by Corey Pronman
UPDATED 12/22: The last bunch of pre-tournament games in Finland was today. The remaining games before the World Juniors began are tomorrow with the Czech Republic facing Germany and Russia playing Switzerland. I’ll be covering the tournament here at HP and on twitter (@coreypronman).
Thoughts on the Finland-USA game:
The top line for Finland was very impressive with Salomaki (NSH), Markus Granlund (CGY) and Armia (BUF) all creating several chances and exhibiting a high level of creativity and puck movement. I had questions before the tournament about exactly how dangerous that line would be but if they’re near as good as they were today the Finns should be fine on offense. That’s also due to the fact they have depth. Aleksander Barkov (2013), Artturi Lehkonen (2013), Miro Aaltonen (2013) and Teuvo Teravainen (CHI) also showed the ability to create and gave the team two quality powerplay units.
Finland announced after the game Dallas prospect Esa Lindell was cut. He was almost always the least evident player on his pairing and I even liked undrafted prospect Auvinen more who he played with often. On the flipside I liked Petteri Lindbohm’s (STL) defensive play again and Ville Pokka (NYI) looked solid.
The USA turned in a disappointing performance, mired by a lot of penalties which kept its top players from getting a lot of ice time. Galchenyuk (MTL), Gaudreau (CGY), Trocheck (FLA) and Grimaldi (FLA) didn’t play as much as they should but they all at least generated something when they did. J.T. Miller (NYR) did not although he showed some physical game value.
The USA’s shutdown line of Bardreau (undrafted), Pietella (NJD) and Hartman (2013) was one of their bright spots the last two days and while Finland did score a lot that line showed signs of being able to be a quality checking unit.
Sean Kuraly (SJS) was solid today, displaying his top-end speed, power game and created a few chances. His line mates Tyler Biggs (TOR) and Stefan Matteau (NJD) didn’t do much though with the latter getting a 2 & 10 although the call was questionable.
On D Jacob Trouba (WPG), Seth Jones (2013) and Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI) were good although for Shayne I noticed he was trying to be at times a tad too aggressive offensively. Trouba was effective in both ends and laid some bone crunching hits. Mike Reilly (CBJ) had a rough day and had some questionable defensive moments.
The USA did not dress Brady Skjei (NYR), Pat Sieloff (CGY) and Jim Vesey (NSH). Before the game I would have said that made it a 90% chance those were the cuts, but after the US got rocked today we’ll see if that’s still the case.
Thoughts on the Canada-Sweden game:
For Canada the story is more or less the same as the prior game, their best players need to be better. The top two lines asides from Jonathan Drouin (2013) and defensemen like Morgan Rielly (TOR) and Dougie Hamilton (BOS) need to create more offense and make fewer errors. I have a high level of confidence that will happen as they are for the most part high-end prospects.
Boone Jenner (CBJ) was having a better day than the last game, showing good defensive value before a hit that injured Jesper Pettersson saw him get ejected. The hit was in my opinion slightly late, and combining that with the fact it caused a significant injury to Pettersson—he was diagnosed with a dislocated shoulder and a fractured wrist—and Jenner is a repeat offender, you’re likely looking at a suspension for Jenner from the IIHF.
Jordan Binnington (STL) and Joel Lassinatti (undrafted) were both excellent in net this game. It wouldn’t be a recent World Juniors without Canadian fans discussing the goaltending, but as well as Binnington played this one game, and how average Malcolm Subban (BOS) has been recently, I’m skeptical of these short samples meaning anything. Goalies are incredibly volatile, and evaluating performances in single games or small groups or games is never a wise process. Plus Canada’s coach Steve Spott works in the OHL where both goalies currently play and should have a quality working knowledge of who he believes is the better goalie. I’d be surprised if Subban wasn’t the guy they go with. That shouldn’t take away from Binnington though who is a good goalie prospect.
For Sweden I liked their top line again of Rickard Rakell (ANA), William Karlsson (ANA) and Filip Forsberg (WSH). While Sweden didn’t score a lot, those three created chances. Elias Lindholm (2013) didn’t play last game, but did this time and looked good centering their 2nd line, assisting on Sweden’s only goal. He didn’t skate at all in the third period though.
One of Sweden’s undrafted players Filip Sandberg is a player I’ve liked all season. He plays with energy, shows a good if not at times a great amount of skill and always finds a positive way to be noticeable.
