Category: World Junior Championships (page 1 of 12)

WJC Day 10 roundup

U.S. holds off Russia, will play Finland in final

By NHL.com

United States 2, Russia 1

Cayden Primeau made 34 saves, and the United States advanced to the championship game with a 2-1 win against Russia in the semifinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena on Friday.

Oliver Wahlstrom (New York Islanders) and Alexander Chmelevski (San Jose Sharks) scored for the United States, which eliminated Russia for the third straight year (semifinals in 2017, quarterfinals in 2018) and will play Finland, a 6-1 semifinal winner against Switzerland, on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).

“It’s a pretty emotional tournament and obviously a game like that is pretty emotional, so just not trying to get too high, not trying to get too low is key,” Primeau said. “The goal is gold, so we’re not quite finished yet. The battle is still there, so it’s an honor and to do it with this group is something special.”

The United States is 8-1-0-12 against Russia in the tournament.

Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) scored and Pyotr Kochetkov made 25 saves for Russia, which lost for the first time in six tournament games and will play the loser of the Finland/Switzerland game for the bronze medal.

“It’s a big disappointment, but a new day is [Saturday], a new game,” Russia forward Kirill Slepets said through a translator. “Our team is one of the best here. We were a little bit unlucky. We will fight for the (bronze) medal.”

Denisenko appeared to have given Russia a 1-0 lead at 12:13 of the first period, but a video review determined he redirected the puck into the net with his skate, which is not allowed according to IIHF rules.

Wahlstrom gave the United States a 1-0 lead at 14:29 of the first with a one-timer from the right circle off a pass from Logan Cockerill (Islanders).

Chmelevski made it 2-0 with a power-play goal off a pass from Jack Hughes (2019 NHL Draft eligible) at 4:20 of the second period.

“It was a little nerve-racking in the end, and they’re really hard to play against because they have a lot of high-end skill,” Hughes said. “It was nice to come away with the win. We’ll need to have the same effort [Saturday].”

Denisenko cut it to 2-1 at 13:36 from low in the right circle on a shot that beat Primeau (Montreal Canadiens) over his left shoulder.

Russia forward Klim Kostin (St. Louis Blues) almost tied the game 1:12 into the third period when his shot on the power play trickled behind Primeau, but United States defenseman Philip Kemp (Edmonton Oilers) cleared the puck away with his stick just before it crossed the goal line.

“I saw a guy take a shot and then it hit Primeau and I kind of lost if for a bit,” Kemp said. “Then I saw it drop down, and I knew I had to beat that guy’s stick who was in the crease, so I just tried to get a low position and dig it out.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really thinking, it was just instincts. I don’t know if it was from practice, muscle memory or what not from just digging them out on the crease, but it was a huge play for us.”

Primeau made 15 saves in the third period to preserve the lead.

“He’s provided comfort for us when we’ve needed him,” United States coach Mike Hastings said. “When you play a team as good as Russia, they’re going to get their chances and you need that last line of defense to be there for you, to allow you time to catch your breath at times.”

Russia entered the game 5-for-16 on the power play (31.3 percent) but went 0-for-2 against the United States, which has the top penalty kill in the tournament (12-for-13, 92.3 percent).

“Your best penalty killer needs to be your goaltender, and [Primeau] was [Friday],” Hastings said.

Finland 6, Switzerland 1

Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey Devils) scored twice, and Aleski Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) had one goal and three assists to help Finland defeat Switzerland 6-1 in the semifinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena on Friday.

Finland will play the United States on Saturday for the championship.

“Of course they are the favorites, but I think we have a good chance if we battle hard and we are the guys who control the puck,” Finland coach Jussi Ahokas said. “We played better and better after every game.”

Rasmus Kupari (Los Angeles Kings) had a goal and two assists, Jesse Ylonen (Montreal Canadiens) and Henri Jokiharju (Chicago Blackhawks) scored, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo Sabres) made 16 saves for Finland, which outshot Switzerland 33-17.

“We got a couple of goals straight from the beginning, so it gave us confidence to play through the game,” Talvitie said. “It was good we scored some goals. It was a boost on our confidence.”

Philipp Kurashev (Chicago Blackhawks) scored his tournament-leading sixth goal for Switzerland, which plays Russia for third place Saturday.

“The team that wants it more will win and we’ll leave it all on the ice,” Switzerland defenseman Simon le Coultre said.

Switzerland made the semifinal with a 2-0 upset of Sweden and 41 saves from Luca Hollenstein, but the 2019 NHL Draft-eligible goalie was pulled after four goals on eight shots in 7:43 Friday.

Ylonen, a second-round pick (No. 35) in the 2018 NHL Draft, scored 40 seconds into the game, and Talvitie, picked in the sixth round (No. 160) of the 2017 NHL Draft, scored 2:01 apart to make it 3-0.

Jokiharju, who was picked No. 29 in the 2017 draft and played 32 games for the Blackhawks this season, scored on a power play to make it 4-0.

Akira Schmid (Devils) made 23 saves in relief for Switzerland, which won its only WJC medal in 1998 (bronze). Russia defeated Switzerland 7-4 in the preliminary round; the game was tied 3-3 after two periods.

“We played a good 40 minutes,” le Coultre said. “Now we have to play 60.”

Kazakhstan stays, Denmark relegated

Kazakhstan’s Davyd Makutski (#12) celebrates with team-mates after scoring against Denmark

By Dhiren Mahiban – IIHF.com

Kazakhstan avoided relegation defeating Denmark 4-0 on Friday at the IIHF World Junior Championship. The Kazakhs edged the Danes 4-3 in the first game of the best-of-three relegation round on Wednesday to keep their spot in the top group for the 2020 tournament.

Captain Sayan Daniyar and forward Davyd Makutski had first period goals for Kazakhstan while goaltender Demid Yeremeyev made 25 saves for his first shutout of the tournament.

Danish starting goaltender Mads Soegaard allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced and was replaced by William Rorth, who stopped 12 shots in relief.

Denmark pulled Rorth with 2:46 remaining in the third looking for a pair of goals to force the game into overtime, but Artur Gatiyatov added his fourth goal of the tournament into an empty net for Kazakhstan with 1:32 remaining. He then added a second empty-net goal with 54.1 seconds left to make it 4-0.

The 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic will be the seventh time Kazakhstan plays in the top group. They played in the top division from 1998-2001 and in 2008 and 2009 prior to this year’s event.

The loss relegates Denmark to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A while Germany, who won the Division IA last month, will be promoted to the top group and take Denmark’s spot for 2020.

Sayan Daniyar opened the scoring 35 seconds into the first period. The Kazakh forward was attempting a wraparound and put the puck in off of Soegaard’s stick and into the net for his second goal of the tournament.

