How are 2014 NHL top picks performing at World Juniors?

Bryan Mcwilliam
Team Russia v Team Sweden

The World Junior Championship is packed full of talented players from all over the globe, some of whom have already been drafted by an NHL franchise. Today, let’s take a look at how the top pick from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft from each country participating in the 2015 world junior is performing. The list below is in alphabetical order.

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Canada’s ‘big’ unit is heating up at just the right time

Canada's Lawson Crouse (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Not that Canada needed it, but the host nation’s fourth line had a big night against Denmark with two goals in an 8-0 quarterfinal romp. Because Canada’s so deep, that fourth line is comprised of two top-25 NHL draft picks and the youngest player on the team – who is threatening to go top-10 this summer.

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World Juniors: Canada continues to cruise in win over Denmark

Bryan Mcwilliam
2015 IIHF World Junior Championship - Denmark v Canada

In front of a raucous Toronto crowd, Canada dominated Denmark, the Cinderella-story of the World Junior Championship, 8-0 on Friday.

Canada got off to a hot start thanks to goals from captain Curtis Lazar – who has scored in four straight games – and Sam Reinhart, but also experienced a concerning moment when Robby Fabbri went down to a lower-body injury in the first period.

Fabbri has been one of Canada’s top point-getters in the tournament, so the loss could be a substantial one.

The Canadians added to their lead in the second period thanks to a goals from draft-eligible Lawson Crouse, who has been impressive at the tournament on Canada’s fourth line, and Connor McDavid, next season’s potential No.1 draft pick. Lazar also added his second of the game with 6:39 left in the period to make it 5-0 after an exceptional pass from defenseman Joe Hicketts. The pass was so sweet that Lazar even blew Hicketts a thank you kiss.

Nick Paul added a nifty backhand goal in the third period to continue to build the Canadian lead, and Brayden Point added his first of the tournament making it 7-0 for Canada, which forced the Danes to pull goaltender Georg Sorensen in favour of Thomas Lillie. Nick Ritchie added a late power play goal to cement the victory.

The Danes never gave up, but the Canadians were too much and walked away with an easy win. Canada moves onto the semi-finals to play Slovakia.

In other World Junior action Friday, the U.S fell to Russia, while Sweden defeated Finland 6-3. The Swedes and Finns were neck and neck through the majority of the game, until the Swedes notched a late goal courtesy of Oskar Lindblom to seal the deal and move them forward in the tournament.

Russia and Sweden will face each other in the semi-finals.

Also in quarterfinal action, a very good defensive performance from Slovakia earned them a victory over the Czech Republic 3-0, in what some would say was a stunning victory. Denis Godla was a monster in net yet again for the Slovaks, continuing his impressive performance at the tournament.

In the day’s first game Switzerland defeated Germany 5-2. NHL Prospect Kevin Fiala added another goal for Switzerland, his fourth of the tournament.

High-octane Swedes prove Canada not the only country that expects WJC gold

William Nylander (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The Swedes have qualified for the semifinal at the World Junior Championship. And in other news, the Beatles have broken up, water is still wet, overeating can lead to weight gain and Facebook has been officially confirmed as the biggest waste of time in the history of the world.

Much is made of the pressure on Canada’s teenagers to win this tournament. Just watch tonight’s telecast and you’ll be reminded of that a couple hundred times. In fact, if you don’t watch yourself, you could be convinced into thinking that Canada is the only team that wants to win it every year. But the Swedes, on the heels of their 6-3 win over Finland in the quarterfinal, are doing a pretty good job of convincing the world they expect to be a perennial medal contender in this event as well. Read more

Finland loses at world juniors, but next year’s hosts have hope

Mikko Rantanen (right) stood out for Finland (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Heading into the 2015 world juniors, Finland’s top players appeared to be drafted prospects such as Julius Honka, Kasperi Kapanen and Artturi Lehkonen. But when the dust settled in what was a huge letdown for the defending gold medallists, it was the youth that kept Finland above water. And even they couldn’t stop a quarterfinal loss to archrival Sweden.

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Hockey Canada badly misjudged the hockey fans in Montreal

Auston Matthews  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

MONTREAL – A few random thoughts as your correspondent packs up and heads back to Toronto for the medal round of the World Junior Championship:

* The next time our friends at Hockey Canada and TSN remind us how important this tournament is to Canada’s hockey identity and cultural fabric – and that should happen in say, the next 30 seconds or so – it might be relevant to point out that only one in 10 Canadians actually watched Canada’s preliminary-round games on television and, in Montreal at least, that patriotism has definitive limit. Read more

Year in Review: top 10 stories of 2014

Sidney Crosby  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The calendar year of 2014 will be remembered for a lot of things, not the least of which was that it was the year in which a bunch of NHLers looked like Harry ‘Apple Cheeks’ Lumley. An outbreak of the mumps caused a number of players to log sick days and for the league to take precautions against a more widespread outbreak.

It will also be remembered for double gold for Canada…again, and a host of on- and off-ice developments that shaped the game. Here are the top 10 stories from 2014:

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USA gains valuable experience…for this year and next

Ken Campbell
Jack Eichel  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

MONTREAL – If USA can take find any solace going into its quarterfinal game of the World Junior Championship against Russia Friday, it’s that its young pups can most certainly run with the big dogs in this tournament. And if that realization doesn’t end up helping them in 2015, it will undoubtedly serve them well in 2016.

When the Americans chose five under-18 players for its World Junior team, there were some concerns they might not be battle-tested enough to excel in what is an 18- and 19-year-old tournament. And even though USA coach Mark Osiecki wasn’t completely buying it, that was an enormous factor in his team losing 5-3 to Canada Wednesday night and placing second in Group A instead of first.

Even with team captain Jack Eichel off playing in the NHL next season, the Americans are expected to have 10 returning players in 2016. But all is not lost now. What the Americans could take in terms of positives from the Canadian game was that it refused to go away and provided a very good push back when they were down 2-0 in the second period and late in the game when they narrowed the margin to 4-3.

The U.S. line of Eichel between Tyler Motte and Alex Tuch was going to nose-to-nose with the forward line of Sam Reinhart between Max Domi and Anthony Duclair and, more importantly, the defense pairing of Darnell Nurse and Shea Theodore. Not only did Reinhart demolish Eichel in the faceoff circle, the line couldn’t get much going 5-on-5, but it was not for a lack of effort.

“I thought our guys didn’t get rattled, whether they had success or not,” Osiecki said. “Jack and his linemates didn’t get rattled and they kept plugging away. Their guys did a nice job on them, no doubt about that, but that’s to be expected. When you’ve got that kind of elite profile, you’re going to draw a lot of attention.”

The Americans draw what might be the toughest opponent in the quarterfinal when they face Russia Saturday afternoon. It’s an unlucky turn of events for the Americans, who would have drawn the Czech Republic for the quarterfinal if they had finished third in the group instead. Slovakia will now face the Czech Republic for the right to go to the semifinal.

“We haven’t thought much about who we’re playing,” Osiecki said. “We’re thinking about ourselves. And we talked about that in the locker room immediately after the game. Let’s get better, turn the page and worry about ourselves. I’ve been very impressed with this group. We show them on film one thing and they pick it up like that and you really have to tip your hat to the kids we have in that locker room.”

Osiecki pointed out that it was a great experience for his players to play a team as good as Canada in front of 18,295 fans. It will be good for them both in the short- and long-term.

“I think it’s a great thing for our kids to be able to play a game like this and experience this environment,” Osiecki said. “On Jan. 2 (when they play the quarterfinal) they’ll be much better for it.”