Champions Crowned at 2019 World Juniors

The medal round got under way at Rogers Arena in Vancouver at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship with Russia and Switzerland facing off for bronze while the USA and Finland met for gold.

The Swiss were coming into this afternoon’s game with the Russians looking to win bronze (or medal at all) for the first time since 1998. It has been an unpredictable and wide open tournament so far no doubt, but if you had Switzerland in the medal round prior to the tourney instead of, say, Canada or Sweden, most would have called you crazy.

Still, the Cinderella story came to an end today as Russia won the game 5-2 to win the bronze medal. Kirill Slepets had a hat trick and Nikita Shashkov and Klim Kostin also scored to give them the victory.

Kostin, the Russian captain, did not endear himself to the Vancouver crowd as he pantomimed putting his fingers in his ears after he scored. This was in reference to him getting on the crowd’s bad side in yesterday’s game versus the US when he yelled expletives at the crowd after Russia’s loss. He did apologize for his behavior in that game, but the jury is still out on whether or not it was really sincere.

Switzerland did not get their first shot on goal until about midway through the first period, after Slepets had scored his first of the game at 4:25. In the second period, Valentin Nussbaumer scored for the Swiss to cut the Russian lead to 2-1. Kostin then scored to make it 3-1 before Yannick Bruschweiler scored for the Swiss to make it 3-2. This goal was reviewed for a high stick, but was ruled to be a good goal. That goal came after a remarkable save by Russian goalie Pyotr Kochetkov and a hit post.

Of note was that the Russians were actually offside on their first goal, but Switzerland chose not to challenge it.

The Swiss continued to hang in there, really coming on in the second, but just ran out of gas by the time Slepets scored 6:33 into the third off the rush to make it 4-2. Russia took a few penalties late in the game, putting them down a man when Switzerland pulled goaltender Luca Hollenstein (Devils prospect Akira Schmid did not play) to make it a 6-on-4 man advantage. But Slepets scored a shorthanded goal into the empty net to cap off the Russian victory.

Kochetkov made 34 saves on 36 Swiss shots as Switzerland really settled in offensively after a slow start. Hollenstein made 19 saves on 24 Russian shots.

So Russia finishes with the bronze and Switzerland finishes just out of a medal in fourth place. Russia remains undefeated in bronze medal games at the WJC, now improving to 8-0.

Next up, the main event: USA versus Finland for the gold. This game would feature the two kids who are projected to go one and two in the 2019 NHL Draft (coincidentally to also be held in Vancouver) in Jack Hughes (USA) and Kaapo Kakko (Finland). It also featured Devils prospect Aarne Talvitie of Finland. This game was the first time Finland and the US had ever met each other for gold at the WJC.

The US has won three gold medals in this tournament since 2013, but tonight was Finland’s night. The Finns won 3-2 on a late goal from Kakko, who scored off of a goal mouth scramble.

The US actually scored on the power play early in the game, but the goal was immediately waved off and reviewed. Upon the review, the call on the ice stood as even though Oliver Wahlstrom had scored, Alexander Chmelevski was in the crease and was deemed to have interfered with Finnish goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

With that, the game remained scoreless until the 11:31 mark of the second period when Jesse Ylonen put the Finns up on top off of a one-timer shot off a faceoff on the power play. In the third, Otto Latvala would extend the Finnish lead to 2-0 on a point shot through traffic. The US was in a tough way just six minutes into the third frame.

But the American comeback was on. Just 1:01 after the Latvala goal, Chmelevski scored to cut the Finnish lead in half at 2-1. He scored on a shot from an odd angle that beat Luukkonen. And then, 1:48 after that, Josh Norris scored to tie the game at two, just sniping one from the top of the far faceoff circle.

The game seemed headed for overtime until Kakko scored his goal to put the Finns up 3-2. American goalie Cayden Primeau was pulled with a little over a minute remaining in regulation, but it was not enough and Finland won the gold medal at the 2019 World Junior Championship.

Aarne Talvitie was driven into the boards hard in the first period and was shaken up. He returned but played the rest of the game injured. The Finnish captain and Devils prospect finished the game with 10:54 of ice time and an even plus/minus. He really impressed this tournament and opened some eyes. He will now return to Penn State to continue his NCAA career.

