2020 WJC Recap: Preliminary Round, Group A

by Jokke Nevalainen on January 1, 2020

 

The preliminary round is now over, so let’s go through the performance of each team and their top performers. In this article, I’ll go through Group A which includes Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Slovakia and Kazakhstan.

 

If you’re curious about Group B, you can find my recap about them from here: https://dobberprospects.com/2020-wjc-recap-preliminary-round-group-b/

 

There are no games in the tournament today. All four quarterfinal games will be played tomorrow, one after another, so it will be a great day of hockey-watching.

 

Sweden

 

Death, taxes, and Sweden winning all their preliminary round games at the World Juniors. They haven’t lost a preliminary round game in over 10 years, and that streak continues into next year as well. They’ll face Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.

 

Sweden has been led by their top line wingers Nils Höglander (VAN) and Samuel Fagemo (LAK) who have seven points each. Fagemo leads the entire tournament with six goals and 26 shots on goal, and Höglander’s ‘Zorro goal’ (as it’s called in Sweden) has been the highlight of the tournament so far. Höglander is second on the team with 15 shots on goal. Both of them have played about 16 minutes per game.

 

Wingers Jonatan Berggren (DET), Alexander Holtz (2020) and Lucas Raymond (2020) have provided great secondary offense. Berggren and Holtz have five points and Raymond has four. They have played about 14 minutes per game.

 

Offensive contributions from their centers have been limited which is no surprise. Karl Henriksson (NYR) has three points, and David Gustafsson (WPG) and Oskar Bäck (DAL) have two. But Gustafsson has played over 17 minutes per game and fired 10 shots on goal.

 

But as expected, Sweden is getting great contributions from their back-end. Victor Söderström (ARZ) has five points, Nils Lundkvist (NYR) has four points, and Rasmus Sandin (TOR) has three points. Söderström is third on the team with 12 shots on goal but he is still looking for his first goal.

 

Lundkvist leads the team in average ice time with 20:02, followed by Söderström (19:50) and Sandin (19:34). There’s a clear drop-off after those three, with Philip Broberg (EDM) coming in at number four with 17:20. Sandin was injured in the fourth game but it sounds like it shouldn’t be a long-term thing.

 

Hugo Alnefelt (TBL) has started three games and sports a 0.914 save percentage. He is their number one goalie in this tournament. Jesper Eliasson (DET) has played one game, Erik Portillo (BUF) hasn’t seen any action.

 

Switzerland

 

Switzerland finished second after beating Finland, Slovakia and Kazakhstan. They will face Russia in the quarterfinals.

 

Valentin Nussbaumer (ARZ) is the leading scorer with seven points. He averages over 19 minutes of ice time per game which leads all forwards on the team.

 

Nussbaumer’s wingers, Matthew Verboon and Gillian Kohler, are keeping up with him. Verboon has six points and Kohler has five. Kohler is tied for first one the team with 10 shots on goal – Simon Knak (2020) is the other player with 10 shots. Knak’s role has been a bit more limited but he does have two goals as well, and he got the Player of the Game award in their win against Finland.

 

Tim Berni (CBJ) leads the team in average ice time with 21:37, and he also has three points. Berni’s defensive partner, David Aebischer, has also played over 21 minutes per game (21:13), and he has six points (all assists). The Swiss have relied heavily on their top pair.

 

Janis Moser is third on average ice time with 20:19, and he has four points. Just like Sweden, Switzerland is also getting good offensive contributions from their back-end.

 

Finland

 

Patrik Puistola (CAR) and Kristian Tanus lead the team with seven points each. These two have a long history of playing together, and they’ve always had great chemistry. Puistola leads the team with four goals and 13 shots on goal. Together with Joonas Oden, they have formed Finland’s best line in the tournament. Oden has five points.

 

Matias Maccelli (ARZ) has been one of the best players on this team but unfortunately he lost his running mate Rasmus Kupari (LAK) early in the tournament, and Maccelli hasn’t really had any good linemates since then. Maccelli has four points but he could easily lead the team in points if he was playing on a more functional line. Maccelli also leads the entire team in average ice time with 18:06, and he has 11 shots on goal which is third-best on the team.

 

Finland’s fourth line includes center Aatu Räty (2021) with wingers Sampo Ranta (COL) and Aku Räty (ARZ), and this line has been the second best line on the team. Both Räty brothers have three points and Ranta has two. Their minutes have been limited and they haven’t been given much of a chance to play an offensive role but they’ve still found ways to contribute in each game.

 

On defense, Ville Heinola (WPG) leads the way with four points, followed by Lassi Thomson (OTT) and Kim Nousiainen (LAK) who have three points each. Anttoni Honka (CAR) and Mikko Kokkonen (TOR) have two points each. Kokkonen has fired 12 shots on goal, followed by Thomson with 11 and Honka with 10.

 

Thomson leads all defensemen on the team in ice time with 17:32. Honka, Nousiainen and Heinola are all above 15 minutes as well. Finland is using eight defensemen, so none of them are playing big minutes.

 

Justus Annunen (COL) was incredible in the game against Sweden but had a weaker game in the loss against Switzerland. His 0.916 save percentage doesn’t do him justice because the team in front of him has done a terrible job defensively, allowing way too many high-end scoring chances for the opposing teams. Annunen is without any doubt Finland’s number one goalie, and he needs another incredible game against USA if Finland wants to have any chance of advancing in the tournament.

 

Slovakia

 

Slovakia only won one game but it was the game against Kazakhstan, so that was enough to get them to the quarterfinals where they will play against Canada.

 

19-year-old winger Robert Dzugan leads the team with four points, all goals. He’s scored those four goals on six shots, so that’s some sharp-shooting right there. He also leads the team in average ice time with 19:09.

 

Winger Oliver Okuliar and defenseman David Mudrak have three points each. Maxim Cajkovic (TBL) is the only NHL affiliated prospect on the team, and he has just two points (both assists). Mudrak leads the team with 15 shots on goal, followed by Cajkovic and Adam Pauliny who have 10 shots each.

 

Defenseman Samuel Knazko (2020), who is one of the top prospects on the team, has been a bit disappointing. He has just one assist and he’s averaged less than 16 minutes of ice time. But he is the youngest player on the team. He will be a top player for the Slovaks next year.

 

Slovakia relies heavily on Samuel Hlavaj but his 0.868 save percentage doesn’t look very promising right now. But in general, Hlavaj has been playing better than the team in front of him.

 

Kazakhstan

 

Kazakhstan lost all four preliminary round games which means they’re heading to the relegation round where they’ll meet Germany in a best-of-three series. Germany is the favorite going into that series.

 

Kazakhstan was led by Maxim Musorov who had four points (all goals). No one else on the team had more than two points. Musorov played almost 19 minutes per game and fired 10 shots on goal.

 

Musorov is likely the only player on the team with any kind of NHL potential in the future, so I won’t spend time going through the other players on this team.

 

*

 

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 sportbibeln.se