The World Junior Championship tournament is just two days away. All teams have been playing pre-tournament games which are a great way to see how players are being utilized. Anything can change during a tournament but final pre-tournament lines are usually what you’ll see in the first game of the actual tournament. Because of that, I did some digging and tried to find those lines from all interesting teams.
That top line of Maxime Comtois (ANA) – Cody Glass (VGK) – Owen Tippett (FLA) is going to be deadly. Glass and Tippett are also playing at the half-wall on the top power play unit, so they seem to be the go-to guys up front on this team. It’s pretty interesting that they’re using Barrett Hayton (ARZ) in front of the net on the top unit instead of Comtois. Evan Bouchard (EDM) is an obvious choice for the top unit.
Canada has a deadly second unit as well. Nick Suzuki (MTL) and Morgan Frost (PHI) are amazing talents, and Ty Smith (NJD) is a great power play defenseman as well. This team is loaded. Definitely the gold medal favorite going in to the tournament.
It’s a bit sad that the Hughes brothers have been put on different power play units. Jason Robertson (DAL) and Quinn Hughes (VAN) are likely to be USA’s top players, so that unit is likely to be their top unit. Jack Hughes‘ (2019) has some definite chemistry with Oliver Wahlstrom (NYI), so it’s no surprise those two are together. Joel Farabee (PHI) has a history with those two, so it’s a bit surprising he’s on a different line at even strength but he does join them on the power play.
USA’s final cuts were Joey Keane (NYR), Ty Emberson (ARZ), Sammy Walker (TBL), Michael Callahan (ARZ), Sean Dhooghe and Cole Coskey.
(Power play units in Seppälä’s tweet.)
Rasmus Kupari (LAK) and Aleksi Heponiemi (FLA) is an obvious duo to keep together because they’ve been playing together this entire season. Adding Eeli Tolvanen (NSH) to that line makes it one of the best lines in the tournament. I believe Tolvanen’s goal-scoring abilities will truly shine when he gets to play with an amazing playmaker like Heponiemi.
None of their players on the second line have been drafted but Kaapo Kakko (2019) will likely go in the top two next summer, and Anton Lundell is looking like a top five pick for 2020. Jesse Ylönen (MTL) is a player to watch from the third line.
Henri Jokiharju (CHI) on the top power play unit is not surprising at all but I’m a bit surprised to see Oskari Laaksonen (BUF) on the second unit. That would have been my choice as well but I just figured the team would prefer either Urho Vaakanainen (BOS) or Ville Heinola (2019) there.
Isac Lundeström (ANA) is the top forward for Sweden, and the top line will be built around him. I couldn’t find their power play units but it’s safe to say at least Lundeström, Lucas Elvenes and Erik Brännström (both VGK) will be on the top unit. Adam Boqvist (CHI) and/or Rasmus Sandin (TOR) will likely be on the second unit.
It appears Sweden played this game without Emil Bemström (CBJ) who should be one of the top players on their team. One of the final cuts Sweden made was Nils Höglander (2019) who played on the second line, so Bemström could take that spot. He could also swap spots with Fabian Zetterlund‘s (NJD) because Bemström played with Lundeström and Elvenes at the Czech U20 tournament. Filip Hållander (PIT) was an extra in this game but I have a hard time thinking that’s going to continue. These lines could change a lot during the tournament.
Besides Höglander, Sweden’s final cuts were Jacob Ragnarsson (NYR) and Hugo Leufvenius.
If Russia keeps Grigori Denisenko (FLA) – Vitali Kravtsov (NYR) – Klim Kostin (STL) together, that could be the best line in the tournament. Apparently they played together on the top power play as well. Kravtsov doesn’t have a ton of experience down the middle but Russia is lacking options there, so it remains to be seen how that goes. What happens behind that line is a complete mystery. The Russians always have really weird lines, and it looks like that’s not going to change this year either. They had five full lines remaining, and it’s anyone’s guess which players are going to get cut from there.
It appears Jakub Lauko (BOS) got a chance on the top line but I’m not surprised they went back with Filip Zadina (DET) – Martin Necas (CAR) – Martin Kaut (COL) because that line was the top line for the Czechs already last year. The Czechs are really relying on that trio in addition to their top goalie Jakub Skarek (NYI) who needs to stand on his head.
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Main picture courtesy of EliteProspects.com