World Juniors 2024

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

GOTHENBURG, Sweden – Sweden was on high alert early in this one, as the German's came out with the same tenacity and structure in this one that allowed them to defeat Finland for the first time in 26 tries just a day prior. They outshot the Germans 18-6 in the opening frame, but German goaltender Matthias Bittner made some stellar first, second, and third saves to keep the door shut.

Sweden was clearly the faster, more talented team, and by a not-insignificant margin, and yet they only managed to score twice through the first 40 minutes of this hockey game.

Then the floodgates opened in the third period, and Sweden cruised to a decisive 5-0 victory in front of a raucus Scandinavium crowd. Otto Stenberg capped off his hat trick in the third with the assistance of Felix Unger Sörum's dazzling playmaking, while Jonathan Lekkerimäki stood out in a positive way himself, even if he only has one assist to show for it. Mattias Hävelid led from the blue line, using his elusive, shifty skating to create chances for himself and others while scoring with a half-clapper that went top corner.

The Swedes closed on German forward's decisively in the neutral zone, taking away time and space, with their blueliners keeping the puck carrier from gaining the middle of the ice. They challenged the Germans to beat them wide with speed and skill, and Germany simply didn’t have an answer. In the end, it was a decisive victory for the host nation.

The Daily Scoreboard

USA 11-3 Switzerland

Sweden 5-0 German

1. Jimmy Snuggerud, LW, USA (St. Louis Blues)

It's been a difficult year for Jimmy Snuggerud at Minnesota, but you wouldn't gather as much based on his play in the red, white, and blue at this tournament. Today's natural hat trick against the Swiss gives him four goals through two games in the tournament, tied for second in overall scoring with Frank Nazar (more on him later…), Gavin Brindley, and Jiří Kulich.

What really struck me in this viewing was that the Americans kind of got the best of both worlds out of Snuggerud today. At times, you saw glimmers of the hard-working, inside-driven support winger that excelled as a freshman and at the program in his draft year; then at others, you saw the forceful, precise shooting threat that he's become as a sophomore in his draft-plus-two.

The end result is a first period that was better than any we've seen in this tournament, and a glimmer of hope for St. Louis Blues fans who've had to endure a difficult season with only a good not great prospect pool that's seen its own fair share of tumult this year.

2. Otto Stenberg, C, Sweden (St. Louis Blues)

Sweden distributed their scorers pretty evenly throughout their lineup in this one, with all three of their top forward lines each taking turns buzzing in the offensive zone, but it was Stenberg, Unger Sorum, and David Edstrom's line who were able to break through.

Stenberg was buzzing pretty much from puck drop but he managed to find twine last in the first with a perfectly placed shot that beat Bittner clean. Then, he showcased a little diversity to his game, going to the paint and snapping home a pair of dirty goals in the third period to put this game out reach and secure the win for the Tre Kronor.

This was one of those performances where he didn’t have to generate a ton on his own, but was Johnny on the spot when it mattered most.

3. Frank Nazar, C, USA (Chicago Blackhawks)

This is the best Nazar has looked since about the midway point in his draft year, and this was the single-best playmaking performance we've seen to this point in the tournament. Four assists, all of them of the primary variety, a plus-three even strength goal differential in 14-plus minutes of all-situations ice time.

The underlying data? Even better. Only Snuggerud bested his 3.1 game score, as tracked by our colleague Mitch Brown, on the day. Here are some of the inputs: Five scoring chance assists (first on the day), five shot assists (tied for first), seven passes into the slot (tied for first), seven controlled zone entries (tied for first), 29.65 percent offensive involvement in expected goals (first by nine-plus points). Yeah, I'm thinking he's back.

On a day like today, there's three first stars, and Nazar is one of them. He was the clear play-driver on America's second-line; automatic in transition, fearless on offensive zone retrievals, cunning with the puck on his stick, and decisive in a way that suggests his confidence may well be returning after undergoing hip and sports hernia surgeries in the 2022 offseason.

Tough day at the office for America's top defenceman

Lane Hutson is a college hockey star with what increasingly looks like an exceptionally bright future at the NHL level. He's one of if not the most offensively gifted thinkers from the blue line now playing in the NHL right now. You just wouldn't guess it based on his performance to date at this tournament. Only one assist through two games, and not even many particularly dangerous looks in today's win over Switzerland. I hope he's coasting through the round-robin or nursing a cold or has some reasonable explanation for this play, because if it keeps up, that could hurt the American's medal chances. 

Highlight of the day

Look, this one is pretty straightforward: If we had a fourth star it probably goes to Gavin Brindley, so I want to give him his flowers in some way, and holy hell, what a pass by Nazar.

Your World Juniors stats for the day

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This article is about:
World Juniors 2024 Canada U20 Germany U20 Sweden U20 Switzerland U20 WJC-20 Frank Nazar Jimmy Snuggerud Otto Stenberg
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