As for the goaltenders, Luukkonen stopped 26 of 28 shots faced while Primeau made 28 saves on 31 Finnish shots.

And that is it. Finland wins gold, USA silver and Russia the bronze. Overall, it was a great tournament and we cannot wait to see what goes down next year in the Czech Republic. We will be right back here tomorrow for coverage of the Devils-Golden Knights game from Las Vegas. If you have any comments, please do not hesitate to leave them in the comment section below.

Semifinals at 2019 World Junior Championship

Today would set the stage for the gold medal and bronze medal games at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. In addition, there was a relegation as Kazakhstan defeated Denmark to remain in the tournament for 2020 with the Danes moving out.

Sayan Daniyar and Davyd Makutski scored in the first period to make it 2-0 Kazakhstan and then Artur Gatiyatov scored two empty netters in a span of 1:32 which gave the final of 4-0.

It was not for trying though. Denmark threw 25 shots at Demid Yeremeyev, dominating the shot totals. Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev was equal to all 25 of those shots in getting the shutout. Danish goalie William Rorth saw only 16 shots and stopped 12 of them.

Kazakhstan sweeps the relegation series and Denmark will be moving down to the 2020 IIHF U20 World Championship Division I Group A. Germany, who won that division this year, will be promoted to take the Danes’ place. Next year’s World Junior Championship takes place in the Czech Republic. According to an article on the IIHF website by Dhiren Mahiban, 2020 “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.”

In comparison Denmark had been in the top group since 2014 according to Mahiban. Mahiban mentioned that they relegated Belarus last year and had made it to “the quarter-finals the three times before.”

With that bit of business out of the way, we moved to the games that would set the medal round, with the US taking on Russia and Finland facing Switzerland later in the night.

The first gold medal game participant was set when the USA defeated Russia, 2-1. Russia had an early goal disallowed when the puck was redirected in off of a Russian skate. There was no kicking motion, but in the IIHF any time a puck goes in off of a skate it is no goal. The US dodged one bullet but it would not be the last.

A few minutes after the disallowed Russian goal, Oliver Wahlstrom scored to make it 1-0 US. Alexander Chmelevski would make it 2-0 just four minutes into the second period and that was all the Americans needed in the end.

Russia would get on the board when Grigori Denisenko scored at the 13:36 mark of the second. Early in the third period with Russia on the power play, the US dodged another bullet. A Russian shot rolled behind American goalie Cayden Primeau on edge and along the goal line. It never crossed the line and was cleared out by the American defender. Russia would pull goalie Pyotr Kochetkov with about a minute to go in the game, but the US held on to win.

Primeau turned aside 34 of the 35 Russian shots while Kochetkov stopped 25 of 27 American shots.

The USA will now play for gold on Saturday and their opponent in the gold medal game would be decided by the Finland-Switzerland game taking place a few hours after the Americans won their game.

And this one was the exact opposite of the USA-Russia game. It was a 6-1 blowout in favor of Finland. The Finns got goals from Jesse Ylonen, Henri Jokiharju and a pair from Devils prospect Aarne Talvitie in the first period. The Swiss got one from Philipp Kurashev to make it 4-1 at the end of one.

But the Finns added two more in the second period, one from Aleksi Heponiemi and one from Rasmus Kupari to ice it at 6-1.

Akira Schmid started for the Swiss, making 27 stops on 33 Finnish shots. Finnish goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 16 saves on 17 shots in a relatively easier night.

Talvitie’s final stat line read: the two goals, six shots on net and a plus-2 rating in 18:36 of ice time.

Next up, the gold medal game on Saturday with the United States taking on Finland. Also, the bronze medal game between Russia and Switzerland will take place tomorrow. We will have recaps right here for you at the conclusion of the two games.

Quarterfinal Wednesday at 2019 World Juniors

The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship is down to the quarterfinal round today, featuring two games with Devils prospects involved: Sweden versus Switzerland and Finland taking on Canada.

The long day of hockey in British Columbia began with the first game of the best-of-three relegation round at Rogers Arena. In this one, Kazakhstan edged Denmark, 4-3. The Danes finally scored a goal in this tournament after having been blanked in each of their preliminary games. Jonas Rondbjerg scored the first Danish goal of the tournament, tying things up at one at the 9:00 mark of the first period.

However, Kazakhstan was able to hold off the Danes late and take a 1-0 lead in the series with game two being played on Friday.

