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.

Swiss, Russians Put on a Show at World Juniors

The USA-Sweden game last night at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship was going to be a hard act to follow. And with only two games today, it was probably not going to be equaled. Although the drama was not quite the same as last night’s last minute heroics for the US, the Switzerland versus Russia game seemed to include a little bit of everything else.

Akira Schmid got the start in Vancouver and he made 34 saves. Russia won the game 7-4 however.

The game started off on a strange foot as Switzerland’s Marco Lehmann scored just 49 seconds into the first period. The goal was reviewed by the IIHF to check for goalie interference, but the call on the ice stood: we had a good goal. The Swiss had immediately jumped out to the 1-0 lead.

Valentin Nussbaumer would make it 2-0 at the 9:06 mark to really put the Swiss in the driver’s seat. Less than ten minutes in and the Swiss had seemingly taken control of the game. It was a good position to be in.

However, Kirill Marchenko would cut the lead in half and get Russia back into things when he scored at 14:27 of the first period. This goal seemed initially to be offsides, however while the Russian skater did enter the zone before the puck, he had firm control of it behind him, therefore there was no offsides and the goal counted.

The second period, one that will go down as one of the wildest periods I have personally ever seen in a hockey game, started innocently enough. Lehmann scored his second of the game to give the Swiss a 3-1 lead. He chipped the puck over the shoulder of Russian goaltender Danil Tarasov.

That goal was 5:46 into the period and 21 seconds after that, Dmitri Samorukov scored unassisted to make it 3-2.

Then a pretty scary moment as, on a 2-on-1, a Swiss skater went crashing skates first into Tarasov. He seemed to be clutching his left leg and the worst was thought: that he got cut by the skate blade. He was checked out by the Russian trainer, however, and was okay. He remained in the game.

A few minutes following that, Grigori Denisenko scored for the Russians to tie things up at three on the power play. Then the real weirdness began.

Switzerland’s Lehmann was hauled down on a breakaway not once, but twice. The officials got together and initially signaled that there would be a penalty shot for the first trip and a two-minute minor penalty for the second. However, it was then ruled that the Swiss would get two penalty shots instead. It was a strange call, as really only the trip where Lehmann was in the clear should have been the penalty shot, but was a moot point anyway as Switzerland missed both penalty shots.

As if that was not weird enough, with Russia still on a power play from before the penalty shots (Sandro Schmid was off for high sticking for Switzerland), Ivan Muranov was caught butt-ending a Swiss player in the midsection. He got a five minute major for butt-ending and a game misconduct and was thrown out. Now, with the Russian power play expiring, the Swiss would be on the power play for a little more than four minutes.

However, it was the Russians who took control on that penalty kill. Kirill Slepets scored unassisted and shorthanded off of a turnover in the Swiss zone to make it 4-3 Russia. From there, Russia basically opened the floodgates.

Alexander Alexeyev scored at the 6:38 mark to give the Russians a 5-3 lead. Switzerland’s Yannick Bruschweiler notched one 35 seconds after that to cut the lead to 5-4 and pull the Swiss back into it, but that was as close as they got.

Pavel Shen scored through Schmid’s five hole to make it 6-4 and Vitali Kravtsov scored 1:08 later to make it 7-4, which was our final. Switzerland pulled Schmid with about two minutes to go in the game in an attempt to get things going, but to no avail.

It was a very entertaining game and takes us into tomorrow. The Swiss are done with preliminary play, finishing with a 1-0-1-2 record and four points in four games in Group A. They had 11 goals for and 12 against for a goal differential of minus-1.

Tomorrow, the Swedes kick off the day against Kazakhstan. Then the big one as the Russians faceoff with the Canadians and then the night cap as Team USA faces the Finns. We will have coverage of all of that here for you as well as the Devils-Canucks game at 1 PM.

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.