Makutski doubled Kazakhstan’s lead at 3:47 of the opening frame putting a loose puck over the glove of Soegaard for his first of the World Junior Championship.

Makutski’s goal chased Soegaard from the Danish goal. The 18-year-old netminder allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced and was replaced by Rorth.

Denmark’s offence continued to be an issue on Friday. Entering the second game of the relegation round the Danes had scored in just one of five games.

The Danes out-shot the Kazakhs 10-4 in the opening 20 minutes, but had nothing to show for it.

Emil Marcussen had Denmark’s best chance of the period at 11:46, but couldn’t beat Yeremeyev. Gustav Green found Marcussen alone in the slot, but Yeremeyev made a big glove save on the one-timer.

Despite out-shooting Kazakhstan 9-7 and having the only two power play chances of the second period, Denmark was unable to solve Yeremeyev.

Denmark defeated Belarus in the relegation round at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo last year. The loss demotes them to Division IA for the first time since 2014.

WJC Day 8 roundup:

Finland rallies past Canada in OT in quarterfinals

By NHL.com

Finland 2, Canada 1 OT

Toni Utunen (Vancouver Canucks) scored 5:17 into overtime to give Finland a 2-1 win against Canada in the quarterfinals at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Canada defenseman Noah Dobson (New York Islanders) broke his stick on a one-timer and Utunen scored on the ensuing rush with a wrist shot glove side from the right face-off dot.

“I am just starting to realize what I just did,” Utunen said. “It felt amazing. It was my first goal this season (plays for Tappara in Liiga). A huge goal for me and even bigger for our team.”

Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) tied it 1-1 with 47 seconds left in the third period, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo Sabres) made 24 saves for Finland, including stopping Max Comtois (Anaheim Ducks) on a penalty shot 1:14 into the 4-on-4 overtime. 

Finland will play Switzerland in the semifinals here on Friday.

“As a coach, there is no better situation in the world, to play against Canada and [defeat] them on their home soil,” Finland coach Jussi Ahokas said. “Everything, a [penalty shot] in overtime and then you win yourself. You can’t really write better drama than that.”

Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) made 32 saves and Ian Mitchell (Chicago Blackhawks) scored for Canada, which won the gold medal in 2018.

“We deserved a better fate,” DiPietro said. “Sometimes you are going to get the bounce in the game and sometimes you’re not. But for the game to end like that, it’s disappointing. For our group, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”

It is the first time Canada has failed to win a medal as host of the tournament (13 times as host, once co-host with United States) and the second time in past 21 years it won’t play for a medal. It lost in the quarterfinals in the 2016 WJC, also to Finland.

It is also the fourth time in the past seven years Canada won’t medal and assures it won’t play the United States at any point in the tournament for the first time since the 2005 WJC.

“It’s a tough loss,” Comtois said. “Canada is never expected to go that early, but it was a good battle out there. This tournament is about a fine line winning and losing.”

Mitchell gave Canada a 1-0 lead at 1:30 of the second period. Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) sent a pass from his knees to Mitchell, who scored with a quick wrist shot over Luukkonen’s glove from just inside the right face-off dot.

Luukkonen, selected in the second round (No. 54) in the 2017 NHL Draft, stopped Brett Leason on a breakaway with 5:10 remaining in regulation before Eeli Tolvanen sent a shot from behind the net that deflected off Heponiemi into the net to tie it 1-1 with an extra skater on the ice. 

Finland defenseman Ville Heinola, a B-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list , left the game with 5:19 left in the second period after a hit by Comtois.

United States 3, Czech Republic 1

Jack Hughes had an assist in his return for the United States in a 3-1 win against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Hughes, an A-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list and the projected No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, had missed the past three games with an undisclosed injury.

“It was a lot of fun to be back on the ice with the boys and we played a really good game, so it was really good for our team,” Hughes said. “I thought I was ready to play a couple of days ago (prior to Finland game), but it was good to feel better each and every day and I feel good now, so that’s all that matters.”

Noah Cates (Philadelphia Flyers), Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators) and Alexander Chmelevski (San Jose Sharks) scored, and Cayden Primeau made 18 saves for the United States, which will play the Russia/Slovakia winner in the semifinals in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Friday.

Martin Kaut (Colorado Avalanche) scored and Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 38 saves for the Czech Republic. 

“We have great offensive guys, but it just didn’t work out,” Kaut said. “Filip Zadina didn’t score a goal (in the tournament). It’s not normal for him. We took just 19 shots and the USA had 41 in this game, and that’s not normal for us. Now we’re out so I’ll be coming back to the American Hockey League (Colorado) soon.”

Cates gave the United States a 1-0 lead at 12:12 of the first period, taking a pass from Hughes and scoring with a backhand. 

Norris made is 2-0 when he controlled a lead pass from Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) and scored on a breakaway at 6:10 of the second period. 

Kaut cut it to 2-1 with a power-play goal at 11:29 of the third period, but Chmelevski scored an empty-net goal to make it 3-1 at 19:21.

The United States is 11-7 in the WJC quarterfinals (5-1 against Czech Republic) and has won five straight playoff games against the Czech Republic. 

“I don’t think we’re peaking but getting on the right track” Norris said. “I think confidence is really high and the guys trust each other a lot right now. The biggest thing is we’re playing well defensively and going into these medal rounds, that’s really big.”

Switzerland 2, Sweden 0

Luca Hollenstein made 41 saves for Switzerland in a 2-0 win against Sweden in the quarterfinals at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

It was Hollenstein’s second shutout of the tournament (4-0 win against Denmark in preliminary round). He has a 0.66 goals-against average and .978 save percentage in three games.

Forwards Yannick Bruschweiler and Luca Wyss scored for Switzerland, which was the fourth seed in Group A after going 1-0-1-2 in the preliminary round. It will play the Canada/Finland winner in the semifinals in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Friday.

“I think we knew from the beginning of the tournament that we could beat any team, and we saw it in our preliminary round games when we got more comfortable and now it worked out for us,” Bruschweiler said.

Samuel Ersson (Philadelphia Flyers) made 33 saves for Sweden, which entered the game as the top seed in Group B after going 3-1-0-0 in the preliminary round. The loss was its first in the quarterfinals since 2006 (Finland).

“They work really hard and we couldn’t compete at the same level,” Sweden coach Tomas Monten said. “We lost our tempo with the puck, which happened against Slovakia and then the last two periods against Kazakhstan. [Switzerland] did a remarkable job defensively and we had two breakaways. You have to score on those chances if you want to win a tight playoff game.”

Bruschweiler scored on an end-to-end rush to give Switzerland a 1-0 lead at 15:23 of the first period. Wyss poked in a loose puck at the right post to make it 2-0 at 13:59 of the second period.