In the first medal round game, the Swiss met the Swedes in Victoria. Akira Schmid did not play, yielding the net to Luca Hollenstein who was nothing short of brilliant today.

We have talked about the Swedish domination in the preliminary rounds of these World Junior tournaments, but they have not been quite as successful when it has come to the later rounds. That trend continued today as they lost to Switzerland, 2-0. But that is not to say that the Swiss did not play well, they played fantastically in the upset, just beating the Swedes to loose pucks and pushing the pace of the game all the way.

Yannick Bruschweiler scored what would be the game winner 15:23 into the first period. Luca Wyss added a bit of a controversial goal in the second period on the power play. The play should have been called dead on a high stick (not a penalty, just the Swedish clearing attempt being played with a high stick) but it was not. Switzerland continued on in front of the Swedish net and Wyss scored to make it 2-0. And that was the final as Switzerland came away with the upset victory.

Both goalies played well, with Hollenstein notching the shutout – the first time Sweden had been shutout in this tournament since 2006. Both Hollenstein and Sweden’s Samuel Ersson were named their respective team’s players of the game. Hollenstein stopped all 41 Swedish shots while Ersson made 33 saves.

Fabian Zetterlund had four shots on goal (including being stopped on a nice chance while Sweden was on the power play early in the third period), two penalty minutes (an elbowing penalty with about ten minutes remaining in the game) and was a minus-1 in 19:36 of ice time.

Sweden is now out and Switzerland will move on in the tournament as they have finally taken the next step. Their opponent would be set in the next game.

That game was Canada versus Finland from Vancouver, the other Devils-centric game being played tonight. And this one was a doozy.

The game was tied at zero heading into the second period where Ian Mitchell scored to give the Canadians a 1-0 lead. Things were rolling along for Canada until Finland pulled Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, their goaltender, with about a minute to go in the game. With 47 ticks of the clock left to go, Aleksi Heponiemi scored to tie it up and send it to overtime.

Just 1:14 into the OT session, Eeli Tolvanen of Finland was called for hooking and a penalty shot was awarded to Canada. Max Comtois was denied by Luukkonen and play continued on. It would only take 4:03 for the Finns to claim victory from there. Toni Utunen scored from Aarne Talvitie and Heponiemi to move Finland on to the next round against the Swiss.

Ty Smith for Canada finished a minus-2 in 26:20 of ice time, which led all Canadian skaters. Talvitie had the assist, four shots on goal, was a plus-2 all in 24:12 of ice time for the Finns. In that shocker of a finish, the Canadians go home and Finland will play on against the Swiss for a medal.

Luukkonen had 24 saves on 25 shots while Canada’s Michael DiPietro stopped 32 of the 34 Finnish shots thrown at him.

In the other bracket and back at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, Team USA defeated the Patrik Elias-assistant coached Czech Republic, 3-1. The US got goals from Noah Cates, Josh Norris and Alexander Chmelevski in the win. Martin Kaut scored the lone Czech goal. The winner of this game would get the winner of the Russia-Slovakia game.

Goaltending-wise for this game, the US fired 41 shots at Lukas Dostal, who made 38 saves. The Czechs mustered just 19 shots and Cayden Primeau got 18 of them.

And that led us to the final game of the quarterfinal knockout round from Vancouver. While Sweden-Switzerland and Canada-Finland gave us lots of drama and upsets, the Russian game went about as you would expect. They beat the Slovaks 8-3 to power through to the semifinals.

Russia got goals from Grigori Denisenko, Stepan Starkov, Alexander Alexeyev, Nikita Shashkov, Kirill Slepets, Ilya Morozov and two from Klim Kostin. Slovakia got a goal from Martin Fehervary in the third and one from Milos Roman late in the game. The Russians used their coach’s challenge to look for offsides on the Roman goal and were not successful. That set up a Slovak power play (Russia was assessed a delay of game penalty) on which Michal Ivan scored. That gave us our final of 8-3 as the Slovaks will go home and the Russians will play the Americans in the semifinal round.

In goal, Russia’s Pyotr Kochetkov made 32 saves on 35 Slovak shots. Slovakia’s Juraj Sklenar made 22 saves on just 30 Russian shots.

