As will be the case with every Team Canada contest at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship I will attempt to pen a personalized game summary whilst at the end in highly subjective fashion rank the players based off off performance from 1-20 excluding goaltenders.
In net tonight even though on the losing end of the spectrum it was easy to ascertain that Ilya Samsonov was the better of the two goaltenders. The Washington Capital goaltending prospect faced the more dangerous scoring chances the entire game and was equal to the task. It's not as if I've spent much time analyzing the tendencies of Ilya but what caught my attention in this tilt was his propensity to give up a lot of the top half of the net. Side to side he's Tom Goodwin-esque fast but that athleticism he possesses can also be a hinderance because he reverts to the butterfly far too often without regard for the high glove side particularly. For Canada Carter Hart did very little to increased the confidence of Head Coach Dominique Ducharme. The Kaprizov goal can't be charged to the imcompetence of Carter but the other two are goals that the Canadian side can ill afford especially with medal round contests that are played tight knit and close to the vest. In brings into question and of this writing I have yet to read any post game comments from Ducharme but with Slovakia on deck tomorrow one could presume that Imperial,Saskatchewan native Conor Ingram will get the nod but that's complete conjecture on my behalf. Goaltending controversies are a yearly occurence at no fault to anyone because with how the tournament format is constructed with very game holding high importance(not as high as yester-year since regretfully removing the bye) each game is scrutinized profusely and deserving or not, an average showing from Hart will open the door to others. The Slovakian game is a given(I think), the real determinant will be who has their name called in the third game beyond.
Defence wins championships. Not this Team Canada defence with the way it exerted itself today any way. My biggest complaint, and truly a grudge that has carried over from the exhibition game is the way the defenceman were manufactured, the pairings that Ducharme has signed off aren't complimenting one another. A pet peeve just not from myself was the diminutive nature of this group. I don't think Russia is the most physically intimidating team in the tournament but when retrieving data from this one off you could've fooled me. Dennis Gurianov has been a hot button prospect ever since having his name called by the Dallas Stars twelfth overall in the 2015 draft. Some question his hockey I.Q and those questions will run rampant after some foolishly undisciplined penalties but from a size perspective he utilized his burly attributes to perfection by being strong on his skates and causing nightmares from some of the smaller d-men. I referenced the lack of height qualms in the beginning of this paragraph but I ask this simple question, why at any point are Kale Clague and Jake Bean on the ice together? I'm not exactly how often this occurred but can difinitively say it happened a few times and everytime the two saw ice together, specifically when the likes of Gurianov were on the ice they were like a fish out of water. I will never suggest and if at any point I do call me out for it immediately that Phillipe Myers and Thomas Chabot aren't Canada's two best defenceman but for that very reason accounting for the undersized nature of this collection as a whole I would love to see the coaching staff jiggle the pairings.I'm a proponent of Noah Juulsen see time with Phillipe Myers with Jake Bean pairing next to Thomas Chabot. Additionally, I can't help but scratch my head as to why Jeremy Lauzon is being criminally misused. Dante Fabbro and Kale Clague had rough games as will be evidenced from my below game rankings and to bring forth accountability to the aforementioned two it would be a logical endeavour to parlay an extended role to Lauzon so Clague and Fabbro don't take this Team Canada assignment for granted. I love Chabot and Myers and the game tonight did nothing to dissaude this notion but we need more production from the rest to remain serious contenders.
From all accounts even from his own mouth Matt Barzal didn't come running out of the gates upon his return to the Seattle Thunderbirds. It doesn't necessarily surprise me however as motivation can sometimes be elusive for those returning from the National Hockey League but tonight Barzal returned home to the big stage and never missed a beat. Here was my assessment of Barzal as the tournament began, dynamic with the puck, legendary shiftiness and one of the best passers for his age group.Conversely the knock on Matt is and was that he becomes laxidazical at certain moments and hasn't mastered the defensively responsible art. All that being said he took the platform he was given tonight and was unarguably Canada's best forward. When he twists and turns at the speed he's able he makes opposing defenders nauseous as it would be very difficult to keep up with the puck and the open space he created to gift Dylan Strome was a belated Christmas present. Speaking of Strome I thought he showed flashes tonight. I've been awfully critical in past postings on how I perceive Strome as a player. I generally feel he's lethargic out on the ice and doesn't do much else aside from hanging out in the slot waiting for primo set ups. In fairness to my previous feelings I will give credit where credit is due by vocalizing that he was engaged the entire night and by extension opened up more free space for Pierre-Luc Dubois who had his moments. Ducharme made the late pre-tournament lineup change by swapping Blake Speers who now finds himself on a line with Dillon Dube and Anthony Cirelli and Mitchell Stephens who was awarded top line duties. I don't believe the swap paid dividends today. Stephens was largely ineffective and what boggles me is why Taylor Raddysh and Dylan Strome, teammates in Erie aren't thrown out on the same unit. The counter argument to all of this would be why meddle with Dylan Strome's productivity but keep in mind a lot of his effectiveness was on special teams and the pre developed chemistry could serve both young lads well. Stephens is a C level skater(as is Strome) but doesn't read the game like Dylan does so to get Dylan and Taylor going 5 on 5 it's advisable they're put together. The other alarming facet tonight that reared it's ugly head was the glaring scoring depth outside the top two lines. Strome can't score unless it's on the PP, Barzal has not been handed a finisher on his line and for whatever the reason the best overall line, that being the third line of Julien Gauthier, Nicholas Roy and Tyson Jost sees sparing special team time even though they create on almost every shift. The last remark I'd like to serenade my ever growing audience with is Oshawa Generals stud Anthony Cirelli deserves a bigger role but these kind of desires happen frequently when you compile the countries best players under one roof.
Now time for the rankings.........