Hollenstein, who is making his first appearance for Switzerland at the WJC, made 19 saves in the third period to preserve the lead.

Russia 8, Slovakia 3

Klim Kostin (St. Louis Blues) scored two goals and Pyotr Kochetkov made 32 saves for Russia in an 8-3 win against Slovakia in the quarterfinals at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Kochetkov, who wasn’t ranked in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list in November, got the start ahead of Danil Tarasov (Columbus Blue Jackets) after making 30 saves in a 2-1 win against Canada on Monday. 

Russia, which has won all five of its games after going 4-0-0-0 in the preliminary round, will play the United States in the semifinals here on Friday.

Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) had one goal and two assists, Alexander Alexeyev (Washington Capitals) had a goal and an assist, and Alexander Romanov (Montreal Canadiens) and Nikolai Kovalenko (Colorado Avalanche) each had two assists. Defenseman Ilya Morozov and forwards Nikita Shashkov, Stepan Starkov and Kirill Slepets, who are each eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, also scored for Russia.

Martin Fehervary (Capitals), Milos Roman (Calgary Flames) and Michal Ivan scored for Slovakia. Samuel Hlavaj was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots in the first period. He was replaced by Juraj Sklenar, who made 19 saves in relief. 

 

 

 

 

WJC Day 6 roundup

United States tops Finland, finishes second in Group B

By NHL.com

United States 4, Finland 1

Tyler Madden (Vancouver Canucks) scored two goals, and the United States earned the second seed in Group B with a 4-1 win against Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Monday.

Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) had a goal and an assist, Ryan Poehling (Montreal Canadiens) scored, Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators) had two assists, and Cayden Primeau (Montreal Canadiens) made 27 saves for the United States (3-0-1-0), which will play the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals in Victoria on Wednesday.

Jesse Ylonen (Montreal Canadiens) scored and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo Sabres) made 35 saves for Finland (2-0-0-2), which will play Canada in the quarterfinals at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Robertson scored from the left circle at 19:51 of the first period to give the United States a 1-0 lead.

Madden scored at 11:40 of the second period to make it 2-0, and Poehling scored his team-leading fifth goal of the tournament at 16:42 to extend the lead to 3-0.

Madden scored his second of the game 2:02 into the third period for a 4-0 lead, and Ylonen cut it to 4-1 at 13:16.

Russia wins top spot in Group A with a 2-1 win against Canada

Russia 2, Canada 1

Pavel Shen (Boston Bruins) scored the tiebreaking goal at 11:00 of the third period, and Russia earned the top spot in Group A with a 2-1 win against Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Monday.

Shen got behind Canada defenseman Markus Phillips (Los Angeles Kings) on the right wing and cut back across the top of the crease before beating goalie Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) to the far post.

“It was a good win and tough game, but it’s just preliminary, so we should forget about this game and think about future games,” Shen said through a translator.

Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) also scored and Pyotr Kochetkov made 30 saves for Russia (4-0-0-0), which will play Slovakia in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Cody Glass (Vegas Golden Knights) scored and DiPietro made 29 saves for Canada (3-0-0-1), which will play Finland in the quarterfinals.

“Tonight’s the last rehearsal for it,” Canada coach Tim Hunter said. “Because next game, you don’t have a gimme where you can lose a game and still move on.”

Glass, who was selected by Vegas with the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, gave Canada a 1-0 lead after forcing a turnover in Russia’s zone 2:20 into the first period.

Denisenko, selected by Florida with the No. 15 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, tied it 1-1 on a power play at 5:21 after Morgan Frost (Philadelphia Flyer) received a two-minute penalty and 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind.

Kochetkov (2019 draft eligible) made his best save of the game at 4:24 of the second period, stopping Max Comtois (Anaheim Ducks) with his left pad on a backdoor chance.

Sweden 4, Kazakhstan 1

Rasmus Sandin, a first-round pick (No. 29) in the 2018 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, had two goals and an assist to help Sweden earn the top seed in Group B with a 4-1 win against Kazakhstan at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Saturday.

Emil Bemstrom (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Nils Lundkvist scored, and Olle Eriksson Ek (Anaheim Ducks) made 10 saves for Sweden (3-1-0-0), which was without five players because of a stomach virus and will play Switzerland in the quarterfinals in Victoria on Wednesday.

Sweden won its 48th straight preliminary-round match at the World Junior Championship. It last lost 3-2 in overtime against the United States on Dec. 31, 2006, at the 2007 WJC.

Batyrlan Muratov scored at 9:46 of the third period, and Denis Karatayev made 52 saves for Kazakhstan (0-0-0-4).

Sweden took a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals by Bemstrom at 7:10, Sandin at 12:13, and Lundkvist at 16:49. Sandin scored into an empty net at 19:21 of the third period.

Czech Republic 4, Denmark 0

Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes) had a goal and an assist, and Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 19 saves for the Czech Republic in a 4-0 win against Denmark in Group A at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Monday.

Jakub Lauko (Boston Bruins), Martin Kaut (Colorado Avalanche) and Filip Kral (Toronto Maple Leafs) also scored for the Czech Republic (1-1-0-2), which got its first regulation win and passed Switzerland to finish third in the group. The Czech Republic will play the United States in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Mads Sogaard, a B-rated goalie on NHL Central Scouting’s players to watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, made 30 saves for Denmark (0-0-4), which became the first team to not score a goal in the preliminary round since the tournament switched to its current 10-team format in 1996.

Denmark will play Kazakhstan in a three-game series to avoid relegation in the 2020 WJC.

Czech Republic defenseman Michael Gaspar (2019 draft eligible), left on a stretcher after a collision into the side of his net early in the third period.

“The doctors took him to the hospital and he went through some tests and examinations and it looks like it’s the lower side of the ribs that is damaged,” Czech Republic coach Vaclav Varada said. “We don’t know how long he is going to be (out). Michael is feeling better, but we kept him there for another examination that’s going to decide if there is some damage inside the stomach or around it.

“For now, we are down to 6 [defensemen] and we will see how Michael is feeling by tomorrow.”

WJC Day 5 roundup

Russia stays undefeated with win against Switzerland

By NHL.com

Russia 7, Switzerland 4

Dmitri Samorukov (Edmonton Oilers), Alexander Alexeyev (Washington Capitals), Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) and Vitali Kravtsov (New York Rangers) each had a goal and an assist to help Russia defeat Switzerland 7-4 in preliminary round Group A action at the IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Sunday.

Forward Kirill Slepets, who is eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, put Russia ahead 4-3 with a shorthanded 2:04 into the third period.

