exciting two weeks.
Two Dallas Stars prospects took part in the tournament: center Radek Faksa and defenceman Esa Lindell. Let's take a look at how both performed.
Radek Faksa - drafted 1st round, 13th overall, in 2012
Ever since he was drafted back in 2012 there has been some concern about Radek Faksa, a sentiment that has been steadily growing in opinion as of late.
Unfortunately for the Dallas Stars and their fans, Faksa's performance at this year's world juniors didn't dispel that worry. Despite playing in his third year at the WJCs, Faksa did not look like it, nor did he look like a player that was drafted in the 1st round of the NHL Entry Draft.
With only one goal in five games, Faksa finished 9th on his Czech Republic team in scoring, even though he was given prime ice time, powerplay time, and offensive-minded linemates. In his defence, Faksa was routinely matched up against opposing teams' top defences simply because there weren't a lot of other Czech players to watch, but more offense was expected out of one of the few veteran players on an overall younger team.
Faksa did continue to play solid defensively, however. He used his excellent size to get in scoring lanes, win faceoffs, and win puck battles along the boards.
While a short tournament like the WJC is only a small sample size of a prospect's potential, it's still becoming more and more likely that Faksa will become more of a defensive player than an offensive one as he continues to develop.
Esa Lindell - drafted 3rd round, 74th overall, in 2012
Even though Faksa struggled at this year's world juniors, Stars fans that followed the event were given a very refreshing surprise with the play of Finnish defenceman Esa Lindell.
Lindell had two goals, three assists and finished with an impressive plus-6 rating in seven games. Paired on the team's top pairing with Ville Pokka, the big defender was strong offensively, finishing third on his team in points, and was also very solid defensively, fitting in perfectly on a Gold-winning Finnish team that emphasized defensive awareness and shot blocking.
Lindell was noticeably strong in the Gold medal game against Sweden. Less than 28 seconds into the game he fired home a hard shot from the point to give Finland an early lead, taking away a ton of momentum from the energized home crowd Swedes. With Finland defending leads for most of the game, Lindell was very responsible in his own end, including a few huge shot blocks in the third period that helped his team stay alive.
For a player that was drafted out of the Finnish junior leagues and has been playing there at higher levels ever since, it was a great opportunity for Stars fans to get a rare extended look at what Lindell brings to the table, and the results were promising.
With a WJC Gold medal now on his resume, it will be interesting to see if Lindell can use that experience to build some momentum and accelerate his steady development.