So that sets up our matchups for Friday. We will, of course, have coverage of that here then along with the Devils-Coyotes game, which is also on Friday. See you then!

Last Day of Prelims at 2019 World Juniors

The final day of the round-robin preliminary round of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship got underway on New Year’s Eve 2018 and ended on New Year’s Day 2019.

In the earliest game involving a Devils prospect, Fabian Zetterlund and Sweden took on Kazakhstan. Sweden won 4-1 with Kazakhstan only mustering 11 shots on goal all night.

Emil Bemstrom got the scoring started in what was a three-goal first period for the Swedes. Rasmus Sandin and Nils Lundkvist rounded out the Swedish scoring in the first.

After a scoreless second period, Kazakhstan finally got on the board when Batrylan Muratov scored with about ten minutes left in the game. Kazakhstan had a chance to cut the lead in half possibly when they were up 5-on-3 when Sweden’s Lucas Elvenes went off for tripping at 12:55 and then Sandin was called for delay of game at 13:29. They could not convert and the Swedes added another one from Sandin with less than a minute to go in the game to give us the 4-1 final.

Zetterlund’s stat line read: five shots on goal and a plus-1 rating in 22:24 of ice time.

In goal, Sweden’s Olle Eriksson Ek stopped ten of the 11 Kazakhstan shots. Kazakhstan’s Denis Karatayev was a little more busy, making 52 saves on a whopping 56 Swedish shots on goal. He was solid considering the amount of work he had.

Sweden finishes the tournament in Group B with 11 points (three wins, one overtime win and no losses) and a 16-8 or plus-8 goal differential. Kazakhstan finishes Group B play winless with four losses and a 5-28 or minus-23 goal differential.

In the primetime game being played in Vancouver, the Canadians and the Russians squared off in a New Year’s Eve Group A showdown. Canada would be without the services of Jared McIsaac, who was suspended for one game for a high hit to the head of a Czech player in their game on December 29. The IIHF has a zero-tolerance policy against checks to the head saying that there is no such thing as a good hit to the head, and the hammer came down on this one.

This game was an exciting one (provided you were not rooting for Canada). Following a first period where Cody Glass scored just 2:20 into the game to give the Canadians a 1-0 lead and Grigori Denisenko scored 3:31 later to tie it for the Russians, things settled in. The two teams played a defensive struggle with occasional offensive outbursts such as the end of the second period that saw time expire as Canada was scrambling to get the puck past Russian goalie Pyotr Kochetkov. They did not and we played on tied into the third.

And in the third period, Pavel Shen scored with nine minutes remaining in the game to put Canada behind the eight-ball for the first time in the tourney. Russia led 2-1 and, following a desperate attempt by the Canadians to tie things, won the game by that score. The loss stunned the 17,556 in attendance at Rogers Arena, most of whom were obviously Canadian partisans.

Russia peppered Canadian goalie Michael DiPietro with 31 shots and he made 29 saves. Russia’s Kochetkov also faced 31 shots and stopped 30 of them.

Devils prospect Ty Smith had one shot and was an even plus/minus in a team-leading 23:15 of ice time.

Canada finishes prelim play with nine points (3-0-0-1 record) and a 23-5 or plus-18 goal differential. Russia wins Group A with 12 points (a 4-0-0-0 record) and a 15-6 or plus-9 goal differential.

The game that would take us into the new year was being played over in Victoria in the prelim finale. It was Finland versus the USA with the winner guaranteed to avoid both Canada and Russia in the crossover medal round.

This game was a little more free-wheeling than the Canada-Russia game in comparison. The US was able to come away with the win, 4-1.

USA’s Jason Robertson got the scoring kicked off with nine seconds remaining in the first period. John Madden’s son, Tyler, scored midway through the second to put the US up 2-0, handcuffing Finnish goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Ryan Poehling, the hero from the other night, scored 5:02 later through the five hole to make it 3-0.

The Finns actually had a goal waved off early in the second period, that would have tied it up at one. But the US persisted on and Madden scored a second goal early in the third period that was also reviewed. There was question as to whether or not the puck was kicked into the net. After review, the call on the ice of a good goal stood. It was 4-0 USA.

Finland got one back late in the third when Jesse Ylonen tipped a Urho Vaakanainen shot past US goaltender Cayden Primeau. Devils prospect Aarne Talvitie had the secondary assist on that goal.

