December 26th is one of the biggest days for junior hockey, the start of the World Junior Championship. Eight teams compete for gold, and there is a lot of talent to be found this year. Here you’ll find recaps and notes of each game that I’m able to watch, as well as some more notes on 2018 draft eligible players.
Czech Republic vs Sweden
Lots of good stuff to be said here. Sweden as a whole was phenomenal. Their forwards were dangerous, and their defense really limited the Czech team in terms of offense. Timothy Liljegren had a solid game, although he did take a penalty at a crucial point in the game. Erik Brannstrom really impressed me. He’s only 5’10, which is short for a defender, but he was always factoring in on the play and making clean passes. He seems to have developed his defensive game a good bit as well. Vegas has a good player in him. Radim Salda, a ’99 born defenseman for the Czech Republic, also had a pretty good game. He didn’t factor in on the goal that the Czechs scored, but he was all over the ice. He killed penalties, had some limited time on the power play, and was a threat at even strength. He had a few blocked shots on the penalty kill before Alexander Nylander rifled a shot over the Czech goalie’s glove. He was passed over in last year’s draft, but shouldn’t be this year. He has enough talent to be a solid two way defenseman in the NHL someday, and I think his ceiling is a bottom pairing player. The Czech goalie was something else, though. Jakob Skarek was phenomenal. He kept the Czechs in the game, and the only shots that beat him were top notch shots that NHL goalies would have trouble with. He made timely saves, covered the post well, and used his size to his advantage. He’d push out and make a stop with his leg. He was able to track the puck fairly well, but did have an occasional lapse here and there. I can definitely see why Skarek might be the first goalie taken in the 2018 draft.
Martin Necas- Necas had a phenomenal offensive game. He was making great passes, speeding past defenders, and shooting with accuracy. He had an amazing game on the power play, too. Necas was a threat in the offensive end because of his playmaking abilities. He created plays on his own, and allowed for his teammates to get open. For a player that’s not that big, he actually drew a lot of attention towards himself. Necas is still a little scrawny, and gets pushed around a lot around the boards. He’s improved in his own end, but looked a little lost at times against the quick Swedish team. The TSN broadcast raved about Necas, however, and his primary assist was a thing of beauty.
Another strong showing for Necas against the Swedes. Rare when (one of) the best players on the team also works that hard on puck retrieval. Has a chance to be a force below the circles as he develops.
— Kevin LeBlanc (@kleblanchockey) December 28, 2017
Great pass from Martin Necas sets up Filip Zadina pic.twitter.com/IUGAza5rW5
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 28, 2017
Filip Zadina- He had a good game, but also had some issues. I really liked his work ethic and his willingness to fight for the puck. Zadina always seemed to be in on the play in all three zones, and would find ways to get to the puck. He also has a fantastic shot, and you can definitely see how that would be an asset in the GIF above. The biggest issue that I had with Zadina was that he had tunnel vision on the power play. Too often would he shoot into an opposing defender when another one of his teammates was open for a pass to set something else up. He obviously made up for it with a goal, but he had this happen twice before on that same power play.
Rasmus Dahlin- I didn’t actually see much from him outside of a few nice passes. He has a good shot, and can skate like the wind. He was flying up and down the ice for the whole game. Dahlin will most likely be the first overall pick this year, but aside from an assist, he didn’t do a whole lot to wow me.
United States vs Slovakia
Hoooooooooooo boy. This was an ugly game for the United States, and I sure hope they didn’t think that they could just coast through this game. It was just plain embarrassing. The USA has a very talented roster mostly made up of players from the NCAA. Still, the Slovakian team deserves credit. They outplayed the United States, and their goalie was stellar all night. There weren’t many players that stood out to me on either end, although Casey Mittelstadt’s goal is definitely work checking out. None of the USA forwards were dominant, which is disappointing. Josh Norris and Riley Tufte were a little underwhelming. Tufte made two awful plays, one of which led to the second goal for Slovakia. Logan Brown left the game early with an injury, and did not return.
Milos Roman- He’s a late ’99 birthday that’s eligible for the 2018 draft. He was speedy all night, and showed good poise with the puck. He created plays off of his stick, but didn’t shoot a whole lot to my knowledge.
Samuel Bucek- He had two goals, and definitely exceeded expectations. He was quick to the puck, and definitely made the most of his shots. Seems to have his head about him in the defensive zone, too. Didn’t get a good look at him aside from the goals.
Brady Tkachuk- He looked pretty good tonight. Good combination of size, speed, and skill. Brady was a threat in all three zones, and he had a really nice goal to tie the game at one apiece. He has some nice hands, and doesn’t try to do too much offensively. It’s what will push him ahead of someone like Zadina in the draft. His ability to make plays other than shooting is going to really wow scouts.
Quinn Hughes- Mehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. He has the potential to be a solid two way defenseman that can quarterback a powerplay unit, but man he was super underwhelming. Lots of scouts project him to go in the top five or ten of the draft, and I really didn’t see that talent. He was a good skater, but Slovakia did a damn good job of defending him. Hughes does have a really good sense of what to do in all three zones, however. He would make a smart pass, and usually was able to skate past defenders. I see top four potential, but I expected him to make more of an impact.