Canadian NHL fans eagerly watch the World Junior Championship each holiday season to get a look at the future stars of their franchises.
This year’s tournament, hosted in the Czech Republic, will give hockey supporters plenty to see as there’s a ton of talent and big names competing for their countries in the 10-day long tournament starting on Dec. 26.
So who are the Canadian NHL team prospects and which country do they play for? Here’s a look:
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Rasmus Sandin: The defenceman will most likely be one of the tournament’s stars this year for Sweden and log big minutes. Sandin played in six games earlier this season for the Maple Leafs before being sent to the AHL, where he’s done well. He had two goals and two assists in five games at last year’s world juniors.
Mikko Kokkonen: This tournament could be a good showcase for the Finnish defenceman, who was selected in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft, but is still unsigned. He has two goals and one assist in 20 games this season for Jukurit in Liiga.
Nick Robertson: Robertson has garnered a lot of attention in the first half of the OHL season for his goal-scoring ability. The American forward missed a month of action with the Peterborough Petes, but still has 23 goals and 12 assists in 22 games.
Cole Caufield: All eyes will be on the Habs’ 2019 first-round sniper, who has impressed many in his first season of NCAA hockey with Wisconsin. There’s no doubt Caufield can put the puck in the net and fans should be able to see a plethora of it at this year’s tournament while he plays for the U.S.
Mattias Norlinder: Canadiens fans will have a close eye on the Swedish defenceman, who Montreal selected with its third-round pick in 2019. He’s unsigned, and has six goals and eight assists in 28 games this year for MODO in Sweden’s Allsvenskan.
Jordan Harris: Harris has produced 13 points in 18 games during his sophomore year at Northeastern University. The defenceman was a third round pick of the Canadiens in 2018 and was being paired with Flyers 2019 first-rounder Cam York during the Americans’ training camp.
Alexander Romanov: Montreal’s 2018 second-round pick has four assists in 33 games this season with the KHL’s CSKA Moskva as a 19-year-old defenceman. He had one goal and seven assists in last year’s world juniors as the Russians claimed bronze.
Philip Broberg: His Sweden coach, Tomas Monten, says Broberg has matured a lot since joining the SHL’s Skelleftea AIK this season. Monten was quick to praise the defenceman on his skating and says the Oilers’ eighth-overall pick from the 2019 draft made the right call by returning to Sweden this season.
Olivier Rodrigue: Hasn’t had a great season in Moncton of the QMJHL this year, but Canadian management love his experience playing for the country on the international stage. Where he will slot into Canada’s three-man rotation remains to be seen.
Raphael Lavoie: Lavoie is a big, skillful right-winger who can be streaky. He flashes elements of brilliance at times, but can leave you scratching your head at others. It’s a big reason why he dropped to the second round of last year’s draft. He will most likely slot into Canada’s bottom six.
Patrik Siikanen: The Finnish forward has plenty of size at six-foot-two, 198 pounds, but hasn’t proved to be a big point producer so far this season for JYP of Liiga with just two assists in 20 games. Perhaps a transition to playing against men his own age will help spark him.
Matej Blumel: The right-winger reportedly turned down an opportunity to play collegiate hockey at the University of Connecticut to instead go home after two years in the USHL. He’s shown he can be productive in the past. Can he do it again on home ice in the Czech Republic?
Senior Writer Ryan Dixon and NHL Editor Rory Boylen always give it 110%, but never rely on clichés when it comes to podcasting. Instead, they use a mix of facts, fun and a varied group of hockey voices to cover Canada’s most beloved game.
David Gustafsson: Jets fans will be familiar with Gustafsson as he’s played 22 games this season for the NHL club. His offensive production as a centre has been minimal with just one goal and playing in this tournament should boost his confidence.
Simon Lundmark: Lundmark has split time this year between the SHL’s Linköping HC and its junior affiliate. This is the Swede’s third-straight year playing in the SHL and first appearing at the world juniors.
Ville Heinola: A reigning gold medal winner at the tournament, Heinola will be a key cog on the back end for Finland. His strong play at last year’s tournament caught the eye of Winnipeg, who took him with the 20th overall pick in the 2019 draft.
