Part of being successful at international hockey simply comes down to luck.
Which country were you born in? Which countries are you eligible to play for? That’s going to go a long way towards determining your success.
Take, for example, Nico Hischier. Phenomenal young player, likely with a very high draft spot a very bright future ahead of him. He gave the Americans fits in a game virtually everyone would have predicted them to win. But he’s Swiss, his team doesn’t have anywhere near as many players as capable as other teams do, and so, his chances of winning much internationally are pretty low.
As gimmicky as it was, that was the entire philosophy behind having a Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey. Anze Kopitar and Mats Zuccarello are two amazing players, but the chances Slovenia or Norway ever actually wins anything…
So there’s a certain level of luck that goes into this. Pavel Karnaukhov was eligible to represent both Belarus and Russia internationally; where is Belarus? He went with Russia. And so.
The five Flames prospects at this tournament play for Canada, the United States, Sweden, and Russia. Those are the final four teams of the 2017 World Juniors, and so, all five Flames prospects have advanced. All will play for a medal. At least three of them will win one.
My sincerest apologies for the way the rest of this post is going to unfold. As luck would have it, I was unable to watch the quarterfinal games. As luck would further have it, in trying to make contingency plans with the other FN writers, nobody at the time said they would be able to cover it. As luck would further further have it, my PVR borked. So.
The body of this post will not have in-game observations, and I do apologize for the overly stats-y nature that is to follow. I will be able to watch all of the remaining games, so those will be better.
In the meantime, I’d like to encourage all of you who were able to watch to keep on sharing your thoughts in the comments, as was ongoing through the round robin games. It’s not often we actually get to watch any of these kids really, so the snapshot the World Juniors provides is always appreciated, even if it is but a glimpse of their play.
If there is any consolation from this, the winners of the quarterfinals were all predictable (even if the Swiss and the Czechs did a pretty good job of trying to throw a wrench into things). That’s not to say the way the games were played out wasn’t interesting in any capacity – more that what’s going to be really awesome to watch is how the indisputably top teams fare against one another, and how the Flames’ prospects respond to what should be even tougher competition.
It’ll be USA vs. Russia
Pavel Karnaukhov was the first prospect to make the quarterfinals. Throughout the round robin, the Russians had essentially rolled their forward lines, and though Karnaukhov was never utilized as a top player for them, he did get to play in all situations.
In Russia’s 4-0 victory over the Danes in the quarterfinal, Karnaukhov played 15:48, marking him about a third liner. He had two shots on net, and he scored a goal: Russia’s third of the game, at even strength. That puts him at two goals and an assist throughout the tournament, which ties him for seventh in Russian scoring.
As far as Flames prospects go, though, Karnaukhov is probably the least exciting among those at the tournament. He left North America to play in Russia, a move which, alone, makes him more difficult to follow; follow that up with the fact that he isn’t exactly lighting it up over there – though his 16 points in 18 games in the VHL isn’t bad – and, well, distance plus lack of eyepopping numbers simply makes him less interesting when thinking in context of future Flames.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 2, 2017
He’ll be going up against two of the Flames’ draft picks from 2016, and two exciting ones at that in Adam Fox and Tyler Parsons. Recency bias has a tendency to make recent draft picks more exciting, anyway; when those recent draft picks are putting up awesome numbers, well…
Fox played 12:30 against the Swiss: a bottom pairing role. He had one shot on net. Parsons, meanwhile, got the start over Joseph Woll for the game, so we should expect to see him get the start in the semifinal matchup against Russia, too (a team he already defeated a couple of days ago). He stopped 19 of 21 shots for a 90.48 save percentage, only getting bested by Hischier who is noted to be rather, well, good.
Considering how the Americans won 3-2…
Smell the glove. Parsons with a beaut: 3-2 late 3rd. ???? https://t.co/zg8I8rJI8w
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) January 3, 2017
Throughout the round robin, Fox displayed poised, sound defensive play; Parsons, for his part, demonstrated great athleticism and compete, particularly when he had to work with a defence that had occasionally forgotten how to defend.
It’ll be Sweden vs. Canada
Oliver Kylington is perhaps the most interesting prospect the Flames have at this tournament. Three are 2016 draftees; two, Kylington and Karnaukhov, are 2015 guys. They’re older, they’re presumably closer to playing in the NHL. And considering how Kylington has done the opposite of Karnaukhov – left Europe in order to play high-end professional hockey in North America – well, he’s the member of this group it perhaps makes most sense to get excited about in the short term.
The Swedes thumped the Slovaks 8-3. Kylington played 19:44, the most out of all Swedish skaters once again. He picked up two secondary assists, both on the powerplay, on Sweden’s first and eighth goals. With four assists this tournament, he isn’t just sixth in team scoring; he’s their top-scoring defenceman. Not just that, but he’s tied for fifth in defencemen scoring in the entire tournament.
SOG for D
— (((Corey Pronman))) (@coreypronman) January 3, 2017
Our Christian T. had the chance to watch a bit of Kylington’s game too, so I turn to him:
Kylington was pretty much what he’s been all throughout the tournament. A big help on offence, a bit risky/shaky. He’s quite deadly in the neutral zone but seems a bit sketchy in the defensive zone. Looked pretty good against a weak opponent. It’ll be interesting to see how he is against Canada.
He’ll be counted on to be Sweden’s top defenceman against the home team, so that’s definitely going to be a game to watch. Sweden has, to date, played Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. With all due respect to those countries, they ain’t Canada.
Dillon Dube isn’t one of Canada’s top players – his 12:53 played (fourth line minutes) and one shot in a 5-3 win over the Czechs will attest to that – but his three assists do leave him tied for sixth in team scoring. Through the round robin, he was an effective, hard-working bottom six player who was honestly unlucky to not come away with more points; he also helps make up a valuable depth the Swedes haven’t quite had to face just yet.
Next year is probably going to be the really interesting year for him, especially if he stays healthy; in the meantime, seeing how often he gets thrown out there against a team as strong as the Swedes have been all tournament will be fun to watch.