Kirill Marchenko (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Pavel Shen (Boston Bruins) also scored for Russia (3-0-0-0), which plays Canada (3-0-0-0) for the top spot in Group A on Monday.

Danil Tarasov (Blue Jackets) made 27 saves for Russia, including two penalty shots awarded on the same play with 3:05 left in the second period and the game tied 3-3.

Marco Lehmann scored twice, and Valentin Nussbaumer and Yannick Bruschweiler each had a goal and an assist for Switzerland (1-0-1-2), which failed to protect 2-0 and 3-1 leads.

Akira Schmid (New Jersey Devils) made 34 saves for Switzerland.

Slovakia 11, Kazakhstan 2

Andrej Kollar scored a hat trick in Slovakia’s 11-2 win against Kazakhstan in a Group B preliminary-round game at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia.

Adam Ruzicka (Calgary Flames) had two goals and an assist, Marcel Dlugos scored two goals, Adam Liska, Milos Roman (Flames), Filip Krivosik and Pavol Regenda each had a goal and an assist, and Samuel Hlavaj made 15 saves for Slovakia (1-0-0-2).

Artur Gatiyatov scored two goals for Kazakhstan (0-0-0-3).

WJC Day 4 roundup

Blackhawks prospect Boqvist wins it after Americans rally to tie with four goals in third period

By NHL.com

Sweden 5, United States 4 OT

Adam Boqvist scored with 1:09 remaining in overtime, and Sweden overcame blowing a four-goal lead in the third period for a 5-4 win against the United States in Group B at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia on Saturday.

Boqvist (Chicago Blackhawks) scored from the left circle off a pass from Jacob Olofsson (Montreal Canadiens).

The United States (2-0-1-0) scored four unanswered goals in a span of 7:07 of the third period to tie the game 4-4.

“For sure we have to make better plays but these are young players, they’re still kids so that’s what could happen and it’ll probably happen again,” Sweden coach Tomas Monten said. “Hopefully not in this tournament but for sure in their hockey careers. We came back strong, and in the overtime we had some good chances, and then we capitalized on the 2-on-1 so it was a great win.”

Michael Anderson, the U.S. captain, started the rally with a power-play goal at 9:34 to make it 4-1 before Ryan Poehling (Canadiens) had a natural hat trick. He scored a power-play goal at 13:25 to cut it to 4-2, scored with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker at 19:23 to make it 4-3, and tied it 4-4 off a turnover at 19:36.

“We were being more direct towards the net,” Poehling said. “After the first two periods we had 11 shots so for us to rebound as we did (with 16 shots in the third period) we minimized our turnovers in the neutral zone a lot more and that helped out too.

“I think it was just something where we wanted to show a little bit of pride and I think we did that. We ended up losing but I think this is going to help us in the long run as a team.”

Emil Bemstrom (Columbus Blue Jackets), Filip Westerlund (Arizona Coyotes), Rickard Hugg and Erik Brannstrom (Vegas Golden Knights) scored, and Samuel Ersson made 24 saves for Sweden (2-1-0-0).

The U.S. was without center Jack Hughes for a second straight game because of an undisclosed injury. Hughes is projected as the No. 1 selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Westerlund scored on a one-timer from the right circle to give Sweden a 1-0 lead 4:47 into the first period. Hugg made it 2-0 when he knocked in a puck from the slot 9:21 into the second, and Bemstrom took advantage of a turnover at 12:39 for a 3-0 lead.

Brannstrom scored his team-leading fourth goal 2:33 into the third for a 4-0 lead.

The win gives Sweden 47 straight victories in preliminary-round play. Sweden’s last loss was 3-2 in overtime against the United States on Dec. 31, 2006. The Swedes have outscored the opposition 241-80 during the streak, which includes 41 wins in regulation, two in overtime and four in a shootout.

Canada 5, Czech Republic 1

Max Comtois (Anaheim Ducks), Brett Leason and Alexis Lafreniere scored in the first period to help Canada to a 5-1 victory against the Czech Republic in Group A at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Saturday.

MacKenzie Entwistle (Chicago Blackhawks) and Morgan Frost (Philadelphia Flyers) also scored, and Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) made 23 saves for Canada (3-0-0-0), which leads the group.

Canada got one goal from its top line and two from the fourth line.

“To win games you have to get scoring through the lineup because your number one line and your number two line aren’t going to score every night,” Canada coach Tim Hunter said. “It’s like a playoff series: if you expect your top line to score every night in a playoff series, good luck.”

Ondrej Machala, who is eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, scored for the Czech Republic (0-1-0-2), which is fourth in Group A. Jiri Patera (Vegas Golden Knights) stopped 16 of 20 shots before being pulled after two periods. Jakub Skarek (New York Islanders) made nine saves in relief.

Canada scored 14 goals in a win against Denmark on Wednesday and defeated Switzerland 3-2 on Thursday. The victory against the Czech Republic had a bit of both games.

“We’re not putting up 14 goals but being stronger in little areas, being stronger on the boards, our breakouts are better, our forecheck’s better, having high support, being consistent at that too,” DiPietro said. “Just the way we’re playing, the makeup of our team. We’re playing to our identity and the offense is going to come.”

Comtois, Canada’s only returning player from the 2018 gold-medal-winning team, made it 1-0 at 6:03 of the first period after a blind back pass from Owen Tippett (Florida Panthers).

Machala, 19, tied it 1-1 on a 2-on-1 at 6:40, but Leason gave Canada a 2-1 lead on a power play at 11:32. Leason, 19, was passed over the past two drafts but is a B-rated skater for the 2019 draft by NHL Central Scouting in its November players to watch list.

Lafreniere, the first 17-year-old since Connor McDavid in 2015 to play for Canada, made it 3-1 with a one-timer from the left face-off dot at 16:39.

Entwistle scored for a third straight game to make it 4-1 at 14:41 of the second period, and Frost scored his fourth goal on a power play for a 5-1 lead at 9:01 of the third. Frost also had an assist and leads the tournament with seven points.

Switzerland 4, Denmark 0

Philipp Kurashev (Chicago Blackhawks) had a hat trick, and Luca Hollenstein made 21 saves to help Switzerland advance to the quarterfinals with a 4-0 win against Denmark in Group A at Rogers Arena.

Simon Le Coultre, an undrafted defenseman, also scored for Switzerland (1-0-1-1).

Kurashev, selected in the fourth round (No. 120) of the 2018 NHL Draft, scored twice in the first period and completed his hat trick with a solo effort 1:38 into the third period.

Mads Sogaard, a 6-foot-7, B-rated goalie on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, made 22 saves. Denmark (0-0-0-3) hasn’t scored a goal and will play a three-game relegation series to stay in the top group for the 2020 WJC.

