Hello world....meet Seth Jones, potential #1 draft pick in this year's upcoming NHL Draft. At the very least he is a top five pick and not the quintessential defenseman. What he does provide is game changing ability from the blueline with the ability to be physical whenever needed. He is one of the anchors of Team USA and one very key reason why they very well could medal and maybe more in this tournament which starts Wednesday in Ufa, Russia.
Sweden is the defending champions from last year but honestly Canada is the favorite with Russia honestly much closer to Canada than anyone up in the Great White North would like you to think. People also want you to believe that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the best player in this tournament and that may not be true either honestly. This tournament will come down to goaltending as it always does and not the firepower of the five "superpower" teams.
First off, we are going to more than likely ultimately eliminate Sweden. Why? Sweden just does not quite have the firepower to match up with teams like Canada and Russia especially. They can pester and they can pull off an upset but the reality is they do not have that ability to sustain a run to the final game. Hampus Lindholm is a pretty darn good player but that is not going to be enough even with Elias Lindholm and his solid two way game. There is just not enough in the guns department to keep teams honest.
Finland is a real darkhorse here. They have more talent than most give them credit for and they have the ability to absolutely shut down teams like they did with Team USA and Canada. Both teams were very frustrated by the "Fighting Finns". Markus Granlund may just be a better skater and has the offensive skills that are almost comparable to his older brother, Mikael. The other player I like from Finland that is going to surprise people is Joonas Korpisalo. There is something about a goalie that can move as fluidly as Joonas. He is probably the third maybe even the second best goalie in this tournament. Your last line of defense can get you pretty far in the one and done round and add in the style of play and that is why Finland is no easy out.
Team USA has the potential to win silver or bronze and maybe more depending on how the team meshes. J.T. Miller has to absolutely score with Rocco Grimaldi and Johnny Gaudreau. It is not the first line for the Americans that has even their fans worried. It is the second line. Yes they have the talent no question but they have to produce for a team that may have scoring issues at times in this tournament. The defense with Seth Jones is pretty solid but again the first two pre-tourney games did see this team play a bit too far back as they had some issues with the international ice. That cannot happen once the tournament begins or they could flame out even. John Gibson is going to have to come up huge in the bigger matchups and he does have the ability. Can he and Team USA deliver? We will find out.
Canada is a team stocked with absolute studs from top to bottom at seemingly every turn but their issue is going to always be goaltending. If Malcolm Subban is going to be the guy, his glove hand MUST improve significantly. His athletic abilities are unquestioned but teams will continue to test that glove side with mid-range shots of various speed and angles. However, Canada has talent personified. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a man among boys in this but so is Jonathan Huberdeau to be honest. Huberdeau is the key to Canada's man advantage and an ultimate different maker in this tournament if they can stop taking a ton of penalties themselves. Add in Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome, and Mark Scheifele to top it off and those are reasons why Canada is favored in this tournament. Add in they are motivated as hell to avenge their failures, including the heartbreaking loss to the Americans a couple years back. Their defensive depth and goaltending issues will be the only things holding them back when all is said and done. They will win either silver or gold.
Russia is the one team that has the firepower of Canada but has probably the most consistent goaltending in the tournament with the likes of Andrei Vasilevski. Is he a Tretiak? No. However, he has an elite compete level that supplants any other goaltender in this tournament. Mikhail Grigorenko and Nail Yakupov are going to anchor the team offensively. The most important benefit for Russia is the home cooking. That home cooking plus the cold weather plus the international ice may be the final game changer that Russia needs to not only medal but ultimately take home the gold. It will not be easy as Russia's defense is a little wet between the ears and very very young. The bottom line is a great goaltender stops an elite offense nine times out of every ten. It is why we have Russia ultimately taking home the gold medal during the first week of January.
We hope everyone enjoys the tournament but first and foremost, have a Merry Christmas from everyone here at The Program and THW Live.
Director Of The Program
And now I present the Fang Finger version of the 2013 WJC Preview.....enjoy.
Team Canada should win the tournament because of their incredible depth, skill and speed. The NHL lockout has allowed a number of players, who are NHL ready, to be able to play in the World Juniors Championship.
However, their major obstacle is the strength of their division. Russia and the United States are included, who are both major contenders to win it all.
In order to win each game, Canada has to play with discipline. They have to take a step back in their aggression and focus on plays they can make that won’t make the referees stick their hand up to call a penalty.
No doubt, Team Canada has great speed that will become effective, if they use it. Laziness cannot be shown or teams like Russia and USA will walk all over them, beating them to the puck like Finland did in their pre-tournament exhibition match in Helsinki.
Speed and discipline are the keys to winning games in the WJC, not just for Canada, but every team as well.
The Achilles heel for Team Canada this year is going to be goaltending. There are high expectations for Boston Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban, brother of P.K. for the Montreal Canadiens. Subban is expected to be the starter for Canada, but he isn’t prepared yet for the challenges to come.
Jordan Binnington and Jake Paterson plan to back him up throughout the tournament. All three goalies are notorious for giving up weak goals. They will either be the cause of being champion in the World Juniors, or be losers and finish eliminated in the first game of the medal round, like last year.
This appears to be an all-star team, front to back. That can be good, or bad. All of these players know they are skilled, but look for these first round draft picks be selfish in trying to score by themselves if they are frustrated or down late in a game.
With Team Canada’s stacked roster due to the lockout, it is hard to find just two people who would really make a difference with their play because, in all honesty, almost everyone on the roster could make a huge difference in the game. Captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Dougie Hamilton have an opportunity to shine while there isn’t an NHL season.
Nugent-Hopkins was named captain for his experience in the NHL. He will know how to handle tough situations. The Edmonton Oilers forward is known as a playmaker and won’t score many goals like a Steven Stamkos.
Boston Bruins prospect Dougie Hamilton will be Canada’s number one defenseman in shutting down skilled lines. Hamilton will use his size—6’5”, 200 lbs.—to force players like Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk towards the outside, where they are least dangerous. The Canadian defenseman will be a key aspect in their team when the roster is filled with offensive defensemen.
Speaking of Nail Yakupov, he is a player to watch for on Team Russia. The Russian forward was drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2012 Entry Draft. He is a goal scorer, fast and a playmaker—everything wanted in a player in the World Juniors. Yakupov has a good chance at being the leading scorer in the tournament. Teams will have to keep watch of his ice time to prepare good matchups in order to shut him down, which isn’t easy.
Going into Group A, Team Finland has a skilled forward by the name of Joel Armia. The Buffalo Sabres prospect has incredible stickhandling and even better playmaking. Don’t look for him to score many goals for Finland, but to give others the chance at scoring. Armia has good size for a forward and will use it throughout the tournament. He may be the most fun player to watch.