With four games, 30 goals, and two big upsets on Boxing Day, the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship is underway in classic fashion.
Both Finland and Canada dropped shocking decisions — to Switzerland and Czechia, respectively — on the opening day of this year’s tournament. While the Finns lasted into overtime before conceding the winner to the Swiss, Canada fell to the Czechs in regulation by a 5–2 score.
Even Team USA had a bit of trouble with the Latvians, overcoming 1–1 and 2–2 ties to pull away in the third period for a 5–2 win. Sweden claimed victory in the lone blowout of the day, scoring 11 and pitching a shutout against Austria.
The Calgary Flames have two prospects taking part in the 2023 World Juniors. While both were in action on Monday, neither managed to do much to stand out compared to the majority of their peers.
Topi Ronni, Calgary’s 2022 second-round pick, logged 11:10 — with his ice time slightly decreasing in each successive period — in Finland’s 3–2 overtime loss to Switzerland. Ronni won just three of his 11 faceoffs and failed to record a shot on net in the game.
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Having played a bottom-six role for Tappara in Finland’s top men’s league this season, Ronni occupied a similar spot for the national team on Monday. He centered the fourth line with Lenni Hameenaho and Aleksanteri Kaskimaki and managed to prevent the Swiss from scoring a goal while he was on the ice, albeit not really pushing play in any direction at all.
Kalle Vaisanen (NYR) led the way for Finland against the Swiss, assisting on a goal by undrafted 2003-born forward Konsta Kapanen before scoring one of his own. But it was Switzerland that managed to pull off the upset in the matinee affair, with national team standbys Lorenzo Canonica, Jeremy Jabola, and Attilio Biasca all beating Aku Koskenvuo (VAN).
Sweden and Austria took to the ice next, and it wasn’t pretty. Isak Rosen (BUF) and Filip Bystedt (SJ) led the way with two goals and three points each while 17 different Swedes — including starting goaltender Carl Lindbom — recorded points in an 11–0 win.
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You might see where this is going. William Stromgren, selected by the Flames in the second round the year before Ronni, was one of the four Swedish skaters without a shot on goal in the rout of Austria. Of those four players, Stromgren was the only one without so much as a shot on goal — although he did take a slashing penalty in the first period.
The Swedish coaching staff essentially kept Stromgren stapled to the bench for the first 40 minutes of the game, only letting him off the leash in the third period after the outcome was already decided. He played 30 seconds (and took the penalty) in the first period and 2:04 in the middle frame before leading all Swedish forwards with 6:09 in the third — but, despite all that ice time, he didn’t test Austrian goaltender Benedikt Oschgan even once.
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Unfortunately, Stromgren has struggled to produce in the Swedish Hockey League this season despite taking on an increased role with Brynas in recent weeks. It certainly isn’t Stromgren’s fault that the Flames passed on the likes of Logan Stankoven, Aatu Raty, and J.J. Moser to take him with the No. 45 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, but it certainly puts his five points in 26 SHL games into perspective.
The Flames’ player development staff undoubtedly keeps very close tabs on all the team’s overseas prospects, but Stromgren will likely have to do a lot more in Sweden to earn any kind of professional contract in the Flames’ system. He should get another chance to assert himself when the Swedes take on Germany on Tuesday.
The USA/Latvia game went pretty much as expected, with the NCAA duo of Logan Cooley (AZ) and Jimmy Snuggerud (STL) showing flashes of brilliance and Chaz Lucius (WPG) scoring the winning goal on a nifty backhand shot early in the third period.
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But the Czechia/Canada game went off the rails for the hosts, despite a two-point effort by Shane Wright (SEA). Czech captain Stanislav Svozil (CBJ), who’s Connor Bedard’s WHL teammate with the Regina Pats, scored the game-winning goal and added an assist as Canada took the fall in a game that never really felt all that close.
Canadian starter Benjamin Gaudreau (SJ) had a night to forget, allowing five goals on just 17 shots before being relieved by undrafted Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Thomas Milic. Expect to see the latter between the pipes when Canada returns to action against Germany on Wednesday.
Day 1 Results
Team Finland 2 vs. Team Switzerland 3 (OT)
Team Sweden 11 vs. Team Austria 0
Team Latvia 2 vs. Team USA 5
Team Czechia 5 
vs. Team Canada 2
Day 2 Games
Team Finland vs. Team Slovakia
Team Germany vs. Team Sweden
Team Switzerland vs. Team Latvia
Team Austria vs. Team Czechia
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