Vancouver Canucks prospects of week 12: World Juniors Group Stage

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 30: Jonah Gadjovich
BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 30: Jonah Gadjovich /

Four Vancouver Canucks prospects wrapped up their first week of the 2018 World Junior Championships, all advancing to the elimination rounds.

The first stage of the 2018 World Junior Championships is complete and all four Vancouver Canucks prospects have advanced to the quarterfinals as a result. The quarterfinal matches are set for later today, Tuesday, January 2nd.

Before we look take a closer look at Elias Pettersson, Olli Juolevi, Jonah Gadjovich, and William Lockwood, however, let’s take a look at the action away from the WJC.

After being cut by Team Canada in the selection camp, right winger Kole Lind has been on fire. He came back with a hat-trick and a four-assist effort before heading into the holiday break, and when he returned to action after Christmas, he had another hat-trick on a night he recorded nine shots on net, a season high. Lind has four goals and one assist in the three games following the holiday break.

For Michael DiPietro, the news isn’t as great. Though he returned to action with an amazing 43-save shutout against the Sarnia Sting, he gave up three goals in each of his next two games. To make matters worse, the Windsor Spitfires decided to go into a rebuild mode, trading top prospects Gabe Vilardi and Sean Day to Kingston. DiPietro will have to face a tougher workload as a result.

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These days, nobody seems to pay attention to the Utica Comets who have lost Nikolay Goldobin and Reid Boucher to NHL call ups. In their absence, however, an unlikely offensive hero is starting to emerge. While defenceman Philip Holm has been impressing offensively so far, the name that I really like is rookie forward Zack MacEwen.

The 6-foot-4, 211-pound rookie power forward is in his first season with Utica after spending last year in the QMJHL. He currently has 14 points in 28 games, which now leads all Utica forwards with Goldobin and Boucher away.

Netminder Thatcher Demko has continued to play well. In the last four weeks, he has not had a game in which his save percentage dropped below .900, helping the Comets maintain a .500 record so far despite the injuries and the callups.

2018 World Junior Championships: Elimination Rounds Begin

In Group A, Jonah Gadjovich and Team Canada finished ahead of Team USA and Team Finland. The Canadians will face Team Swiss at 12:30pm Pacific time. Gadjovich hasn’t been a big scoring threat so far, but he showed well with two goals to earn the Player of the Game honors against Slovakia.

Gadjovich’s strong overall play has pushed him up Team Canada’s lineup. He now plays on the third line so expect him to show more offensive upside in the upcoming elimination round games.

So far in the tournament, Gadjovich has displayed improved skating to complement his knack for scoring around the net. This play, for instance, surprised me with how good of a skater Gadjovich has become.

Most impressive, however, was his maturity in the game against Slovakia. After scoring his second goal, he did this:

Team Finland: D Olli Juolevi

As it is with Juolevi, a good game for him does not necessarily translate to points and production. His defensive play has been steady so far and he does look slightly stronger and faster. The stats are showing that Juolevi is playing really well for Finland.

As Pronman points out, Juolevi trails only two blueliners in shots on net. Darryl Keeping’s data has also shown that Juolevi has been great at creating controlled zone exits.

In all, Juolevi is playing his game well again after looking out of sync last year. It seems that his time in Finland with Liiga side TPS has helped him advance his pro game. His team has also noticed Juolevi’s solid play, so in addition to playing in all situations for Finland, Juolevi is now expected to play on the first powerplay unit.

Finland faces Czech Republic at noon Pacific. The winner of this match will likely play Team Canada, provided Canada defeats Switzerland.

Team Sweden: F Elias Pettersson

Elias Pettersson trails only Casey Mittelstadt in the tournament scoring race. There was concern last year that Pettersson struggled in international competition after he had just one assist in six games, but Pettersson has looked superb so far in the tournament as a shooter as well as a playmaker.

His finest goal was his second one against Switzerland. Check it out.

Pettersson is putting together quite the highlight reel at the tournament. At this point, there is no question that he is the most skilled player at the tournament, perhaps only rivaled by Casey Mittelstadt. I mean, just look at this move against the Russians!

The best thing about Pettersson’s performance so far is that he is reportedly battling the flu. Though Pettersson’s physical limitations are still evident in-game, every game he plays has him closer to a potential spot on the Swede Olympic Men’s squad.

It’s important to note that Pettersson has played some games down the middle for the Swedes and has looked good on the defensive side of things as well.

Pettersson will play against Slovakia at 3 pm Pacific time. Will he deliver with elimination games upcoming for his team?

Team USA: RW William Lockwood

The tournament is over for William Lockwood as he has suffered an upper-body injury in a high-speed crash into the boards in the outdoor match against Canada.

In the three games he did play, he had no points but was a disruptive force in every way. He was a key element on the American penalty kill and was a great forechecker with his speed and tenacity. He had a few high-danger scoring chances as well, often off the rush. This play shows how great of a skater he is, perhaps the best one at this year’s tournament with that speed and agility.

Team USA plays against Russia at 5 pm Pacific time. Though Lockwood won’t be playing, the American lineup is loaded with 2018 draft talent starting at Quinn Hughes and Brady Tkachuk, so it will be worth watching for sure.

Next: New Year Roundtable - Gudbranson and Trades

Looking at the quarterfinal matchups, it looks like Canada, Finland, and Sweden will all be able to advance to the semifinals. On January 4th, there is a potential for a Gadjovich-Juolevi showdown with Canada and Finland possibly facing off against each other.