After a bit of a lighter schedule, it was another massive day at the World Juniors.
All five Flames prospects were in action, as first Adam Fox, Tyler Parsons, and Team USA faced a more difficult opponent in Pavel Karnaukhov and Team Russia, and won 3-2. Then, Oliver Kylington and Team Sweden helped put a dagger in Team Finland with a 3-1 win. And finally, Dillon Dube and Team Canada took down Team Latvia 10-2.
That’s one goalie, two defencemen, and two forwards, all a part of the Flames system, that were in action. Let’s take a look at how they did.
As the game went on, Parsons saw increased pressure from Russia in which he had to be especially sharp. It didn’t start that way at first; though Russia isn’t Latvia, who Parsons had the first start against, he wasn’t tested too much early on.
Or at least, not outside of some crazy bounces he had to stay especially alert on. He almost knocked the puck into his own net during one of these early on, but got fortunate with the bounce as the puck went to the outside of the net (with Fox being one of the defencemen directly on hand to help him keep it out).
A bouncy puck would eventually victimize Parsons in the first, though. His defence gave up a shorthanded rush to the Russians, and a bouncy Yakov Trenin pass led to Kirill Urakov hitting it out of mid-air and in the net, tying the game at one.
Parsons couldn’t be blamed for that goal; the puck was wild. Similarly, it would be difficult to assign him blame on the second goal he gave up: a powerplay goal that made it 3-2 for the Americans, on which he was very effectively screened, and the victim of an excellent tip by Kirill Kaprizov.
That was all Parsons would give up, as he stopped 25 of the 27 stops he faced – including all at even strength – for a 92.59 save percentage. And while it did take them a bit to get going, Russia truly did provide a test for Parsons, particularly as the game went on and they grew more desperate to tie it.
While some of his stops had to be of the scrambly variety, often showing off his athleticism, Parsons was also able to track the puck and frequently square himself to the shooter, giving up very little in the way of rebounds or additional chances against – one of his best coming when he lost his stick. His defence faltered as the game went on, giving him more to do; he rose to the challenge each time. Perhaps his best stop came with just seconds to go in the game: Parsons had an extremely quick reaction to a shot that had a very good chance of tying the game. His stop pretty much sealed the win for the Americans.
He was, in a word, fantastic.
Fox played 13:26 for the Americans over 19 shifts, fifth in ice time for their defencemen. Against a tougher opponent, he was used less, seeing very little special teams time: just a bit here and there at the end of a couple of powerplays. He was not on the ice for any goals, neither for nor against.
While credited with no shots, Fox did have a couple of long looks out there, including one that went off the endboards that created havoc for the Russians and led to a good American scoring chance.
It was defensively where Fox really stood out, anyway. He refused to give the Russians time or space; when they entered their offensive zone, Fox would stand right up to them and completely disrupt them from being able to make any high quality plays – if they were able to make any plays at all. On occasion, this would result in a change in possession and the Americans rushing up the ice due to an initial stop Fox caused.
In short: though he didn’t contribute as much on the offensive side of the game, he was the complete opposite of a passive player, and very active in defending.
Fox and Karnaukhov had their fair share of individual battles as well; by my count, Fox won each and every one of them, either by simply outwaiting Karnaukhov and leaving him with no options, pressuring him out of a danger zone and making him lose the puck, or simply beating him to it.
Karnaukhov played 14:53 over 20 shifts, which was sixth in ice time out of Russian forwards. He was credited with just one shot on net, and was on the ice for all three goals against, and none for.
Karnaukhov actually saw a fair amount of Clayton Keller in his deployment. He was on the ice when Keller opened the scoring; he went after Joey Anderson when the puck was going around the boards up to his vicinity, but was late to it, and only delivered a hit to Anderson after he had fed Keller, who subsequently scored.
He had little impact on the second goal against, which came on an American powerplay; it was the product of odd bounces, and ultimately, it wasn’t his man who scored.
He wasn’t quite at fault for the third goal he was on against. While Troy Terry was his man advancing to the net, Karnaukhov had him – it was just that Erik Foley’s shot from behind the line hit Terry, and it was a tight bank Ilya Samsonov should have had. Karnaukhov could have done a better job completely cutting off any options for Terry, but that was a puck that shouldn’t have gone in to begin with.
