Team Canada is off to an excellent, albeit expected start at this year’s World Juniors tournament, winning their first two games with ease. That being said, anything short of a regulation win tonight could put Canada in danger of being leapfrogged by Team USA in the Group A standings.
While Canada has come out of the gates strong, Finland has done the exact opposite. Finland has dropped both of their round robin games so far, and will be looking to bounce back and keep themselves as far away as possible from relegation-bound Germany. Canada should expect the Finns – the reigning champs and Canada’s toughest opponent yet – to come out flying.
After some line juggling during Canada’s previous matchup against Germany, it appears that Benoit Groulx will be returning to his regular lineup. Seeing that Canada’s scored the most goals of the tournament (12) and are the only team who hasn’t given up a goal yet, there’s really no reason to make any changes.
Max Domi – Sam Reinhart – Anthony Duclair
Nick Ritchie – Connor McDavid – Curtis Lazar
Nick Paul – Nic Petan – Robby Fabbri
Lawson Crouse – Frederik Gauthier – Jake Virtanen
Josh Morrissey – Madison Bowey
Darnell Nurse – Shea Theodore
Sam Morin – Joe Hicketts
*For a great in depth look at Canada’s blue line this year, read this breakdown at NHLNumbers.com
The Finns have only scored two goals so far – both by Mikko Rantanen – and the only team who hasn’t scored more than Finland is Germany (who have no goals at all). As such, they’ll be shaking up their lines ahead of tonight’s game. The most notable change… Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Kasperi Kapanen has been bumped to the second line.
Juuso Ikonen – Aleksi – Mustonen – Artturi Lehkonen
Kasperi Kapenen – Mikko Rantanen – Roope Hintz
Jesse Puljujarvi – Antti Kalapudas – Sebastian Aho
Julius Vahatalo – Otto Rauhala – Niko Ojamaki
Julius Honka – Alex Lintuniemi
Joonas Lyytinen – Aleksi Makela
Mika Ilvonen – Atte Makinen
Zach Fucale will return to the crease tonight for Canada, after Eric Comrie got the shutout against Germany. Fucale, who earned his own shutout in Canada’s opening game against Slovakia, will face significantly better competition against Finland’s shooters, even if they haven’t exactly lit the lamp so far. If Fucale puts in a strong performance, he’ll all but guarantee himself as Canada’s number one goaltender as the playoff rounds near.
For Finland, Juuse Saros will suit up against Canada. Saros, a Nashville Predators prospect, lead Finland to a WJC Championship last year with an incredibly impressive 1.57 GAA and .943 SV% stat line.
This year, Saros has split starts with Ville Husso and gave up two goals on twelve shots in a tough loss to Slovakia on Saturday. It wasn’t necessarily an impressive outing, but Saros is a talented goaltender and likely won’t make it easy for Canada’s snipers.
What to Watch For
- Max Domi’s tongue
- Connor McDavid being too serious
- Canada’s “third line” duo of Nic Petan and Robby Fabbri have been fantastic, combining for 10 points in two games
- Finland’s Mikko Rantanen is a big, skilled forward, projected to go in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. In 30 games for TPS in Finland’s top league, Rantanen has a goal and 10 points
- Besides Rantanen, Finland’s got lots of young talent. Sebastian Aho is also eligible for the 2015 Draft, and 16-year old Jesse Puljujarvi looks like he’ll be a high pick in 2016