Year: 2016 (page 3 of 28)

Russia rebounds with win

By Andrew

Russia scored three unanswered goals in the first period en route to a big 9-1 win over Latvia. With the win it improves to 1-1 while Latvia falls to 0-2.

The Russians were right back at it less than 18 hours after leaving the ice last night, a 5-3 loss to Canada. They scored early to take all hope out of the Latvian chances and didn’t let up. 

“We got back to the hotel quickly last night, got some food and a good night’s sleep,” captain Kirill Kaprizov said. “We were well rested for today.”

“We scored three quick goals and after that controlled the game,” said Yakov Trenin of Russia. “Yesterday [against Canada] we were nervous. It was our first game, and there were 18,000 people, but tonight we were much better.”

Kaprizov led the way with a hat trick and two assists. Linemates Alexander Polunin (two goals, two assists) and Mikhail Vorobyov (four assists) added to the statistical onslaught which saw the trio record 13 scoring points.

“We felt more comfortable today, and once the goals started to come it was fun,” Kaprizov added. “Today, it all started to come together for our line. We had a bit of luck and were moving the puck well.”

Damil Yurtaikin opened the scoring when he drove hard down the left wing, outmuscled Rihards Puide, and made a nice deke on Gustavs Grigals at 5:33.

Latvia had a great chance midway through the period with a four-minute penalty to Polunin, but although they had some chances, they were shut out. When Polunin came out of the box, he broke up the middle and beat Grigals with a shot along the ice between the pads to make it 2-0.

Pavel Karnaukhov made it 3-0 at 17:39, giving Russia all the goals they’d need. Grigals couldn’t control Vadim Kudako’s point shot, and Karnaukhov was there to swat in the rebound.

Coach Eriks Miluns inserted backup goalie Denijs Romanovskis for the second period, and he was beaten on his first shot, a close-in one-timer by Kaprizov off a nice pass from Vorobyov.

Latvia’s Rudolfs Balcers finally converted on a power play at 3:42 when he made a nice toe drag and shot to the short side, beating Vladislav Sukhachyov to make it 4-1.

Just 39 seconds later, though, Russia restored its four-goal lead when Polunin got his second, and 43 seconds after that Kirill Belyayev scored from in front. That spelled the end for Romanovskis, and Grigals went back into the blue ice for Latvia.

The Russians added three more in the third–all on the power play–to add salt to the wound, Kaprizov with two as well as an assist on a Trenin goal.

Both teams now enjoy a day off before returning to action on Thursday. Russia will play the United States in a much-anticipated matinee while Latvia plays Canada in the evening.

Hischier plays hero

By Lucas Aykroyd

Budding superstar Nico Hischier scored the overtime winner at 0:23 and added two assists as the Swiss topped the Czechs 4-3 in their opener on Tuesday.

Swiss assistant captain Damien Riat fed Hischier a breakaway pass and the 17-year-old sniper from the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads beat Czech goalie Jakub Skarek through the five-hole.

“It’s a great feeling to score in overtime,” said Hischier.

Riat also had a goal and two assists. Captain Calvin Thurkauf added a goal and a helper, and Loic In Albon also scored for Switzerland. Goalie Joren van Pottelberghe shone with 36 saves.

“It’s always nice to win, especially the first game of the tournament,” said van Pottelberghe, who plays for Davos in the Swiss NLA. “It gives you a good feeling to progress in the rest of the games.”

The last time Switzerland won a preliminary-round game was two years ago on this date in Toronto, and it was a 5-2 win over the Czechs. Switzerland, under new head coach Christian Wohlwend, is looking to improve on back-to-back ninth-place finishes at the last two World Juniors.

“This year, we had a super pre-season, and we had two great games against Canada and the USA,” said Wohlwend. “This is why I expect way more from our team 5-on-5. This was the first game and our players were a bit nervous. But now, in the second game we have to step up.”

The Swiss face Sweden next on Wednesday, and the Czechs will battle Denmark on Thursday.

Filip Chlapik scored twice for the Czechs and Radek Koblizek added a single. Michael Spacek and Jakub Zboril each contributed two assists.

“I think we did a pretty good job, as our game yesterday started at 7 pm,” said Chlapik. “We have to learn how to play in the first periods. We have to play the same way all game. In the first two periods, we didn’t do what we wanted. We played good, but we didn’t go to the net. That’s what we wanted to do, go for the rebounds and score ugly goals.”

The Swiss showed resilience in pre-tournament play when they rallied from a 3-0 deficit against Canada before losing 4-3 in overtime. That quality was evident again in their Bell Centre debut, as they were outplayed early on, but found a way to succeed.

The Czechs, who last won World Junior gold in 2001, are usually among the tournament’s most mercurial squads. And after edging defending champion Finland 2-1 in their opener, they couldn’t down a lesser opponent despite outshooting Switzerland 39-22 — even though they came back after trailing 3-1.

