Flames at the World Juniors day 3: Defencemen put the puck on net, goalie takes a nap

No Flames prospects were in action on day 2 of the 2016 World Juniors, but with Sweden and Canada playing on day 3, all three Flames prospects in Finland – Adam Ollas Mattsson, Brandon Hickey, and Mason McDonald – were back on the ice, putting up good performances for their teams.

Sweden 1-0 USA

Let’s just get this one out of the way: this was all Linus Soderstrom. Sweden’s goalie faced 46 shots on net from the Americans, and preserved the win by stopping all of them. It was just one quick goal off the rush by Alexander Nylander that got Sweden the win.

Good news: Adam Ollas Mattsson was on the ice for that goal! Neutral news: he didn’t really have anything to do with it. Still, that now makes two goals he’s been on the ice for this tournament (including the one he scored), and none against.

Now, as to just how the Americans got so many shots on net: they took eight penalties. That would do it, wouldn’t it? Soderstrom was amazing, though, because all throughout the game the Americans were seriously pressing.

Now, as for the performance of our Swede of interest: he took one of Sweden’s penalties: the eighth, as a matter of fact, in a weak interference call that would never have been called outside of the IIHF. Otherwise, he was out there killing penalties, along with everyone else (because they had to kill a ton, you see). At first, he seemed to be on the first penalty killing unit, but as the game progressed seemed to move down to the second (and didn’t seem to appear at all once or twice).

Ollas Mattsson occasionally had trouble clearing the puck, including one instance early on that resulted in the Americans intercepting it and his defence partner, Andreas Englund, taking a slashing penalty, and another turnover that gave the Americans a scoring chance. Those were the worst case scenarios, however, as he was a mostly effective killer throughout the game, and was still able to actually clear the puck himself a handful of times.

He also threw two notable hits: one on his own teammate, Adrian Kempe, which was kind of funny (and very solid on his part; dude’s huge). The other was much more serious, as Ollas Mattsson was keeping Alex DeBrincat to the outside, and took him into the boards just as DeBrincat was falling.

It was purely accidental and clearly not malicious by Ollas Mattsson in any way: just a case of unfortunate timing, ice being slippery, and the Swede being significantly bigger than the American.

Ollas Mattsson also had two shots on net of his own: one in the first period, and then one in the third, a rifled shot all the way from the blue line that Alex Nedelkovic stopped. He was one of Sweden’s three defencemen to get multiple shots on net.

The Swedes won’t play again until Dec. 30, when at 7 a.m., they’ll take on the Danes in a battle to continue to establish themselves as the top team in Group A.

Canada 6-1 Denmark

Well, considering the quality of competition, Mason McDonald really didn’t have much to do today. Jeppe Holmberg tested him early on in the first period with a nice move that fooled his defenders, but he stayed with it; shortly after, however, Alexander True deflected a puck past him with his foot to open the scoring.

McDonald only faced 11 shots throughout the day, though, and with Canada spending most of the game in the offensive zone, we pretty much never actually saw him.

So let’s talk about Brandon Hickey, who was much more noticeable against the Danes than he was against the Americans. Hickey was all over the ice – a testament to his smooth skating abilities (seriously, he is so smooth) and intelligence, pretty much never getting caught out of position and taking way, way more shots than he had before.

Against the Americans, Hickey registered zero shots on net. Against the Danes, he registered four – and he seemed to be shooting the puck with purpose. Hickey has a good point shot, and it’s disappointing that Canada, with a very safe lead over Denmark and tons of power plays to work with, never once tried putting him on the point with the man advantage.

He was one of their primary penalty killers, at least, so Hickey was used in some special teams capacity – but even though he has a penchant for shooting the puck (his 2.75 shots per game is 12th out of all NCAA defencemen, and his five goals puts him in a tie for sixth), Team Canada doesn’t seem interested in using him in any sort of offensive role. I’m not sure if he can even play his way into one, considering the only Canadian defenceman to shoot more than him was Travis Dermott (five shots to Hickey’s four), and Dermott, along with players like Joe Hicketts and Thomas Chabot, had power play time with which to work.

Team Canada is back at it tomorrow at 11 a.m. MT when they play the winless Swiss, who appear to be relegation-bound. Hickey will no doubt be back, but as McDonald has started the previous two games and Mackenzie Blackwood’s suspension is officially over, expect the Flames goalie to be backing up.

  • cberg

    Pretty much agree on all three.

    I thought Ollas-Mattson played to his strengths, with is D-positioning and using his size to overpower and redirect opposition players in the vicinity. he seems a bit tentative with the puck and skating looked Ok but a bit awkward. Overall I thought he did well and we’ll just have to wait and see how he develops in the future.

    MacDonald wasn’t really tested all game, and the goal was a cross-crease pass to an open man with the puck deflecting in off his skate. With Blackwood likely starting tomorrow it’ll be interesting to see how he does and later how Canada goes into the game with Sweden, which now may be a showdown first first in the grouping. Unless Blackwood has major issues I wouldn’t be surprised if they went either way, then continued with the starter if they win or changed out the goalie for the medal round if they lost.

    As for Hickey, he definitely played a much more offensive role with multiple shots, along with the usual excellent skating and overall D play. It seems strange that he is so often overlooked for a one-timer pass even when set up and in good position. Its really noticeable so either his teammates don’t know what he can do or have been instructed otherwise? Perhaps its a CHL thing? Strange. It only happened once all game and he got a very good SOG with a rebound out of it.

  • everton fc

    I continue to have an ever-increasing, positive vibe about Ollas-Mattsson. Can you imagine if he, Hickey, Kylington, Kulak, Culkin and Andersson all reach their potential? Add them to Gio, Brodie, Hamilton… 9 solid d-men. Some will become expendable. I don’t see Brodie, nor Hamilton, on that list.