With day one of the 2018 World Juniors complete, several teams have already begun to differentiate themselves as dominant forces at this year’s U20 championship.
Only two Toronto prospects took to the ice at the tournament today, with Timothy Liljegren and Joseph Woll posting solid performances for their respective teams. Eemeli Räsänen did not play for Finland, as the team opted to ice only six defencemen in their matchup against Canada.
I can’t help but compare last year’s tournament to this year’s – though Joseph Woll did not see much ice time for the USA and Martin Dzeirkals and the Latvians suffered relegation, Toronto’s prospects had an impressive showing over the course of those two weeks. If Räsänen does not see any ice time for Finland, we’re left to judge the performances of only two prospects. Though this is not ideal, Liljegren will likely prove to be an important part of the Swedish blueline moving forward, and Woll may claim the USA’s starting goaltender position if he keeps up his consistent play.
Timothy Liljegren (Sweden vs. Belarus)
Here are the highlights from today’s Sweden and Belarus matchup:
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 26, 2017
Timothy Liljegren saw 16 minutes of ice time in today’s victory against Belarus, standing tall on the blueline and helping his team to victory.
Liljegren was on the ice for Belarus’ only goal in the game – a lazy pass from Sweden’s Alex Nylander caused Belarus forward Yegorto Sharangovich take off on a breakaway, and Liljegren could not get back to stop the goal.
One mistake aside, Liljegren had a solid showing today. Though he did not record any points, he saw time on the dominant Swedish powerplay and helped create some quality offensive chances:
— Angelo (@GodMatthews) December 26, 2017
Liljegren will likely improve as the tournament progresses, and it would be nice to see him grab a few points along the way.
Eemeli Räsänen (Finland vs. Canada)
Here are the highlights from today’s game:
HIGHLIGHTS: Canada started its #WorldJuniors campaign on a positive note, defeating a strong but young Finnish team, 4-2. https://t.co/rsNe1F9in4 @HC_Men @leijonat #WJCinBUF pic.twitter.com/DYyDM29fvC
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 27, 2017
Räsänen did not dress for Finland today, despite being named to the 23-man roster. There’s not much to say about Räsänen now given the lack of information we have, but he may make an appearance later in the tournament.
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) December 26, 2017
The situation is slightly confusing, especially considering that Räsänen seemed to be slotted into the point on the power play:
Toronto's 6'7 D prospect Eemeli Rasanen looks like he'll be Finland's 7th D, but he's on their top PK unit. Definitely an interesting player to keep an eye on. https://t.co/r6034gTyTK
— ??Swedish Ian?? (@regressIan) December 25, 2017
As I mentioned, there has been no word from Finland about his status. He may get an opportunity to play against a team not named Canada or the USA, but for now, we will have to wait and see.
Joseph Woll (USA vs. Denmark)
Joseph Woll saw the start for the Americans today, stopping 17 of 17 shots in a 9-0 win.
Woll almost cost himself a shutout after turning the puck over to the Danes on the penalty kill, but he went on to shut down all of Denmark’s offensive attempts.
He had a solid showing in net today for the States, though it is tough to say that he was actually tested against Denmark. The USA dominated all aspects of the ice and Woll was solid when he needed him to be. It was nice to see Woll get the start today in USA’s tournament opener, but the real challenge lies ahead as the team is destined to meet some tougher opponents later in the preliminary round.
Day 3 Preview
No Leafs prospects will be in action tomorrow, so we’ll be fast-forwarding straight to Thursday. Day three will see each of our darling prospects in action, with Sweden, the USA, and Finland all taking to the ice.
Up first, Finland will take on Denmark at 12 pm. Denmark will be fighting to avoid relegation but did not have a great showing against the USA in their opening game. The Finns will be looking to bounce back from their loss to Canada, and this combination should make for a good matchup. It will also be interesting to see if Räsänen dresses against Denmark.
Sweden will take the ice at 4 pm against the Czech Republic. The Czechs opened up their tournament with an upset win, claiming a 5-4 victory against the Russians on day one of the WJC. The Swedes dominated Belarus, and with Russia disappointing with a weak start, this matchup could be one of the best that Group B has to offer. Liljegren had a decent performance today against Belarus and I’d expect him to remain in a similar spot within the Swedish lineup moving forward.
Finally, the USA will face Slovakia at 8 pm in the final matchup of day three. Slovakia will open up their tournament tomorrow against Canada, but I anticipate the Slovaks to be competent (to say the least) this year. They will likely put up a better fight than Denmark, and given his shutout performance against Denmark today, Woll could very well see his second start in a row against Slovakia – though, the Americans will be taking on Canada the next day at New Era Field, so I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Oettinger get the start against the Slovaks as well.
Be sure to stay tuned to TLN for daily #WJC2018 coverage!