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2018 World Junior Hockey Championships

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  • 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships

    Sweden is going to be my pick for gold this year. Elias Pettersson is the best prospect outside of North America right now, perhaps the best prospect in the game, and I expect that he will own this tournament this year. As I've mentioned once before, his 41 points in 43 games last year was the best ever per game total by a draft-eligible player since the inception of the Swedish Allsvenskan league in its modern format, in 1999. Notable players with less points per game in Allsvenskan in their draft years than Pettersson's .95 last year include David Pastrnak (.67), William Nylander (.77) Filip Forsberg (.87) and Alex Wennberg (.70). Now, he's moved on to SHL this year, where he is leading the league with a rather astonishing 35 points in 25 games, for 1.4 points per game. This time, I went back 30 years, to 1986/7, and no under-20 player has touched 1.4 points per game. Some notable comparables include William Nylander (20 in 21 = .95), Nicklas Backstrom (40 in 45 = .85), Henrik (47 in 50 = .94) and Daniel (45 in 50 = .90) Sedin, Peter Forsberg ( 48 in 39 for 1.23), Markus Naslund (39 in 39 = 1.00) and Michael Nylander (28 in 40 = .70). This kid is a phenom.

    Sweden might end up being quite a young team, featuring as many as four under-aged players., and while they may not have as many first rounders as USA or Canada, they look to have a bunch of 1st and 2nd round picks littered throughout their roster, especially on defense, which just wasn't the case for Sweden 10 or 20 years ago. With a forward group led by Pettersson and Alex Nylander, and also featuring 2017 eighth overall pick, Lias Anderson, and likely 2018 first rounder, Isac Lundestrom, and with a defense led by the dynamic 17 year-old prodigy Rasmus Dahlin, the Swedes could and should sport an explosive offense in this year's tournament. And again, after Dahlin most of their defensemen are first or second round NHL picks, and their expected starting goaltender, Filip Gustavsson, is a 19 year-old second round pick by Pittsburgh - so don't expect them to give up a ton of goals either. My ranking: 1st.

    Finland continues to look like a team on the rise. I remember saying after their first gold in 2014 that they might have to start to be talked about with the big four perennial contenders in this tournament, and now with two golds in the past four years, and a flood of high first round draft picks, it is safe to call it a big five. This year they'll be led by a pair of elite blueliners in Olli Juolevi (2016 5th overall) and Miro Heiskanen (2017 3rd overall), and beyond that, they have three more defenseman picked in the first round in 2017. That's a defense core with the potential to rival even some of Canada's from their glory years. If they manage to get Puljujarvi from the Oilers, that would be huge for their offense and their overall chances, but that seems extremely unlikely, so as is their offense would have to be led by 2016 Carolina second rounder Janne Kuokannen, 2017 Nashville first rounder Eeli Tolvanen and 2017 Florida second rounder Aleksei Heponiemi, currently leading the WHL in scoring for Swift Current. Like Sweden, Finland will be chalk-full of first and second round picks, a very new concept to them. But some things never change, and as always, they will be backed by elite goaltending, this year by 2017 Buffalo second round pick Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. My ranking: 3rd.

  • #2
    If I can go back to Finland for a minute, oh man, on top of championship quality defense and goaltending, if they get Vesalainen back healthy in time, a guy who tuned up the U18s last year with 13 points in 7 games - in addition to Eeli Tolvanen tearing up the KHL, Heponiemi dominating the WHL, and Janne Kuokkanen clicking along with 12 points in 15 AHL games - Finland is going to score a lot of goals in this year's tournament. They'íll likely have some painfully lopsided games against the weaker competition, but the question will be whether they have the depth to hang with the top teams for 60 minutes.