In a fast-paced, scoreless first period, it was a rough welcome back to the World Juniors for Riat. He collided heavily with Zboril, a big Czech defenceman, in open ice, and later took a puck in the face. Shots, meanwhile, favored the Czechs 9-3 through 20 minutes.

“Luckily we had Joren [van Pottelberghe], so it stayed 0-0 after the first period and then in the dressing room we said we have to change it up and we did,” said Hischier. “We showed what we can do.”

The Czechs couldn’t neutralize Hischier. In the 2017 NHL Draft, he could supplant Nino Nieddereiter (chosen fifth overall by the New York Islanders in 2010) as the highest-drafted Swiss ever. In this game, he exceeded his entire output at last year’s tournament in Helsinki (two assists in six games).

Halfway through the second period, Hischier deftly centred the puck from the side boards to In Albon at the hash marks. In Albon, a 19-year-old World Junior rookie who plays for Lausanne, squeezed a quick wrister through Skarek.

The Czechs ran into penalty trouble, taking three straight minors, and the Swiss made them pay with the man advantage. With 3:57 left in the middle frame, Riat took a pass from Hischier and unleashed a shot from the slot, forcing Skarek to make a left pad save. Thurkauf banged in the rebound for a 2-0 lead.

At 5:02 of the third, the Czechs got some life when Koblizek scored to make it 2-1, taking a pass from Zboril on the rush and zipping one over van Potteberghe’s glove. 

But Zboril was sent off for cross-checking Yannick Zehnder from behind into the boards, and the Swiss quickly capitalized. Riat stretched the lead to 3-1 at 8:34 when he zipped a high shot from the middle past Skarek, with Thurkauf screening in front.

“Our special teams were good, especially the power play,” said Wohlwend.

The Czechs made it 3-2 just over two minutes later with a power play goal of their own. From the top of the right faceoff circle, Chlapik sent a zinger past van Pottelberghe.

Hischier was nearly the goat, as he was in the penalty box for high-sticking when the Czechs tied it up with 17 seconds left and their goalie pulled. Spacek, who scored the winner versus Finland, sent it to Chlapik and he cashed in from the faceoff circle.

“I think we played a really good third period,” said Chlapik. But it wasn’t enough.

This was the third Swiss victory over the Czech Republic in World Junior history. The first one came in the 1998 bronze medal game (4-3 in a shootout) in Helsinki.

Day Two Recap of the Spengler Cup


Jarusek shoots Mountfield to victory

It was a successful Spengler Cup debut for HK Mountfield. The team from the Czech city of Hradec Kralove won in its first ever appearance in Davos 4-3 on Tuesday afternoon.

The celebrated match winner for Mountfield was Richard Jarusek. The 1.89 metre tall, 98 kilo forward scored the game-winning goal on the power play 245 seconds before the end of regulation. The 25-year-old had already tied the game at 1-1 on the man advantage. Dmitry Monya put Yekaterinburg ahead after 31 seconds – the fastest goal so far at the 90th edition of the Spengler Cup. Then Mountfield dominated the opening period – in part due to four minors against the Russians. However, only in the 24th minute did Roman Kukumberg give the Czechs a 2-1 lead. In this even game, Anatoly Golyshev (38.) and Michal Caykovsky (40.) temporarily turned the score in favour of Yekaterinburg shortly before the end of the middle period. Kukumberg (53.) tied it up at 3-3 with his second goal, igniting an exciting final stage of the game, in which Jarusek, the second Czech two-goal scorer, completed the final score.

The deciding game in Group Torriani between HC Lugano and Mountfield will take place on Wednesday afternoon. The winner will take the group and secure a direct semifinal berth.

Team Canada wins thanks to special teams

Team Canada won the Spengler Cup classic against HC Davos 4-3 on Tuesday night. The Canadians scored twice on the power play and once short-handed.

HCD and Team Canada offered the sell-out crowd of 6300 at Vaillant Arena – amongst them Guy Parmelin, the Swiss Minister of Sport – a fast-paced, exciting offensive display. Better efficiency on the finish and two – from Davos’ point of view – unlucky situations leading to goals made the difference. The Canadians took a 2-1 lead short-handed (!) after a failed line change by the home team. Cory Emmerton took advantage of the breakaway. The team from overseas then took the lead again when Jacob Micflickier netted the 3-2 on the power play, after HCD defensemen Forster received a minor for lifting the puck over the glass in his own defensive zone. The visitors also showed their efficiency on the power play when Andrew Ebbett left the keeper no chance on a redirected shot by Chay Genoway. Per Ledin, on loan from Lausanne, scored the 1-0 and 4-3 for Davos. HCD defenseman Daniel Rahimi had temporarily tied the game at 2-2 with a long-range shot.