Otherwise, what was most noticeable about Karnaukhov was his size and willingness to use it in order to be physical, and his propensity to help lead rushes – some of which led to scoring chances for the Russians, as did some centring attempts of his (perhaps most notably, forcing a hard rebound off of Parsons that his teammate in the slot whiffed on). He started off on the first penalty kill unit a number of times, and early on was part of rushes with Danila Kvartalnov to kill time in the offensive zone. Once again had a prominent net-front presence, too.
Kylington played 18:59 over 28 shifts for the Swedes, fourth in defencemen ice time. Part of that probably had to do with the penalty disparity: Kylington is not used on the Swedish penalty kill, and the Swedes had no powerplays with which to work themselves.
Though the fact that Kylington is so heavily used and yet not really trusted to be out there down a man should say something.
All in all, Kylington was pretty good. As different as the World Junior standings are this year – Finland having yet to win a game, and in all likelihood going to play in the relegation round – they certainly aren’t a team one can take for granted; particularly not the Swedes, considering the two countries’ histories with one another.
And Kylington did ultimately play a calmer game, and was more willing to make use of his teammates. There were instances in which he would rush up the ice and into the offensive zone solo, and have nobody to pass the puck to, resulting in an imminent turnover; this never led to anything dangerous, though.
Except for one sequence that’s probably going to get a lot of attention – deserved attention, too, because quite frankly, it’s how Kylington is going to grow as a player.
This one didn’t even enter the offensive zone. Kylington got too fancy trying to carry the puck up through the neutral zone, and was ripe for an easy turnover that set off an avalanche of chances for the Finns on a single shift – one Kylington was caught out for the entire time, and one he only ended by icing the puck (or at least, it should have been called an icing; somehow it was not). In the meantime, while defending, he did work to block shots and clear them from the front of the net – although he did also turn the puck over again over the course of the long, frantic shift.
That had the chance to end disastrously; all in all, though, Kylington was not on the ice for any goals. That was not the only turnover he had; it was just the worst one.
Also, it should be noted that in his shift following that one, he had a clean breakout alongside of his other teamates into the offensive zone and had a clean shot that was blocked right after. That was just one particularly bad moment; his entire game was much more controlled.
On the other side of things, Kylington often both joined offensive zone cycles – or even initiated them himself – while also hanging back and patrolling the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone (or bring it back in pretty quickly himself, which led to more cycling). That, and he has a shot – and passing ability – opponents have to respect.
And, at absolute minimum, when things went wrong, he was good at getting back. His number one crime was getting too fancy at times, and maybe playing a little too eager; the former can definitely be fixed, while the latter can be an asset if developed properly.
In a game especially disrupted by penalties (34 PIM combined by the two teams), Dube played 12:00 over 20 shifts, appearing both at even strength and especially on the penalty kill; he was 10th in forward ice time. He was credited with two shots and picked up one primary assist on Anthony Cirelli’s goal that made it 7-0 for Canada.
Dube’s assist was the result of crashing the net alongside Cirelli, unrelentingly banging away at Gustavs Grigals, who came into the game after Canada went up 4-0. Dube helped keep the play alive until Cirelli eventually got it in the net.
Dube had another noteworthy incident in close along the crease: at the very start of the game, in the midst of a buzzing shift for his line, he ran into Mareks Mitens – Latvia’s starting goalie – at the edge of the blue paint, and was dinged for goaltender interference. It was the first of many penalties on the night, but the only one he would take; otherwise, he was a frequent feature on the kill (though it was Cirelli who got to be the forward when Canada had to kill off multiple three-on-fours – this game was seriously infested with penalties – and Dube who would come back on during four-on-fives).
Still, when Dube was out there killing penalties, it wasn’t uncommon to see him in the offensive zone; when he was out there during even strength, the same could be said, as his line cycled often and generally made things difficult for the Latvian defenders before they would either eventually disrupt Canadian play, the goalie would manage to freeze it, or Dube’s line would take another penalty.
He played an aggressive game throughout. Most of his ice time came in the third, after Canada had built a sizeable lead and the penalties became a little less frequent.
- Oliver Kylington and Team Sweden vs. Team Czech Republic on Dec. 31 at 11 a.m.
- Dillon Dube and Team Canada vs. Adam Fox, Tyler Parsons and Team USA on Dec. 31 at 1:30 p.m.
- Pavel Karnaukhov and Team Russia vs. Team Slovakia on Dec. 31 at 6 p.m.