Finland 5, Slovakia 1

Defensemen Henri Jokiharju (Chicago Blackhawks) and Ville Heinola, a B-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, each had a goal and an assist to help Finland to a 5-1 win against Slovakia in Group B at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

Santeri Virtanen (Winnipeg Jets), Anton Lundell (2020 NHL Draft eligible), and Oskari Laaksonen (Buffalo Sabres) scored, Eeli Tolvanen (Nashville Predators) had two assists, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Sabres) made 22 saves for Finland (2-0-0-1).

Milos Roman (Calgary Flames) scored, and Samuel Hlavaj, a B-rated goalie in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list, made 31 saves for Slovakia (0-0-0-3).

Jokiharju gave Finland a 1-0 lead with a one-timer from the left circle on a 5-on-3 power play 12:24 into the first period. Virtanen made it 2-0 on a backhand at 16:43.

Heinola scored on a snap shot from the left circle to increase the lead to 3-0 2:02 into the second period before Lundell made it 4-0 at 13:53.

Roman scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal at 16:26 to bring Slovakia within 4-1.

Laaksonen gave Sweden a 5-1 lead 13:01 into the third period.

WJC Day 3 roundup:

Farabee hat trick leads United States past Kazakhstan

By NHL.com

United States 8, Kazakhstan 2

Joel Farabee (Philadelphia Flyers) scored a natural hat trick in the first period to help the United States defeat Kazakhstan 8-2 in Group B at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Friday.

United States center Jack Hughes, the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, was a surprise scratch because of an undisclosed injury and is day to day. The U.S. didn’t need him, outshooting Kazakhstan 66-13. 

Ryan Poehling (Montreal Canadiens) stepped into Hughes spot on the top line and scored a shorthanded goal and had two assists. Oliver Wahlstrom (New York Islanders), Alexander Chmelevski (San Jose Sharks), Tyler Madden (Vancouver Canucks) and Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators) each scored, and Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) had four assists for the United States (2-0-0-0). Cayden Primeau (Canadiens) made 11 saves.

“I thought Joel Farabee was very good tonight,” said United States coach Mike Hastings. “To have Poehling go back to the middle and play the game that he played tonight shows a lot about his versatility. And it was a good night for us.”

Forwards Dmitriy Mitenkov and Andrei Buyalskiy, who are each eligible for the 2019 draft, scored for Kazakhstan (0-0-0-2). Goalie Vladislav Nurek started, but was replaced after two goals by Demid Yeremeyev, who stopped 19 of 24 shots before being replaced by Nurek, who finished with 41 saves. 

Wahlstrom gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead 1:37 into the first period, but Buyalskiy tied it 18 seconds later before Farabee, who was selected by the Flyers with the No. 14 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, took over. The 18-year-old left wing scored his first goal on a power play at 5:15, got his second off the rush at 8:53, and finished off the hat trick after being left alone in front at 12:05.

Robertson assisted on all three Farabee goals.

“Scoring a hat trick is definitely nice, but I’ve got to give it to my linemates and the D getting the puck up,” said Farabee. “We created a lot of turnovers, which gave me those chances.”

The United States plays Sweden (2-0-0-0) on Saturday. Sweden has won 46 consecutive preliminary-round games at the WJC.

“It’s definitely going to be a bit more skill, a tougher game,” said Farabee. “We definitely want to end their streak in the prelims, so I think we’ll be throwing the kitchen sink at them.”

Russia scores twice shorthanded, holds off Czech Republic

Russia 2, Czech Republic 1 

Artyom Galimov and Nikolai Kovalenko (Colorado Avalanche) each scored shorthanded, and Russia defeated the Czech Republic 2-1 in Group A at Rogers Arena. 

Pyotr Kochetkov, an undrafted 19-year-old goalie eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, made 24 saves for Russia, which opened with a 4-0 win against Denmark on Thursday.

Jachym Kondelik (Nashville Predators) scored a power-play goal, and Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 26 saves for the Czech Republic, which opened with a 2-1 overtime win against Switzerland on Wednesday. 

Galimov, a 19-year-old still eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, made it 1-0 at 17:05 of the first period with a solo rush, cutting left across the slot and beating Dostal with a wrist shot the other way.   

Kovalenko, selected in the sixth round (No. 171) in the 2018 NHL Draft, finished off a shorthanded 2-on-1 pass from Pavel Shen (Boston Bruins) to make it 2-0 at 14:57 of the second period.

Kondelik, selected in the fourth round (No. 111) in the 2018 draft, scored 53 seconds later on the same power play to bring the Czech Republic within 2-1 when a point shot bounced off his face, up and over Kochetkov, and into the net.

WJC Day 2 roundup

Canada survives strong effort from Switzerland

By NHL.com

Canada 3, Switzerland 2

Cody Glass (Vegas Golden Knights), MacKenzie Entwhistle (Chicago Blackhawks) and Noah Dobson (New York Islanders) each scored, and Ian Scott (Toronto Maple Leafs) made 15 saves to help Canada to a 3-2 win against Switzerland in Group A at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena on Thursday.

Canada is 2-0-0-0 and has outscored its opposition 17-2.

Philipp Kurashev (Blackhawks) scored twice and Akira Schmid (New Jersey Devils) made 29 saves for Switzerland (0-0-1-1), which opened with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

Canada, which opened with a 14-0 win against Denmark, went up 1-0 on Switzerland on the first shift when Glass, picked No. 6 in the 2017 NHL Draft, scored 36 seconds into the first period.

Switzerland settled in, and Kurashev, a fourth-round pick (No. 120) in the 2018 NHL Draft, tied it 1-1 with a power play one-timer 46 seconds into the second period.

Scott made a great glove save off Swiss forward Yannick Bruschweiler alone in the slot at 4:52. Entwhistle, a third-round pick (No. 69) in 2017, put Canada ahead for good at 5:55, converting a pass from Shane Bowers (Colorado Avalanche) to make it 2-1.

Dobson, a defenseman picked No. 12 in the 2018 draft, made it 3-1 at 12:08 of the second period.

“We weren’t playing with urgency, that is probably the biggest thing,” Glass said. “We were trying to make plays that weren’t really there. We were trying to force it.”

Kurashev scored his second power-play goal of the tournament with 1:49 left, and Schmid pulled for an extra attacker, to make it 3-2.

“They’ve only been together a short while, so chemistry and learning how to win these tight games, and living through the goalie-out situations, it’s all new to them and we try to guide them through it and they are navigating pretty well,” said Canada coach Tim Hunter. Overall we’re really happy with where we’re at, just keep building, learn from whatever mistakes we made tonight and get better from it.”

Canada plays the Czech Republic on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN). Switzerland plays Denmark on Saturday (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).


