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World Juniors Recap: December 27

The Finns continue to impress at the World Juniors.

Finland v Sweden: Quarterfinals - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Finland vs. Austria

Ville Koivunen finished the game with two goals and an assist in less than 12 minutes of ice time and was named Finland’s player of the game. His line has been one of Finland’s most dangerous lines through the first two games despite limited minutes, so it’s great to see Koivunen playing so well. Koivunen’s high hockey IQ allows for him to find his teammates with ease as well as find open patches of ice to get into a position to score. Austria and Germany aren’t the toughest teams, but it’s nice to see the Finns doing so well.

Canes prospect Aleksi Heimosalmi was moved up to the second pairing and had a secondary assist on Koivunen’s second goal of the game. Heimosalmi is the youngest defenseman on Finland’s roster but one of the more confident players in terms of puck carrying on the back end. He can move the puck in transition, plays a solid defensive game and can be a quarterback on the blue line in the offensive zone. Don’t let his point totals in the Liiga fool you, he’s a very good prospect.

Russia vs. Switzerland

Man oh man, Russia has been disappointing. Its defense and goaltending have both been a weak point, and although Askarov has tremendous potential, his showings at the World Juniors have historically been poor. Alexander Pashin did not play in this game, and Nikita Guslistov was the thirteenth forward, so he did not see a lot of ice time. Vasiliy Ponomaryov was on the third line for this game, but Russia’s forwards aren’t as dynamic as they have been in the past and their offense seems to run almost exclusively through their top two lines.

Russia’s lineup construction has been baffling. First came the decision to leave their North American skaters at home, a purely political move despite the staff saying they felt that they had brought their best players. Russia has punished players that leave for North America for years now, but recently we have seen more and more players get punished for leaving. Wild prospect Marat Khusnutdinov was barely playing until he signed a two year extension with his team. They then put him into the top six as a reward.

The Russians left Yan Kuznetsov and Daniil Chayka at home despite the fact that both players would be noticeable improvements over any of the defensemen on Russia’s roster. I’m sure that Vasiliy Ponomaryov would have been left off of this year’s roster had he stayed in the QMJHL. It’s a shame that Russia is deliberately making their team worse just to make a statement.

Sweden vs. Slovakia

The Swedes shut out the Slovaks 3-0, which shows you just how good this year’s Swedish team is. They’re an absolute wagon with talent coming out the wazoo, and they still haven’t gotten Fabian Lysell into a game yet. Joel Nystrom had a primary assist off of a zone exit pass on Sweden’s second goal for his first point of the tournament.

Nystrom also took a penalty, which I’ve dubbed “two minutes for playing defense.”

His defensive partner received a match penalty for a check to the head, so it’s likely that we see him with a different player next game. The IIHF has cracked down on head contact during the tournament and that hit was particularly nasty.

Zion Nybeck had a better game. He was making plays in transition and had a few nice passes, but I’m still not seeing him take over a shift like I’d hope he can. The World Juniors rarely are an indicator of future success, but I’d still like to see Nybeck at his best. I’ve seen him play at a high level before, but I’m not seeing that right now.

Tuesday’s Games

Switzerland vs. USA (Morrow), 4:30pm ET

Canada (Seeley) vs. Austria, 7pm ET