Today was day 1 of the World Juniors, well kind of day 1; we’ll call it day 0.5 as it was just exhibition games. The only other exhibition game between tournament countries so far was Slovakia winning 4-1 over the Czech Republic yesterday which I did not see.
Thoughts from the Canada-Finland game:
This was Ty Rattie’s (STL) try out game for a top six spot with Huberdeau sitting out 1 game due to a suspension. He didn’t play poorly, but he didn’t really look quality either and it’s likely his role could be diminished going forward for Canada. Brett Ritchie (DAL) who is on a scoring line did come out during the game, but it was just precautionary.
The checking line for Canada of Charles Hudon (MTL) Boone Jenner (CBJ) and JC Lipon (2013) all had quality games and for a player like Hudon it is getting to the point where I have a hard time recalling his last bad game. He’s smart, skilled, has defensive value and always finds a way to create positive value.
A lot of Canada’s big guns didn’t really do as much as one would hope, but it is the first game on large ice so they deserve a pass. While Nugent-Hopkins (EDM) and Mark Scheifele (WPG) connected on one goal, those two, Ryan Strome (NYI), Morgan Rielly (TOR) and Dougie Hamilton (BOS) need to have more of an impact. The large amount of penalties Canada took didn’t help though. I also thought the two mentioned defensemen had good flashes too.
Teuvo Teravainen (CHI) showed flashes of his high skill level, making a nice touch pass for example on Finland’s last goal. For most of the game though when he tried to create it was either he was surrounded by three Canadians, or his teammates weren’t giving him support.
Olli Maatta (PIT) logged a ton of minutes and looked effective. He only played one game last time in the World Juniors after being knocked out in the game versus Canada. He looked good on the top PP unit too for Finland showing some nice offensive instincts.
Joel Armia (BUF) was tremendous and arguably Finland’s best player. He’s so, so good when he is on and he was on today. His skating looked better than a year ago, and he was displaying a high amount of offensive creativity. Those traits combine well in an evaluator’s eyes with a big frame like Armia’s.
Petteri Lindbohm (STL) was another player I liked for Finland. He isn’t as flashy as the above players but he was a really effective player in a shutdown role making good reads and playing physical. He showed some solid puck movement too.
Thoughts from the Sweden-USA game:
The top line for Sweden of Rickard Rakell (ANA), William Karlsson (ANA) and Filip Forsberg (WSH) was outstanding today. Rakell and Forsberg such a high level of offensive skill and puck possession ability and it’s why I’m so optimistic about their projections. Karlsson also made a beauty pass on one of their powerplays that exemplified why one scout I talked to this week described his hockey sense as “outstanding”.
When Emil Molin (DAL) was penciled in on Sweden’s top six for the tournament it was a bit of an eyebrow raiser but he showed he might be able to fit in comfortably in that role. He showed good skill, offensive sense and scored a long distance goal as well.
Sebastian Collberg (MTL) was on and off for me today. He displayed nice shiftiness and flashes of top skill, but made a fair amount of poor decisions and his strength level still needs work.
Mikaek Vikstrand (OTT) has been one of this season’s biggest surprises and looked quality again today. He’s a very good puck moving defenseman who manned the top of Sweden’s powerplay effectively. He can defend too, but more at an average level.
The Hampus Lindholm (ANA) and Rasmus Bengtsson (FLA) pairing was just ok for me today. I like both of the prospects and fully expect them both to impress at the tournament especially Lindholm but there wasn’t much wow from his game today. In fact he’s been better in the AHL games I’ve seen than the game he played today.
Connor Murphy (PHX) was very good today and looks like he’ll make Phoenix’s riches of young defensemen much richer. He’s not a high-end tools kind of player, but just can do everything well. He’s big, mobile, has some offensive ability and defends well.
Cole Bardreau is an undrafted player and while he’s small with not a ton of offensive upside I think he’s at least worth a look from an NHL team. He skates at a solid level, he’s very good defensively as he showed today, he works hard and has some ability with the puck.
Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) was solid with an outstanding second period where he displayed his high-end abilities. He wasn’t as evident in the first and third periods, but the US coaching staff said prior to the game they were going to play the fringe candidates more and Galchenyuk didn’t get as much ice time as he will later on.
I was hoping for a little more from Riley Barber (WSH) after his tremendous start to the season at Miami. He didn’t play poorly, but in competition for a spot with players like Mario Lucia (MIN) and Jim Vesey (NSH) they outplayed him today.