Flames at the World Juniors day 1: A goal, and four against

The opening of the 2016 World Junior Championship saw all three Flames prospects present in action. First, it was Adam Ollas-Mattsson and Team Sweden facing off against Team Switzerland in what turned out to be an overly violent affair; then, it was Mason McDonald starting for Team Canada and Brandon Hickey skating on defence as they prepared to face the Americans much earlier than we’re used to.

Sweden 8-3 Switzerland

While it was an eventful game for the Swedes, it was not for Adam Ollas-Mattsson. This makes sense, though: in Sweden’s 8-3 win over the Swiss, they spent a considerable amount of time on the power play, an area Ollas-Mattsson is not relied on. 

That said, even though Ollas-Mattsson is not an offensive player, he did pick up a goal in the chaotic affair – albeit in garbage time.

It was an unnecessarily violent game, as the Swiss, who are not exactly on Sweden’s level, made up for it by playing rather dirty, including knocking both William Nylander and Adrian Kempe out of the game. Ollas-Mattsson wasn’t on the ice for any of these big hits or scrums throughout the game, so his play was kept completely clean. 

On the one hand, it’s a bit of a shame – Ollas-Mattsson absolutely dwarfs some of his teammates, he’s huge and would probably be great to have in a scrum – but on the other hand, considering the level of stupid present throughout the game (although mostly on the Swiss’ part), perhaps it’s better he wasn’t involved.

With the Swedes building such a big lead and getting so many chances to practice their power play throughout the game, Ollas-Mattsson got a little bit of power play time at the end. Normally, though, he was used in a defensive role, defending in his own zone and playing on the penalty kill.

Ollas-Mattsson frequently used his big frame to stall any potential Swiss opportunities in his end, often keeping them pinned to the boards and not allowing them to get anything actually set up.

As for his goal, it was a simple affair within the game’s final five minutes. With Sweden already up 7-3, he rushed the puck up the ice along the boards, and his centring attempt simply went in off a Swiss’ player’s stick: hence, goal.

Perhaps we’ll get the chance to see more of Ollas-Mattsson in a less penalty-filled game; in the meantime, against the Swiss, he didn’t factor in much, but it’s never a bad thing to see your guys get in on the scoring. Oh – and not be on the ice for any goals against, either. As a defenceman, that’s always good.

The Swedes will be back in action bright and early at 7 a.m. on Dec. 28 when they take on the Americans, who will be a step up in competition.

USA 4-2 Canada

While Canada lost to the Americans 4-2, the score paints a bit of a worse picture than it actually was. Well, kind of. Because while things started off well, they completely fell apart towards the end.

Mason McDonald gave up four goals on 25 shots for a not-stellar .840 save percentage. Only one of the goals against was really bad for the netminder, but unfortunately, it was the backbreaking fourth goal, which came just 41 seconds after the Americans took the lead in the game’s final minutes. The puck trickled through McDonald’s fivehole, and Auston Matthews beat him to it to give USA the insurance goal at the game’s end.

As for the first three goals against the Flames prospect:

  • McDonald was playing a shot that went wide, and was not in position to stop Colin White’s goal. The wide shot ended up bouncing out to White, and a quick stick on his part had the puck in the back of the net. McDonald couldn’t move over quickly enough, and his defence – Haydn Fleury, in this case – couldn’t prevent White from getting the shot off.
  • On the power play, McDonald was screened. His penalty killers were unable to clear the puck, and Zach Werenski’s point shot went through.
  • McDonald had the save on the third goal, at least before his defenceman Joe Hicketts tipped the puck over his glove and in.

At the same time, though, the Americans weren’t getting many chances to start the game. When they started piling it on, Team Canada, and McDonald, couldn’t seem to keep up. His American counterpart, Alex Nedeljkovic, outplayed him handily, stopping 25 of 27 shots he faced.

As for Brandon Hickey: he was on the ice for Canada’s first goal, as well as three of the four American goals scored. He did not play on the power play, but he isn’t on Team Canada for offence; he’s there to play a shutdown role, and as such, spent ample time on the penalty kill. 