Henri Nikkanen: Like Lundmark, Nikkanen has also spent time at both the pro and junior level this season with Finland’s Jukurit. At six-foot-four, the centre has good size and has been productive at the junior level.
Jacob Bernard-Docker: From the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL to an impressive sophomore season at the University of North Dakota. Bernard-Docker has progressed well over the last year and is on pace to double his point production from 2018-19.
Shane Pinto: Pinto has adjusted to collegiate hockey well since Ottawa picked him in the second round at the 2019 draft. He has 14 points through 17 games with the University of North Dakota and will be playing on a stacked U.S. team.
Lassi Thomson: The Senators took Thomson 19th overall last June and he’s been solid for Ilves in his native Finland during his first pro season. The six-foot defenceman has six goals and four assists in 23 games and will be a key defender for a strong Finnish team.
Vasili Podkolzin: Vancouver is loaded with young talent at this year’s tournament and Podkolzin will be one of the most intriguing names to watch. The Canucks took him with the 10th overall pick at the 2019 draft and the right winger has played in three leagues so far this season. He’s been scoreless in 14 games with the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg, but after a bronze at last year’s tournament, the Russian will be eager for more in 2020.
Nils Hoglander: Unlike some other of his young Swedish teammates at the world juniors, Hoglander — Vancouver’s 2019 second rounder — has been producing at the SHL level this year. The gritty left winger has six goals and three assists in 19 games to go along with 27 penalty minutes. Could Canucks fans see his physical element at this event?
Toni Utunen: Another returning member of Finland’s gold medal team, Utunen has a lot of experience playing against older players in Liiga for parts of the last four seasons. He’s already matched his career-high in points (three) through 16 games, so there’s signs he may be adjusting to his game.
Karel Plasek: The right-winger hasn’t put up crazy scoring totals at any of his previous levels. However, he’s got one goal and four assists in six games so far this season with the Czech’s under-20 team.
Dustin Wolf: Wolf continues to get passed over at every level — fourth last pick at the 2019 draft — despite his solid performances. He leads the WHL in save percentage with a ridiculous .941 average, although will most likely slot behind Spencer Knight in the Americans’ crease at the world juniors.
Nuggets’ customary comeback falls short as Lakers dominate Game 1 – Sportsnet.ca
A funny thing happens when a professional sports team pulls off two minor miracles back to back: minor miracles start to feel inevitable.
The Denver Nuggets have made a habit in these playoffs of not just coming back from two 3–1 series deficits to the Utah Jazz and the Clippers, but massive in-game deficits as well. And so when the Los Angeles Lakers blew open Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in the second quarter Friday night, it felt like just a matter of time until the Nuggets did what the Nuggets do.
But, of course, that feeling is more useful for making blowouts watchable than it is actually indicative of future success. And on this night, the comeback failed to arrive. Foul and turnover trouble — not to mention the one-two punch of newly minted all-NBA first-teamers LeBron James and Anthony Davis — teamed up to undo the Nuggets as the Lakers took Game 1 by 12 points.
Here are a handful of takeaways from the game:
Both teams started off hot in this one. Davis led all players with 14 points on a mix of jumpers, stepbacks and aggressive play that got him to the line for free throws. Meanwhile, Denver’s Nikola Jokic netted 11 points in 11 first-quarter minutes, and teammate (and Canadian) Jamal Murray got nine of his own thanks in part to a buzzer-beating three in Davis’s face at the end of the frame.
But everything changed in the second quarter. The Nuggets came out as sloppy and cold as Winnipeg in March, and the Lakers started the frame on a 17–1 run. As mentioned above, a major culprit was turnovers.
Through the first five minutes of the quarter, the Nuggets had more turnovers (six) than shots (five — all of which they’d missed). Even worse for Denver was the Lakers managed to do all the damage with Davis on the bench.
Any hope of closing the gap was quashed by all three of Jokic, Murray and Paul Millsap leaving the game with three fouls. The Lakers shot 25 free throws in the second quarter alone, roughly equal to the 28 the Nuggets took over the entire game.
While the Lakers parade to the line ended in the second half, Davis didn’t need much more as he stayed hot. He finished with 37 points in 33 minutes.