So with that win, the US will now remain in Victoria, their “home rink” where they have played all of their games thus far, and be the second seed in Group B.

Talvitie’s stat line read: the assist, two shots on goal, a plus-1 plus/minus and 12 minutes of penalties (a two minute boarding call and a ten minute misconduct early in the game) all in 11:40 of ice time.

US goalie Primeau stopped 27 of the Finns’ 28 shots while Luukkonen stopped 35 of 39 American shots on goal.

The US finishes in second in Group B with seven points behind only Sweden’s eleven. The US went 3-0-1-0 and had a goal differential of 18-9 or plus-9. Finland finishes third in Group B with six points (2-0-0-2) and a goal differential of 11-7 (plus-4).

I believe as it stands now, Denmark and Kazakhstan will face each other in the best-two-out-of-three relegation series, Russia will play Slovakia, Sweden will play Switzerland, Canada will play Finland and the USA will play the Czech Republic in the medal round quarterfinals.

We will have coverage of the Sweden-Switzerland and Canada-Finland games here as those are the games most relevant to the Devils. In the meantime, happy new year and have a safe and healthy 2019!

2019 World Juniors: Day Three

It was another busy day in British Columbia at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships with four games involving Devils prospects on the docket. Let’s get to it.

In the early game at Rogers Arena, Switzerland notched a shutout against Denmark. Akira Schmid did not play in this game as Luca Hollenstein made 21 saves on the Danes, who continue to struggle in this tournament. Philipp Kurashev had a hat trick for the Swiss and Simon le Coultre added one to give the host Swiss the 4-0 win. Switzerland will next take on the Russians on Sunday (December 30) in Group A action.

Moving over to Victoria and the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, Finland defeated Slovakia 5-1. Aarne Talvitie had an assist on the game’s second goal by Santeri Virtanen, which made it 2-0 Finland. The Finnish captain’s stat line read an assist, two penalty minutes (a tripping penalty 15:40 into the second period that resulted in the lone Slovakian goal of the game by Milos Roman less than a minute into the penalty), a shot on goal and a plus-1 rating all in 16:30 of total ice time. Finnish goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 22 saves on 23 Slovak shots in taking the win. Finland’s next opponent is the United States on New Year’s Eve in what will be the late game on that night. If you are planning to stay up, you could catch some World Junior action between Team USA and the Aarne Talvitie and the Finns if you so choose on the NHL Network here in the States. You could do worse, that’s for sure.

In the later game in Group A in Vancouver, Canada took on the Czech Republic and the Canadians just continued to roll in the tournament. They defeated the Czechs 5-1 to remain atop Group A. Ty Smith had an assist (on Brett Leason’s goal at 11:32 of the first period, the one that would go down as the game winner), two shots on goal and an even plus/minus rating in 9:48 of total ice time.

In addition to the Leason goal, Maxime Comtois, Alexis Lafreniere, MacKenzie Entwistle and Morgan Frost all had tallies for Team Canada. Ondrej Machala had the lone goal for the Czechs. Canada chased Czech goalie Jiri Patera in favor of Jakub Skarek in the third period. Next up, the Canadians look for a test on New Year’s Eve when they take on Russia in the conclusion of Group A preliminary round play.

The final game on the slate saw Sweden putting their prelim winning streak on the line against the Americans in Victoria. It was a clash of the top two teams in Group B. Both teams with six points, but the US leading on goal differential coming into the game plus-7 to Sweden’s plus-4.

Sweden took the lead early and often with Filip Westerlund, Rickard Hugg, Emil Bemstrom and Erik Brannstrom scoring over the first two periods and early into the third to give them the 4-0 lead. But the US would not die so easily. They scored three straight from Mikey Anderson on the power play, Ryan Poehling and another from Poehling with the goaltender pulled.

That set up a dramatic play with 22.8 seconds remaining where Poehling went to the net and finished off a natural hat trick to tie it at four. The Americans had miraculously come back to tie things up after being left for dead all evening. The Swedes’ streak was on the line as we headed to overtime.

US goalie Kyle Keyser made a huge save early in the OT session (which is five minutes of three-on-three for the prelim round) but the Swedes were opportunistic and Adam Boqvist won it off a 2-on-1 with 1:09 left in the OT to preserve the Swedish streak at 46 straight prelim wins.

