It’s quite sad
After finally breaking their gold medal slump last year with a spectacular tournament, most are doubting Team Canada will make it out of the quarter-finals versus Finland on Saturday morning. Add me to that group of people. After heroics from 19-year-olds at last year’s tournament, most notably now-Arizona Coyotes Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, this year’s older players haven’t quite produced as hoped. This might have a lot to do with the fact that this year’s team is much younger than last’s, but when it comes down to it they just haven’t done enough. The team heads into the quarter-finals with a 2-2 record with one of those wins being in a shootout against Switzerland. I could probably just stop there because that just about explains how good they’ve been right there, but I won’t. I’ve been on hiatus for a couple weeks so I have a lot to say.
It’s hard to blame Team Canada’s struggles on leaning too hard on the 18-year-olds when Team Finland’s top line is 1-2-3 in scoring in the tournament with two of them being 17-years-old. Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine are expected to go top five in the upcoming NHL draft and they’re showing the world why. Puljujarvi is leading the tournament with 12 points and Laine is third with eight. That’s pretty impressive for a tournament that is commonly referred to as a “19-year-old’s tournament.” Puljujarvi is pretty impressive.
The only draft eligible player on Team Canada is Julien Gauthier. He has not been nearly as effective as the two Finns, to say the least. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because he started the tournament with the stomach flu.
Virtanen stuck with the Vancouver Canucks after the nine game limit that would engage the first year of his entry-level contract. When he was sent on a conditioning stint to the Canucks’ AHL affiliate Utica Comets, it became clear there was a good chance he would be loaned to Team Canada for the World Junior Tournament. When he was officially loaned, expectations for him at the tournament were obviously high. They should be for a guy who played in the tournament last year and was playing in the NHL this year. The problem is, he isn’t exactly a natural goal scorer. He is a big strong guy who plays a high-tempo game, but he isn’t going to light the world on fire scoring wise. That being said, he should have a point by now and he doesn’t. That is a big problem since other 19-year-olds like Brendan Perlini and Brayden Point also haven’t produced. Point got the shootout winner against Switzerland which counts as a goal, but other than that he has been invisible. Perlini has stood out a lot, but he can’t seem to do much with the puck.
Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner
The lack of production from the older guys has left Strome and Marner as the go to guys. They are very highly talented players and have looked pretty good, but definitely not as good as Domi and Duclair last year. That extra year in age makes a huge difference and it’s showing. Strome has a point in all four games with a total of five points and Marner has four points in four games. Compare that to Laine and Puljajarvi’s combined 20 points and you can clearly see why Finland is favourited. The USA has Auston Matthews racking up points and Sweden has Alex Nylander. It’s pretty crazy how many draft-eligible players are tearing it up this year and Canada needs somebody to step it up. Please. Anybody. I don’t care if it’s John Quenneville, somebody just do something tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a hilarious clip of 160 lbs Marner laying a Swede out yesterday by blatantly leaving his feet.
Tune in at 11 a.m.
An 11 a.m. Saturday morning puck drop gives you an excuse to start chucking beers back real early, especially if it goes the way I think it might. It’s either going to result in a full day of drowning sorrows or celebration. I really hope it’s the latter, but somebody is going to have to step up in a big way tomorrow or they will end up with their worst finish since 1998.