Despite the 4-3 victory, the Canadians cannot win the group due to their lopsided 7-4 loss versus Dynamo Minsk the night before. HC Davos and Dynamo Minsk will face off with first place on the line on Wednesday night.

Canada edges Russia

By Andrew Podnieks

Canada opened the 2017 World Juniors with a 5-3 win over archrivals Russia in a game dominated by defence and caution–and three power-play goals by the hosts

Captain Dylan Strome had two goals while Matt Barzal had a goal and two assists. Tyson Jost was a force in the first period for Canada as well.

Ilya Samsonov was the busier of the two goalies. He faced 37 shots, many good scoring chances, while Carter Hart stopped 14 of 17 shots for Canada.

“He’s a big goalie who moves well,” Strome said of Samsonov, “so for us to get five by him today says a lot about us. We’re shooting the puck and going to the net hard.”

In the end, Canada’s ability to pressure the Russian defence and force turnovers proved the difference. The score was close, but Canada had the greater puck possession simply by virtue of tenacity.

“We knew coming in it was going to be an intense game,” Barzal said. “Emotions were high, but we had a good start to the game and built off that. We were never too high or too low.”

“It was a great game,” said Russian forward Denis Guryanov, a 2015 Dallas Stars draft choice. “Both teams played with speed. We played a full 60 minutes, but there were times Canada was a bit more fortunate than we were.”

Canada got just the start it wanted thanks to great vision from Philippe Myers and clever positioning from Jost. Jost managed to get in behind the Russian defence in the slot while Myers had the puck along the left-wing boards. He found Jost with a perfect pass, and Jost made a nice deke from in close, roofing a backhand over Samsonov at 3:11 for the early lead.

But the Russians tied the score midway through on a sneaky shot from Mikhail Sergachyov from a long way out. Hart was screened, and the wrist shot drifted over his shoulder at 9:47 to make it a 1-1- game.

Jost was the best player on either side in the first, forechecking effectively, creating chances, and jumping on loose pucks.

The game settled into a stalemate in the second, neither side wanting to make an error, neither side willing to be too creative if it meant risking a turnover. Canada went ahead at 13:15 on a power play when Barzal fired a cross-ice pass to Strome, who ripped a one-timer past a lunging Samsonov.

Then, at 17:08, Nicolas Roy stripped Denis Alexeyev of the puck inside the Russian blue line and in one motion wired a shot to the far side, past a surprised Samsonov.

The hosts added to their lead early in the third on another power play. This time Strome returned the favour, getting the puck in front where Barzal, off balance, got enough of a shot off to beat Samsonov at 3:03.

Kirill Kaprizov brought the Russians to within two goals two minutes later on a Russian man advantage, his shot finding the five hole between Hart’s pads at 5:12.

Strome added another goal with the extra man at 9:06 when a Barzal shot came off the crossbar right to the captain, who sniped it in for a 5-2 lead.

A minute and a half later, another deadly wrist shot beat Hart to the far side, this one courtesy of Yegor Rykov.

Both teams are right back at it tomorrow. Russia plays Latvia in the early game while Canada takes on Slovakia in the late game.

“Slovakia won bronze two years ago,” Strome noted. “They have some good players, including one guy from Erie who’s a huge defenceman in his fourth World Juniors [Erik Cernak], so they’re a good team.”

Czechs nip Finns

By Lucas Aykroyd

The Czech Republic surprised defending champion Finland 2-1 in their opener on Monday night. Michael Spacek scored the winner with 1:18 remaining.

With Adam Musil screening in front, Spacek cut to the middle of the ice and lofted a long shot past Finnish goalie Veini Vehvilainen. Spacek, a 19-year-old Winnipeg Jets prospect, is playing in his third straight IIHF World Junior Championship.

“It was a good feeling,” said Spacek. “This goal is special in my career.”

Daniel Krenzelok had the other goal for the Czechs, who sang as they came off the ice. Joona Luoto replied for the Finns.

“Everybody was disappointed,” said Finland’s Eeli Tolvanen. “We wanted to win the first game and get more confidence. We just have to keep going.”

The Czechs haven’t won any U20 medals since 2005’s bronze in Grand Forks, North Dakota. They finished fifth last year under coach Jakub Petr, who’s returned for 2017.

Finland, which beat Russia in overtime in last year’s final in Helsinki, is looking for its third gold medal in four years. Finland also topped host Sweden in overtime in the 2014 final in Malmo.

“We can still win this tournament,” said Finnish captain Olli Juolevi, a tournament all-star last year with nine points. “We haven’t lost anything, kind of. It’s just one game, and we have to be ready to play tomorrow against Denmark.”

The Czechs, whose average age is 19 to Finland’s 18, outshot their opponents 30-23.

Named Finland’s Player of the Game, Vehvilainen probably deserved a better fate. He is most noted for his superb 60-save performance in a 2-1 overtime loss to the United States in the final of the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. The Jyvaskyla native was Finland’s starter at the World Juniors, but was replaced by Kaapo Kahkonen in the quarter-final against Canada and never got the net back.