Four Prospects to Attend Selection Camps for World Juniors

It’s that time of the year again as the 2019 World Junior Championships are nearly upon us. According to Julie Robenhymer of the Devils’ official website, four Devils prospects have been invited to their respective countries’ selection camps for the tournament which starts the day after Christmas. The 2019 World Junior tournament eminates from Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Robenhymer wrote yesterday at the Devils’ site that Ty Smith will go for Canada, Fabian Zetterlund will report for Sweden, Aarne Talivite for Finland and Akira Schmid for Switzerland. One player who will inexplicably not be reporting to a camp this week is Harvard University defenseman Reilly Walsh for Team USA. Walsh was a final cut from last year’s team and was not invited to this year’s camp.

Walsh, a Devils prospect and a sophomore at Harvard, has five goals and seven assists in 11 games so far for the Crimson according to Robenhymer. She said that Walsh could have “potentially play(ed) a big role on their blueline, especially on the power play.”

But instead, the Devils will only possibly have four players representing them at the World Juniors. Smith is one of the biggest names of the group. He “was captain of Canada’s U18 squad this past spring as was mentioned by most – if not all – of his teammates as the player they’d want to bring back to play for their club team” according to Robenhymer. The defenseman is second on the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL in scoring right now with three goals and 36 assists. He also serves as the team’s captain. Robenhymer talked about his other international experience: “he scored two goals in four games” at the Summer Showcase in August and had “a goal in two games” at the CIBC Canada-Russia Series played in November for Team WHL.

She also mentioned Smith’s “smooth skating, a great first pass to support the transition game, creative vision from the blueline and a high hockey IQ to know when to jump into the play and when to stay back.”

For Team Sweden, Zetterlund (who plays for Farjestad in Sweden) “suffered an injury in late October and his availability for he WJC was in doubt.” He recovered from the injury in six weeks according to Robenhymer (she did not specify what the injury was) and was back in Farjestad’s lineup the next game after those six weeks – after only a few on-ice practices.

Zetterlund played for Team Sweden at the 2018 WJC, an “unexpected addition” according to Robenhymer, and, as she said, has a “gritty net front presence, especially on the power play.” He had two goals in last year’s tournament as Sweden won the silver. Robenhymer compared Smith and Zetterlund saying that both were in the Summer Showcase (Zetterlund had two goals there) and both have “extensive international experience” and that Zetterlund should also “step into a leadership position” for Sweden.

Talivite is another good leader for his squad. He was captain of the Finnish U18 “team two years ago” and “their captain at the showcase in August.” Much like Walsh, he has been overlooked, not making Finland’s team last year. But the Penn State freshman, who has five goals and 11 assists in 17 games for the Nittany Lions this season should be ready to make his squad this year. Robenhymer described him as “a mucker, grinder and loose puck finder with a heck of a wrist shot, who’s already adjusted to the smaller NHL-sized sheet of ice and the quicker pace and physical nature of the North American game.” She also said that “(h)e brings a tremendous work ethic to the ice and a magnetic personality to the locker room.” His coach at Penn State, Guy Gadowsky, called him “the Pied Piper” – leading “by example on and off the ice.” Robenhymer said that it is a good possiblity that Talivite is named Finnish captain at the WJC.

Schmid has bounced around the junior leagues so far this season. Robenhymer said that he was waived by the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL because the team had too many non-Canadian players. He eventually settled in with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League.

Robenhymer said that Schmid was on Team Switzerland for last year’s tournament but did not play in any games. She said that he has represented the Swiss twice in the U18s and that all three Swiss goalies in this year’s WJC are 18 years old. She said that “the starting position is still very much up for grabs” and that Schmid is the only returning goalie to this year’s squad.

Final rosters for the 2019 World Junior Championship are to be submitted by teams on December 24. Exhibition games begin next week and the tournament proper starts on the 26th. The tournament will be televised in the United States on the NHL Network.

Devils Finish Up at Day 2 of 2018 Draft

The Devils made five more picks in the 2018 NHL Draft as the second and final day concluded down in Dallas. They had a pick in the fourth round (110th overall), two in the fifth round (136th overall and 141st overall), one in the sixth round (172nd overall) and one in the seventh round (203rd overall).

