On the second day of this year’s World Junior Championship, three Calgary Flames prospects played. Connor Zary and Jakob Pelletier took on the Germans with Team Canada, while Dustin Wolf took on the Austrians with Team USA. Both games were decided well before the final buzzer, with both the United States and Canada dominating their opponents.
Canada beat an extremely depleted Germany by an astonishing score of 16-2. The Germans were visibly exhausted with nine players out of commission while quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19. Wolf and the Americans demolished Austria, with the final score reaching 11-0 before the final buzzer sounded.
Starting the game alongside Jack Quinn and Quinton Byfield, Pelletier managed one goal of the teams 16, with no assists. While that is not exactly an impressive offensive output considering the final score of 16-2, Pelletier had another strong game after impressing in his pre-tournament debut, playing 13:20, good for sixth on the team among forwards.
Also notably, earlier in his shift before his goal, he won a board battle to keep the play alive. It seems to be a pattern with Pelletier to do the little things right, winning battles and making simple but smart plays, and it only leads to good things for his team.
His defensive prowess was also on display again, not only at even strength but on the penalty kill as well. Pelletier was very responsible, clearing the puck and carrying it out to kill time and look for shorthanded offense when the option was available to him. Overall, his performance was not flashy, but very effective. He has clearly gained the trust of coach André Tourigny. Expect Pelletier’s line to match up against other teams top forwards going forward.
To be fair, playing against an extremely depleted German squad, it is significantly easier for players to look good. Putting much weight on this game for player evaluation is likely a mistake, but the results were still promising for Pelletier, who stood out positively even without lighting up the scoresheet.
Zary played only 10:33, the least among Canadian forwards. However, in that time he stood out for many of the right reasons. Like Pelletier, he saw time on the penalty kill, and also successfully managed to clear the defensive zone a few times for Canada. While he didn’t put up any points in this one, he won his battles in limited ice time and had, on the whole, a fairly small but positive effect on the game. He was the only Canadian forward without a point in the drubbing. Despite this he made plays that led to goals, such as this dump in on the penalty kill, that led to the Canadians second goal.
He was also found causing trouble in front of the net on several occasions, blocking sightlines for the German goalies and taking the focus of defenseman away from higher threat shooters on the ice. In all three zones, he showed flashes of speed that allowed him to beat his opponents to loose pucks, but failed to translate that into quality chances.
As with Pelletier, its important to not put much stock in individual performances in such an unusual game. His performance in limited minutes was solid, if somewhat unremarkable. Hopefully as the tournament goes on he can earn more minutes, and have a bigger impact on the game.
Just 10 saves for Wolf in this 11-0 Team USA victory. He went largely untested, with half his shots faced coming in the final ten minutes of the night. With his experience playing for dominant teams in Everett, it is no surprise he could still perform well given the light workload. He showed impressive focus by staying locked into the game right until the end, despite extremely long stretches between shots. He now has stopped all 21 shots he has faced in the tournament.
Perhaps more importantly given Spencer Knight’s unfortunate misplays with the puck in Team USA’s previous match, he also showed an ability to make simple and safe plays with the puck. Not only does this help the teams breakout, it may also be a part of what helps him stay so focused throughout the game, allowing him to get some touches even when shots are not coming.
This is a very routine play, but it shows how important solid, or at the least error free, puckhandling can be from a team’s goalie. This quick pass led to a stretch pass and an easy two-on-none breakaway goal for his team. With limited opportunity to impact the game, Wolf made the most of his opportunities to push for Team USA’s starter job.
Cover photo courtesy: Jason Franson/The Canadian Press