Habs Prospects See Tremendous Success at WJC
Artturi Lehkonen celebrates.
The 2014 World Junior Championship came to an end on Sunday. It was a thrilling tournament, marred by disappointments and surprises. The host country, Sweden, fell in overtime to Team Finland in arguably the tournament’s most entertaining game. Team Canada failed to medal for the second year in a row, continuing the country’s half decade of disappointment at the tournament. Unlike Canada, the Habs representatives at the tournament fared extremely well. Out of the Canadiens’ ten eligible prospects (excluding Tim Bozon, whose Team France plays in Division 1 of the tournament), six of them made their made respective teams. Habs fans watched on as the six prospects at the tournament all saw success. The five forward prospects combined for 11 goals and 17 assists in the short tournament, and three of those players brought home a medal.
Habs 2013 fourth round pick, Martin Reway, stole the show at the tournament for Habs fans, as he finished top five in tournament scoring with four goals and six assists in just five games. His efforts earned him a top three player on Team Slovakia award. Martin Reway combined with linemates Milan Kolena and David Griger for a staggering 28 points in just five games. While Martin Reway posted four points against Germany, his two most memorable performances came against two of hockey’s superpowers–Team Canada and Team USA. While Team Slovakia would fall 6-3 to Team USA, Martin Reway scored twice, including one with a nice spin move and then backhand to bring his team within three late in the third. Reway, against Team Canada, would grab three powerplay points, to put Team Slovakia up 3-1 versus Canada. Team Slovakia would blow their hard-earned lead though, losing 5-3. Martin Reway and Team Slovakia would lose in the quarterfinals, in a rematch versus Canada, by a score of 6-0, ending their tournament. An all too familiar fate for the team.
Charles Hudon celebrates his goal.
Photo: Frank Gunn, The Canadian Press
Meanwhile, Team Canada was to looking to grab gold for the first time since 2009. Team Canada opened the tournament against Team Germany. While they pulled out a 7-2 victory, the team looked in shambles for much of the game. Disaster struck in the second round robin game against Team Czech Republic. Charles Hudon, a recipient of little ice time, would tie the game at four after being reunited with Subway Super Series linemates, Jonathan Drouin and Anthony Mantha. However, Team Canada would fall 5-4 in the shootout. Netminder Jake Paterson was largely a cause for the distressing losses, as he was to blame for some very weak goals. Enter Zach Fucale. The Habs prospect was handed the net for the rest of the tournament, where he’d make himself a household name. Fucale’s first performance wasn’t particularly incredible, but against Team USA on the New Year’s Eve classic, Fucale would propel himself into the spotlight. The 18 year would make numerous highlight reel saves and grab a 3-2 victory with “FU-CA-LE” being chanted from fans and teammates alike. Hudon would temporarily leave the game with an apparent shoulder injury that would reduce his ice time throughout the tournament. Fucale would post another great performance against Team Switzerland with a 19 save 4-1 victory. Against Team Finland, Fucale made numerous highlight reel saves, including a diving glove stop, to keep Team Canada in game. Unfortunately, it would not be enough and Team Canada would fall by a score of 5-1. Just like Fucale, Hudon had a strong performance despite the loss. The talented forward was continually involved in the play, creating chances. Team Canada would play Team Russia in the bronze medal game. Fucale stopped 30 of 32 shots he faced, but it would not be enough as Russia would win 2-1. Hudon grabbed an assist on Josh Morrissey’s goal to bring the team within one and was subsequently used quite often later on in an effort to tie the game. With a loss in the semi finals, Team Canada was held without a medal for the second straight year and the annual disappointment continued.
