The WJC tournament began today in Malmo, Sweden. Since the Blue Jackets have several interesting prospects playing, I thought that it might be a good idea to have an open forum for comments on their play or anything else related to the WJC. I am not sure if the Cannon will provide anything like this, but in the meantime anyone who is interested can just comment on this Fan Post. I will for sure keep an eye on the Swedish team with Alexander Wennberg and Oscar Dansk, but I'll also try to catch as many of the other games as I can.
Canada started their quest for gold with a pretty convincing 7-2 victory over Germany. Josh Anderson scored the opening tally for Canada which was really cool to see. The TSN commentators were very complimentary of his play and brought up the fact that he was undrafted in the Canadian Juniors and is now playing an important (albeit somewhat limited) role on the Canadian team. Josh could turn out to be a real diamond in the rough draft pick from the Howson era. The kid has some really good speed and size to go along with his scoring ability and defensive prowess.
Kerby Rychel had a very quiet game and I get the feeling that he will not be used much in important game situations. I am not convinced that the big rink game is suitable to his style of play, but maybe he will prove me wrong. Some CBJ fans wish we would have picked Anthony Mantha instead of Rychel, especially on a day when he scored 3 goals, but when the coach is happier about his professionalism than his hat trick, a red flag goes up in my mind. No denying Mantha's talent level though and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him ending up being the WJC scoring leader when all is said and done.
Sweden started off with a 5-3 victory against Switzerland in a game that felt like a typical first game for the tournament hosts. The Swiss were up 1-0 and 2-1 before the Swedish skill and puck possession started paying dividends. Filip Forsberg was the most dominant player on the ice with 1 goal, 2 assists and 7 SOG. He looked like a man playing against boys and is also serving as the Swedish captain instead of Wennberg. Alex had a very strong game with 1 assist, but he could have had several more if the Swiss goalie didn't make so many saves. He also hit the crossbar after a sweet solo raid through the neutral zone. The shot was reviewed but was correctly ruled a no-goal. Although Wennberg isn't the official captain, he is still one of the leaders and appears to be thriving in that role. One of the Swedish commentators went as far as calling him the ultimate professional and said he was the smartest player on the ice by far. High praise indeed!
Despite letting in 3 goals on 33 shots, Oscar Dansk looked solid in net. He had a difficult game against a fast counter punching Swiss team and wasn't helped by some bad PK-ing and defensive mistakes in front of him. Oscar made the stops he had to make as well as a few that showed his athleticism. The Swedish goalie coach was interviewed in between periods and mentioned how talented Dansk is, but felt that his best attributes are his maturity level and the way he prepares. Furthermore, he argued that Dansk is a "special player" because he is able to put mistakes behind him and focus on the task at hand, which is certainly very important for a goalie. For Sweden to win gold, Dansk has to have a very good tournament and I think it's fair to say that no other country (besides Russia), has a better goalie.
Sweden didn't play their best hockey although the Swiss is no pushover team. Elias Lindholm was out due to illness and Collberg left the game early experiencing similar symptoms. If the Swedish team gets healthy, they look like the team to beat this year and Dansk and Wennberg will most definitely do their part. It's pretty exciting to see these guys excelling at the highest Junior level and I hope that the likes of Rychel, Anderson and Dano will follow suite. In a few years we might see all of them playing in the Union blue.