Fabian Zetterlund ended the game with one shot on net and an even plus/minus rating in 12:54 of ice time. The Swedes also take over first place in Group B on points. The Swedes will now take on Kazakhstan on New Year’s Eve.

Overall it was an exciting day of action at the World Juniors. The USA-Sweden finish is one that has to be seen to be believed and it is just too bad that the Americans could not complete the comeback in overtime.

We will see you tomorrow here with more coverage of the 2019 World Junior Championships.

Day Two of the 2019 World Juniors

Day two of the 2019 World Junior Championship featured three games directly related to Devils prospects. Sweden downed Slovakia 5-2, Canada edged by Switzerland 3-2 and, in the night cap, Finland got by Kazakhstan 5-0.

The Swedish game in Victoria saw Fabian Zetterlund finish with two penalty minutes (a too many men on the ice bench minor that he served) and a plus-1 plus/minus rating all in 15:26 of ice time. Zetterlund and the Swedes will next take on the US on December 29.

Back in Vancouver, the Canadians and Ty Smith were facing off with Akira Schmid and the Swiss. Schmid fended off 29 of the Canadians’ 32 shots on goal. He was able to keep the Swiss in a game that might have given them some trouble ala Denmark. Instead, it was a much closer game than the Canadians had possibly anticipated deep down.

For the Canadians, Smith had two shots on goal in 15:48 of ice time. He did not lead the Canadians in ice time tonight, but matchups and the game situations will dictate that.

Next up for Switzerland, they take on Denmark on December 29 in a battle of the two lower teams in Group A. Canada will take on the Czech Republic on Saturday as well.

In the Finland-Kazakhstan game, Aarne Talvitie scored the Finn’s second goal of the game and ended with the goal, two shots on net and a plus-2 rating in 9:54 of total ice time.

The real story of this game was the Kazakhstan goalie, however. Demid Yeremeyev made 31 saves in an onslaught from the Finns. The crowd in Victoria, though, fell in love with his effort and were thoroughly cheering for the Kazakhstan team by the end of the game. He won them over and became a pure fan favorite in one of the moments of the tournament so far.

Finland will next take on the Slovaks on Saturday. So, we have a full slate of games on Saturday including Denmark versus Switzerland, Slovakia versus Finland, Canada versus the Czech Republic and Sweden versus the United States. We will have coverage of what happened in each game right here following the Devils-Hurricanes game.

2019 World Juniors Open

The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship got under way yesterday evening in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

Group A featuring Canada, Denmark, Russia, Czech Republic and Switzerland, is playing at Rogers Arena (the home of the Canucks) in Vancouver. Group B which has Sweden, Finland, the United States, Slovakia and Kazakhstan, is playing in Victoria at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

The Devils have four players representing their organization in the tournament: Ty Smith (Canada), Fabian Zetterlund (Sweden), Aarne Talvitie (Finland) and Akira Schmid (Switzerland). Talvitie is serving as the captain for the Finns, the second straight year that the Devils have a prospect serving as a captain for his country in this tournament. Last season, you will recall, Joey Anderson was captain of the USA.

In addition, some other familiar Devils-related faces involved with this tournament are Tyler Madden of Team USA who is the son of former Devil John “Mad Dog” Madden and Patrik Elias, the Devils legend himself. Madden is a 5-foot, 11-inch, 18-year-old forward who players at Northeastern University. He notched an assist in the Americans’ 2-1 win over Slovakia in yesterday’s action.

Patty is serving as an assistant coach for the Czechs. His team won 2-1 over the Swiss in overtime. Schmid did not play. Switzerland will be playing Canada on December 27.

And speaking of Canada, they were the big winners on the evening, laying a total drubbing on Denmark 14-0. That may seem like running up the score, but remember that this tournament relys heavily on goal differential. You have to score when you can and the Canadians certainly did. Smith had an assist on a third period goal by Maxime Comtois. He also had one shot on goal and was a plus-4 all in 21:17 of total ice time. That led all Canadian skaters in TOI.

In the Canada-Denmark game, Canada’s Morgan Frost had a hat trick, Comtois finished with four goals and goaltender Michael DiPietro made 14 saves to preserve the shutout. Canada peppered Danish goaltending with 45 shots on the night.