Team Sweden was the second of the two countries that had two Habs prospects on their rosters. Sebastian Collberg represented Sweden, at a tournament in which he’s historically dominated. Collberg was joined by Jacob de la Rose, a big, smooth skating power winger. Team Sweden opened the tournament against Team Switzerland, which saw a dominant performance by Predators prospect, Filip Forsberg. De la Rose, who spent the tournament on the left wing of Filip Forsberg and Elias Lindholm, racked up two assists in the 5-3 victory. Against Team Finland, de la Rose scored with a wicked slapshot to give the Swedes a two goal lead, to which they would hold on. Collberg would also grab an assist as the all-Frolunda line of Andreas Johnson and Alexander Wennberg continued to produce. Team Sweden routed Team Norway, and Collberg stepped up and grabbed three points, while de la Rose grabbed an assist. Team Sweden closed out the group stage against Team Russia in a thrilling game. While Collberg had an assist, it was de la Rose’s late game-winner that would steal the show. Team Sweden would steamroll past Slovakia in the quarter-finals and then win 2-1 against Russia in the semis. In the final game, the host country and favourites would lose 3-2 in overtime to Team Finland, losing in the gold medal game for the second straight year.
Sebastian Collberg celebrates a goal at the 2012 WJC
Photo: Francois Laplante, lapresse.ca
Sebastian Collberg had a chance to put himself into the record books with a strong tournament. While he didn’t exactly perform spectacularly, one goal and five assists in seven games is nothing to scoff at. While most were expecting a much stronger performance, Collberg struggled with shot accuracy all tournament and due to Sweden’s big line of Jacob de la Rose, Filip Forsberg, and Elias Lindholm, wasn’t able to see the best ice time. With six points, Collberg moved into twelfth all time in Swedish World Junior Championship scoring, with 19 points in 19 games. Collberg finishes his World Junior Championship career tied with Magnus Pääjärvi, above Nicklas Bäckström and Tomas Sandström. This was Collberg’s last chance at the World Juniors, a tournament that he’s participated at since he was 17.
While Collberg was cementing himself among the all-time greats at the tournament, Jacob de la Rose was making a name for himself. De la Rose thoroughly impressed at the tournament with his constant hustle and intense style. The young winger received top even strength time, along with first penalty kill and power play responsibilities. De la Rose finished sixth in Team Sweden scoring, with three goals and three assists in seven games.
Team Finland came out on top in Sweden at the tournament, but the victory wasn’t without it’s fair share of struggles. The Finns opened the tournament against Team Norway, where Artturi Lehkonen buried a backhander in tight to open the scoring. The Artturi Lehkonen, Saku Mäenalanen, and Teuvo Teräväinen first line would strike two more times in the game to give Team Finland a commanding 5-1 victory. Team Finland would fall 4-2 to rival Team Sweden in their first matchup in the tournament, and lose yet again to Switzerland in the a shootout the following game. Lehkonen would injure his ankle in the game against Sweden, forcing him to the game against Team Switzerland. It would be in the medal round where Team Finland got their legs underneath them. In the quarter finals against Team Czech Republic, Lehkonen would returned and they pulled out a 5-3 victory. Team Finland stunned Team Canada with a terrific 5-1 victory in the semi finals. In the finals against Team Sweden, every single player stepped up and played fantastic. This allowed them to pull out a stunning 3-2 overtime victory after Sabres prospect, Rasmus Ristolainen, scored the overtime winner. Team Finland won their first medal since 2006 and first gold medal since 1998.
Artturi Lehkonen beats Zach Fucale.
Photo: Frank Gunn, La Presse
While Artturi Lehkonen didn’t have a particularly strong round robin portion of the tournament, he thrived in the medal round. Lehkonen’s final two games were particularly noteworthy. Against Team Canada, Lehkonen scored the eventual game-winner with a nice backhand finish, but it was his heart and grit that stood out. Lehkonen continually threw his body on the line to block shots, and suffered torn ligaments in one ankle, injuring both ankles. Lehkonen played the final game on five injections to his ankles, but still managed to help his team win with an assist and multiple blocked shots.
The 2015 World Junior Championship will be one that both hockey and Habs fans alike circle on their calendars. Zach Fucale will most likely lead the way in net for Team Canada, while Jacob de la Rose and Artturi Lehkonen will both be eligible to return in key roles for their respective countries. 2013 first round pick, Michael McCarron, could make Team USA, as could Jérémy Grégoire make Team Canada. Plus the Habs could also be represented by players they sign, acquire, or draft in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. It should be another fantastic tournament in 2015.
Sebastian Collberg’s six points:
Jacob de la Rose’s six points:
Zach Fucale’s highlights:
Artturi Lehkonen’s four points:
Martin Reway’s ten points: