World Juniors 2024

EP Rinkside's 3 Stars from Day 1 of the 2024 World Juniors

This is not the most talented team that Canada has brought to the World Junior Championship.

But the Canadians can still count on a few game-breakers with Macklin Celebrini and Denton Mateychuk. We saw it against Finland. Mateychuk, especially, had one of the best performances of the day, creating more than a few breakouts and plays in the offensive zone. 

However, to clinch victory, Canada must address its powerplay struggles. While Team USA's unit operates seamlessly, executing tic-tac-toe plays with precision and deception, the Canadian formations encounter difficulties establishing themselves in the offensive zone. Part of the problem lies in their failure to capitalize on the strengths of their personnel; some of their most effective five-on-four contributors remain on the bench during powerplays.

It's important to note that comparing these two teams may not be entirely fair at this moment. The U.S. players have developed a strong rapport, having played together in the country's junior development program for several years. In contrast, Canadians lack that shared experience, requiring time and repetitions to enhance their on-ice chemistry, improve reliability in finding each other, and increase scoring opportunities.

To end the first day, Sweden beat Latvia in a convincing fashion. Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Filip Bystedt both scored twice to make it happen. Those two players offer the team vastly different, complementary skill sets. Lekkerimäki has the long-range marksman ability and Bystedt the one-timer and net-front game. As the team has a variety of playmakers to set them up, Sweden’s offence could be hard to stop for opposing formations. 

The Daily Scoreboard

Slovakia 6 - Czechia 2

Canada 5 - Finland 2

United States 4 - Norway 1

Sweden 6 - Latvia 0

1. Filip Mešár, W, Slovakia (Montreal Canadiens)

Filip Mešár featured in our “players with the most to prove” column before the tournament. And he started his tournament on a good note. He commanded Slovakia’s offence and filled the highlight-reel.  

One of his passes flew above a couple of sticks on the powerplay and landed perfectly on Servác Petrovský’s stick on the other side of the ice, setting up a hard one-timer and a goal. 

In his draft year, Mesar was known for his rush plays. He would attack with crossovers, change gears and shift around defenders. His dangle in the third period was a flashback to those days. He sprinted through the neutral-zone with a defender rapidly catching up to him on the back At the perfect moment, when the opponent leveled with him, he put on break, cut counter to the opponent’s feet, gained the middle, and sent a perfect pass to his teammate at the far-post, initiating another one-timer. 

International ice favors Mesar’s skills. This is probably not his last dominant performance in the tournament. 

2. Nate Danielson, W, Canada (Detroit Red Wings)

Nate Danielson’s stock dropped in the early part of the season, due to subpar scoring with his WHL team, the Brandon Wheat Kings. He featured in our “players with the most to prove at the World Juniors” column before the tournament for that reason. And so far, Danielson is seizing his opportunity to show his talents. 

Placed on a line with the two Owens, Allard and Beck in the opening game, Danielson forechecked hard, created turnovers, rushed the net, linked passing plays, and found space to unleash his shot. He added two points. A shot from the point deflected on his behind in front of the net and beat the Finnish goalie, giving him his first goal. And for his assist, he carried another puck to the cage before feeding it across to his teammate standing at the far post.

Danielson’s line helped set the tone in that first game. And from the look of things, the coaching staff will continue to rely on them for key matchups for the duration of the tournament. 

We didn’t expect the Detroit prospect to score that much in his games, considering his role, but he looks primed for a great tournament.  

3. Jonathan Lekkerimäki, W, Sweden (Vancouver Canucks)

Lekkerimäki scored two goals, both seeing-eye shots from the top of the circle. The first one beat the goalie cleanly and the second one, the net-minder simply couldn’t contain. The puck, fired hard between his glove and pad, slipped through his equipment. That’s a goal-scorer’s shot. 

Look closely at the replays and you will see Lekkerimäki move in front of a defender to veil his release, adding the extra deception needed to score. 

After this performance, Lekkerimäki will feature even more prominently in the other team’s pre-scouting meeting. You simply can’t let him roam free in the offensive zone, especially if he’s shooting like this, as he can change the outcome of a contest in a moment. 

Norway deserves some praise

Norway shutdown the strongest offensive team at the tournament, Team USA, for 30 minutes in their game today. More than that, they hanged with them, trading scoring chances for stretches and forcing Trey Augustine to stand tall to prevent the U.S team from falling behind. 

That’s not the scenario that most viewers anticipated when they tuned in for the game. 

The US ultimately won over Norway, four to one, but that game is yet another argument in favor of keeping the World Juniors a ten-team event. Hockey programs, like Norway’s, are developing steadily and producing more and more talents. 

Just look at Michael Brandsegg-Nygård. Coming from the SHL, the top 2024 draft prospect performed very well against team USA. The competition didn’t intimidate him at all and he continued to play his style of hard game. A strong tournament could move into many draft list’s top-ten. 

Highlight of the day

Had Mathis Rousseau not stretched himself and flashed his glove in the sequence below, the momentum might have slipped away from Canada. Lenni Hämeenaho would have scored and Finland could have leveraged that first goal into a shutdown victory. But Rousseau made the stop, showing why his team’s brass put him between the pipes for the opening game. 

Game Over - Review of the Canada game

Elite Prospects lead scout David St-Louis and stats expert Chace McCallum joined SDPN’s Game Over show to talk about Team Canada’s performance against Finland. They broke down the play of some of the game’s top prospects like Macklin Celebrini, Nate Danielson, and Denton Mateychuk. 

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This article is about:
World Juniors 2024 Canada U20 Norway U20 Slovakia U20 Sweden U20 WJC-20 Michael Brandsegg-Nygård Filip Bystedt Macklin Celebrini Jonathan Lekkerimäki Denton Mateychuk Filip Mesar Mathis Rousseau
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