Last year, Finland edged the Czechs 5-4 in a strange run-and-gun affair. This game in Montreal was much tighter.

The Czechs came out aggressively and drew first blood at 4:27. Krenzelok floated a shot from the left point that bounced off Henrik Borgstrom’s back. Vehvilainen got a piece of it with his glove, but it still found the top corner. Moments later, the Finnish goalie made a fine save on Tomas Soustal’s slot attempt on a 2-on-1 rush.

At 8:56, Finland equalized on Luoto’s gutsy solo effort. He stole the puck from Musil in the neutral zone, got past defenceman Petr Kalina, and lifted it past Czech goalie Jakub Skarek on the short side.

In the second period, the teams traded ineffective power plays. Tolvanen had an impactful shift with about seven minutes left in the frame, cutting in from right wing and forcing Skarek to make a nice pad save before hammering Lukas Jasek into the boards.

Early in the third, the Finns were penalized for too many men on the ice, but the Czechs squandered their advantage. Finland pulled Vehvilainen in the final minute, seeking the tying goal, but to no avail.

“All three periods, we didn’t play like individuals,” said Czech forward Filip Chlapik. “We played like a team. I think that’s why we won.”

Finland had more high-profile firepower at the 2016 tournament with the top line of Jesse Puljujarvi, Sebastian Aho, and Patrik Laine. All three forwards were eligible to return for 2017, but are with their respective NHL clubs.

“Those guys are some of the best players right now in the NHL,” said Juolevi. “It’s a big loss for any team, especially Finland. But we can’t do anything about that. They’re not here now, and we have to play with this team.”

Similarly, the Czechs don’t have anyone of David Pastrnak’s calibre this year. He and Laine are currently tied for second place in NHL goals (19) behind Sidney Crosby (24).

Jukka Rautakorpi is seeking his first World Junior medal as Finland’s head coach. He previously coached the team in 1999 (fifth), 2008 (sixth), and 2009 (seventh). Karri Kivi helmed the 2014 gold and Jukka Jalonen was in charge last year.

The last time Finland lost a World Junior game was 28 December, 2015, falling 6-4 to Russia.

Next up for the Finns is Denmark on Tuesday evening. The Czechs have little time to rest, playing the early game against Switzerland that day.

“Switzerland is a good team,” said Spacek. “They lost 4-3 to Canada in overtime [in exhibition]. So it’s not easy. I hope we play tomorrow like today.”

Americans win opener

By Andrew Podnieks –

Team USA wasn’t perfect, but in a tournament opener against an inexperienced Latvian team, it played well enough to earn a 6-1 win at the Air Canada Centre.

Two goals in the middle period broke a 1-1 tie to ensure the victory. Clayton Keller had two goals for the Americans, who limited Latvia to just 12 shots on goal.

“We take every game and team seriously,” said assistant captain Colin White, who had a goal and an assist. “We had a few days off before this game, so it took us a bit of time to get our legs going. Overall, there were a lot of positives we can take for the next game.”

This marked Latvia’s first U20 game at the top level since 2013. It won Division I-A last year to earn the promotion and looked every bit the second-best team this afternoon. Nonetheless, it also showed pluck and determination against an American team that was much faster and more skilled with the puck. 

The U.S. showed plenty of skill but also took some uncharacteristic penalties and allowed some odd-man rushes that might have been more costly against a top-six nation. Still, as the game went on, it played better and better.

“We don’t want to take so many penalties, of course,” White added, “but at the same time, we have a great penalty kill, so we’re confident.”

The Americans opened the scoring at 6:27 of the first on a routine shot by Patrick Harper from the slot. His shot fooled Mareks Mitens in the Latvian goal and staked the U.S. to an early lead. 

Latvia was outclassed the first half of the period and didn’t get its first shot until near the ten-minute mark. It wasn’t until four minutes later it got another shot, but that one counted. 

A loose puck squirted up the middle of the ice where Renars Krastenbergs, celebrating his 18th birthday, chased it down. He went in alone on Tyler Parsons and made a nice deke at 15:22 to tie the score and bring most of the crowd to its feet.

“Those cheers helped us a lot,” said Mitens. “It was such an amazing feeling when everyone got behind us.”

“I looked behind me to see how much time I had, and I saw the goalie back up a bit, so I made a move and it worked,” Krastenbergs said.

Interestingly, whereas the Latvians took the first half of the period to register a shot, the Americans were without one for all of the second half of the opening 20.

The U.S. took a 2-1 lead at 6:29 of the middle period. After allowing several odd-man rushes to their opponents, they went ahead on a nice pass by Tage Thompson to Colin White on a two-on-two rush. White finished the play by roofing a shot over Mitens’s glove from in close.

