Thursday, December 29, 2016

Canada/Latvia Observations

While Pool A in the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship has made for dramatic theater, Pool B Canada's group has gone very well to form as Canada comfortably took care of the Latvians 10-2. The real test, the first real test will commence on New Year's eve day when they take on the United States of America.

In net, many have read into Dominique Ducharme's decision to start Carter Hart against the Latvians differently but the way I've interpreted the situation is that he'll run with the Carter the rest of the way.. A few different reasons why but essentially even in the exhibition series Hart was given the net solely in the intersquad games while McNiven and Ingram were left to battle it out for the back-up job. If they revert back to Ingram against the states I'll be more shocked then I would be if Rex Ryan lands another NFL Head Coaching job. I thought in the early going that Hart was solid when needed as the Latvians applied loads of pressure and whether it was fatigue or simply getting out skilled the true colors of Canada began to eventually shine as shots in the second and third periods were 26-15. I was personally indifferent pertaining to who I felt deserved the nod and aside from a couple late softies Hart did nothing to bring forth cause for concern for the coaching staff. For Latvia the starter Mareks Mitens looked stellar in the first and I perceived from the Latvian administration to yank Mitens after the fourth goal as sheer brilliance because as tournament goers are aware, the Super Bowl for Latvia is tomorrow against Slovakia as an appearance in the quarterfinals in dependant on securing the win. No sense exhausting Mitens in this meaningless at the time out of reach game.

In the game against Russia it would've been difficult to argue the assertion that the line of Tyson Jost-Nicholas Roy-Julien Gauthier was the most dominant threesome but in the last two games I've noticed timidness from Roy and Jost. I'll speak to Jost particularly and quite honestly a few of the Western Canadians on this team but for the purposes of focusing on forwards I find Tyson is playing hot potato with the puck and  for someone that possesses such high octane skill everyone and their grandmother Tyson can carry a line but he needs some confidence instilled in him Against the former Soviet Union he was all over the ice, a threat 5 on 5 and on the penalty kill. In this game v Latvia, too much north-south action without enough truculence. I referenced timidness from some if not most Western Canadians earlier and my conspiracy theory behind why this is due to the fact that with the tournament being hosted in Toronto/Montreal, their's an obvious comfortability factor for the Eastern Canadians on the roster and players like Jost  are still attempting adapt to unfamiliar conditions. One of the narratives of this game will naturally be the four goal performance from Taylor Raddysh and what some other forwards can take from Raddysh is just to get pucks to the net. The best example of this would be Seattle Thunderbird Matt Barzal who is illustrating flare with the puck but often it's a lot of weaving without purpose. If opposing defenders and goaltenders start respecting the shot threat then it will inevitably open up more time and space for the likes of the aforementioned Barzal and Dylan Strome.  They're scoring at a frequent pace which is a re-assuring sign for Hockey Canada but what internally concerns me is how they're manufacturing offence. The Americans are  a big, mean bunch that may look to prey on Canada's diminutive nature and pound the cycle thus creating odd man advantages that way. It's not necessarily that the Canadians are overly small, it's that some of the forwards that have been blessed with size, Michael McLeod and Pierre-Luc Dubois to name two are refusing to engage physically.

What this game and tournament have taught me is the Philadelphia Flyers have an embarassment of riches on defence. Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim are the high draft picks that Flyer faithful clamours over however the undrafted, signed free agent in Phillipe Myers could be the best out of the bunch?Unquestionably Canada's breakout star,someone I didn't know a lot about but what stands out is his eagerness to ALWAYS jump into the rush and does so maturely and responsibly. His penchant to jump into the rush only works if certain forwards forego statistical capital and cover Phillipe's assignment, and in a hockey game like this that could prove difficult for teenagers. Noah Juulsen was a rock defensively. For a first period that was filled with turnovers Noah was the one constant that you knew would make a good first pass at no risk. Don't let the obscurity of the nation fool you, Latvia has a couple premier stalwarts up front in Connor Ingram's Kamloops teammate Rudolf Balcers and Martin Dzierkals and I formed the impression in thee early going that they were going to push the forecheck and Canada's D would have to be on their toes which they were for the second and  third periods. The one last thought about tonight's game I wanted to make is I've seen Kale Clague play out of Brandon several times and it donned upon me tonight that he has  a real accurate shot. If he could ever beef up his frame then the Los Angeles Kings have a nice prospect on their hands.

Ranking time....

1.Phillipe Myers(16)
2.Taylor Raddysh(32)
3.Blake Speers(22)
4.Julien Gauthier(20)
 5.Dylan Strome(27)
6..Thomas Chabot(16)
7..Noah Juulsen(15)
8.Pierre-Luc Dubois(28)
9.Matt Barzal(20)
10.Mathieu Joseph(34)
11.Kale Clague(31)
12.Michael McLeod(40)
13.Nicholas Roy(32)
14.Anthony Cirelli(21)
15.Dante Fabbro(55)
16.Tyson Jost(38)
17.Jeremy Lauzon(36)
18.Dillon Dube(51)
19.Jake Bean(38)

Mitchell Stephens(DNP)

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