Finland 5, Kazakhstan 0

Kaapo Kakko, an A-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, scored his first goal of the tournament to help Finland to a 5-0 win against Kazakhstan in Group B at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

Otto Latvala (2019 NHL Draft), Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey Devils), Samuli Vainionpaa, and Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) also scored and Filip Lindberg made 18 saves for Finland (1-0-1-0).

Latvala gave Finland a 1-0 lead off a wrist shot from the left circle 12:52 into the first period before Talvitie extended the lead 2:16 later with an unassisted goal off a turnover. Vainionpaa scored 12:49 into the second to give Finland a 3-0 lead.

Kakko, a projected top-5 pick in the 2019 draft, gave Finland a 4-0 lead 7:17 into the third period and Heponiemi made it 5-0 at 9:13.

Demid Yeremeyev made 51 saves for Kazakhstan (0-0-1-0).

Finland plays Slovakia on Saturday (6:30 p.m. ET); Kazakhstan will play the United States on Friday (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).

Russia 4, Denmark 0

Alexander Romanov (Montreal Canadiens) had a goal and two assists, Danil Tarasov (Columbus Blue Jackets) made 21 saves, and Russia opened its tournament with a 4-0 win against Denmark in Group A at Rogers Arena on Thursday.

Vitali Kravtsov (New York Rangers), Pavel Shen (Boston Bruins) and Ivan Morozov (Vegas Golden Knights) scored for Russia, which was outshot 21-20.

Goalie William Rorth started for Denmark after replacing Mads Sogaard in the third period of a 14-0 loss to Canada on Wednesday. Rorth, who gave up three goals on four shots against Canada, made 16 saves.

Kravtsov, the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, made it 1-0 at 6:28 of the first period after a three-way passing play on the power play. 

Romanov, a defenseman picked in the second round (No. 38) of the 2018 draft, made it 2-0 with 2:10 left in the second period with a screened shot from the top of the left face-off circle. The 18-year-old, who does not have a point in 28 Kontinental Hockey League games with CSKA, assisted two goals in the third period.  

Shen, a seventh-round pick (No. 212) pick in the 2018 draft, scored at 13:56 to make it 3-0, and Morozov, picked in the second round (No. 61) in the 2018 draft, scored into an empty net with 1:25 left to make it 4-0.

Sweden 5, Slovakia 2

Emil Bemstrom scored two goals to help lead Sweden to a 5-2 victory against Slovakia at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Group B on Thursday.

The win gives Sweden 46 straight victories in preliminary-round play at the World Junior Championship. Sweden’s last loss was 3-2, in overtime, against the United States on Dec. 31, 2006.

Lucas Elvenes (Vegas Golden Knights) and Isac Lundestrom (Anaheim Ducks) each had a goal and an assist, and Erik Brannstrom (Golden Knights) scored for Sweden (2-0-0-0).

Elvenes opened the scoring at 11:42 of the first period. Bemstrom (Columbus Blue Jackets) scored his first goal at 16:12 of the first period to give Sweden a 2-1 lead. He scored a power-play goal 6:40 into the second period for a 3-1 lead.

Brannstrom scored his third power-play goal in two tournament games to give Sweden a 4-1 lead 5:09 into the third period. Sweden’s final goal at 12:37 of the third.  

Adam Liska, who tied the game at 1-1 at 13:43 of the first and Milos Fafrak scored for Slovakia (0-0-2-0). Farfak’s goal at 8:42 of the third made it 4-2.

Sweden plays the United States at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN). Slovakia plays Finland on Saturday (6:30 p.m. ET).

WJC Day 1 roundup

United States rallies for victory against Slovakia

By NHL.com

United States 2, Slovakia 1

Michael Anderson and Evan Barratt scored in a span of 4:32 of the third period to help give the United States a 2-1 victory against Slovakia in Group B competition at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Wednesday.

Goalie Kyle Keyser (Boston Bruins) made 13 saves, including a penalty-shot attempt by Adam Liska 13:15 into the third to help U.S. maintain the lead.

Anderson (Los Angeles Kings), a defenseman, scored a power-play goal 1:10 into the third for a 1-1 tie. Barratt (Chicago Blackhawks) scored off his backhand at 5:42 for a 2-1 lead.

“I thought our line was playing well all night,” Barratt said. “Tyler Madden and Noah Cates are really good players down low and we were cycling all night and we finally got a break and saw an opening to the net and kind of just shot … I don’t know how it went in but it looked pretty good I guess.”

Defenseman Marek Korencik gave Slovakia a 1-0 lead in the second period when he scored off a snap shot from the left circle at 17:17. Slovakia goalie Samuel Hlavaj, a B- rated goalie in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch for the 2019 NHL Draft list, made 32 saves.

Forward Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) was denied on a penalty shot by Hlavaj 12:29 into the second to keep the game 0-0. The victory by the United States against Slovakia was its 13th in 18 tries, including one tie, in WJC competition.

“We knew it was going to be hard going into it and we just wanted to work every shift in five-minute increments of the game,” Barratt said. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy but at the end of the day we knew we would run them down and come out on top.”

The United States will next play against Kazakhstan in preliminary-round action Friday.

Canada 14, Denmark 0

Max Comtois (Anaheim Ducks) scored four goals and Morgan Frost (Philadelphia Flyers) had three goals and two assists to help Canada open the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship with a 14-0 win against Denmark in Group A play at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Owen Tippett (Florida Panthers) and undrafted 19-year-old Brett Leason each scored twice, and Jack Studnicka (Boston Bruins), Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Los Angeles Kings) and MacKenzie Entwhistle (Chicago Blackhawks) had a goal each and Cody Glass (Vegas Golden Knights) had four assists.

“The message to us was stick to our game plan and don’t; sway away from that, don’t get any bad habits,” Frost said. “We are trying to build with every game and that was the message, keep playing and keep playing the right way and we did a good job of that.”

Comtois, Canada’s captain, had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 10 games with Anaheim to start the 2018-19 season. He is the fifth player for Canada to score four goals in one World Junior Championship game, joining Taylor Raddysh (2017), Brayden Schenn (2011), Simon Gagne (1999) & Mario Lemieux (1983).

“It’s always fun to score goals and it doesn’t happen often,’ said Comtois, who has not had a hat trick since his first season of junior hockey with Victoriaville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2016-17. “I got a couple lucky bounces and good passes from my teammates. I just put the puck in the net.”

Frost was named player of the game for Canada and his name was chanted by the crowd as he received the award.

“That was coolest moment I have ever been a part of and I had chills running right through my body,” Frost said.

Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) made 14 saves, had an assist and stopped Danish forward Phillip Schultz, who is eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, on a penalty shot in the third period.

