MALMO, SWEDEN – The Swedes brought two NHLers to the tournament in Nashville’s Filip Forsberg and Carolina’s Elias Lindholm. The Russians countered with Buffalo’s Mikhail Grigorenko and near-Sabre Nikita Zadorov. Both teams had excellent goalies in Oscar Dansk and Andrei Vasilevski, but in the end it was the Swedes who got the upper hand in the semifinal, sending the Russians home 2-1 thanks to their stars.
Forsberg and Lindholm connected on the opening goal, with Lindholm displaying incredible poise and patience with the puck as he drew the Russian defense in, then dished to Forsberg, who blasted a one-timer that is becoming quickly familiar in the medal round. While Grigorenko had his chances for Russia, his line was shut out by a defense led by Robert Hagg, giving the NHL edge to Forsberg and Lindholm.
“Those two players are leaders in the dressing room and on the ice,” said Columbus first-rounder Alexander Wennberg. “They’re really important for us because offense or defense, they are supporting the team. They are NHL players, they should be the best and they proved that they belong at that level.”
Also starring for the team was Dansk, the Erie Otters star who looked fantastic, beaten only by a weird goal that came after one of the officials accidentally kept the puck in the defensive zone with his skate, allowing Damir Zhafyarov to beat the unprepared netminder. But that was the only puck that got by Dansk.
“His top level is outstanding, he’s one of the best goalies in this tournament,” Hagg said. “The Russians said they had the best goaltender in the tournament but I’m not so sure.”
Here’s a look at some of the NHL prospects and draft hopefuls from the contest.
Oscar Dansk, Columbus (31st overall in 2012) – Had to be sharp early on a Zadorov blast. Plays on his knees a lot (in the butterfly). Has a nice ability to absorb pucks, preventing dangerous rebounds. Faced a ton of traffic late but made all the key stops. Plays for Erie in the Ontario League.
Robert Hagg, Philadelphia (41st in 2013) – Very cool out there. Top PK unit, also plays physical. Cleared out the crease on a Valentin Zykov chance, then popped him one for good measure. Was usually out there against Grigorenko, especially on a four-minute penalty-kill to start the third period. Also saw duty in the last minute as the Swedes fought off a penalty and a Russian onslaught with Vasilevski pulled for an extra attacker. Plays for Modo in Sweden.
Oskar Sundqvist, Pittsburgh (81st overall in 2012) – A bit overlooked because of all the other talent on the team, Sundqvist is a big-bodied kid who can move. His amazing backhand goal on a breakaway was the eventual game-winner. Also trusted with the final faceoff, which was on the penalty-kill and with the Russians pulling goalie. Big kid can do a lot of things. Plays for Skelleftea in Sweden.
Anton Karlsson, 2014 draft – Playing his first game back after shoulder injury against Norway. Made a dangerous turnover, but also hustled back and got in the shooting lane to make amends on his first shift, which may also have been his last – I didn’t see him on the ice after that. But he is the youngest player on the team, so I don’t hold that against him, nor do I hold the benching against coach Rikard Gronborg since a slot in the gold medal game was on the line. Plays for Frolunda in Sweden.
Anton Slepyshev, Edmonton (88th overall in 2013) – Much more assertive than he was last year. Was very dangerous offensively, though he still needs to play a bit stronger – lost an important battle right at the end of a four minute power play. Rang a great shot off the post halfway through third period. Plays for Salavat Yulaev in the KHL.
Andrei Vasilevski, Tampa Bay (19th overall in 2012) – Tracks the puck very well, doesn’t get rattled under pressure. Great stop on a Filip Forsberg breakaway early in the game. Couldn’t be faulted on either Swedish goal. Vasilevski has an NHL frame and plays the puck well, too. Plays for Salavat Yulaev in the KHL.
Andrei Mironov, 2014 draft – Smart defenseman playing on the top pairing with Zadorov. Stares down attackers and puts himself in great position to keep them to the outside, even if it’s a big, talented player such as Forsberg. Question is, will anyone take a chance on him? Same goes for huge D-man Nikita Tryamkin – both are 1994s in their last year of draft eligibility and the ‘Russian Factor’ is huge. Worth noting: The players on the ice didn’t hear the final buzzer because the crowd was so loud. Mironov and Jesper Pettersson ended up having a pretty good (quick) scrap with several big punches thrown.
Get scores, schedules and more on THN.com’s World Junior Championship Central page.