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.

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.

Prospects Challenge Kicks Off as Devils Fall to Sabres 6-4

Hockey season has officially started! Kind of.

The 2018 Prospects Challenge got underway tonight at HarborCenter in Buffalo as the Devils took on the Buffalo Sabres in the first game of the rookie mini preseason tournament.

The Sabres came away with the 6-4 win as they looked a little bit more physical than the Devils and threw their bodies around, taking advantage of their bigger size overall. The Devils did a good job of responding generally, especially John Quenneville, who was arguably the Devils’ most physical player.

Two other takeaways from the game that I noticed was the Devils’ ability to respond offensively, as the majority of the game would see Buffalo go up a goal and the Devils immediately tie things up. It remained that way until the third period when the Sabres finally pulled away and scored two to take the 6-4 lead that would be the final.

The other thing of note was the debut of the first overall pick in this summer’s NHL Draft: Rasmus Dahlin, who had a pair of goals and an assist. He seemed to be real deal for the Sabres and gave the Devils some fits all night.

Of a minor note was the condition of the ice. It is still hot and humid out in Buffalo and the ice was not in the best of shape.

Regardless of some of the negatives, the Devils who did stand out were Brett Seney and this year’s first round draft pick, Ty Smith. Smith, especially was praised by the Buffalo announcers who were calling the game for putting a good showing in. Seney recorded a goal in the first period, the one that tied it up at one.

Cole Coskey had the first goal of the game for the Sabres, scoring at the 17:31 mark of the first. Seney tied it at one on the power play at 18:53.

In the second period, Victor Olofsson scored at 7:02 before Nathan Bastain tied things up just over 30 seconds later.

Buffalo then jumped out to a two goal lead as Alexander Nylander scored shorthanded at 10:19 and Dahlin scored his first 59 seconds later at even strength. The Sabres crowd gave the first overall pick a standing ovation following the goal, but his night was just getting started.

The Devils would respond quickly to those two goals, as Colton White scored at 11:53 and Fabian Zetterlund scored at 12:01. Seney had the lone assist on Zetterlund’s goal, giving him two points on the night.

In the third period, the Sabres pulled away when Dahlin put them up 5-4 for his second of the night at 4:28. Dahlin would also assist on Tage Thompson’s shorthanded goal that ended the night. It was the second shorty of the night for the Sabres.

The Devils were a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill but failed to scored on any of their seven power plays.

In goal, Mackenzie Blackwood looked pretty good, making 26 saves on Buffalo’s 32 shots on goal for a .812 save percentage. Buffalo’s Jonas Johansson made 30 saves on 34 Devils shots.

The Devils next play tomorrow at 3 PM against the Pittsburgh Penguins prospects.

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.