The Latvians had a great chance to tie the score with a two-man advantage for 1:24, but the U.S. penalty kill didn’t even allow so much as a shot on goal.

“Whenever you have something good like that happen, you get a lot of momentum,” White suggested. “That kill really got us going.”

Indeed, after a lengthy period of sustained pressure, Clayton Keller made it 3-1 with only 1:15 remaining in the middle period, putting the game out of reach.

Keller added his second at 12:19 of the third on a screen shot from the slot, and Jeremy Bracco found a hole between the pads of Mitens late in the game to make it 5-1. Jordan Greenaway closed out the scoring with 39.9 seconds remaining.

The U.S. has tomorrow off while the Latvians play Russia in the afternoon.

Day One Recap of the Spengler Cup


Opening game victory for Lugano

Last year’s finalist Lugano has successfully started into the 90th edition of the Spengler Cup. The Ticinesi defeated Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4-2 in the opening game on Monday night.

Lugano’s reinforcement James Wisnewski put his team ahead with a precise shot from a distance on the first power play. The man advantage lasted for only seven seconds. Dmitry Monya capped a fine solo effort with a slick finish to tie it up for the Russians. The Ticinesi decided the game in the middle period with two goals within 71 seconds. First, Raffaele Sannitz redirected a long-range shot by Ryan Gardner into the net. Then, the 38-year-old Ryan Gardner showed his continued reliability in front of the net of Avtomobilist keeper Vladimir Sachatzky, who had replaced Ivan Lisutin after the second goal against. On the power play, Aryom Gareyev then brought his team back into the game with a goal twelve minutes before the end of regulation time. Yet, Lugano’s solid goaltender Elvis Merzlikins prevented to equalizer. Linus Klasen put the game away for good with an empty-netter 20 seconds before the end.

Lugano, thanks to its opening game victory, will get the day off Tuesday, while Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg will face off against HK Mountfield in the second game of Group Torriani in the afternoon.

Dynamo Minsk announces its ambition

Defending champion Team Canada started its campaign at the 90th Spengler Cup with a loss. The Canadians suffered a 7-4 defeat at the hands of Dynamo Minsk, despite having led the game 3-1 and 4-3.

Team Canada and Dynamo Minsk wore each other down in a high-level, fast-paced battle with five goals already in the first 17 minutes of play. The Canadians showed a fierce reaction to Alexander Materchin’s go-ahead goal. Andrew Ebbett tied things up soon after, then Maxim Noreau as well as Mason Raymond took advantage of a couple of power play opportunities to put their team up by two. Yevgeny Kovyrshin cut Minsk’s deficit to one before the first intermission. Team Canada dominated parts of the game, but Ben Scrivens, Dynamo’s Canadian goaltender, kept the Belarusians in it with several outstanding saves. And then Yevgeny Lisovez’s 3-3 in the 31st minute blew the game wide open again.

To start the third period, Noreau gave the Canadians a 4-3 lead with the third power play goal, but then the Eastern Europeans came up big. Dmitry Korobov, Kovyrshin, Sergei Drosd, and Nikita Komarov (empty netter) delivered the ultimately comfortable win for Dynamo Minsk. The Belarusian’s efficiency was brilliant, as they required only 19 shots on Drew MacIntyre’s net to score their seven goals. On the other hand, the high pace early on seemed to have taken its toll on the Canadians.

Sweden hammers Danes!/fileimage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/alexander-nylander-lasse-petersen-and-mathias-rondbjerg.jpg

By Lucas Aykroyd

Alexander Nylander led the way with two goals for Sweden. Carl Grundstrom, Rasmus Dahlin, and Joel Eriksson Ek chipped in a goal and an assist apiece, and Jonathan Dahlen added a single. Goalie Felix Sandstrom earned the win as shots favored Sweden 33-22.

Sweden is seeking its first medal since settling for silver on home ice in Malmo in 2014. The Juniorkronorna have won World Junior gold twice all-time (1981, 2012).

It was an auspicious debut for Tomas Monten as Sweden’s head coach. The 39-year-old served as an assistant in 2014 and 2015.

Nikolaj Krag got the only Danish goal. The Danes, who finished eighth at the last two World Juniors, continued their history of futility against Sweden in World Junior play. They lost 10-1 on December 28, 2007; 5-1 on December 27, 2014; and 5-0 on December 30, 2015.

Life doesn’t get any easier for Denmark, which faces defending champion Finland on Tuesday.

Halfway through the first period, Nylander opened the scoring, stickhandling into the slot and sliding a wrister past Danish goalie Lasse Petersen. The nifty 18-year-old, the son of retired NHL star Michael Nylander and brother of Toronto Maple Leafs rookie William Nylander, led Sweden last year with nine points.

It was 2-0 at 18:24, as Eriksson Ek, the Swedish captain, converted the rebound from Rasmus Dahlin’s shot. Dahlin, a 16-year-old defenceman from Frolunda Gothenburg, is touted as a prospective #1 overall pick for the 2018 NHL Draft. His World Junior debut will add to the buzz. 

In the second period, Dahlen, another World Junior rookie, scored Sweden’s third goal, going to the net to finish off a sweet Grundstrom pass on the rush. Dahlen is the son of longtime NHLer Ulf Dahlen, who led the 1987 World Juniors in scoring and won World Championship gold in 1998.

After Danish blueliner Oliver Larsen turned the puck over at the Swedish blue line, Grundstrom got a shorthanded breakaway. Petersen had stopped him on another breakaway early in the first, but this time, the Swedish assistant captain went high glove side for a four-goal lead at 6:26.

When Denmark pressed, Sandstrom was there to shut the door. He got his right toe on a dangerous Christian Matiasen-Wejse wraparound attempt.

Dahlin made it 5-0 at 13:12, stickhandling deftly inside the blue line before fluttering a high shot past Petersen. Nylander put Sweden up 6-0 at 18:22. Standing in front, he coolly tipped in David Bernhardt’s feed from the point.

Nothing could be said in either dressing room during the second intermission that would change the final outcome, although Krag spoiled Sandstrom’s shutout bid on a short-side wrister with just over two minutes left. Sweden gets a day off before facing Switzerland on Wednesday.

The Swedes dressed an experienced lineup, with seven returnees from the 2016 tournament. Denmark had six returnees. Danish winger Mathias From, a 2016 fifth-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, missed the opener. He is still recovering from an injury suffered at practice on December 15, but is expected to play later on.

Olaf Eller is coaching Denmark for the third straight year at the World Juniors. He is the father of former Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Eller, who now plays for the Washington Capitals.

Canada is hosting the World Juniors every second year through 2021. Montreal and Toronto also co-hosted in 2015, and Vancouver and Victoria will co-host in 2019. Hockey Canada has yet to allocate the sites for 2021.

WJC Preview: Team Canada

By Steven Ellis –

Canada has won their past five WJC’s on NHL-sized ice. In 2017, they’re back home

Goalies: With the top two goaltenders from the Western Hockey League, Canada is stacked between the pipes, a position they have struggled for in recent years. Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Connor Ingram is at the top of his game right now and made important saves when needed against the Czech Republic on December 21st. A national midget champion with the Prince Albert Mintos, where he won the top goaltender award at the 2014 Telus Cup. Now, Ingram is leading the WHL with a .935 save percentage and is capable of stealing games for the Kamloops Blazers, so Canada hopes it will help them as well.

The second best goalie in the WHL happens to be Carter Hart, an 18-year-old Philadelphia Flyers prospect. Currently, in his third year with the Everett Silvertips, Hart won the CHL Goaltender of the Year award following a breakout season in the Canadian Hockey League. Hart is as hot as it gets in the crease right now, but the only goalie currently beating him happens to be his World Junior partner. Both goalies will likely get a chance during the four round robin games, but one of the two will have to take the job and run with it. Likely, whoever gets the start against the United States on New Years Day will be the netminder poised to play throughout the remainder of the tournament.

Defensemen: Canada typically doesn’t struggle in the offensive department, and in a lot of cases, the goaltenders don’t get a lot of action. So when you look back at some of the biggest issues in the years that Canada has lost in, you can point back to the defence. This year, however, may be a bit different, with a fairly strong core to look at, even if it may be the weakest position. Thomas Chabot will be counted on as a leader on the back end, with the offensive defenseman hoping to tack on to his strong start with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. Playing at over a point-per-game, Chabot struggled during the 2016 tournament, especially late in the tourney, but has developed his zone coverage ever since. 

Joining Chabot on the top pairing will be Philippe Myers, a QMJHL champion with the Nouyn-Noranda Huskies. A big, mobile puck mover, Myers went undrafted at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft but signed with the Philadelphia Flyers shortly after. Myers has progressed quite well ever since, and is on pace for a strong third-season in the Q thanks to a near point-per-game average. He looked strong with Chabot in pre-tournament action and should earn a lot of ice time in Toronto this year.

One of Canada’s late cuts a year ago, Noah Juulsen is off to his best season in the WHL this year with the Everett Silvertips and a chance at a gold medal is exactly what he needs to continue with his momentum. Juulsen, a late first-round pick by the Montreal Canadiens in 2015, is a solid two-way defender that compliments the two-way dominance of Jake Bean, who will also be in the top four. Bean, a first-round selection by Carolina in 2016, led all WHL defensemen in scoring with 24 goals in 2015-2016, only to see him miss the first few weeks this year thanks to breaking a finger from a slash by Medicine Hat forward Chad Butcher. If Bean can replicate his strong Under-17 World Championship performance from 2014, then Canada has quite the catch with the Calgary, Alberta native.