THE ANKLE ROLL HEARD ’ROUND THE GYM
Early in the second quarter, James stepped on Jerami Grant’s foot while driving to the basket, and rolled his ankle slightly. The grimace on his face, the slow-mo replay, and eventually the super-shot first free throw made it seem like a bigger issue than it was, but roughly a minute later he rose for a huge dunk and put any questions to bed.
45 seconds after tweaking his ankle … @KingJames did this
(: TNT) pic.twitter.com/rGanPevDqX
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 19, 2020
James didn’t need to score much in this one, but finished with 15 points on 11 shots, 12 assists and six rebounds in only 31 minutes.
After the game, James was asked about NBA MVP voting, in which he finished second to back-to-back winner Giannis Antetokounmpo. He wasn’t diplomatic.
Fair to assume James isn’t lacking for motivation at this point of either these playoffs or his career.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before the game he intended to play his twin towers of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee after giving them an average of 9.4 minutes combined throughout the team’s previous series against the uber-small Houston Rockets. On Friday, Howard matched his minutes total from the Houston series with 16 while McGee took the floor for 11, five of which came in garbage time.
And the bigs rewarded their coach’s renewed faith against the larger Nuggets lineup. Howard, in particular, was quick to shake off any rust that had gathered, blowing up Denver pick and rolls, and getting to the line eight times in the first half. For his effort, he got to start the second half in place of McGee, and put up eight points in the frame.
LOW-KEY DENVER STARS
Perhaps the biggest impact of the Lakers’ bigs was on Jokic, who had been one of the biggest stories of the playoffs to this point.
McGee helped set the tone by blocking a Jokic layup in the opening seconds of the game. Then the Lakers’ bigs played a big part in Jokic’s foul trouble, which resulted in just 25 minutes for the Nuggets’ MVP.
Jokic finished with 21 points but just two assists — his lowest total so far in these playoffs.
Murray also finished with 21, but the only other Nugget in double figures was Michael Porter Jr., who went on a late run to tally 14.
(Is that a Neil Young reference or a Taylor Swift reference? You be the judge!)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the Nuggets play an L.A. team super tight in the first quarter before getting trounced in the second and third, before both teams coast to the finish in the fourth.
The ebb and flow of this game was dead on Game 1 of the Clippers-Nuggets series. In fact, with four minutes left in Friday’s game, the score actually hit on 120–97 — the final score in Nuggets-Clippers Game 1 — exactly.
This, along with other recent evidence, should serve the Nuggets well in looking for reasons not to take the loss to heart.
Stars savouring rare opportunity to live out long-awaited dream – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — Ryan Bowness was a 33-year-old scout for Pittsburgh back in 2017 when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, bestowing upon the Bowness family their first Stanley Cup ring.
He had his day with the Cup that summer, and brought it to the Halifax home of his parents. There, father Rick — a hockey lifer who had pursued that very chalice for far longer than Ryan had been alive — hosted a party in his son’s honour.
“I couldn’t have been more proud of him than when he brought that Stanley Cup home for the old man,” said Rick, the Dallas Stars head coach who gathered round ol’ Stanley for the requisite pictures.
“Of course, I didn’t touch it.”
After all these years in the game, Rick Bowness — drafted in 1975 by both the defunct Atlanta Flames and the Indianapolis Racers of the defunct World Hockey Association — will take his shot at earning his day with the Cup this summer, when he leads the Dallas Stars into Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night in Edmonton.
His is just another of the many tales that are authored whenever two teams of 40-some players, coaches, managers and organizational hockey folk get this close to The Dream.
For half of them, The Dream will be realized. For the other half, having spent two-plus months in the bubble only to lose the Cup Final, they will reel from the cruelest of blows. Some for years to come.
“When I was growing up (in Kazakhstan and Russia) my dream was to play in the NHL,” said Stars goalie Anton Khudobin. “I didn’t really think to win the Stanley Cup, but when I came here and realized it’s not so easy to get here to the Final, I start thinking it would be a great accomplishment to get there and sometime win the Cup.”
Today, Khudobin is 34 and near the end of the line. Like teammates Joe Pavelski (36) who has never won, and Corey Perry (35), who won as a sophomore in Anaheim and has never been back, this is very likely their last kick at the cat as well.