Mads Sogaard, a 6-foot-7, B-rated goaltender on NHL Central Scouting’s players to watch list for the 2019 draft, stopped 30 of 41 shots before leaving with a left leg injury with 7:27 left in the third period. Undrafted 19-year-old William Rorth made one save in relief.

Canada pays Switzerland on Thursday.

Sweden 2, Finland 1

Defenseman Erik Brannstrom, a first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2017 NHL Draft by the Vegas Golden Knights, scored two power-play goals to help lead Sweden to a 2-1 win against Finland in Group B action at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria on Wednesday.

The win gives Sweden 45 straight victories in preliminary-round action at the World Junior Championship. The last defeat was Dec. 31, 2006, 3-2 in overtime against the United States.

Defenseman Adam Boqvist (Chicago Blackhawks) had two assists for Sweden. Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey Devils) scored for Finland, which took seven penalties in the game.

Brannstrom scored his first power-play goal off a shot from the point at 13:14 of the first period to give Sweden a 1-0 lead. His second came off a one-timer from the left circle on a 5-on-3 advantage 3:55 into the second for a 2-0 lead.

Talvitie scored a power-play goal 16:26 into the third off a pass from Kaapo Kakko, an A-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, to make it 2-1.

Sweden plays Slovakia on Thursday  & Finland will play Kazakhstan on Thursday Also.

Czech Republic 2, Switzerland 1 (OT)

Defenseman David Kvasnicka scored 52 seconds into overtime and Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 26 saves to help the Czech Republic to a 2-1 win against Switzerland to open Group A play at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

Martin Kaut (Colorado Avalanche) had a goal and an assist for the Czech Republic, outshot Switzerland 9-1 to start the game. Kvasnicka, undrafted, beat Swiss goalie Luca Hollenstein with a high screened shot from above the right face-off circle shortly after Kaut hit the post.

Nando Eggenberger, a 19-year-old C-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting’s November players to watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, put Switzerland ahead 1-0 with a power-play goal at 7:45 of the second period.

Kaut tied it 1-1 at 9:02 with a one-timer of a pass from below the net by Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes). Kaut, 19, has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 26 games with Colorado in the American Hockey League.

Hollenstein, who is eligible for the 2019 draft, made 25 saves for Switzerland.

2019 World Junior Championship Group A & B preview

By Adam Kimelma & Mike G. Morreale NHL.com

Canada coach Tim Hunter is looking for one attribute more than any other as his team prepares for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Speed.

“We’re going to try to be the fastest World Junior team yet,” Hunter told TSN. “And we have a lot of work cut out for us, but that’s the goal and that’s the identity we’re going to have.”

And it’s not just skating speed. Hunter wants his team to play fast and think fast.

“It’s being fast in every aspect of the game, with and without the puck,” he said. “Off face-offs, on your forecheck, tracking back. I’ve studied that really hard over the last two years and talked to some great hockey minds and got some great opinions on it so we’ll implement a lot of the stuff. I’ve used it with my own team in Moose Jaw (Western Hockey League) this year. We’ve had a lot of success with some of the things.”

he 2019 WJC begins Wednesday and runs through Jan. 5, with games at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, and Rogers Centre in Vancouver. Canada, the defending champion, is in Group A along with Czech Republic, Denmark, Russia and Switzerland, and will play its preliminary-round games in Vancouver.

Here’s a look at each Group A team, in predicted order of finish:

Canada

Coach: Tim Hunter

2019 NHL Draft watch: Brett Leason, F, Prince Albert (WHL)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Denmark (8 p.m. ET; TSN, NHLN [joined in progress]); Dec. 27, Switzerland (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Czech Republic (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Russia (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: The defending champions will have one player returning from last year’s team, Anaheim Ducks forward prospect Max Comtois, but remain one of the tournament favorites. Canada’s size and skill at forward could be its strength, led by a projected first line of Comtois (6-foot-2, 207 pounds), Vegas Golden Knights prospect Cody Glass (6-2, 178) and Florida Panthers prospect Owen Tippett (6-1, 216). One player to watch is high-scoring forward Alexis Lafreniere, who will become the seventh 17-year-old to play for Canada at the WJC (Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester, Eric Lindros). He’s projected as the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft. Canada’s chances of success could hinge on the play of Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks), the favorite to start in goal after Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) backstopped runs to the championship game the previous two tournaments. 

Russia

Coach: Valeri Bragin

2019 NHL Draft watch: Vasili Podkolzin, F, SKA St. Petersburg 2 (RUS-JR)

Schedule: Dec. 27, Denmark (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 28, Czech Republic (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 30, Switzerland (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Canada (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: Russia will have two players back from the team that finished fifth at the 2018 WJC, ending its run of seven straight tournaments with a medal. Forward Klim Kostin (St. Louis Blues) and defenseman Dmitri Samorukov (Edmonton Oilers) are back and each has North American experience. Samorukov is in his third season with Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League, and also played five games with Bakersfield, the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate, last season. Kostin has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 28 games in his second season with San Antonio of the AHL. Russia’s most intriguing player could be Podkolzin (6-1, 190), an A-rated player for the 2019 draft. He helped Russia finish second at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge, which ended Dec. 16, and tied for the tournament scoring lead with eight points (three goals, five assists) in six games. Russia always is well-coached and aiming to return to the medal stand.

Czech Republic

Coach: Vaclav Varada

2019 NHL Draft watch: Martin Has, D, Tappara Jr. (FIN-JR)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Switzerland (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 28, Russia (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Canada (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Denmark (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes), who tied for the tournament scoring lead with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and led Czech Republic to a surprising fourth-place finish at the 2018 WJC, will be back to help the Czechs try to win a medal for the first time since finishing third in 2005. Necas has two points (one goal, one assist) in seven games with the Hurricanes this season, and has 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 26 games with Charlotte of the AHL. Also returning from last year is forward Filip Zadina (Detroit Red Wings) who tied for second at the tournament with seven goals. Goalie Jakub Skarek (New York Islanders) had an .848 save percentage in five games at the 2018 WJC and could start the tournament as the No. 1, but Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) could push him for time.

Switzerland

Coach: Christian Wohlwend

2019 NHL Draft watch: Valentin Nussbaumer, F, Shawinigan (QMJHL); Nando Eggenberger, F, Oshawa (OHL)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Czech Republic (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 27, Canada (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Denmark (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 30, Russia (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: Switzerland is hoping experience makes up for a lack of top-end talent, with 13 players from the 2018 WJC returning. Among them is goalie Akira Schmid (New Jersey Devils), who was the third goalie at the 2018 WJC and has a 2.73 GAA and .905 save percentage in 11 games with Omaha of the United States Hockey League this season. Defenseman Tobias Geisser (6-4, 201), a Washington Capitals prospect playing with Hershey in the AHL, will anchor the defense. Forwards Phillip Kurashev (Chicago Blackhawks) and Valentin Nussbaumer, a B-rated prospect for the 2019 draft playing with Shawinigan in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, could be the leaders up front. It’s been more than 20 years since Switzerland won its only WJC medal, a bronze in 1998; the goal for this year is to beat Denmark and avoid the relegation round.