Forwards: Let’s cut to the chase: Dylan Strome may be the best player in the entire tournament. Patrik Laine isn’t here. Connor McDavid is destroying the NHL. Now, it’s Strome’s time to take the reigns and get the medal he wanted so badly in Finland a year ago. After starting the year with the Arizona Coyotes, Strome was sent down to the OHL’s Erie Otters for his fourth and final campaign with the club and after 16 points in just seven games, it’s clear he’s got things figured out. Strome was one of Canada’s better players last year, posting six points as an 18-year-old for the eventual sixth-place finishing nation. Now, Canada will look upon their captain and (likely) top forward to get the job done.

Outside of Strome, the offence continues to dive deep. Taylor Raddysh is a great example of that, and considering he’s Strome’s OHL linemate, there’s extra reason to keep a close eye on him. Raddysh is currently in the top five in OHL scoring with an incredible 61 points in 28 games, following up a 73 point effort a year ago. This is just the second time Raddysh will represent Canada in international play, but the 18-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning prospect is ready to be a dangerous goal scorer in the top six.

Canada is extremely deep down the middle and Mathew Barzal is no exception. He may not have the dominant offensive numbers that Raddysh has, but with 19 points in 13 games, the future New York Islanders star has the potential to be one of the best playmakers overall. He’s known for his ability to make game-changing passes and his breakneck speed make him one of the toughest players to contain every single night. He’s also returning to the tournament after a good 2016 effort, but 2017 will be his true calling card.

One player that really made his mark during the pre-tournament was Anthony Cirelli, who scored twice on the Canadian fourth line against the Czech’s on December 21st, including a beautiful breakaway goal through the middle. When paired with Blake Speers, the duo created some of the best plays seen by any of Canada’s forward group and will likely be paired again in a fourth line scoring role. Cirelli went undrafted in the OHL before being a key player for the Oshawa Generals during their Memorial Cup title in 2015, while Speers, a goal scorer his entire life (he recorded 288 points in a single minor bantam season), has proven his worth in the OHL over his 188 games in the league.

An intriguing case in Canada’s top six is Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus’ third overall selection in the most recent NHL Draft. Dubois was a fantastic player for Canada at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and put up a whopping 99 points in his sophomore season with the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles last year, earning him the CHL Top Draft Prospect Award. But this year, with just 18 points in 20 games, his production has slowed down quite heavily. The tournament could be exactly what he needs to get his season back on track because if you know Dubois, you know you’re getting one heck of a hockey player.

Saginaw Spirit captain and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Mitchell Stephens will also be hoping to get payback for Canada’s weak performance a year ago. A tremendous two-way threat that nobody can overlook, Stephens had a very strong Under-18 World Championship performance in 2015 with ten points in seven games. Earlier that year at the Ivan Hlinka, Stephens helped Canada to a gold with six points in five games on a roster that featured Strome, Barzal, Mitch Marner and Travis Konecny, among others. As a 19-year-old, Stephens will be counted on to be a leader and a guy the team can rely on to steal games.

Projection: In order to win tournaments, Canada typically needs a bit of extra pressure from the hometown fans to get the spark ignited. If winning the past five tournaments they’ve played on NHL-sized ice doesn’t get fans excited, then maybe the fact that the team absolutely dominated their competition in pre-tournament competition will help. Or maybe the fact that they have potentially the best player in Strome, or two of the best goalies in major junior. Canada will not back down this time and will almost surely compete for a gold medal in Montreal on January 5th.

WJC Preview: Team United States

By Steven Ellis –

Every year, there’s talk about how the Americans have a chance to win the World Juniors. Even without Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel, it could really be USA’s time.

Goalies: Very few teams can compete with the goaltending the Americans are bringing to Toronto this year. In fact, all three goaltenders have given the team reasons to use them as the starting goalie, but in a short tournament, the team will need someone to walk away with the role. The favourite for the spot is Tyler Parsons, the London Knights starting goaltender that led his OHL squad to the Memorial Cup championship just a few months back. A second-round selection by the Calgary Flames, Parsons has never represented the United States internationally, but at 19, he’s experienced overall. The Most Outstanding Goaltender at the Memorial Cup in the Spring, Parsons is off to a hot start again this year for London and with a major championship to his name already, he’s definitely a favourite to steal the starting spot. 

18-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Joseph Woll is also a threat for the top spot, with two medals under his belt for the Americans in U17 and U18 play. Back in April, Woll posted the best save percentage and goals-against average for the team that would go on to win the bronze medal, a low result for the country but a good performance from Woll himself. Woll has played very well for Boston College in the NCAA this year as a rookie and is proving himself to be one of the better North American goalie prospects right now. 

His former National Team Development Program partner, Jake Oettinger, will throw his hat in the ring before making a case for the starting role again next year. Once a camera man for HockeyTV’s coverage of the 2015 Under-18 World Championships, Oettinger has been one of the top goalie protegees for the United States in recent tournaments, and while many will be interested in his exploits as a 2017 NHL Draft prospect, his time to shine will probably have to wait until next year, even if he is deserving of ice time.