In the fourth round, the Devils selected Xavier Bernard 110th overall. According to the Last Word on Hockey website prospect report, Bernard is a left-hand shooting defenseman from Mercier, Quebec. He was born January 6, 2000, making him 18-years old. He is 6-feet, 3-inches tall and weighs 208 pounds. He was taken out of the QMJHL from the Drummondville Voltigeurs.

The Last Word on Hockey article, written by Ben Kerr, mentions that Bernard struggled in his first junior season in 2016-17, but “broke out in his second season” in the Q. He had 35 points in 2017-18 (11 goals and 24 assists) “in 66 games and improved to a +35.” He “added a goal and two assists for three points in 10 playoff games.”

Kerr also mentioned that he represented Canada internationally at the 2016-17 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, scoring “one assist in five tournament games” and “also played in the CHL Top Prospects Game.”

With the 136th overall pick, the Devils took a goaltender, Akira Schmid. According to EuroHockey.com, Schmid is an 18-year old Swiss-born goalie, born May 12, 2000. He catches left and spent last season with the SC Langnau Tigers of the Swiss National League. He represented Switzerland in the World Junior Championships, playing two games for them with a 6.50 goals against average and a .865 save percentage. He also posted a shutout.

Schmid becomes the second Swiss goalie taken by the Devils in the last few years (Gilles Senn is the other) and the fourth Swiss player in the Devils organization along with Mirco Mueller and Nico Hischier.

The Devils stayed in Europe for their next pick, also in the fifth round, as they took Yegor Sharangovich 141st overall. According to EliteProspects.com, Sharangovich is a little bit older at 20 years old (he was born June 6, 1998). The native of Minsk, Belarus is a left-shooting center who played for Dinamo Minsk of the KHL last season. In 47 games with them, he notched four goals and eight assists for 12 points to go with 11 penalty minutes. He was ranked 51 by the NHL Central Scouting Department among European skaters. He is 6-feet, 2-inches tall and weighs 196 pounds.

The Devils returned back to North America for their sixth round pick, taking Mitchell Hoelscher 172nd overall. Hoelscher is 18-years old, born Janury 27, 2000 and is a native of Waterloo, Ontario. He is a left-shooting center and is 5-feet, 11-inches tall and weighs 165 pounds.

He played last season with the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL where he had 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points in 67 games played. He also posted 46 penalty minutes and was a plus-1. In the playoffs, he played in five games and had a goal and an assist for two points and a pair of penalty minutes. He was also a minus-3. Hoelscher was ranked 62 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. All of this information comes from EliteProspects.com.

The Devils’ final pick of the 2018 Draft was Eetu Pakkila (taken 203rd overall). Pakkila is an older 18 year old, born October 3, 1999 in Oulu, Finland. He is a lefty-shooting left winger ranked 123 by NHL Central Scouting among European players. He split last season between Karpat U20 of the Jr. A SM-Liiga where he played 48 games and scored 23 goals and 17 assists for 40 points. He also played one game (a playoff game no less) for the big club (Karpat of LIiga) where he was a minus-1. By contrast he was a plus-15 for his junior team.

Pakkila is 6-feet tall and is 168 pounds. All information on him comes from EliteProspects.com as well.

So that wraps up a busy day at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The Devils filled some needs that will hopefully pan out. Congratulations to all of the players chosen and good luck to them.

In another bit of news semi-related to the Devils. Mark your calendars for February 5 and get your voices ready. That is the night that the Los Angeles Kings come into town with an old friend.

Yes, the Ilya Kovalchuk saga is over. Kovalchuk signed a three-year deal with LA that sees the 35-year-old Russian star return to the NHL and bring his talents to Tinseltown.

Hey, at least it’s over and he is in the Western Conference. We only have to see him once a year and can boo him out of the building for that night. But most importantly, he’s the Kings and their fans’ problem now.