In the night cap, Finland and Talvitie took on Sweden and Zetterlund in Group B action. Sweden had not lost in the preliminary round since 2006. Their streak was up to 44 games. Well, make it 45 as they defeated the Finns 2-1. Erik Brannstrom scored a pair of goals for the Swedes with Emil Bemstrom and Adam Boqvist getting the assists on both of them. Zetterlund finished with two shots on net in 8:26 of ice time.

As for the Finnish goal, that was scored by Talvitie who finished off a nice play from Kaapo Kakko. Jesse Ylonen had the other assist. Talvitie’s stat line saw him with the goal in 13:55 of time on ice. It was a timely goal too. One that got Finland going and nearly forced overtime. But the Finns were not able to complete the comeback and Sweden’s streak remains alive for another game.

Next up for these teams, Sweden puts their streak on the line against Slovakia on the 27th and Finland will match up with Kazakhstan on the same day. We will try to integrate some of tomorrow’s updates from this tournament into the Devils versus Boston post. The late game may negate that, however. We will see how coverage will go from here.

A Devils-Centric Recap of the World Junior Summer Showcase

The 2018 World Junior Summer Showcase ended this past Saturday with the USA being edged by Canada 6-5 and Sweden defeating Finland 5-3.

The games were played at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia and featured those four teams playing a series of games from July 30 to August 4.

The Devils had five players in the showcase, including Fabian Zetterlund of Sweden, newly-drafted Ty Smith of Canada, Reilly Walsh of the US, Aarne Talvitie of Finland and Eetu Pakkila of Finland. This showcase acts as a kind of warmup to the World Junior Championship, to be played this December and January in Victoria and Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Zetterlund of Sweden played in five games in the tournament, notching two goals and six penalty minutes. Those two goals placed him second on the team in goals, and tied with three other players for third in total scoring with two points.

Canada’s Smith played in all three of their games and notched two assists for two points. That tied him for second in team scoring with seven others. Note that the US and Canada had split squads with Canada having a “red” and “white” team and the US having a “white” and “blue” team in addition to their main teams. Some players got playing time on multiple teams.

Reilly Walsh of Team USA played in five games, netting an assist. The lone assist put him in second place in scoring tied with 11 other players in the short-format tournament.

As for the Finns, Talvitie was the player of the tournament for the Devils, potting four goals in five games to pace all Finnish skaters in scoring. He also had two penalty minutes. Pakkila played in four games but did not register on the scoresheet.

Overall Ty Smith was getting rave reviews from people who saw every game, as was Talvitie. We will find out more about these players as training camp gets underway next month.

The results of the tournament saw USA-Blue fall to Sweden 3-1 and USA-White defeat Finland 5-2 (Talvitie had a power play goal in this one) on July 30. July 31 had Finland get by Sweden 4-3 in a shootout (Talvitie had a goal and missed in his shootout attempt) while USA-Blue beat Canada-White 3-2 and USA-White beat Canada-Red 7-5.

The tournament proper got started on August 2 with USA defeating Sweden 5-4 (Zetterlund scored in the third period of this one for the Swedes) in overtime and Canada notching past FInland 4-3 also in OT. Talvitie scored a clutch shorthanded goal in the third period that tied things up at three, eventually forcing the overtime period.

On August 3, the US beat Finland 2-1. Here, Walsh had the primary assist on a power play goal by Grant Mismash in the second period. Also, Sweden fell to Canada 4-1. Smith had the primary assist on Alex Formenton’s goal with three seconds left in the second period.

On August 4, the final day of the tournament, Canada defeated Team USA 6-5 while Sweden took out Finland 5-3. In the Canada-USA game, Smith had the secondary assist on a first period power play goal by Nick Suzuki and Talvitie had a first period power play goal in the Finland-Sweden game.

As you can see, this is a very evenly matched series of games which bodes well for the competitive nature of the World Juniors this winter.

Devils Round Out the 2017 Draft with Ten More Picks

Day two of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, rounds two through seven, saw the Devils add ten more prospects to their pool. Let’s get down to looking at who they picked and what sources say about them.

With the 36th pick overall in the second round, the Devils took Swedish center Jesper Boqvist. Boqvist, who is 5-foot, 11-inches tall and 165-pounds, played last season for Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League. He represented Sweden in the 2016 Under-18 World Championship – where they won a silver medal and the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. His profile on NHL.com says that he had six assists in 16 games for Brynas last year and that he models his game after Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals.