Defencemen: Despite having a strong defensive core, USA’s biggest weakness may come on their backhand. Still, they have quite a good group to work with. Jack Ahcan has been given many chances to lead the team from the blue line, and since he’s still undrafted, he’s got a lot to prove. The 19-year-old defenseman has only represented the Americans once, winning the bronze medal at the 2015 World Junior A Challenge in Whitby, Ontario. He’s been a fantastic two-way star with St. Cloud State University in the NCAA this year, and if he’s paired with Charlie McAvoy, they’ll create a good top pairing.

McAvoy is probably the biggest name on the American blue line, and it’s no secret as to why. The 14th overall pick by the Boston Bruins played for the Americans in last year’s World Junior tournament, failing to record a point in five games. Unafraid to take risks to make a game-changing play, McAvoy is a strong skater that makes his opponents look silly with his puck control. He’s got a good shot and has shown his playmaking skills in his second year with Boston University, so look for him to quarterback the power-play, among other things, this year

Fellow Bruins draft pick Ryan Lindgren has been a star internationally for the Americans, winning a silver and a bronze at the U17 and U18 levels respectively. A captain of both of those teams, Lindgren is a proven leader that won’t put up high numbers at the pro level, but he will shut your best stars down. Buffalo Sabres prospect Casey Fitzgerald comes from a family of hockey stars, including cousins Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes, Keith Tkachuk and Matthew Tkachuk. A second-year defender with Boston College, Fitzgerald was given a lot of chances to prove himself in pre-tournament action, and he played quite well. Same goes for Adam Fox, the best defenseman at the 2016 Under-18 World Championships earlier this year. 

Forwards: Up front, there’s no question that the Americans will be quite effective around the net. Even without stars like Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel, who are both still eligible to play for the team, the team has three strong scoring lines full of players who have either shined for USA before or are ready to set their mark. One of the names that gained a lot of traction during the tournament was Tage Thompson, a 19-year-old star with the Univ. of Connecticut. A first-round choice by the St. Louis Blues, Thompson had a big pre-tournament on the top line with Clayton Keller and Colin White as the team’s top winger. He’s shown great strides in his second year with Connecticut and many believe he has the potential to have great results with the American squad.

Keller is no stranger to the American spotlight ever since his midget days with Shattuck St. Mary’s prep school. Keller is consistently the best forward on the ice against skaters three years older, a sign of greatness that is hard to find in most players. While small (5-8/150), Keller is an incredible skater with a great stride and a high top speed. Every time he touches the puck, you can expect to almost always see him make a great play, whether it be a great long range pass or a powerful slap shot. Keller had 105 points with the USNTDP in 2015-2016 and has transferred his talent well over to the NCAA, where he has 15 points in 10 games with Boston University. He was the U18 World Championship MVP earlier in 2016 and had the most points at the Under-17’s a year before. What’s next for him at the U20 level.

White will also be counted upon by the Americans. Currently sitting at 17 points in 18 games with Boston College, the Ottawa Senators prospect had seven points in seven games with the bronze medal-winning World Juniors in 2016. White had an incredible U17 World Hockey Challenge tournament in 2014, with the assistant captain posting 10 goals and 18 points to help USA capture a gold medal. An experienced star on the international stage already, the former USNTDP goal scorer seems to step up his game when representing his country and will be a dangerous top-line centreman.

Not considered to be a big star, Jordan Greenway is worth keeping an eye on. A second-round selection by the Minnesota Wild, the rough-and-tumble power forward will likely be a third-line option for the squad, but his tremendous summer camp in Plymouth, which saw him dominate the competition both with the puck and physically. Jack Roslovic is also on the upward trend for the United States, especially after staring on a line with Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk at the 2015 Under-18’s. After putting up 19 wins in 25 games with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, Roslovic has shown himself to be strong against men at the pro level and will hope to make a big impact at the World Junior level in his only World Junior tournament appearance. 

Two other exciting names are Jeremy Bracco and Erik Foley. With 51 points in 27 games with the Kitchener Rangers this year, Bracco has been one of the most dominating forwards in the OHL this season and should easily beat out his 64-point performance a year ago. Bracco has two gold medals internationally to his name so far after finishing with the most assists at the U17 and U18 level. Foley isn’t as well known, but he did a fantastic job in pre-tournament play and sits with 15 points in 16 games with Boston College this year. A Jets prospect like Roslovic, Foley plays a great two-way game and makes great plays in all three zones of the ice.

Prediction: No matter what year it is, the Americans are always strong enough to contend for a medal. With so many strengths all over the roster, there is very little reason to believe the Americans won’t be in the gold medal game in Montreal. Whether or not they can pull off the ultimate prize is still up to debate, but they’re going to be a major contender, no question about it.

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