Denmark

Coach: Olaf Eller

2019 NHL Draft watch: Mads Sogaard, G, Medicine Hat (WHL)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Canada (8 p.m. ET; TSN, NHLN [joined in progress]); Dec. 27, Russia (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Switzerland (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Czech Republic (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: Denmark remained in the top division of the WJC after defeating Belarus in two games in the best-of-3 relegation round in 2018, and will be hard-pressed to avoid going through that again. Much of the responsibility for avoiding relegation could fall on Sogaard, the third goalie on the 2018 team who is a B-rated prospect for the 2019 draft. He has a 2.39 GAA and .931 save percentage in 19 WHL games with Medicine Hat. Also returning is forward Jonas Rondbjerg (Golden Knights), who led Denmark with seven points (two goals, five assists) in six games. Denmark reached the quarterfinals at the 2017 WJC, but with Canada, Russia and Czech Republic looking strong, their best bet for tournament success will be a win in the preliminary round against Switzerland.

Group B

Many anticipate Jack Hughes of the United States being the most-watched player at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.

“Jack is a special player wherever he plays, on any team,” U.S. general manager John Vanbiesbrouck said about the 17-year-old center who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. “The uniqueness is he’s a young player and now a potential first-overall pick and we don’t want to be bashful about it or shrug the story off, but we have to manage it, and manage him.

“It’s not that hard to do when a guy like that has the puck on his stick a lot and controls the play. He’ll receive a lot of the attention and that gets tough for one player, so we have to help him absorb some of that, but he’s got a bit of a runway here, and it’s a good tournament for him to launch.”

The 2019 WJC begins Wednesday and runs through Jan. 5 at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, and Rogers Centre in Vancouver. The Group B bracket includes Finland, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States.

The last time the WJC was held in Canada was 2017 and the United States defeated the host country 5-4 in a shootout to win the gold medal at Bell Centre in Montreal. Only three countries have won the WJC on home ice: Canada (1991, 1995, 2006, 2009, 2015), Finland (1998, 2016) and the Soviet Union (1983).

Here’s a look at each Group B team, in predicted order of finish:

United States

Coach:  Mike Hastings

2019 NHL Draft watch: Jack Hughes, C, USA U-18 (USHL); Spencer Knight, G, USA U-18 (USHL); Sean Dhooghe, C, Wisconsin (Big Ten) 

Schedule: Dec. 26, Slovakia (6:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 28, Kazakhstan (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Sweden (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Finland (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: The United States is looking to win a fourth straight medal after winning gold in 2017 and bronze in 2016 and 2018. In addition to being fast and creative on offense, and strong on defense, the United States also has depth at the goalie position with Cayden Primeau (Montreal Canadiens), Kyle Keyser (Boston Bruins) and Knight (2019 NHL Draft-eligible), who received an A rating in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list in November. There are five returning players: defensemen Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks), Dylan Samberg (Winnipeg Jets) and Michael Anderson (Los Angeles Kings); and forwards Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators) and Ryan Poehling (Montreal Canadiens). 

Sweden

Coach: Tomas Monten

2019 NHL Draft watch: Philip Broberg, D, AIK (SWE); Nils Hoglander, LW, Rogle (SWE)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Finland (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 27, Slovakia (6:30 p.m. ET; TSN); Dec. 29, United States (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Kazakhstan (6:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Sweden ended a three-year medal drought when it earned silver last year, falling to Canada 3-1 in the gold-medal game. Sweden will have a different look this year but will still be a hard-working, fast-skating team with quick transitions that plays to the inside. It has a solid nucleus, particularly with defensemen Rasmus Sandin (Toronto Maple Leafs), Nils Lundkvist (New York Rangers), Erik Brannstrom (Vegas Golden Knights) and Adam Boqvist (Chicago Blackhawks). Defenseman Timothy Liljegren (Toronto Maple Leafs) is out because of an injury so Broberg, an A rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list, may play a significant role. 

Finland

Coach: Jussi Ahokas

2019 NHL Draft watch: Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (FIN); Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna (WHL); Mikko Kokkonen, D, Jukurit (FIN); Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (FIN); Anttoni Honka, JYP (FIN)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Sweden (10:30 p.m.ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 27, Kazakhstan (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Slovakia (6:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, United States (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: Since winning a gold medal in 2016, Finland has finished ninth (2017) and sixth (2018). One area that has proven troublesome is goal scoring, as Finland placed last in the 10-team field with a 5.31 shooting percentage (12 goals on 226 shots) in 2017, and ninth in shooting percentage (8.57) in five games in 2018. Finland hopes to resolve that issue with some high-energy performers on this year’s roster, including forwards Rasmus Kupari (Los Angeles Kings), Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers), Sampo Ranta (Colorado Avalanche), Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey Devils) and Kakko, who is projected to go among the top five picks in the 2019 draft. Buffalo Sabres goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen could receive most of the starts. Defenseman Urho Vaakanainen (Boston Bruins), who has two assists for Providence of the American Hockey League in six games, will represent his country for a third straight time at the WJC. 

Slovakia

Coach: Ernest Bokros

2019 NHL Draft watch: Samuel Hlavaj, G, Slovakia U20 (SVK)

Schedule: Dec. 26, United States (6:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 27, Sweden (6:30 p.m. ET; TSN); Dec. 29, Finland (6:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 30, Kazakhstan (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: One player to keep an eye on for Slovakia is defenseman Martin Fehervary (Washington Capitals). The 6-foot-2, 194-pound left-hand shot, who will represent the Slovakia National Junior Team a third straight year, has one goal and two assists in 23 games for HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League. Hlavaj (6-3, 187) of the Slovak Under-20 team is a B rated goalie on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list.

Kazakhstan

Coach: Sergei Starygin

2019 NHL Draft watch — None

Schedule: Dec. 27, Finland (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 28, United States (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 30, Slovakia (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Sweden (6:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Kazakhstan is back in the top level at the WJC for the first time since 2009 after winning the Division I Group A tournament in December 2017. Kazakhstan returns many players from that championship group, including left wing Artur Gatiyatov, who was named the best forward of the tournament with seven points (four goals, three assists) in five games. Kazakhstan is the fifth nation in six years to get promoted from Division I, joining Norway (2013), Denmark (2014), Latvia (2016), and Belarus (2015, 2017).

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