“My first time going to the Final (in 2007) we played Ottawa, and pretty much three-quarters of my family is from Ottawa,” recalled Perry. “So there were a lot of people at every game. Here, my wife is coming in (Saturday), and I’ll see her in four, five days — after the quarantine. It’s a little different. Not travelling across the country, everything is right here. It’s just a matter of going out and playing hockey.”
For every Bowness and Pavelski, however, there is a Tyler Seguin. He won a Cup as a rookie in Boston in 2011, defeating Vancouver, where Bowness was an assistant coach, in seven games. Seguin returned in 2013, where the Bruins fell prey to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Seguin was 21, and had two Finals under his belt and his name on the Stanley Cup.
At age 28, how does it feel to be back again?
“I have more respect for it. More of a smile,” he said. “You realize how hard it is to get to this point. Back in the Boston days you figured it was going to happen every other year, with how my career started. (Now) I know the worth of the Cup a lot more, and how it is to get here. So, I am definitely knowing every moment.”
If only we all had a chance in life to relive our biggest moments two or three times. To get enough reps so it’s not all a blur, whatever your moment may be.
“And with the experience I have, you want to go talk to guys if they look nervous, or they’re not smiling,” Seguin said. “This is what we all dream about. The best time of year, a best position to be in.
“It’s the opportunity you have. Everything that’s happened so far? Nothing matters. It’s one series. Anything can happen in these moments.”
Seguin recalls stressing over setting up tickets for family at his previous Cups, a rite of passage for any player who gets this far — until this season.
“Big Markets,” he said. “Back in Boston, playing in Vancouver and Chicago in the years I went to the Final, tickets were pricey. Worth every dollar to have your family and friends there, but these are different times. It’s 2020. Nothing is unexpected.”
Begrudgingly, Seguin smiles as he admits even to missing us scribes. OK, not personally. But the media presence at a Final is what helps make the experience, another facet that simply doesn’t exist in these bubble playoffs.
Friday was Media Day, which meant a series of Zoom calls. Woo hoo…!
“Honestly, you miss those (media) days,” Seguin admitted. “Being there twice, it feels like you’re a football player. There is so much media. Cameras in your face. It’s definitely surreal, and a memory I have.”
There are so many elements that are different this year. The result, however, will not be cowed by COVID-19.
Win the Stanley Cup, and it is something these players and coaches will never forget.
“The Vancouver one stays with you every day of your life,” Bowness admits. “When you get to Game 7 and you lose a Stanley Cup Final? That stays with you.
“I’ve only been there a couple of times, but any time you get to those Stanley Cup Finals, man, it stays with ya. The rest of your life.
NBA Playoffs 2020: Eight observations as Lakers dominate and cruise to comfortable Game 1 win over Nuggets – NBA CA
No more Game 1 losses for the Lakers.
Their 126-114 win over the Nuggets to begin the Western Conference Finals is their first Game 1 win of the 2020 playoffs and snaps a four-game skid in Game 1s leading back to the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
Their All-Stars led from the front as LeBron James finished with 15 points, 12 assists, and six rebounds while Anthony Davis also stuffed the stat sheet with 37 points, and 10 rebounds. The Lakers reserves showed up, scoring 48 points led by Dwight Howard who had 13 points.
Meanwhile, for the Nuggets, their superstars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray only combined for 42 points on 15-of-26 shooting from the field but were battling foul trouble and couldn’t impact the game as they would have liked.
For more, here are the biggest observations from this game:
1. Superstars shine in high-scoring 1st Q duel
Lakers have had great 1st quarters in these 2020 playoffs, averaging a league-best 31.2 points. Nothing changed in this one as they raced to 36 points on 13-of-22 (59.1%) shooting from the field.
Rajon Rondo and Los Angeles’ two All-NBA players in LeBron and AD had their hands all over this period, scoring or assisting on 31 of the team’s 36 points in the first quarter. AD led the way with 14 points, four rebounds, and two assists.
Rondo already spilling dimes everywhere 💰
(📺: TNT) pic.twitter.com/rMsriStUAv
But the young Nuggets were right up there with the Lakers. Courtesy of Jamal Murray’s buzzer-beating three, the Nuggets took a 38-36 lead at the end of the first 12 minutes.