While Hickey did have some good moments – disrupting Matthews early on, for instance – he was partially at fault for failing to clear the puck on the power play that resulted in the Americans’ second goal. And when things fell apart in the third, Hickey’s good game went with it.

It’s just not a good sign in general when you’re out there for defensive purposes and yet are on the ice for the majority of goals against, even if they weren’t necessarily your fault.

Canada has a chance to get back in the win column when they take on Team Denmark at 11 a.m. on Dec. 28. While Hickey should undoubtedly be back in, McDonald’s backup, Sam Montembeault, could get the start, as Mackenzie Blackwood will be serving the final game of his suspension.

  • Burnward

    So, McDonald is maybe responsible for one goal…which Point deflected…and he should be pulled?

    A couple bad bounces erases two periods of absolutely stellar play from Hickey?

    Christmas cheer has left this place early!

  • ville de champignons

    The game kind of reminded me of too many Flames games early in the season. On a brighter note, I really like the look of that photo – grey jersey from the selection camp – much better than the traditional Canadian “Soviet Red” they proudly wear for the tourney. Go USA. (Yeah, yeah, I know… BOOOOOOOO!) Okay.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    As I said before the tournament. Hard to believe MacDonald was Canada’s best option in net for this tournament. His Charlottetown numbers seem to be translating well…this game will put him at a disadvantage going forward. Expect Blackwood to take over when he is eligible

  • ville de champignons

    Who cares though..least it’s not the Flames so it’s all good. I feel bad for those Canadian fans who blew their Christmas paychecks to go to Finland to watch that lol.

  • Nick24

    I largely agree with your points on MacDonald. He was fine, but wasn’t amazing. The first 3 goals weren’t his fault, but you gotta stop that last one from squeeking through.

    Hickey played pretty well over all, except for that one flub he had on the pass attempt in the defensive zone. I was hoping Team Canada would realize that he’s got a cannon of a shot, and as a result would give him a little bit of time on the PP. Dermot and Sanheim weren’t any better than Hickey and Flurey. I’m not sure why Flurey and Hickey weren’t given some more oppertunities.

    I understand they’re supposed to be the shut down pairing, but pigeon-holing these guys doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. There should be more fluidity to the combinations than is being employed currently.

    And on a completely different note, Brayden Point should play more, provided he’s healthy.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Unfortunately it looks like Treliving’s first draft (2014) will be a memorable one…both second rounders (Mason MacDonald and Hunter Smith) are duds…..

    • The GREAT Walter White

      We didn’t pick a goalie last draft, so unfortunately we are in for another treat next draft…(waste another high pick on a goalie).

      Good times!

      WW

    • cberg

      Not saying you will be wrong about either guy but judging prospects (especially goalies that take a long while to develop) as busts or saviours so early on can make you look foolish when those kids prove you wrong. When you speculate that players are a bust you will be correct regardless a certain % of the time anyway. Its just speculation. The Flames drafted Macdonald because they liked his raw talent but he is raw and this is the WJ, the best comp in the world for the age group. Hopefully you arent just judging him on one game because that would sure be silly when he has many years of development ahead of him. Again it is just one game in one tourney. The tourney itself is a ridiculously small sample size… its like saying Gillies is a bust because team USA struggled a couple of years ago. Anyway not like you made some bold prediction. The 2nd rnd doesnt typically hold a fantastic success rate anyway.

  • Nick24

    @ Nik

    Regarding prospects this speculation of them being busts so early on is not not useful or insightful. “That’s why they play the games.”

    So let them develop and we will wait and see.

    • The GREAT Walter White

      Here is the useful and insightful feedback you are looking for…Hunter Smith is slow. He is not going to learn how to skate NHL speed at the age of 20….his only hope was potentially that of an enforcer…that role no longer exists so the game has already passed him…McDonald based on his season performance and the the WJ’s has proven he is a head case when playing big games…his play has been inconsistent to say the least and Thatcher Demko was the best goalie available and they took a gamble on McDonald…the Canuckleheads will now enjoy the benefits of Demko’ss elite skill and goaltending…

      • The GREAT Walter White

        Like I said in my first post I never said you were wrong in your analysis but at least give a young kid a chance before you cut him down. I never wrote anything about Smith… but hey longer shots have paid off before so I wont be counting them out at this stage and I wont pretend to be an expert or an armchair scout. Cutting down prospects isnt really classy.