With the 63rd overall pick in the third round (which the Devils acquired from Colorado in the Eric Gelinas trade), New Jersey took Swedish winger Fabian Zetterlund of Farjestad Jr. The 5-foot, 11-inch, 195-pound native of Karlstad, Sweden had two penatly minutes with Farjestad of the Swedish Hockey League in 14 games. He played the majority of last season in the Swedish Junior league where he played 40 games and had 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points and 18 penalty minutes.

The Devils’ next pick was 81st overall in the third round (acquired from San Jose when they signed head coach Pete DeBoer). With that, they took Reilly Walsh, a defenseman from Proctor Academy out of New Hampshire. The 5-foot, 11-inch, 184-pound blueliner from Andover, New Hampshire played in four games for the USA at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tourament. According to his profile on NHL.com, his dad, Mike Walsh, played “in 14 games with the Islanders from 1987-89.” He has also committed to play at Harvard University in 2017-18 and plays his game in the style of Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Devils took Russian left wing Nikita Popugaev with the 98th overall pick in the fourth round. He is 6-foot, 5-inches and 219-pounds and played last season with the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League. He had a total of 29 goals and 40 assists for 69 points over 71 games split between those two teams last year in the WHL. The 18-year-old (who turns 19 this November 20) native of Moscow won a gold medal in the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. He had three goals in six games played. According to NHL.com, his favorite player (who he wears number 71 in honor of) is Evgeni Malkin.

Popugaev was one of the few players with a full, detailed scouting report on him online. NHL Central Scouting says of him: he is a “good package of size, skills and smarts – excellent vision with hockey sense to support teammates and make good choices on the play – utilized in all situations and plays the point on the power play at times – unselfish game with the puck – repsponsible two-way game – vision and thought process often a step ahead of teammates – doesn’t like to lose a battle in any situation and plays to win.”

That moved the Devils to the fifth round, where they were scheduled to pick fifth, the 129th overall pick. With that, they took Swiss goaltender Gilles Senn. He is 6-foot, 5-inches tall and weighs 191-pounds. He played last season with HC Davos of the Swiss league where he played 34 games and compiled a 2.64 goals against average and a .910 save percentage in 2000 minutes of ice time.

The Devils had another pick in the fifth round, 143rd overall, via San Jose (the Mirco Mueller trade) and they used it on Slovakian right winger Marian Studenic of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League. In 58 games with the Bulldogs last season, he had 18 goals, 12 assists for 30 points and 23 penalty minutes. He lists SIdney Crosby as his hockey idol on NHL.com and dreams of “winning the Stanley Cup.” A noble wish for any aspiring hockey player, to be sure.

Moving to the sixth round, the Devils took Aarne Talvitie 160th overall. The 5-foot, 10-inch, 198-pound native of Espoo, Finland played for Blues Jr. last year of the Finnish Junior league. He had 13 goals and 24 assists for 37 points and 36 penalty minutes in 46 games for them last year.

New Jersey took a Canadian for the first time this draft by selecting defenseman Jocktan Chainey 191st overall in the seventh round. He is from Asbestos, Quebec and was a teammate of Nico Hischier on the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. With Halifax last year, he had four goals and 20 assists for 24 points and 44 penalty minutes in 55 games skated in.

The Devils’ final two picks came via the Sharks and they used them both on defensemen.

They took Russian d-man Yegor Zaitsev 205th overall in the seventh round. He is a 6-foot, 180-pound native of Moscow who played 19 games for Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League last season. He had 1 assist and ten penalty minutes in those 19 games. He played the bulk of his season with Balashikha of the Russian second tier last year, potting two goals and four assists for six points to go along with 44 penalty minutes in 24 games.

The Devils used their final pick of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (214th overall in the seventh round) on Rogers, Minnesota-native Matthew Hellickson. He is a 6-foot, 184-pound defenseman out of the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League. He had six goals and 22 assists for 28 points and 30 penalty minutes in 52 games played for Sioux City last year.

Overall, it was a good haul for the Devils. Of course, netting Nico Hischier at first overall skews that quite a bit, but if you can get an NHL player out of any of the lower rung of picks, that will be gravy. Good luck to all of the Devils’ draftees as they set out on the next phase of their hockey careers.