BUZZER BEATING BLUE ARROW pic.twitter.com/iVS9Pal9x5
Denver’s two superstars in Murray and Jokic (11 points, three rebounds, two assists) were responsible for 32 of the team’s 38 points in the period as the team shot 14-of-22 (63.6%) from the field in a quarter that saw four lead changes and six ties.
The rest of the game saw just one lead change and tie.
2. Lakers’ huge 2nd quarter
Los Angeles jumped to a 70-59 halftime lead on the back of a huge second quarter. The experienced squad outscored the Nuggets 34-21 including a 20-3 over the first 5:52 minutes of the second quarter.
James was responsible for scoring 10 of those points including a couple of thunderous slams.
45 seconds after tweaking his ankle … @KingJames did this 💥
(📺: TNT) pic.twitter.com/rGanPevDqX
– Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 19, 2020
Caruso ↗️ LeBron 🌋🌋🌋
(📺: TNT) pic.twitter.com/O8X42T7iQk
– Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 19, 2020
During the run, Lakers shot 7-8 from the field while restricting the Nuggets to just the one field goal and forcing them into six turnovers.
3. Dwight Howard BIG early impact
After playing just 15 minutes in five games in the Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets including three DNPs, 16-year veteran Dwight Howard didn’t take long in this one to remind how impactful and valuable he is as part of the Lakers’ second unit.
Dwight is bringing it on the defensive side 😤🤚
(📺: TNT) pic.twitter.com/F43XMnt5F2
– Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 19, 2020
In just seven minutes, all in the second quarter, he had five points (all FTs), two rebounds, two assists, and two blocks.
4. Nuggets early foul trouble
Part of Denver’s troubles in the second quarter was their key players battling foul trouble.
Jokic picked up his third foul with 7:22 left in the half and sat out the rest of the period. Jamal Murray, fresh of scoring six straight points after he was called for his third foul, had to be pulled with 3:53 left in the second quarter because he picked up his fourth foul.
Veteran Paul Millsap, having played just 5:29 minutes in the period, picked up his third with 3:19 left and he sat out the rest of the way.
Despite the double-digit halftime deficit, Denver should actually be credited to hang around despite all the foul trouble. They were down by 13 when Jokic went to the bench to not return and at the end of the period, they trailed by 11.
5. Howard gets the 2nd half start
His energetic second quarter earned Howard the second half start over JaVale McGee and he made an immediate impact, dunking home this alley-oop early:
Dwight with some extra emphasis!
(📺: TNT) pic.twitter.com/lwIZJT7zpb
– Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 19, 2020
In the third quarter, Howard made his presence felt once again finishing with eight points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting and a +7 in 9:28 minutes.
6. Lakers late 3rd quarter charge
Both teams were trading buckets for much of the early portion of the third quarter. However, over the final 6:07 of the period, the Lakers went on a 25-12 that opened up this game and gave the Lakers a 24-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
During the run, with consecutive dimes to AD, Rondo tied and then passed Michael Jordan for 10th on the all-time playoff career assists leaderboard. He finished with seven points, nine assists, and zero turnovers in his 22 minutes on the floor.
– Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 19, 2020
In the closing seconds of the quarter, Jokic picked up his fifth foul and given the scoreline at that point, he never checked back into the game.
7. Can MPJ carry 4th Q form to Game 2?
The game was already out of hand before the final quarter began as much of the period was played with the team’s second units.
For the Lakers, JR Smith passed Kobe Bryant for ninth all-time on the leaderboard for most career 3s made in the playoffs.
– Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 19, 2020
More importantly, the period saw Michael Porter Jr. getting some key minutes. After finishing with just four points (1-6 FGs) in 16 minutes through the first three quarters, the rookie seemed to get into some rhythm in the final period.
He scored 10 (2-3 FGs; 5-6 FTs) of his 14 points in the final period and eventually, also finished with 10 rebounds and four assists for the game. Can he carry this late-game rhythm into Game 2 to provide the Nuggets with an additional option?
8. Up Next
Just like 2009, the previous conference finals matchup between the Lakers and Nuggets, Los Angeles has taken the 1-0 series lead. How will Game 2 go?
It’s scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 20th at 7:30 PM ET.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.
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