        I always see people disparaging young kids and prospects in comments sections however I never hear anyone own up and admit they are wrong when they are wrong. I hope that IF Macdonald or Smith ever make it that you have clasz to admit you are wrong.

      • MattyFranchise

        Number 1: Don’t look at MacDonald’s numbers in junior and say that he will be a bust when he turns pro. In the QMJHL they might as well play with five forwards instead of two defensemen.

        Number 2: Try to hold of judgment until he plays some pro games in the ECHL or the AHL. At the very least wait to see if he gets even a taste at the NHL level when he’s around 25 years old. The age that a lot of goalies get their first chance at the NHL.

        People put way way too much stock in WJC performance and they really shouldn’t.

      • cberg

        Nik, WW and ultrathinzigzags,

        Thanks for nothing on your mostly useless and incorrect comments after this tough Canada team loss.

        First off, ANY comment about drafted players after one game in which only 1 of the players actually played is beyond ludicrous. I’d use stronger language but, really, why bother? Taking pot shots at guys in a totally unrelated forum is beyond bush league… actually just about where most of your comments belong.

        As for the game and Ari’s unfortunate “revelations” about two of the Flame’s prospects. And not that I’m really adverse to Ari as she has really upped her writing lately, but the article seems to be more of a explanation of the post game spreadsheet than an actual review of the game itself.

        First Hickey. Canada’s top 2 D were clearly Hickey and Hicketts. Both were fast, mobile, good positionally and able to defend when US players came into their area. Hickey was clearly better able to defend the bigger guys (i.e. Matthews) but that’s largely due to the size and strength differences. Hayden Fleury really struggled on several occasions which didn’t help Hickey’s numbers I’m sure, and the others were largely inconsequential. By my viewing the only ‘gaffe’ Hickey made was whiffing on one puck behind the net which they subsequently were not able to clear and ended up a goal some time later. Considering the Hickett tip in the third I’d say Hickey was Canada’s best D in the game and overall he really accounted for himself well. I would agree with Ari in that the coach is underutilizing him (great shot-PP) but in this format of just throwing a team together its not surprising. Perhaps things will evolve over the next week.

        Second MacDonald. Actually, MacDonald played a pretty great game. He was solid overall and all four of the goals are no fault of his. When your own defence tips two clearly managed shots by him right in front of him(one he almost saved in spite of the tip), lets the opposition double screen him and lets the opposition walk right to the net unopposed for a back door tap-in off the boards there is no way I’m laying that on the goalie. That course of action is the cowards way out. The numbers mean nothing about the actual play and are not reflective of the players involved.

        As for the game itself, Canada actually played pretty solid. They clearly had an edge in chances and if they were able to get more than one shot up off the ice this would have been over long before the third. By the end the US team started throwing anything at the net and a couple poor judgement tips/bad bounces went in. Overall it was pretty even and if the teams meet again in the playoffs it’ll be a battle again as long as the Canadians can keep their heads into it.

  • T&A4Flames

    @ Nik

    From your response you obviously didnt get my point. Im not saying you are wrong on Smith and Macdonald. What I am saying is speculating on and cutting down young kids isnt really useful because its just speculation.

  • Franko J

    I was more interested in the players who were draft eligible than how Macdonald and Hickey faired. Right now both players are in the development stage and their progress will have some up’s and down’s. All depends how they can rebound in the tournament.

    Overall I liked the game Gauthier from Canada and Macavoy with USA played.
    The player I was surprisingly disappointed by was Tkachuk with the US. Many scouts have him projected to be a top ten pick. I thought his skating needs some serious work. It seemed to me he struggled to keep up with Matthews in transition.

    • cberg

      On Canada Gauthier had a few moments where he looked good, agreed. On the US I rather liked Tkachuk and his physical play and nose for the net. I wasn’t focusing on him particularly so can’t comment on the skating but as far as Matthews goes, isn’t he supposed to be very fast? Matthews was very good but never really took over the game at any point so I’ll have to reserve further comments till we can see him some more…