Team Canada has been battling back from a rough start to their 2016 World Juniors tournament, but today might be their biggest test yet.
That’s right: it’s time for Mitch Marner, Jake Virtanen, and Dylan Strome to take on the other Nylander.
It’s Team Sweden time, y’all.
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) December 31, 2015
Team Canada certainly isn’t *struggling* in the most traditional sense of the word, but the 2015 team spoiled us – and this year just hasn’t seen the team ‘click’ the way last year’s did. There’s been a lot of line shuffling, but in game and in practice, and nothing’s really seemed to settle yet.
Even Team USA dropped their decision to Sweden – albeit by a close 1-0 final score – so if Canada has anyone that should really make them sweat, it’s these guys.
Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner are split up yet again, with Brayden Point centreing Marner’s line and Strome getting sandwiched between the bash brothers Virtanen and Crouse. It may be a ploy to get Strome’s impressive playmaking to ignite Virtanen and Crouse, while the heavy hitters buy Strome extra time to work his magic, but it remains to be seen how successful that line could be against Sweden.
It looks like Brendan Perlini draws out of the top three lines for a now-healthy Julien Gauthier, getting grouped on a psuedo-fourth line with Travis Konecny, John Quenneville, Mitchell Stephens, and defenseman Roland McKeown. McKeown is an offensive-minded defenseman, so that’s a weird grouping – although knowing Team Canada, things won’t stay like this for long.
Here’s the latest on William Nylander, who missed a scheduled news conference today https://t.co/9uJoY2leJd
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) December 31, 2015
William Nylander is still out, and missed his press conference this morning to talk about it. For Toronto fans, that’s something to be a little bit worried about – but it also speaks to how absolutely dominant Sweden has been this year. Even without the older Nylander, the tournament has seen the Swedes show absolutely no mercy.
The bottom line is what I call the ‘Arizona Coyotes’ line, with both Jens Looke and Anton Karlsson playing in an energy role, but both were NHL draft picks and show potential upside. We’re all in awe of the top line – Adrian Kempe is the only good LA Kings prospect, after all – but that second forward line should scare everyone. Dmytro Timashov? Yes please.
Newly signed New Jersey Devils prospect MacKenzie Blackwood is finally off his suspension for being a bonehead, which should help Team Canada moving forward.
Linus Soderstom is one hell of a goaltender for Team Sweden, though. The kid has one shutout and only three goals against in three games played for Sweden thus far – and in a tournament where a team lost 10-1 a few days ago, that’s a testament to his skill.