    Canada will look to make a strong showing this year, but nobody should be too shocked if they fail to medal. There are five teams here with medal potential, not all of them can get one. It sounds like Colorado won't be loaning Jost, which really hurts; he would have been top line center, top powerplay, top penalty kill. At forward, while the Canadians will be ridiculously deep as usual, they won't really have any elite level forwards like Sweden will in Pettersson or Nylander, or Russia will have in Svechnikov. Actually - there are very few forwards on that level in the entire tournament this year. Buffalo might not even let Nylander go, and Svechnikov will have to live up to the hype. Cody Glass, Jordan Kyrou, Nick Suzuki, Taylor Raddysh, and Sam Steel are all just a step beneath that "phenom" level, but will comprise the core of Canada's top six forwards and powerplay. Most of the truly elite talent in this year's tournament will come on defense, with Heiskanen, Rasmus Dahlin, and Cale Makar leading the way. Makar could be Canada's best player, but he might still be a bit too young and raw. Dante Fabbro would be the safe bet to be the team's big minute-eater. Canada's defense, while only a shadow of what it was in some past years, will be very formidable, consisting of mostly first round picks, and should be the second best D-core in the tournament, after Finland's. Carter Hart will return in goal for Canada. With four games of experience under his belt, heíll look to be a leader this year, and will need to come up big at times. Clearly he can shut the door with a strong defense in front of him, as evidenced by his 1.43 GAA and .956 SVP in 15 games so far this season for Everett. My ranking: 2nd.

    As a rule of thumb, when trying to make predictions about World Juniors rosters and players, the highest drafted 19 year-olds will tend to be the best players. 19 year-old first rounders are generally somewhere on par with top five or ten drafted 18 year-olds, and with future top two or three drafted 17 year-olds. Looking at USA's 2016 first round, you have Matthews, Tkachuk, Keller, McAvoy and Luke Kunin all either playing in the NHL and/or aged out due to late birthdays, making Logan Brown the highest drafted 19 year-old on the team. He should indeed be one of USA's four or five best forwards, along with Casey Mittelstadt, Ryan Poehling, Kiefer Bellows and Kailer Yamamoto. That's a very good forward group, basically equal to Canada's, but the big difference between the two North American teams will be on defense, where USA doesn't have a single NHL first round draft pick, and I think only three second rounders. They will have a strong tandem in net, between returning backup from last year, 19 year-old Joseph Woll, and highly touted first round pick Jake Oettinger, who has struggled so far this season with BU. My ranking: 4th.
    Last edited by matchesmalone; 12-09-2017, 02:59 AM.

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    • #3
      USA has looked a lot better than I expected. Their top tier players are I think better than I realized. Casey Mittelstadt and Kiefer Bellows, in particular, have been phenomenal. They'll be very tough to beat.

      Sweden has been underwhelming, starting from their top two forwards, Elias Pettersson and Alex Nylander. Rasmus Dahlin has been phenomenal but those elite 19 year old forwards will have to get going in the last two games if Sweden is to have a chance at the gold..

      The surprise of the tournament so far for me has been Filip Zadina and the Czechs. That game against Finland was the game of the tournament so far. Finland was dominant, but juts couldn't get the bounces to put anything past the Czech goalie. The Fins put up 55 shots, and had a bunch more posts and missed nets on prime scoring opportunities. Finland spent so much time in the offensive end tiring themselves out, and the Czechs took advantage with a couple of breakaway goals, and then the two man-advantage goals by Zadina: one on the powerplay and then the tying goal with the extra attacker late. That gave him 5 goals on the tournament - 4 on the PP and all 5 with an extra attacker. I had no idea this kid was this good. He should challenge Svechnikov for the second overall draft position come June. The Czechs would need a repeat of their last game to have a chance against Canada. Doubtful, but not impossible.

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      • #4
        Batherson is unreal

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        • #5
          Raddysh just came SO close to putting it away.

          Live stream btw:

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          • #6
            Man, Kyrou is a really good prospect.

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            • #7
              Steenbergen!!

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              • #8
                And Formenton gets the empty netter!!

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                • #9
                  I thought Tim Soderlund was really impressive for Sweden.

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                  • #10
                    Canada is on top again!

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                    • #11
                      Canada wins their most elusive international championship!

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                      • #12
                        Batherson was an absolute beast this tournament. Iím excited for him

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                        • #13
                          And there you go. Soderlund is player of the game for Sweden. Hart for Canada.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Alfie11 View Post
                            Batherson was an absolute beast this tournament. Iím excited for him
                            I am too but I can't admit it. I cannot be excited about the Ottawa Senators as long as their owner continues his shenanigans.

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                            • #15
                              So Lias Andersson threw his silver medal over the glass..

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