Up until yesterday, Team Canada had yet to really prove themselves at the World Juniors. The team enjoyed a very easy schedule and coasted easily to victories without looking especially dominant. That changed on New Years Eve as Canada dominated Finland, outplaying them by a far wider margin than the 4-1 score might suggest. Canada outshot the Fins 17-1 in the first period, and 18-6 in the second, before playing a more defensive third period. Heading into the medal round, it was the perfect statement for the host team.
In the late game, Team USA blanked the Swedes 4-0. Trevor Zegras continued his impressive tournament with three more points, leading the way in a game where the Americans scored twice in the first four minutes. Unfortunately for Flames fans however, Calgary prospect Dustin Wolf did not play, and Spencer Knight was back between the pipes for Team USA.
Pelletier heating up
Jakob Pelletier has been solid all tournament, but is really starting to heat up as the competition goes on. His skating sets him apart, and he uses it in all situations, not just on the rush. He has been impressive on the forecheck and in the defensive zone, and forces a lot of turnovers.
Pelletier had a great chance in the first of a really amazing flip pass from teammate Jack Quinn.
He couldn’t quite bury the shot, but the play showed of Pelletier’s wheels to get behind the defensemen. Obviously it was an amazing pass from Quinn, but Pelletier was all over it.
His strong play continued in the second, when he appeared to score. The goal actually bounced in off teammate Dylan Holloway, but Pelletier made a great play to create the goal.
I particularly liked the patience to feed the point instead of turning and shooting when he didn’t have a great angle. Rather than forcing it, he kept possession, and found a soft spot in the defensive coverage. When he got the puck back, he showed off a snappy release that got off quickly. Again, he did not actually get credit for the goal, but did a lot of the work to get it there.
Pelletier finished the night with the one assist and two shots on goal. He did that while only playing 10:36 in ice time, partially a reflection of him not being on either power play unit.
Zary has big day, plays hockey game as well
The biggest news of the day did not have to do with the World Juniors at all.
TWC’s Karim Kurji wrote about why signing Zary was important after the draft, and the Flames got it done. Zary has a unique birthday, so signing him before December 31st provides the Flames with a lot more flexibility and options down the road. For fans of the team, it is exciting to see talented young players sign, even if it is unclear when exactly he will make his debut in the big leagues.
Despite signing his first contract, Zary still had a hockey game to play. After getting demoted back to the thirteenth forward, he drew back into the lineup when teammate Alex Newhook went down with an upper body injury. Zary played the rest of the game alongside Cole Perfetti and Peyton Krebs, and ended the night with an assist and four shots on goal, despite playing only 9:24 in ice time.
The assist came on Peyton Krebs’ rebound goal in the second period. His play gets cut off in this clip, but Zary made a good pass to Bowen Byram, who took the puck to the middle of ice before shooting.
It wasn’t anything spectacular from Zary, but was an example of his continued solid play in the offensive zone. He is rarely flashy, but makes really good, simple passes that keep possession and set up his teammates.
Zary has played well throughout the tournament, but doesn’t seem to be a favourite of Canadian coach Andre Tourigny. If not for the injury, Zary would likely barely have played at all. However, depending what happens with Newhook, Zary might have more opportunities going forward, which could make him an important player for Canada in the medal rounds. He hasn’t played a ton thus far, but keep an eye on him in the big games.
Now that group play has finished, the medal rounds games have all been decided.
Saturday should be a great day of hockey, with all four Flames prospects in action. Yan Kuznetsov and the Russians will take on the German team that has been a great story throughout the tournament. Then Pelletier and Zary will be back in action for the Canadians, and Dustin Wolf’s Team USA will take on the Slovaks.
Stay tuned to TWC all tournament long for coverage on all Calgary prospects.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images