Finland vs. Germany
Three Canes prospects faced off against each other in the first game of the 2022 World Juniors, as Nikita Quapp backstopped Germany against Aleksi Heimosalmi and Ville Koivunen. Quapp was solid in net for Germany, stopping 19 of 22 and making some tough stops against a much better Finland team.
Heimosalmi was excellent for Finland, creating chances and quarterbacking the blue line while making some impressive plays on the defensive side of the puck. He recorded an assist on the game-winning goal, shooting from the blue line and having the puck deflect to a teammate for an easy tap in goal.
Then it was Ville Koivunen starting an impressive passing play and earning a secondary assist on Finland’s third goal.
Samuel Helenius (#gokingsgo ) scores on the weakside off a slip pass from Brad Lambert (#2022NHLDraft). Ville Koivunen (#LetsGoCanes) picks up the secondary assist.— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) December 26, 2021
Koivunen could have had two or three assists in this game were it not for Quapp’s play in net. All three Canes prospects were stellar and I was happy with how everyone played. My only complaint was that I wish Heimosalmi was smarter with his shots, but it’s a minor complaint.
Russia vs. Sweden
This was a pretty boring game that saw Sweden capitalize on every chance and skate circles around an awful Russian defense. Canes’ prospects weren’t overly noticeable in this game, although the three Russians all had their moments. Nikita Guslistov made a perfect pass to set up a scoring chance early on in the game, but Jesper Wallstedt was up to the task. Alexander Pashin had a few moments where he was able to turn on the jets and take over a shift, but was unable to score on the chances he created. Vasiliy Ponomaryov was fantastic at creating space for Pashin once he was moved up to that line. He was a physical presence and opened up lanes in the middle of the ice for the players on his line. Russia will need him to do that over the course of the tournament, because their team’s goaltending and defense were incredibly shaky in this game.
I wasn’t overly impressed with Zion Nybeck in this game. He turned the puck over a lot and made a few boneheaded plays. He wasn’t given a lot of offensive zone time, so I wasn’t able to see a ton from him. I didn’t notice Joel Nystrom in this game, although that’s probably a good thing since Nystrom is a shutdown defenseman. All in all, it was a great effort from the Swedes but I was left wanting more from our two players.
Canada vs. Czechia
Ronan Seeley’s game started off poorly with a bad pinch that led to Czechia’s first goal, but it was smooth sailing from then on. His speed is so dangerous and he’s learning how to utilize it in order to not only defend but also to create offensive chances. He is developing an edge and making it difficult for the opposition to play against him. I’m hoping that we get to see more of Seeley in this tournament, because I felt that he looked solid for the most part in this game. There are some areas in his game that need work, such as his decision making on his pinches, but there’s a lot to like about Seeley.
Canes Prospect of the Day: Aleksi Heimosalmi
Heimosalmi started the day as Finland’s seventh defenseman but quickly became integral to the team’s success both at even strength and on the power play. His ability to carry the puck out of the zone, his assist on the game winning goal and his strong defensive play make him an easy choice for prospect of the day. There were times when Heimosalmi looked like Finland’s best player due to his confidence with the puck and his ability to command the pace of play.
December 27 Schedule
Austria vs. Finland (Heimosalmi, Koivunen), 2pm ET
Russia (Ponomaryov, Guslistov, Pashin) vs. Switzerland, 4:30pm ET
Germany (Quapp) vs. Czechia, 7pm ET
Sweden (Nystrom, Nybeck) vs. Slovakia, 9:30pm ET